It was time for yet another trip to the market. A family’s gotta eat! Today I’m looking at some pantry items. These are stand-bys we can keep on hand for quick meals when time becomes an issue. So, where to start?
Who doesn’t love a beautiful Nicoise Salad or a spicy black bean salsa? These are easy dishes made easier using pantry items.
First let’s look at a couple of real disappointments – items that have ingredients that are less than ideal and in one case, BAD. Just because it says organic, it doesn’t mean that there cannot be problems. ALWAYS read the labels!
I’ve been a fan of Annie’s brand for years, but lately, I’ve come across some disappointing items. Last week, it was a so-called ‘healthy’ boxed macaroni and cheese, but to be honest, anything that is boxed can’t be that good. Today, in reading the label of Annie’s Organic Caesar dressing, I was disappointed to find that they list a generic ‘expeller pressed vegetable oil’ Canola and/or sunflower). Canola is generally, BAD. It is a genetically engineered oil from the rapeseed. Rather than going into a detail on this, I am referring to a great article from Natural News. It starts ” Corn oil comes from corn: sunflower oil from sunflowers, sesame oil from sesame seeds, peanut oil from peanuts, olive oil from olives, Canola oil from…Canolas? What is a Canola?” The uptake? Canola is bad. There are many more good oils to choose from. It is made from a high-heat process using toxic chemicals in the process. It is touted by the food industry as being healthy, yet many animal studies point to serious and deleterious effects on rats and pigs. Why take the chance? I should add that we generally make our own Caesar salad from scratch. Hmmm…I’ll post that recipe soon. It’s to die for!
Another disappointing item? Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups. These are a real taste sensation. You’ll never want the standard old junk-food peanut butter cups again. BUT there’s one nasty item on the ingredient list: SOY. Even if it’s organic, it’s still soy and soy is a hormone disruptor. I can’t understand why companies that appear to be health-oriented continue to use soy lecithin when there’s a far healthier choice out there in the form of non-GMO sunflower lecithin. As much as I like this item, I’ve stopped eating it now because of the soy. Hormone disruption is the basis of many health problems. Weight issues are the first that come to mind, but anything to do with your body’s endocrine system can be disrupted with soy. The World Health Organization reports problems from hormone disruption including non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer. Come on, Justins! Get with the program and stop using that stuff!
Now for the good things. While I always encourage using fresh and healthy items, there are times that you just need a bit of help in the kitchen. That’s when we go to the pantry for our jarred or canned items. The packaging is important. If possible, buy these items in jars where you will have little or no BPA exposure. If in cans, be sure they’re marked as BPA-free.
Who wants to make sauerkraut from scratch? Not me! I occasionally find some organic chicken sausages for a quick dinner, brown them and cook with sauerkraut. I’ve been really happy with the Eden Organic product. The ingredients? Organic cabbage, water and sea salt. That’s all you need! This is a good pantry item to have on hand.
If you don’t have nut allergies, a great snack always includes peanut butter. It’s high in energy, protein and fiber. And the best peanut butter contains absolutely NOTHING but organic peanuts. You can spread on apple wedges for a quick snack or on organic bread (ours is gluten free) with sliced bananas for an old fashioned peanut butter and banana sandwich. Oh, my Mama loved those!
Kalamata Olives are a great addition to salads and for appetizers. These organic olives are particularly good and I use them in a Nicoise salad (as shown above) and for any Greek style dish. What’s in them? Organic Kalamata olives, water, organic red wine vinegar and sea salt. You can make a divine main-dish salad from leftovers such as chilled green beans, hard boiled eggs, sliced seared fresh tuna, fresh herbs and olives with a light mustard-based dressing. Add Feta cheese for a Greek accent or some hard Italian or French cheese shreds for a more northern Mediterranean accent.
Living in South Florida, one comes to rely on black beans in many dishes. Black bean chili is a healthy one-dish meal. Black beans are wonderful in salads, salsa and of course, over rice. The ideal manner of preparing is using dried black beans that have been soaked overnight and slow-cooked. However, since there isn’t always time for that, canned black beans are a great pantry item to add protein, fiber, vitamins and iron to your diet. (Note: If using corn in your black bean salsa as shown to the right, be sure you have organic, non-GMO corn!)
At the risk of being downright boring, I can’t remind you enough: READ THE LABELS!