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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Aiuto

Pantry Peek: 5 of my Favorites

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Alright, I'm a little late to the game. Everyone was sharing an insider look into their pantries about a month ago when all of our self-quarantines began. Better late than never, right?

Well I am here to say that I'm not late, and I actually believe a stocked pantry is always important, pandemic or not. It is the backbone of my kitchen!

I'm not about to go through every grain, bean, and flour I have (although, maybe I will get there one day), so I decided to share 5 of my favorite and most-used pantry items, that go beyond a can of chickpeas (which is also one of my favorites)!

1. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt

If you've seen Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix, you know that salt is the "single most important ingredient in the world", and that not all salt is created equal.

You probably grew up using, and might still use, table salt. Table salt can have chemicals in it like anti-caking agents that help prevent clumps. My best advice is to try to avoid iodized salts, which might add some unwanted chemical flavor to your food.

So let's talk about Kosher salt. Kosher salt has larger grains, which distribute and cling to food very well. It's also great for salting pasta water! The two most popular kosher salt brands are Diamond Crystal and Morton.

Kosher salt is the salt that I use 95% of the time (I use flakey sea salt for finishing baked

goods and topping certain dishes). I keep my Kosher salt on my counter in a little "salt" bowl so it's easy to access while I'm cooking.

2. Nutritional Yeast:

To all my dairy-allergy, dairy-free, lactose intolerants and vegan friends out there -- you might already know this product is a must-have! Nutritional yeast, or "nooch" as the cool people call it, adds cheesy flavor to food, without actually having any dairy or cheese in it!

What is it exactly? It's actually made from the same type of yeast that’s used for baking bread and brewing beer. However, the yeast is not alive in nutritional yeast, the way it is in beer and bread.

Besides being super tasty, nutritional yeast has a lots of health benefits, too! Nutritional yeast contains the full nine essential amino acids that humans can get from food. It's also loaded with B vitamins, which is great for people who don't eat dairy and might be B-12 deficient!

I like my "nooch" sprinkled on popcorn, I use it to make dairy-free cheeses and cheese sauces, and I use it in sauces for a bit of umami flavor!

3. Unsalted Cashews:

Although cashews are a delicious snack, their purpose goes way beyond trail mix. Cashews can transform into a smooth, creamy base for sauces, dressings, dairy-free cheeses, and desserts! It's actually kind of amazing.

Some of my favorite ways to use them are for a cilantro-lime crema for tacos, a creamy/smokey cashew nacho cheese in my new favorite vegan Caesar dressing, and for dessert - I love to make mini dairy-free cheesecakes!

4. Coconut Aminos:

A few months ago, I learned that I have a soy allergy. As a soy-sauce lover, this was very upsetting. Luckily, there's this... coconut aminos. It's a salty, savory seasoning that's a soy-free alternative to soy sauce! It's made from fermented coconut tree sap and sea salt!

Coconut aminos is also gluten/wheat-free, vegan and MSG-free.

My favorite ways to use coconut aminos are in veggie stir fries, marinades, sauces (like my better-than-takeout gluten-free/soy-free/vegan General Tso's Cauliflower *recipe coming soon*) and dressings! The possibilities are truly endless.

5. Smoked Paprika:

Honestly, it was between this and cumin for my top 5. Paprika is one of my favorite spices because it can elevate any dish. Though I think it should be used sparingly, when used correctly it adds smokey flavor to food, and is especially great for those of us who don't have a grill.

Smoked paprika is also what makes my Simple Homemade Hummus extra photogenic! You can use it to season any roasted vegetables, I like to make cauliflower with salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika! It's also great for potatoes, eggs, and dry rubs for chicken and other meats.

I hope you add some of these items to your pantry for tasty, nutritious cooking!

What are some of your pantry favorites? Comment below!

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