What's that in your pantry?
One thing that occurred to me as I talk to people about food, recipes, and cooking (which I talk A LOT about) is that some of the things I use all the freaking time, leave many omnivores with blank stares. Or some of the things people are familiar with I use in different ways. As I journey toward sharing my passion in the form of recipes, tips, and thoughts, I figured it would be good to list a few things that I always have on hand.
1) Nutritional Yeast
Never has a more versatile food helper had a worse name. Nutritional yeast, a deactivated form of yeast not like the kind in the packet you make bread with, is a yellow flaky dust that makes magic. It is packed full of B-vitamins (great for vegans), is a complete protein, and contains iron. It's a vegan's best friend. It has a savory flavor that is often described as nutty or cheesy. I use it in many places where a cheesy or nutty flavor would go so I can see the relation. I sprinkle it on my avocado toast in the morning and add it to creamy dips and spreads. It is yummy and so good for you.
2) Raw Cashews and Almonds
Welcome to the dairy aisle. I know that's a weird way to introduce a paragraph on raw nuts so hear me out. Raw cashews and almonds, when soaked or with a super powered blender, can make anything from spreadable cheese replacements to sour cream, to coffee creamer, to milk (seriously, you can make plant based milks SO easily). I make a pretty bangin' buffalo dip if I do say so myself and it wouldn't happen as easily or creamily if cashews weren't in my life.
3) Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, and they provide fiber, iron, and calcium. They also make eggs. No, not like fluffy scramblable eggs, but eggs that go in everything from pancakes to breads. Chia seeds when soaked in water form a nice gel that really helps hold recipes together. A mashed ripe banana will do the trick too, but chia is much better when you don't want a banana undertone to that delicious focaccia.
4) Liquid Smoke
Ham, bacon, how I honor thee. Thy smokey aroma and savory bite. It's amazing I managed to eat so much of you after raising two adorable piglets through 4-H in my youth. One of the big things I believe is that the tastes that come from animal foods that people love can be recreated. While obviously not identical, the recreation will be better for my health and allow me to lovingly stare pigs in the eyes with the confidence that they know I won't eat their butts. Not a euphemism. Ham is literally pig butt muscle. I love smokey flavor. Liquid smoke can do everything from make the ham out of a split pea soup forgettable to being the BEST part of a BBQ sauce. It's fabulous.
5) Smoked Salt
Ok, still on the smoke kick. I figured I'd throw this one in there for good measure. Out of liquid smoke? Want your smoke level to be less in your face? Want to just try an amazing new flavor in your life? Smoked salt is it. I brought some to the Outer Banks with my family this past year and my brother (shout out to my only sibling and (current) stedfast omnivore) reacted like Bob eating Fey's hand shucked corn. For the record, it's also good on corn.
Ok, so this is not going to be a secret long. I LOVE avocado. Like, I've already proposed and I think we'll be eloping any day love. I included this in the pantry section because not only will I smash it up and put it on almost anything, but it makes fantastic cream bases for everything from Thai dipping sauses, to sun-dried pestos, to black garlic aioli. It's the bees knees. And is loaded with fiber and good fats.