If you’re setting up your kitchen to start a new healthy lifestyle that includes cooking quick meals that are good for you, there are 25 ingredients that should be considered staples. First, don’t be afraid of fresh vegetables. You have time to use them in the preparation of your food. I’m a big fan of what are generally considered Mexican spices, but with a little creativity they can take you in many delicious directions.
Let’s just start with the spices. They’re the kind of staple that every kitchen should have, whether you’re in a hurry or you want to prepare something more adventurous. Certainly salt and pepper are a given, but don’t just buy the cheap stuff. Use sea salt. Buy pepper corns and grind them. To me, it’s just part of the experience, and the flavors are so much better. Next in your Mexican Spice supply are chili powder and cumino or cumin. Every good Mexican dish has a a bit of these flavors. Finish up the spice rack with oregano and basil. They’re not always an ingredient in Mexican food, but they help you take your creativity in the kitchen in new directions.
Somewhere in American culture, the food sellers convinced us that frozen and canned was better. Presumably because they’re faster to cook. Yes. I’ll give them that, but frozen vegetables are rubbery, and canned are over cooked. You can still make a quick meal and keep it healthy by using fresh vegetables. In fact, enjoy the experience of cutting and chopping and creating. Here are some basic veggies that can keep your cooking diverse without having to search out hard to find ingredients. I always keep fresh onion, garlic and bell pepper at hand. I call them the building blocks of much of my cooking. If I want some spice, I add in jalapeno. Carrots and squashes are nutritious and colorful. Food should be appealing to the eye. Again, they’re the kind of food that can be soup or stir fry. Sweet potatoes are a great food. Low on the glycemic index, they’re also tasty baked, mashed, boiled, fried, and as a surprisingly creative and tasty ingredient in soups and stir fries. Of course, keep fresh, leafy lettuces and tomatoes on hand, too. As a tip, substitute a leaf of lettuce for a tortilla when making tacos! I prefer fresh made beans, but they don’t fit into the category of quick meals. However, they’re very healthy, so look for the low salt, organic canned types. Try varieties, like pinto, red and the amazingly nutritious black bean.
And the Rest
Fresh Vegetables and Mexican Spices give us a great foundation for cooking. Now here are some suggested accents to the quick meal basic line up. Separately frozen chicken strips give you more control over meat portions, and they thaw really fast in the microwave. While your chopping you’re fresh vegetables, they’ll be thawing. Rice and pasta are quick to prepare because they cook while you chop. Don’t go any further for simple carbs. These two ingredients are all you need for a healthy approach. Keep olive oil on hand. It’s super good for you, and it’s taste is mild and unobtrusive in stir fry and other recipes that call for a little oil. I like to prepare my own salad dressing, so I keep agave nectar, red wine vinegar and a lemon on hand. I combine them in a small bowl to serve just enough for a single meal. And just a dash! Don’t drown the flavor of your fresh vegetables in that salad! As an added treat add sliced almonds and dried fruit to the basic pantry. They are great ways to spice up a healthy quick meal.
So here’s a final tip. If you think you need to eat more salads to get in those fresh vegetables and satisfy your need for a healthy eating change, make a simple salad with lettuce, tomatoes and carrots, then stir fry the other vegetables. Toss them on top, dash with red wine vinegar and voila! So good and so good for you.