A well-stocked pantry and fridge help you pull together naturally wholesome meals in minutes.
“You want to make the barriers to good eating as minimal as possible,” says Anna Lappé, coauthor of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006) and a cohost of The Endless Feast, presented by American Public Television. “Having a well-stocked kitchen with the things you use most is essential.”
Indeed, loading up on pantry and refrigerator staples is the key to making smart choices when you’re running late, your stomach’s growling and the kids are fussing. On-hand organic and natural staples will help you whip up a quick and tasty meal without resorting to fast food.
Start laying in those healthy basics by creating a list of your favorite ingredients. “I make a shopping list on the computer of all of the core ingredients I want to have my kitchen stocked with, in the order of where I find them in the grocery store. I print it out and take it with me when I shop,” says Lappé.
What’s on her list? She starts with the pantry and freezer staples shown at right, then complements them with a few perishables, such as fresh onions and scallions, organic salad mix, eggs, low-fat or fat-free milk, tofu, corn tortillas and whole grain bread. Add some seasonal fruits and veggies to your cart for good measure, and you’re ready for action.
“I think it’s important to realize that cooking this way doesn’t take that much time,” says Lappé. “You can make really fast meals using your staples and seasonal foods in less time than it takes to go to a restaurant.”
Meals on the Fly
Want proof? Here are a few of our favorite quick-and-easy meals.
Stir-Fried Organic Vegetable Medley with Tofu and Brown Rice. In a skillet with a small amount of cooking oil, stir-fry assorted fresh or frozen organic vegetables with chopped tofu, minced garlic, minced ginger, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and sesame seeds (optional). Serve over precooked organic brown rice or instant brown rice.
Organic Macaroni and Cheese with Tuna and Peas. Prepare organic macaroni-and-cheese mix according to the package directions, cooking the macaroni in boiling water and adding frozen peas during this step. Drain the macaroni and peas. Stir in the cheese mix and milk as directed. Then stir in one small can or pouch of drained tuna packed in water.
Wild Salmon Fillets with Organic Whole Grain Couscous and Sautéed Spinach. Place defrosted frozen salmon fillets in a baking dish. Season with minced garlic, black pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Bake at 400°F for approximately 10 minutes. Meanwhile, steam couscous according to package directions. In a small skillet sauté fresh or frozen organic spinach with olive oil, garlic, black pepper and lemon juice for about 5 minutes.