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I don’t know about you, but as autumn draws closer I’ve found myself dreaming of fall foods and all the delicious recipes to make with them. Winter squash, pumpkins, leeks, dark leafy greens, autumn spinach, onions, garlic…not to mention the still-booming crops of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and summer squash.
As the long days of summer morph into the shorter and chillier ones of fall, I’ve also begun to take a closer look at my pantry. For most of the summer, my affections have been turned toward the garden, the farmers’ market, even the freezer for frozen ice-pops and homemade ice cream. But with the seasons changing, I know that inevitably I’ll end up back by the coziness of the oven once again to cook up my favorite comfort foods.
Which brings me to the importance of the pantry. As fresh produce becomes more scarce in the cooler months—especially here in Wisconsin—I retreat into my pantry for nutritious ingredients to craft my meals around. So today I thought I’d give you a little glimpse inside my pantry at some of the foods I couldn’t survive the fall and winter without.
First up, beans and lentils.
Not only are they versatile and super healthy, but the beans and lentils I keep on hand also cook very quickly compared to most. While chickpeas and kidney beans can take up to 2-3 hours to completely soften, I love the fact that mung beans, brown lentils, and split peas take an hour or less. And you can be in and out of the kitchen with a pot of red lentil soup on the table in about 25 minutes flat!
Next…life just wouldn’t be the same without whole grains.
Rarely does a day go by when I don’t eat quinoa, brown rice, or a blend of wild and brown rices. High in protein and fiber, whole grains also offer a storehouse of vitamins and minerals. When cool weather comes calling and I’m in need of a “stick-to-your-ribs” salad or pilaf to keep me satisfied, I turn to my trusty whole grain pals.
A few whole grain favorites:
- Red Rice, Cucumber, and Avocado Salad
- Mediterranean Brown Rice and White Bean Casserole
- Spicy Black Bean Ragout with Quinoa
Don’t forget about brown rice pasta. It’s the perfect go-to choice for casseroles and quick weeknight meals.
Third: nuts and seeds, of course!
In another life, I think I could have been a squirrel. My love for nuts runs deep.
Rich in healthy fats and protein, nuts and seeds are the perfect portable snack. They make delicious additions to salads and pilafs while also lending a heartiness that we often need in our diets in colder seasons. Some of my favorites are almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts along with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
NUT-ritious Nut Recipes…
And finally…no pantry would be complete without onions and garlic.
Packed with powerful anti-inflammatory properties and immune boosting nutrients, onions and garlic are mainstays in my kitchen all year round but especially throughout the fall and winter months. Onions and garlic can be added raw to almost any salad or pilaf, but also make flavorful additions to soups, stocks, roasted vegetable platters, dips, and pestos. If you have a farmers’ market nearby, stock up on onions and garlic in late September and October. When kept in a cool, dark place, both will last for months.
I’ll be leaping into the wonderful world of spices in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!