Here’s how to stock your plant-based pantry and freezer with whole foods, seasonings, and beans so you can quickly make this delicious gumbo.
Near the end of the first week of my KISSS healthy-eating plan, calamity struck–or at least what passes for calamity when you are trying to cook and eat healthy soups every day. I went to the pantry and found that I had no onions. No onions! Take a look at almost any of my savory recipes and you’ll see the same first step: “Saute onions in a non-stick pan.” Onions provide the flavor base on which all of my soups are built, and without onions, I definitely couldn’t cook the soup that I had planned to.
It was almost dinner time, so rather than make a trip to the store for one item, I took a look in my freezer and pantry to figure out what I could make with what I had on-hand. In the freezer I had a package of Cajun-Style Mirepoix blend (onions, green peppers, and celery) and several bags of mixed vegetables, including a gumbo blend. Using them and canned tomatoes and beans from my pantry, I managed to make an amazingly good gumbo in under a hour, and the only vegetable I had to chop was the garlic.
Having a well-stocked freezer and pantry can rescue you when you’re running short on fresh ingredients and might be tempted to reach for something processed and unhealthy. People often ask me what I keep on-hand at all times, but I’ve never really taken stock and written it down. Until now.
Excluding fresh fruits and vegetables, which vary by the season, here are the basic ingredients that I always keep in my pantry and freezer. Click on “Print” if you’d like to print the lists (the photos will print also).
Cans, Bottles, and Jars
- Canned Beans: black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, black, kidney, pinto, great northern, fat-free refried beans, and chili beans
- whole and diced tomatoes (including fire-roasted), tomato sauce, tomato paste
- spaghetti sauce
- Fruits Canned in Juice: Pineapple chunks, crushed pineapple
- apple sauce
- soy and almond milk
- natural peanut butter
- vegetable broth
- kalamata olives, black olives, green olives
- balsamic, white wine, red wine, and other assorted vinegars
- lite silken tofu in aseptic packages
- sesame oil
- low-fat salad dressing
- ketchup and barbecue sauce
(I actually keep grains and flours in the freezer to prevent insects from getting at them.)
- Dried Beans: split-peas, yellow split-peas, lentils, red lentils, chickpeas, black, kidney, pinto, great northern, limas, etc.
- brown rice
- oatmeal, steel-cut oats
- polenta and corn grits
- quinoa flakes
- Whole Wheat Pasta: spaghetti, lasagna, spirals, penne
- rice and soba noodles
- dried chile peppers
- nutritional yeast
- Flour: white whole wheat flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, brown rice flour, wheat gluten, etc.
- Vegetable Blends: California (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots), Italian (California plus zucchini, lima beans, onions and peppers), Mirapoix, Cajun Mirepoix, Gumbo, Soup Mix
- Individual Vegetables: green beans, peas, chopped spinach, corn, okra, turnip and collard greens, baby lima beans
- hash brown potatoes (both diced potatoes and shredded patties, without added oil)
- Fruit: blueberries, cherries, smoothie blend, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, mango, bananas (sliced and frozen at home)
- Bread: pita bread, whole wheat and corn tortillas, sliced bread
- veggie burgers, seitan, veggie protein crumbles
- raw cashews and flax seeds
Spices and Seasonings
I have literally dozens of spices, too many to list. Here are the ones I use most often:
- Bay leaf
- Black pepper, whole
- Ancho chili powder
- Chipotle chile powder
- Crushed red pepper
- Curry powder (Maharajah)
- Dry Mustard
- Garlic powder
- Ginger powder
- Ground cumin, whole cumin
- Hickory salt (or other smoked salt)
- Nutmeg, whole
- Onion powder
- Oregano, Mexican oregano
- Paprika, smoked, both mild and hot
- Poultry Seasoning (thyme, sage, and black pepper blend)
- Coconut extract
- Hot sauce
- vegetable bouillon
A few ingredients used as seasonings that I keep in the fridge:
- mustard (whole grain)
- Sriracha hot sauce
- sambal oelek (hot pepper paste)
- soy sauce
- Thai curry pastes
- ginger root
- onions, red and yellow
- fresh parsley and oregano (in garden year-round)
Of course, as soon as I post this, I’ll think of other ingredients that are absolutely indispensable, and I’ll add them as they come to mind. The point is, with a well-stocked pantry and freezer, you can always whip up a meal in a hurry, no matter how bare your refrigerator is. Fresh veggies are always tastier, but frozen ones are just as nutritious (sometimes more so), usually less expensive, pre-chopped, and very quick and convenient to use.
Ridiculously Easy Vegetable Gumbo
- 2 cups Cajun-style Mirepoix onion-pepper-celery blend (roughly equal parts of each)
- 2 12-ounce packages frozen vegetable gumbo mix or other mixed vegetables
- 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans (1 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (1 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
- 4 cups water
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika or cayenne to taste
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce, wheat-free tamari, or coconut aminos
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 servings vegetable bouillon (enough to flavor 2 cups of water)
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1/2 teaspoon filé powder optional
- 1/2 teaspoon hickory salt or other smoked salt
- salt and hot sauce to taste
- Heat a non-stick stock pot and saute the onion, pepper, and celery over medium heat until completely thawed (if frozen) and softened. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the file powder and hickory salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes, adding additional water as needed to form a thick stew. Add file powder and smoked salt and adjust seasonings as needed, adding salt and hot sauce to taste just before serving.
- Serve alone or over rice or other grain with additional hot sauce.
Nutritional info is approximate.