Though a ninja can take on whatever is thrown her way, there are some essential items that you can store in your arsenal to ensure you have the tools to conquer any dinnertime foe, with ease.
- Frozen veggies: They are nutritionally as good as fresh, usually cheaper, and last a heck of a lot longer. Spinach, corn, peas, broccoli, and blends can really boost the nutritional value of a meal in no time flat. No preservatives, no sodium, nothing but the goods.
- Flavor in a tube: Fresh organic herbs like basil, cilantro, and even garlic and ginger are chopped or pasted and put in a toothpaste type tube and sold in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Keep in the freezer for longer shelf life. A squeeze to your sauces gives a burst of fresh flavor you can't get from the flakes or jarred versions.
- Canned beans and tomatoes: these are the only items I use or recommend from a can. And they can be transformed into ANYTHING.
- Cheese: Good cheese. Like goat cheese or Gorgonzola, blue cheese, feta or fresh mozzarella. Cheese that packs a lot of punch in a little bite and does not come in packs of individual slices.
- Extra Virgin Olive and Coconut Oil: You need it for EVERYTHING!
- Frozen seafood: salmon, raw shrimp, tilapia, cod, scallops.... yum. And don't get the ones already flavored or marinated. Get it raw and naked.
- Balsamic vinegar: Never buy a bottled salad dressing again! It also has uses in desserts and sauces to add delicious tart or rich flavor without fat.
- Whole wheat/whole grain pastas and breads: Read the labels. Unless you're making a traditional spaghetti and marinara (in which case it would be sacrilegious to use anything but the traditional pasta) you can substitute these healthier pastas to add fiber and protein instead of all carbs. Multi-grain does not necessarily mean Whole-grain. Check your labels.
- No products with high fructose corn syrup: So this is the opposite, I guess. Not a must have, but a don't have. Anyway, it's crap. If they make commercials to tell you it's the same as sugar, it's crap. Do we need to be eating pure sugar????
- Herbs and spices: Italian Seasoning (mix of the basics), sweet basil, bay leaves, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher and/or sea salt (none of that nasty iodized table salt), whole black pepper in a grinder, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flake, smoked and sweet paprika, chipotle powder, fajita seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, my new favorite is Bragg's Organic Sprinkle (it's awesome on ANYthing)
- Lemon infused olive oil: It is an awesome marinade for seafood and great in sauces and pasta dishes.
- Panko breadcrumbs: These are Japanese style breadcrumbs that are light, airy and crunchy! They add awesome texture to fish, shrimp, and chicken dishes, and are a great topping for baked casseroles.
- Nutella: One of the most delicious secrets in the supermarket. It's been a hugely popular item in Europe for years, served with toast or breakfast rolls, fruit or crackers. Recently it's become widely available in the US and is in the peanut butter section of the grocery store. Rich, chocolate-hazelnut spread made with skim milk and no preservatives. Satisfies the sweet tooth without undoing all the good you did during the day.
- Sesame Oil: With just a few drops add a distinctly toasty and nutty flavor to soups, sauces, stir fry, dips, and marinades.
- Flax seeds (whole and ground): These tiny little seeds are packed with SO MUCH nutrition that it's crazy. Add to smoothies, bread crumbs for coating, mix into yogurt, toss some into chili... they don't take away from the flavor or texture of a dish, but can enhance it with some fiber, protein and good Omega's!
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