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Chef Tips and Advice

Do you know what’s in your closet?

Do you know what’s in your closet? Image

Opening your pantry may possibly unveil certain spices that have been on your shelf for 5 years, or expired olive oil, or stale crackers. But when you dig a little deeper, you may in fact be horrified to see what scary, sometimes harmful processed foods can be hiding in your closet. I will share with you 5 easy ways to Purge your Pantry and create a NEW well-rounded, wholesome pantry that will change the way you feel about food forever.

Step 1 is to familiarize yourself with each item in your pantry and determine what highly processed foods may be filling your space. One by one eliminate most all processed food, keeping a sensible amount of minimally processed items. You will quickly see an enormous amount of newly freed up space you will find.

Step 2 is simply Read Your Labels! Most every item you buy requires nutritional facts and ingredient lists, but how much time do you actually read them. One of my golden rules of thumb when determining the quality of certain packaged foods is by reading the ingredient list. If there are words you begin to stumble upon because you can not even pronounce, and you find words that sound like belong in a laboratory not a food market, than I would take a careful close watch on exactly what that “food” could be. Sad truth is that scientists and big business money create much of the foods we buy and consume. Food, like water should be as close to the source as possible. So when reading through the ingredients try to remember if you have ever seen thiamin mononitrate or Red Dye number 40 in nature. Again it is not necessary to set fire to everything in your pantry and deprive everything you are familiar with. Simply make more sensible selections when deciding which items remain.

Step 3 is to rid of your refined grains. Refined grains are processed natural whole grains that are modified for mass production destroying the integrity and almost all of the grains nutritional properties. Most processed grains marketed to us today are absent in natural fiber, excessively high in gluten, and are often treated with up to 25 different chemicals, including bleaching agents and artificial enhancements. This is what many of us ingest every day. Cereal boxes are one of the biggest offenders. Some supersize cereal boxes now stamp “Made with Whole Grains” …. Don’t think so. This is a marketing loop hole that is intended to catch the consumers eye to buy “supposedly healthier” breakfast choice. Processed cereals like Cheerios and Special K all advertise health benefits from their product. One claims to lower Cholesterol and the other claims to help you loose weight. Health professionals have never supported these claims, yet these boxes easily find their way into your pantry, convincing you that it is a good choice. Go back to step two and read your labels! Then, once you remove your highly refined grains, replace them with true wholesome grains. Shop for and play around with whole grains like, farro, wheat berry, wild rice, whole oats. Also switch to better flour choices like whole wheat, buckwheat, or a variety of stone ground grain options. Look for local farms who grind their own flours for a superior alternative, or grind your own. You can find small counter top grain grinders so that you can choose when and how to grind your own grains for breads, cereal and baking. My favorite one is Nutrimill Harvest Grain Mill ( and it can be found at Bed bath and Beyond and other specialty kitchen stores.

Step 4 sounds easy enough, but spend some time mindfully separating what you are going to throw away, what you can give away to food drives or non profit organizations and what you have sensibly decided to remain in your pantry.

Step 5 is to organize your new panty with new, fresh, wholesome and fun ingredients and flavor options that will change the way you eat. Try organizing shelves or sections into sensible clutter free options.

Spices salts and spices – Try using a lazy Susan to display, new spices and exotic flavors. I like to have some salt options, like sea salt, flue de sel, and smoked salt. For spices, I enjoy, fresh whole peppercorns, red chili flakes, coriander, mustard and fennel seeds, plus whole nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. But the spice market is your limit. Try ones that interest you. Try many, in small batches as even dry spices have shorter expiration dates than you may think.

Oils and vinegars – I am a firm believer that the king of all oil is a good imported extra virgin olive oil. Other than that I like to keep a small amount of coconut oil or avocado oil for specific uses. Plus it is crucial to have a variety of vinegars like aged balsamic, tarragon, raw apple cider, and sherry vinegar. I also always have rice vinegar, which is a great neutral mild vinegar that can be flavored nicely, in dressings, marinades, and sauces.

Grains, pastas and flours – Try to sample different grained pasta options, like whole wheat, quinoa, spelt or artichoke flour pasta. I still carry some of my favorite classic semolina pastas, because there is no reason to completely deprive yourself of traditional pasta dishes, in moderation. I also like to have whole wheat flour, chic pea flour and buckwheat flour in the pantry. For grains, I enjoy farro, wild rice, brown rice, forbidden black rice, whole oats, quinoa and millet or amaranth on hand.

Sugars – I prefer to stock up on un-refined raw sugar, agave, local honey, stevia and maple syrup for my sweeteners. I also always have dried fruit on hand to add great sweetness to certain dishes.

Wine, liquor and Chocolate! – Yes of course no pantry will be complete without certain indulgences. Remember this is not about depravation, but all about smart choices. Dark chocolate, raw chocolate and cocoa nibs are great chocolate choices to bake, cook and snack on. These options certainly beat commercial chocolate candy bar. Also, keeping on hand cooking wines and liquors, like vermouth, brandy, port can help boost up flavors and make cooking more fun. Remember though, everything in moderation.

Posted on September 07, 2017 / by Keith DiLauro