Getting Creative with Common Pantry Staples

Hey Everyone!

Hope your week is going well so far, and your home-workouts are coming some-what close to your usual sweats in the gym. Let’s hope we can get things up and running soon!

Since our trips to the grocery store might be limited for the time-being, I thought it would be useful to share some tips for using up those common pantry staples in our kitchen. Now is a great time to open up those cupboards and make use of what you’ve got!
Brown Rice
I’m sure most of us have one if not a couple bags of rice in our cupboard. Do you ever find that you cook a batch of it and have a bunch leftover with minimal ideas on how to use it up?

​Here are some different ways:

Burrito Bowl 
Take your fresh OR leftover brown rice to a new level. Layer these options in a bowl for a quick and tasty meal:

  • Base: brown rice 
  • Protein: ground turkey or chicken, or try cubed tofu or tempeh
  • Black beans
  • Mixed veggies
  • Extra: low-sodium salsa, sliced avocado, plain greek yogurt (as a non-fat sour cream), lime juice

Rice Salad
Combining mixed veggies like celery, onion, bell peppers, carrots and tomato and adding dressing can make a yummy side dish for your meals. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper to flavour. Serve with an egg dish or add beans or tofu for a light meal option.

Canned or dried, beans should certainly be a kitchen staple! They are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, iron and zinc. Now is the time to try out more meatless meals.

​Here are some ideas for using up those beans:

Add to a pasta dish
Bulk up your pasta with more protein and fiber with some beans. Using shelf-stable ingredients like tomato puree, garlic, onions and a mix of vegetables, add beans to your final pasta fish for a high protein, vegetarian meal. 

Make a Hummus 
Traditional hummus is made with chickpeas – but it doesn’t have to be! Try other types of beans in a hummus recipe, such as white beans which are a great source of calcium. Here’s a great recipe:

Have your hummus with whole grain crackers, use as a spread for sandwiches or serve with veggies and pita for a light lunch.

Canned Fish
Canned tuna, salmon and sardines are a great source of omega-3s – a healthy fat that helps keep our brain and body healthy. They also make a convenient, shelf stable protein source. I suggest buying the options canned in water, and adding your own flavours.

Here are some ideas:

As a Dip or Spread
You’re probably used to combining canned fish with mayo as a dip or spread. But I want to share with you this jazzed up version using canned salmon! With avocado and Greek yogurt, this recipe has extra lean protein, calcium and healthy fats. 

Salmon Salad with Avocado + Greek Yogurt

  • 6-ounce can boneless, skinless salmon packed in water, drained
  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (about ½ small lime)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro 
  • 1/4 cup chopped avocado
  • Pepper to taste

Mix the above ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Serve in a lettuce wrap (for a low-carb option), as a dip with your favorite crackers and veggies, or an open-faced toast. 

Mixed Salad
Canned tuna or sardines are great in a salad!
​Here’s a simple combo: 

  • 1 can fish
  • Boiled egg 
  • Chickpeas or white beans
  • Mixed greens or spinach
  • Veggies of choice (pick 2-3): red onion, celery, tomato, bell peppers
  • Dressing: 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, salt & pepper

I love lentils and always have a bag in my cupboard. I usually purchase them dry as they don’t require any soaking time (unlike dried beans). Red lentils are the smallest type, and have the shortest cooking time. They are great for quick stews. Green and brown lentils are more hardy and can also pair well in a soup, but can be cooked on their own and used for salads. 

In a Stew
Making a stew loaded with lentils and veggies is definitely my favourite “one-pot meal”. What’s better is that it keeps well in the freezer so leftovers can be saved for another time. It also helps to use up extra veggies in the fridge you might have lying around. I love this simple recipe: 

Have you tried making your own veggie burgers yet? Using up lentils and other pantry staples like onions, flour and spices, lentil or bean patties are a great high-protein meat alternative. Here’s a healthy, simple recipe:

Serve in a whole grain bun or on a bed of greens. Topping ideas: Dijon mustard, sliced tomato, hummus, pickled vegetables, hot sauce

Hope you enjoyed today’s post! For more healthy meal prep recipes, be sure to check out:

Hope to see you soon!

Leigh Merotto RD & Nutrition Coach 

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