Whether restaurants and bars reopen sooner or later for inside service, we all will have time to rethink our habits and begin wondering why we put up with poor, sometimes abusive service, poor quality food – poorly prepared many times. Remember that bun that was stale, because someone in the kitchen did as they do at home, use it and live with it?
At some point many of you will try to find the time to prepare foods at home and eat before you go out. That way, you at least know what you’re getting and what went into the food you prepare for yourself.
Many of you stocked up on what you could fit in the freezer and then focused on the non-perishable items you could fit in your pantry, closet, cupboard, under the bed – cans, bottles, bags of dried fruit, nuts, pastas, rice, beans and on and on.
What many probably didn’t give too much thought to are non-perishable seasonings. Just say you have a bag of split peas and want to make soup. What will you put in the soup? If food shortages occur, especially fresh foods like potatoes, onion, celery, carrot, you’ll need seasonings to flavor your simple dishes to make them sparkle so you don’t feel deprived.
These are the basic seasonings and flavoring I use in My Animal-Free Kitchen. There’s nothing exotic here. In addition I’ve included some other pantry items I use as staples.
herb and spice category
garlic and onion powders – two of the standbys – buy in bulk and save – did you know that the benefits of powdered/granulated onion and garlic are the same as fresh?
ginger powder – dry vs fresh benefits are the same – peel your fresh ginger, cut into thin planks, stack and cut into thin sticks to top a salad – Steve’s a fresh gingeraholic too! – top tomato spaghetti sauce dishes – salads – stir-fries – put the powdered in smoothies and dressings
Italian seasoning – Mom didn’t have basil and oregano, rosemary and marjoram – if it was spaghetti sauce she was cooking she used Italian seasoning – I’ve just started using it when Steve bought some – I can see why people use it – it’s good!
dry sage, basil, oregano any of these have their fresh counterparts – when adding fresh to a dish it’s wise to also add dried, since fresh is a lot less potent thus barely discernible
tarragon is probably my favorite herb – it’s similar to fennel in flavor only much milder – I love it – fresh turns brown quickly, so use dried
thyme now this is one potent herb – you don’t need much – too much and your dish will taste like a pine room deodorizer smells – great with stews and broth soups with mushrooms and tomato – a little wine, red or white, dances nicely with thyme!
poultry seasoning it’s a mix of herbs people use for chicken and turkey and stuffing – but why limit yourself to the animal – works with plants too – it’s more complex than sage, because it’s made of several herbs – McCormick’s brand poultry seasoning contains thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg. Other blends may contain celery seed, celery salt and occasionally ground cloves
fennel seed to crush till fine – use your coffee grinder (it’s what’s used in Italian sausage) – my favorite all time spice – I must be Italian
celery seed a little goes a long way – 1/4 t. in any recipe that serves 6-8 is sufficient, but start lower than that and wait till it softens and flavors what you’re flavoring before adding more
smoked paprika wow, what did I ever do before this? – suitable for most salads, dressings, sauces: red, white, brown, sautes, cheese dishes, barbecue, even tomato marinaras
red cayenne pepper or some other hot dry pepper you like – a little heat in most dishes augments the existing flavors – of course too much and it overpowers the meal focusing on your pain rather than your pleasure – painful pleasures do exist however
ground allspice isn’t just for desserts; use it in soups and tomato sauces for a richer experience
cinnamon add 1/4-1/2 t. to spaghetti sauces in addition to sweets and dairy free yogurt
nutmeg did you know that nutmeg is a drug? nutmeg contains myristicin, a natural compound that has mind-altering effects if ingested in large doses can be hallucinogenic
curry powder I’m not Indian, so I don’t appreciate the heat – I do however appreciate the different flavors – when I was first married I couldn’t tolerate more than 1/4 t. in any sauce without getting nauseated, sherry wine and cognac have that same effect on me – I outgrew the curry reaction, but not the sherry or cognac, unless it’s in a recipe, then I like it – Madras has been my favorite for decades – mild
ground coriander – great for soups and chilies, salad dressings, gravies – when you don’t have cilantro, this will produce wonders, which reminds me, I’m out – I use a lot of it – it’s the seed of the cilantro plant
salt and pepper – the fancies are good, unique in qualities, makes you feel special, so why not investigate and indulge?
Condiments can be stored in the pantry till you open them:
mustard – it’s not just for sandwiches; use it in salad dressings, cream-style sauces, barbecue sauces; mix with veggie mayo to extend the mayo and decrease the fat content in addition to adding flavor
ketchup, relish (dill and sweet), soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce – you can use ketchup like tomato paste in sauces, soups and dressings to add tomato plus sweet
jarred horseradish I like fresh without a doubt, but it’s messy – jarred works for me – add a little to any condiment or combination of condiments to perk it up – I have some work yet to do with fresh horseradish
liquid smoke you’ll be amazed what a little smoke flavor in a dish can do to round out and enhance all the flavors in a dish
extra virgin olive oil once you’re had extra virgin, you can’t go back to plain olive oil – the first cold pressing
light sesame oil – not just for Asian dishes; you can pan-fry animal-free burgers of all kinds for a more complex flavor achievement that goes well with all plant meats – white cream sauces too, and red and brown sauces – go for light though – my brand is Roland, hands down the best – buy large container to reduce price
grape seed oil I use it like I used to use corn oil – people claim it has a longer smoke point, meaning on high heat it doesn’t smoke up the kitchen like other oils, though I agree, there’s not that much difference – I set off the smoke alarm a lot no matter the oil used – in fairness even the toaster will do it
Vegetable oil is usually soy oil and since I don’t fear soy as many vegans do, I now incorporate it into my cooking
Balsamic vinegar red for robust round flavor, white for lighter fare – depth is the name of the game here – use for savory or sweet – Balsamic glaze – I need to try and make my own – I just don’t want to waste it all as it evaporates to thicken (must be the Scot in me)
plain white or apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar – plain white is the mildest of vinegars – although I use apple and apple cider vinegars with the mother in it, I’m not all that comfortable with the slime factor at the bottom, but I can overcome that
dried onion bits I used to wonder what’s the point – just use fresh or granulated – well there is a point – an exaggerated onion flavor
soy bacon bits put them in a pepper mill and grind some on top of your dishes, savory and sweet – I wish they’d make them all brown instead of that bright red color – hey, maybe I should try to make my own – add to green salads, potato and macaroni salads plus coleslaw
jarred minced garlic I buy a big jar of this – it’s what restaurants use, so why not me too? I prefer fresh most of the time, but I use a lot of all forms – Steve is a garlicaholic
black olives, green olives = garden variety – I’m beginning to use more in recipes, because Steve keeps buying them on sale
Kalamata olives pungent olives that give dishes a meaty flavor and texture – cut in half to be sure there are no pits – use that way or coarsely or finely chopped – this is my favorite olive – when buying from a deli case I pick out the brown rather than purple – they’re sort of like mussels, one bad one spoils all the others – but they pack quite a flavor punch right in the middle of all my tastebuds simultaneously – or so it seems – use as a crumbled meat substitute in tomato sauces when chopped, mix half standard black and half Kalamata
nut butters: peanut, cashew, almond fresh or jarred there are countless uses for nuts in all areas of animal-free cuisine – add peanut butter to pea soup along with garlic, brown sugar and ground allspice for a ham flavor
jellies, jams, preserves I must be English, but I do prefer preserves to jellies and jams – recently I’ve taken to buying canned pie filling and using that as my breakfast toast spread – lots of other uses too that I look forward to exploring
sweet red roasted peppers our Uncle Harry first introduced my family to Mancini peppers when I was still a kid – wow it’s been ever since – nobody eats more sweet reds than Steve and I – add to tofu scramble, salads, sauces (white, red and brown), soups, veggie sautes, sandwiches, dips, salsa – I was just thinking, I don’t think I’ve ever had a dried sweet red pepper, you know, like sun-dried tomatoes
Other dry ingredients:
granulated sugar, brown sugar you know, if used in moderation a little sugar enhances the flavors of whatever it’s in as long as the sweet doesn’t overpower the other taste sensations
all-purpose unbleached flour there are all kinds of flours out there, especially in the day of gluten-free – I went gluten-free for one month a while back and didn’t notice any difference in how I felt – in fact I felt a little worse all around because without it – I think mold in the grains because of the way they’re stored is detrimental
cornstarch I know many people won’t eat anything corn connected, but I still think it’s a great thickener – the key is not using it often, but it’s there when I want it
nutritional yeast adds an animal dimension to whatever dish it’s in – maybe that’s because it is an animal – however, since it can live inside of me, I don’t feel ethically compromised when I use it – less is better
instant mashed potatoes one of the worst instant mashed potatoes I ever ate was at Kentucky fried chicken – it tastes like mothballs smell – almost has a maize component, like hominy – thankfully every other company made improvements over time producing some fine instant alternatives to fresh – I’m a believer
croutons make your own using stale bread or the leftovers you threw into the freezer thaw, cut, toss with herb and spice mix, bake on a rack over a baking sheet at 300 degrees till toasty and dry
crackers thankfully many crackers these days are animal-free – although I prefer a texture like Ritz, BLUE DIAMOND makes a vegan gluten-free smokehouse almond cracker that doesn’t even need a spread or dip
pasta we’re definitely pasta lovers – all types, but the standard varieties we always return to
oatmeal oats are a big deal these days – even oat milk – I wonder if it really does lower cholesterol and high blood pressure – Steve eats it raw with fruits, nuts, seeds and plant milk – I prefer it cooked – lots can be done with oatmeal – we always keep it on hand
rice I’ve tried them all and enjoyed them all – Jasmine and Basmati are my favorites, but the one I keep as a staple is Canilla golden parboiled long grain rice – 1 cup water with salt to 1 cup rice for 15 minutes covered on low heat after brought to a boil
dry beans why make dried when you can buy canned that are cooked uniformly and so much better? I buy dried peas and lentils mostly, then canned for everything else – now and then I try the dried beans, but they take so long to cook, that it raises my electric bill, since I have an electric stove – adding a little baking soda to the water will speed the process, especially if added when beans start to soften
Well, that’s it for now. I’m sure you have your favorite seasonings and pantry staples. View your kitchen as a survival advantage – because that’s exactly what it is. Preparing your own food or knowing how to combine prepackaged with fresh will get you where you need to be for optimal health and pleasure!
Stock up on your seasonings they make all the difference between ordinary and extraordinary!