Take a cue from Marie Kondo and begin by clearing the clutter. She might suggest to hold each item and ask yourself if it brings you joy. You might also ask if you will, for real, ever cook with it. Does it serve you? Deliver beauty and radiant health? Check expiration dates. Be ruthless. Compost or donate what you can and know that by making space you will ultimately create a kitchen with less waste and open the portals to more high vibrational cooking.
The New Basics.
The staples you keep are, of course, a matter of how and what you like to cook, but on our path of eating a more nutrient-dense and plant-based diet, there are more than a few new and old favorites. Let’s call them our high-health essentials. Here are just a few of our must-haves and how we love to use them.
Coconut Flakes. Buy them in the bulk aisle and keep a canister of these to make a quick coconut milk with no soaking time required. I substitute this for almond milk when baking school safe treats to pack for lunch. And coconut flakes are far less expensive than nuts.
Nutritional Yeast. Kerrilynn calls it “Nooch.” It’s parmesan for the plant-based world and it’s the ticket to a great vegan Caesar salad or bowl of zucchini noodles. Also great on popcorn! Some Candida-fighters choose to avoid this. Others believe it has no effect on Candida and welcome its high content of minerals, amino acids and B vitamins.
Apple Cider Vinegar. With more reported health benefits than I can list here, ACV is the perfect substitute for most vinegars. Add a teaspoon to hot water for an alkalizing morning tonic. It aids digestion, steadies blood sugar and can even lower blood pressure.
Coconut Aminos. A soy-free and gluten-free alternative to Soy Sauce, Coconut Aminos surpass the take-out staple in every way. Not only is the umami flavor deeper and more refined, Coconut Aminos are vastly lower in sodium and boast health benefits that will have you reaching for the bottle at every turn. Probiotics, B Vitamins and an impressive roster of vital Amino Acids are just the beginning. If you lean heavily on Soy Sauce, give this upgrade a go.
Wonder Valley Olive Oil. When I met my husband he asked if I could cook. I told him I make a great salad. He confessed later that he thought this was ridiculous, but now begs for my big salads at night. There is no secret, only this simple equation: the best olive oil you can find + a big squeeze of lemon + quality salt = magic. We love Wonder Valley because they waste no time between harvest and production, maintaining valuable nutrients and flavor.
Tahini. Nothing more than ground sesame seeds, this high hippie staple may be the single greatest thing to ever happen to a big bowl of steamed vegetables. Simply whisk with lemon juice, salt and a touch of water for a simple sauce that delivers healthy fats, protein and grounding comfort. If you can, get your hands on a jar from Seed+Mill, our runaway favorite, and Open, Sesame.
Umeboshi Plums. These fermented Japanese plums are a cure for what ails you when you’ve had too much fun the night before. Eat one from the jar the morning after you’ve indulged (brace yourself! they are tart!) to settle your stomach and bypass the standard post party breakfast. Kerrilynn loves these blended into salad dressings and sliced on wraps. Add to a dragon bowl and say oishi!
Matcha. Our love for Matcha is well known. A Japanese green tea that is ground and used whole, Matcha compounds the benefits of steeped green teas and delivers a calm, energized focus. We drink it neat, spike our smoothies, milks and tonics, add it to chia puddings with a pinch of cardamom and even use it in raw chocolate.
Tonic Herbs. This one could be a Thinking CAP story of its own. And will be. But suffice it to say here that adaptogenic herbs and the delicious tonic drinks we create from them have become staples in our lives. Create a ritual around these drinks and crowd out your need for caffeine, sugar, alcohol or even cigarettes.
Medicinal Mushrooms. Another vast topic worthy of its own story. Medicinal Mushrooms including Reishi, Cordyceps and Chaga can fortify the immune system, reduce stress in the body and even increase respiratory capacity. Each with its own energetic and nutritional profile, these mushrooms can be added to your tonics, smoothies or broths. With a nutty, earthy taste they also mix well with cacao and even coffees.
Tocotrienols. Airy, sweet and vanilla, this rice bran soluble once cost more per ounce than gold. But thanks to better technology, sound waves are now used to split the bran and so Tocotrienols are no longer the stuff of Supermodel legend. We may all partake. They’re loaded with vitamins D and E and make a creamy and lightly sweet addition to warm drinks and smoothies.
Coconut Butter. Or should we say The Coconut Butter. We are particularly proud of our CAP Beauty version and for good reason. Blind taste testers and obsessed customers agree. It is, in fact, the best. 100% stone ground coconut flakes, it takes over 48 hours to produce. We use it in our teas and tonic herb elixirs because it adds flavor and depths, but also because the healthy fats in Coconut Butter slow down the release of herbs and caffeine. Think Bulletproof Coffee, CAP Beauty style. P.S. You can also take it, by the spoonful, directly from the jar. Kerrilynn tops it with gojis or cacao nibs.
Chickpea Flour. When comfort food calls, I make a simple batter by adding water and a splash of olive oil and use this for savory chickpea pancakes that become a perfect side for soups and salads. Thrive Market even sells a sprouted version.
Mung Beans. Yogi Bhajan’s Kitcheree is a wintertime staple in both of our kitchens. Lovingly called “Compost” by my French husband, Laurent. Add more vegetables than you think is right and it will feed you for a week.
Red Lentils. Another cold weather favorite, a simple red lentil dahl is the key to a warming and satisfying winter bowl. Just add to quinoa or rice, with a big side of steamed vegetables and kimchi. It simmers for just half an hour with no soaking required so it’s the perfect answer for a weekday meal.
Manuka Honey. This New Zealand wonder is loaded with natural antibacterial properties but unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, it does not encourage resistant bacteria. We use it topically as a skin cleanser or mask or add it to teas, toast or even take it by the spoonful to boost immunity and reduce inflammation.
Salt. When I worked for Martha Stewart, I was always amazed by the giant collection of salts she kept stoveside in her gorgeous kitchens. And while different salts deliver different textures and experience. most of us can simplify. CAP Beauty’s The Pink Mountain Salt is as close as it comes to an all purpose salt, great for cooking, baking and finishing. With a slightly coarse texture, it’s delicious in baked goods, melts easily into cooked foods and sits perfectly on top of salad. Harvested high in the Himalayas, our pink salt is ultra pure and loaded with trace minerals.
Ghee. If you are not strictly plant-based, consider an organic and grass fed ghee in place of oil for cooking. With an almost caramel-like taste, you can also add ghee to drinks or simply slather it on toast. This staple of Ayurveda contains ideal ratios of fats and fatty acids. It supports healthy digestion and helps us assimilate conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an elusive nutrient that promotes fat loss. It is even said to help flush out toxins.
Seaweed. This could (and will) be another story in and of itself, but here’s the cheat sheet. Kombu is the base of Dashi, a staple stock in Japanese cooking, and when added to soups and stocks, it delivers vital minerals and phytonutrients and a big hit of umami. And beans cooked with kombu become more digestible. Sheets of Nori become healthy wraps when topped with avocado, miso, fermented veggies and nut cheeses. Dulse flakes add nutrition and flavor to soups and salads and hijiki, wakame and arame are all fantastic seaweeds for a simple and nutrient dense side salad.
Glass canisters and mason jars, ceramic pots and Japanese tins transform a messy and disorganized cupboard into a shrine. But decanting your staples serves more than just aesthetics. Stackable, clear jars create order from chaos and allow you to see what you have on hand. Wide mouthed jars allow easy access to ingredients so baking becomes a pleasure and not a chore. Here are some of our favorite vessels for building your perfect pantry:
Classic glass cookie jars provide easy access for flours, oats and other ingredients we often need to measure. Say goodbye to wrestling with plastic and paper packages every time you bake. The wide mouth fits a measuring cup with no annoying spills and you’ll always know how much you have left.
It might not surprise you that when we look to organize we look to Japan. Muji’s canisters are simple and clean and come with nicely fitting lids. Perfect for teas, pastas, dried chiles, popcorn and more.
Mason jars or recycled kitchen jars make for more great storage for spice blends, seeds and dried legumes. We’ve always been partial to these with their glass lids and clips. Tiny ones for spices and herbs and quart-sized ones for granola, kombu and soba.
A hinged top canning jar has such old school stylish appeal, French Country by way of Cambridge. But we especially love this version for their shiny gold lids.
Humble Ceramics makes these cool canisters that come with 1970s style big cork closures. They’re not too big and channel California commune cooking in just the right way.
These wood-top ceramic canisters blend well with our pottery from California and Japan and they don’t break the bank.
This Danish cast iron spice grinder is also an exquisite storage box.
Our friends at Bellocq may be the masters of a pretty package. Their tea caddies are refillable and elevate teatime to a ritual. Kerrilynn drinks The White Wolf and I love Hindu Holiday.
This simple marble salt cellar works as well stove side for easy access.