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11 Surprising Pantry Staples I Can’t Live Without (+ A Giveaway!)

by Elise Museles

HomemadeBreadChiaJam-smallWhen you’re visiting a friend, have you ever been tempted to peek in their bathroom cabinet? Even though we all know it’s incredibly uncouth, we’re at least a little curious. How does she keep her skin so smooth? Is she using a lipstick I should know about? What’s that interesting scent she’s always wearing?

While I’ve never been a bathroom cabinet voyeur, I’m ALWAYS interested in my friends’ pantries. What’s that thing in the green canister? Why do they have five pounds of raw almonds? I want to know everything.

And when people come to my house, I can’t wait to share all my latest & greatest pantry secrets. Since I can’t really invite all of you to DC, I wanted to give you a tour inside my cabinets and tell you about the sometimes surprising things that I stockpile. Of course, I have plenty of the usuals–olive oil, quinoa, dried spices, nuts, legumes and grains. But I’d rather offer you some insight into my lesser-known pantry staples–or the potentially unknown ways that I use the common ones!

1. Coconut oil
I bet you have this in your pantry already, but are you using it for baking or adding it to your protein bars? Or removing your eye makeup? Or moisturizing your skin after a shower? It can also replace butter in chocolate chip cookies! And according to my son Noah, it turns plain old brown rice into a flavorful dish when you add a tablespoon of it to the pot during the cooking process.

2. Avocado oil
Why isn’t everyone stocking their pantry with this underappreciated oil? It’s a good source of Vitamin E, improves digestion, reduces inflammation and has the highest smoke point of any healthy oil (520 degrees Fahrenheit)! You’ll never have to worry about smoking up your kitchen. I just started using it in my roasted Brussels sprouts.

WCOTahiniBowl3. Tahini
Tahini is not just for hummus! It’s delicious on apple slices with a few drops of honey or mixed with lemon juice and tamari for a zippy dressing to have with collard wraps. Or try blending it with some anti-inflammatory spices to create an easy tahini sauce to drizzle on steamed and roasted vegetables. Yum!

4. Cashews
There are lots of obvious reasons to keep cashews on hand–they’re a nice addition to any trail mix, Asian slaw or stir fry. But I buy them in bulk so I can make my own dairy-free cream cheese!

5. Essential oils
Essential oils aren’t just for sniffing or rubbing on your temples. I like to add a few drops of orange or cinnamon essential oil in my pancakes and lemon or rosemary essential oil to my salad dressing. I also put a dash of peppermint oil in my water in the afternoon to help aid digestion.

6. Coconut sugar
Of course, I love coconut sugar for baking banana bread as it has a lower glycemic index than white sugar. But have you ever mixed it with coconut oil and a few drops of lavender essential oil to make a body scrub?! It’s perfect for the fall and winter when we find ourselves getting a bit dried out!

7. Chia seeds
There are many ways to incorporate these mighty little seeds into your diet! I use them to thicken smoothies and make my beloved chia pudding. They absorb 10 to 12 times their weight in liquid, so if you add them to your water or juice they’ll help you stay hydrated (and full!) longer. Recently, I’ve been on a chia seed jam kick and use it to layer in parfaits or to make an updated (and healthier!) version of PB & J. I even make my own egg replacement with chia seeds for baked goods!

Matcha-Tea-Edited 8. Matcha tea  
This powdered tea is high in antioxidants, boosts memory, and even increases energy levels! Now that the weather is getting cooler, I start my day by slowly sipping and savoring a matcha latte. You can also combine matcha with other powdered spices to add a boost of phytonutrients to granola or mix it into green smoothies.

9. Spirulina
Have you heard of this superfood? It’s a microalgae, which is rich in nutrients that you likely won’t find in your daily multivitamin. You can stir it into your smoothies (though be warned—it’ll turn every smoothie a deep blue/green) or even fold it into chocolate truffles.

10. Oats
Now, I’m sure you already have oats in your pantry for healthy breakfasts like overnight oats and not so basic oatmeal. But did you know you that you can make your own oat flour just by pulsing oats in your food processor? And it does wonders for your skin when you mix 2 tablespoons of ground oats with ½ a banana and a teaspoon of raw honey to use as a face mask!

11. Nut butters
Yes, I smear nut butter on dates, but it’s also a great addition to smoothies, protein balls, granolas and “nice cream.” Nut butters taste divine in satays and Asian-inspired dishes. I always have at least three or four (or maybe more!) different nut butters lining my pantry shelves at one time!

In fact, nut butters are such an essential staple that I’m not going to rest until you have several jars in your pantry. My friends at Windy City Organic have offered 20% off for my readers when you purchase any of their luxurious Dastony nut butters using the discount code KALEANDCHOCDA20.

And since the theme this month for the 12 Tiny Changes Challenge is MEAL PREP, and because one of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to stock your pantry with all the essentials, I’ve teamed up with Windy City Organics for a very tasty GIVEAWAY. One lucky person has a chance to win a prize pack of delicious Dastony stone ground nut butters! You have through the remainder of September to enter. Learn how here.

Now it’s your turn: what’s your favorite pantry staple, and do you have unusual uses for it? Can’t wait to read your answers in the comments below!

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