Most people think that as a food blogger, I must spend my time shopping for and eating only expensive foods and hard to find ingredients. As lovely as that sounds, it's unfortunately not my life. The truth is I eat quite simply, with food you can find from any grocery store. Food bloggers—they're just like you! But actually, I just finished my second cookbook, Naturally Nourished, and the whole point of it was to take supermarket ingredients and turn them into something healthy, tasty, and actually exciting to make. Going on a health kick can seem daunting, especially if you don't often cook for yourself. But the basis of a healthy diet is a fridge full of healthy food that you actually know what to do with. To get you rolling, start with these six versatile ingredients and see where it gets you. There's a bonus recipe at the bottom too, to get you inspired.
Beets are not only inexpensive, they are available year-round, and even come with an added bonus: the greens! Beets contain powerful phytonutrients that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support. In the fall and winter, I like to roast a huge batch of beets and keep them in the fridge to add to meals (even smoothies!) all week long. In the summer time, I like eating beets raw, either spiralized, julienned, or thinly shaved into salads and sandwiches for extra crunch.
Inexpensive, filling, and always easy to find, brown rice is one of the most-cooked grains in my home kitchen. I like to make a big batch on Sunday night to act as the foundation of my meals throughout the week. Just by adding fresh or cooked veggies, a legume (like lentils or beans), plus a sauce or dressing, I have a fast, easy meal in no time at all.
Lentils are part of the legume or pulse family and are often referred to as the “meat” of the plant kingdom. High in protein, but loaded with fiber (something meat doesn’t have at all!) lentils are a versatile, quick-cooking ingredient to always keep in your pantry…or pre-cooked in your fridge. Like rice, I boil a large portion of lentils to last for several days. I add them to soups, stews, and salads—they even blend up with tahini, lemon, and garlic to make superb hummus.
I am pretty sure I don’t need to convince you of this one, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, it turns out that avocados do a lot more than top your toast. I turn avocados into a smashing dip with tahini, puree it in soups to add body and creaminess, and blend it with cocoa and dates to make chocolate mousse. A ripe avo in my fruit basket means I have a meal…even if it is just on top of my toast.
I love these root veggies because they are so satisfying! My favorite meal is a giant roasted sweet potato, stuffed with whatever I have on hand (cooked beans, shredded cabbage, feta cheese, a sauce or dressing, toasted nuts, fresh herbs…). I also love adding them to baked goods like my sweet potato and date muffins—they add just the right amount of sweetness to anything.
There is a reason kale became a thing. Per calorie, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on planet earth. And it also happens to be a versatile veggie, delicious cooked or raw or even blended up into a smoothie. I like washing the bunch and de-stemming as soon as I get home from the store, that way I’ll have prepped greens in my laziest moments so there is no excuse to not to eat them. I like to slice it thinly and massage it with a little olive oil, salt, and lemon juice until it turns dark green and tender. So delicious.
And what to make when you've stocked all those ingredients...
Winter Abundance Bowl
2/3 cup brown rice
1/3 cup green lentils
¼ – ½ tsp. sea salt
1 head broccoli
1 medium sweet potato (leave the skin on if it’s organic!)
2 cups shredded red cabbage or kale
juice of ½ lemon or lime
drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil
1. Combine rice and lentils in a medium bowl, cover with water and wash well, rubbing grains and legumes together. Drain and repeat until water is clear. Cover with water again and soak overnight/for up to 8 hours, if possible. Drain and rinse.
2. In a medium saucepan place the rice and lentils, plus 1½ cups water (if soaked—add 2 cups water if un-soaked), and sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered until water has been absorbed and rice and lentils are cooked through (about 30-45 minutes depending on if you soaked the grain or not).
3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, chop the broccoli into florets and the sweet potato into bite-sized cubes. About ten minutes before the grains have cooked (check the water level before adding veggies—if it’s dry, add a little more liquid), add the sweet potato. After five minutes, add the broccoli on top of the sweet potato.
4. While the rice and lentils are cooking you can also blend together the sauce (see below) and prepare the cabbage: Shred cabbage using a mandoline or sharp knife. Toss with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. Toss to combine.
5. To assemble the bowl, simply spoon in the cooked rice and lentils with the steamed veggies, add the cabbage on the side and pour sauce over. Give thanks for the abundance and enjoy.
Garlic-Ginger Pumpkin Seed Sauce
Makes 2 cups
1 cup/150g pumpkin seeds
3 cloves garlic
knob of fresh ginger
1 tbsp. maple syrup
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
¾ -1 cup /175- 250 ml water
¾ tsp. fine grain sea salt
¼ tsp. cracked black pepper
cayenne pepper to taste
1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds, stirring every so often, until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. In a food processor, pulse to mince garlic and ginger. Add cooled pumpkin seeds and blend on high until sand-textured. Add remaining ingredients (start with ¾ cup water) and blend, scraping down the sides periodically. Add remaining water as needed to suit your desired consistency. Season to taste. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
This recipe makes quite a lot of sauce, but as it keeps for five days it’s a wonderful thing to have on hand to dress salads, roast veggies and cooked whole grains. You can easily make half the amount if you know you won’t eat it all in before it spoils.
You can also make a raw version of this sauce. To do so, soak the pumpkin seeds for 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse well. Skip step 1 in the instructions and carry on with the others. Enjoy!
Sarah Britton is the founder of My New Roots, a holistic nutritionist, and a certified nutritional practitioner. Her new book is called Naturally Nourished. For more of her recipes, click here.