Second in a four-part series
The kitchen was once the center of life. With our fast-paced lifestyles, we have gradually moved away from customs of food preparation and feelings of connection and community surrounding preparing and sharing a meal. This has affected our physical health and that of our planet.
To create conscious healthy eating habits and a conscious kitchen, it is important to have it well stocked with essential items. Otherwise, we easily revert to the unconscious, impulsive and less-healthy choices.
What is a Conscious Kitchen? My definition is that it’s a place that is attuned with the balance of nature and the needs of our body, mind and spirit. It is a place where we create meals with a new level of awareness of what and how we are consuming.
The first awareness of our conscious kitchen is to realize a clean home and the use of chemical cleaners is not harmonious with our health and that of the environment. The effects of chemicals in the world have become an epidemic. The typical U.S. family accrues up to 100 pounds of harmful household waste per year, which includes cleaning products. The EPA suggests the air in our homes can be two to five times more toxic than the outside.
Let’s begin our adventure of creating a conscious kitchen by replacing our hazardous items with those that are more earth friendly. Replace your dish soap with an earth-friendly brand made with safer and biodegradable ingredients. Try original Bon Ami that has no chemicals. It scrubs well! The old standby, baking soda and vinegar, is very effective. One of my favorites is the Young Living Thieves household cleaner, which smells divine, cleans well, is anti-bacterial and is made from essential oils. There also are many safe oven and drain cleaners.
The next awareness in your conscious kitchen is to make healthy choices and know where your food originated. Buy organic and local as much as possible!
Now, let’s stock the pantry. Start collecting good-sized glass jars and containers. Then take a trip to your local co-op’s bulk section. Here you will find a wealth of healthy foods to fill your containers. You can find bulk beans and pastas, oatmeal and hot cereals, rice, organic flours and much more. Also stock up on 100 percent maple syrup, virgin olive oil, and healthy snacks. If you are gluten free, look for the Tinkyada brand. The pasta is firm and holds up well.
For me, one of the most important parts of my kitchen is herbs and spices. I keep dried spices, as well as fresh plants, in the house for the winter, as there is nothing like fresh herbs! My top suggestions to stock would be garlic granules, fresh cloves, a seasoning called Spike, cayenne pepper (which is both great to cook with and has many healing properties), dill, oregano and a curry powder. Keep in mind that spices keep their best for six months, then they start losing flavor and health properties. The advantage of buying herbs from a co-op is the ability to purchase them fresh in bulk at the amount you want, which makes the food less expensive in the long run.
For your refrigerator and freezer, there are countless healthy condiments, jellies and nut butters, frozen fruits, berries, whole grain breads and healthy entrees. If you eat meat, be sure to choose hormone and antibiotic free and preferably 100 percent grass fed. And keep a good supply of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.
Finally, you will need the proper appliances and tools to cook your food with. Stainless steel pots and pans and iron skillets are your healthiest choices. Good rubber spatulas, a garlic press, a blender, juicer, food processor and a quality set of knives are also essential. If you eat raw foods, a good food dehydrator with temperature control is a must and a hand-held mixer and eggbeater are great to have, as well.
As you consciously choose to stock and prepare your kitchen for optimal health, you are more likely to make conscious choices. Create a conscious kitchen and return to the mindful connections that meal times once provided.
Next month: Becoming a Conscientious Shopper