In My Pantry: Plants & Food For Nourishing My Body

February 11, 2022

I have always loved good, wholesome food. However, when an autoimmune diagnosis crept up on me in 2015, I needed to take a step back and look deeply into what was nourishing me in my life, and what wasn’t. What I’ve learned (in both my professional and personal journey) is that food is medicine, but it’s not only the nutrition that encourages healing, but the daily rituals and practices too. Here are some of the plants and foods in my pantry that I can’t do without, and that continue to nourish and support my body, including my favourite everyday greens and rice and what you’ll always find in my fridge and cupboards.

My food philosophy

I believe that optimal health comes first and foremost from our food and environment and that eating well is the best investment you can make in your life. Seven years ago I became very ill with an autoimmune condition that at the time seemed to appear out of nowhere. Over a period of weeks and months my symptom list continued to grow until one day the batteries literally just ran out and I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. Lifting my arms to get dressed in the morning or take a shower took every last drop of energy I had. What followed were neurological issues, gut problems, chronic joint pain, incessant insomnia and depression. After two years of seeking answers and researching widely into alternative and natural ways to heal my body, the more convinced I became that I could really change my loss of health by nourishing myself with nutrient dense food and making very intentional changes to my lifestyle.

This health crisis sent me on a path to heal my body by finding out what works best for me. There is a no one-size-fits-all approach; we are all different and require different elements to thrive. Along the journey, I’ve discovered that an anti-inflammatory approach to eating is the key to my healing. I revised my nutrition, dove into mind body practices, such as mindfulness meditation and breath work, and slowly everything began to change. Since then, I avoid cow dairy, eggs, gluten, refined sugar and oils, and focus on a vibrant, mostly plant-based way of eating, supplemented with plant-based forms of protein. I love fermented products from kombucha to kimchi and aim to incorporate these probiotic-rich foods daily to nurture my gut; the engine that keeps all bodily processes running smoothly. If there is one thing to work on in our health and wellbeing, it is this. Always start with the gut.

What I always keep in my fridge

Seasonal greens (kale, spinach, chard, mustard greens, soft leafy herbs, etc), lemons and limes, apples, root ginger, turmeric, nut cheeses (especially my staple fermented cashew cheese), miso, tempeh, blueberries, a plethora of what I call “meal elevators” (gomashio, dukkah, activated nuts and seeds, etc), adaptogenic elixir powders and tonics (for smoothies and hot brewed beverages), at least two nutrient dense sauces (to power my lunches through the week), home made nut and seed milks, kimchi, fermented and pickled vegetables, plant-based broth.

What’s always in my pantry

Cacao and carob powder, goji berries, olives, preserved lemons, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, hemp and chia seeds, herb-infused salts (nettle, spruce, bergamot), local extra virgin olive oil and other cold-pressed oils, dried seaweeds, spices (which I rotate seasonally), local raw honey, ceremonial matcha, dried mushrooms, tamari, wholegrains (brown, red, black rice, buckwheat noodles, quinoa), and of course, locally grown seasonal vegetables.

The one meal I make for myself more often than not

Greens and rice. This is the most calming and comforting bowl I know of (apart from plant-based broth), that I’m happy to eat at any time of the day. I can’t even say it’s a recipe, but it goes something like this: cook some wholegrain rice (I often use leftover cooked). Wash and shred some greens (kale, cavalo nero, spinach, chard, savoy cabbage, etc). Add the greens to a sauté pan or wok over a moderate heat and clamp on the lid. Steam for a minute or two until the greens have wilted. Drizzle over a little toasted sesame oil (careful, it will spit when it hits the moisture from the greens) and some tamari. You can add the rice at this point (I do this with leftover rice to warm it through), or serve in a warm bowl separately with the greens on top. Sometimes I’ll add some toasted cashews, sometimes some crumbled tempeh or marinated tofu, sometimes not. But a thinly sliced spring onion is usually a given, along with a little gomashio or toasted black sesame seeds and kimchi. I especially love adding ferments at breakfast to wake up my system with something zingy and spicy.

The things that inspire the food I eat through the seasons

Nature is my constant source of inspiration when it comes to nourishing and nurturing myself through the seasons, whether I’m foraging for wild herbs and greens in my area, or buying from the many local growers that work hard to produce the foods we eat at the surrounding farmers markets. For extra inspiration, I love leafing through my favourite cookery books. Some of my favourite food writers include: Heidi Swanson, Amy Chaplin, Aran Goyoaga, and Nigel Slater (for the way he writes about food, always).

What I turn to, to make me feel my best: food and self-care practices

Currently, my week is full with work and the renovation of our home in Provence, but my daily routine incorporates seasonal tonics and elixirs, walks in nature, music, ballet barre or yoga, friends, laughter (the best tonic), plants and sleep. These are the things that nourish me. 

People inspiring me in the food world and beyond right now

Local farmers who continue to produce the beautiful plants we buy each season, come rain or shine. Voices of wisdom like Michael Pollan and Dr Mark Hyman, any of the podcasts hosted by Krista Tippet at On Being, plus fellow nature lovers, including Robin Wall Kimmerer, Erin Lovell Verinder, Suzanne Simard, and the folks at Herbal Academy for their collective knowledge and education of plants. 

How I always end my day

Generally by 10pm with a hot bath and magnesium salts, a little journalling, and a good book.

3 Sources Plant Powered Pantry Staples Guide

A well-stocked whole food pantry, brimming with natural ingredients, is the cornerstone to eating optimally, especially when life is full and busy. Enter the 3 Sources pantry staples guide – your in-depth and printable guide and checklist for the best things to keep stocked in your pantry (and in your fridge and freezer too). With these items, you’ll be set to make a multitude of plant based recipes, from simple to truly elevated. 

Get your free guide here.

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  1. Cathy Shea says:

    Dear beautiful Rachel, I thought enjoy hearing from you and all the ways you have simplified this thing called life. I do hope to get to see you again and give you a hug one day. Right now my plan is to visit Switzerland and have time with Thomas sometime in autumn. Could it be that you would be there as well? Warm love from sunny Florida💖

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