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To save time, it's a good idea to have your kitchen stocked with a nice range of basic ingredients and to shop occasionally throughout the week for fresh produce and items like fish or fresh cheeses. Of course, more hardy fruits and vegetables like onions and winter squashes that can store longer can be purchased weekly, but I like to shop for fresh greens and perishables every few days.

Storing foods depends on the size of your kitchen. Many kitchens I've worked in have large pantries with lots of shelving where dried foods can be stored in glass, ceramic or hard plastic jars. There are several factors that influence the shelf life of dried goods, such as temperature, exposure to light and air, type of containers used and moisture content of ingredients. Storing dried foods in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dark area extends their shelf life.

Whole dried grains and beans:
These foods can stored under the right conditions for eight to 12 years. Brown rice has a short shelf life, as it contains essential oils in the germ, so it degrades more quickly. It can store for up to six months, but much longer if stored in the fridge or vacuum-sealed. Once the outer hull of the grains are broken down to create flour, the product will degrade and start to lose some of its nutritional value and should not be stored for more than a year. Of course you need to take into consideration the length of time the food has been on the shelf in the store, so check dates on packaged goods. For bulk foods, it's best to shop in stores where there's a quick turnover of bulk items or buy in smaller quantities that you won't have to store for long periods.

Nuts and seeds:
Some people suggest storing nuts and seeds in the fridge, and I think this is a good idea, especially in warmer temperatures. The oils in nuts and seeds cause them to go rancid quite quickly. When I travel, if I'm going to be away for a while, I store most of my grains, nuts and seeds in my fridge and freezer, and they stay fresh for much longer.

Seaweed:
Because of its high salt content, seaweed can be stored in sealed bags or containers, as moisture can cause it to mold. If it does get moist, it can be dried out in a warm oven.

Fruits and vegetables:
All fruits and vegetables except potatoes, garlic, ginger, lemons, limes and bananas can be stored in the refrigerator. Ripe tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator but do better stored at room temperature. Lemons and limes can be stored with other fruits in a fruit bowl or basket. Potatoes, garlic and ginger do best stored in a dark, dry place.

One last word of advice: Don't go shopping when you're hungry. When hungry, all food looks great and you're liable to end up with a full shopping cart of things you don't necessarily need.

I recommend a big slice of my Divine Corn Crust Pizza to leave your feeling satisfied and fulfilled. I first made it for a friend who was told by her nutritionist to avoid eating wheat, dairy products and tomatoes and was devastated, as pizza was the love of her life. I came to the rescue with pizza made with a cornmeal and spelt crust, but of course if you're on a gluten-free diet you can use another flour in place of the spelt, such as rice or oat. The sauce is made with pureed beet and carrot, which is then added to sautéed shallot with herbs. It is a truly delicious alternative to tomato sauce. In place of cheese, I topped with a seasoned tofu, but for nonvegans, you can use mozzarella or crumbled feta cheese. The feta is a lovely combination with the slightly sweet flavor of the beet sauce.

With love,

Aine


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