This is a strange post. There will be no recipe. There will be no food pictures. There won’t even be much information. However, given the vast number of emails, posts and comments I get asking “what are those strange ingredients and where do I get them?”, I have a suspicion that a lot of you will find it totally useful. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
There’s a few ingredients in my recipes that you may not be familiar with. They make healthy eating easier, and in the case of baked goods especially, they make eating healthy possible. So we love them. There aren’t many, and I try very hard to minimize the number of new things you need to stock your pantry with to enjoy a healthy eating lifestyle; but there’s a few things we need to bridge the gap. So here’s the brands I use and where to get them.
What are those strange ingredients and where do I get them? These are your new pantry staples!!
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Almond Flour / Ground Almonds / Blanched Almond Meal (white)
Almond Flour is almonds that are ground after the skins have been removed, and they are creamy-white in color. Almonds with the skins removed are also called Blanched Almonds. I use almond flour (ground almonds, blanched almond flour) a lot in baked goods. Almond flour is not regularly available in most grocery stores in the US, although it is sold in all supermarkets as ground almonds and / or blanched almond meal in the UK and Australia. Because it is not easy to find in regular stores in the US, and because I get through huge quantities as I develop and test new recipes for you, I buy it online and in bulk because it’s a lot cheaper per pound that way. I store it in the freezer. The brand I use is Honeyville, because it is the best there is in the US. I buy the 25lb box, but it is also available in smaller quantities. You can also purchase almond flour in several stores that have the bulk-buy bins – PCC, Whole Foods, etc. iHerb: almond flour Amazon: almond flour
Almond Meal / Natural (or Raw) Almond Flour (speckled brown and white)
Almond Meal is almonds that are ground with the skins still on, and they are speckled white and brown in color. You cannot swap these in recipes that call for almond flour as the skins have a material effect on the result, so make sure you use the kind that a recipe states. Almond meal is readily available online. In the US you can buy it at Trader Joe’s and many regular grocery stores, especially those with bulk bins. You may also find it called Natural or Raw Almond Flour. Amazon: almond meal
Avocado oil is a great oil for cooking because it is extremely stable when heated and can withstand very high temperatures. It is full of omega-3 fatty acids and has a very light flavor, so whatever you use it with not be altered by the taste of the oil. It is readily available online. iHerb: avocado oil Amazon: avocado oil
Chia seeds are readily available online, and increasingly available in regular grocery stores. Trader Joe’s, PCC, Whole Foods, and most stores that have bulk bins have them. Black or white, chia seeds are all-awesome. Don’t worry about the tiny nutritional differences between the two. iHerb: chia seeds Amazon: chia seeds
Cocoa Powder / Cacao
Cocoa Powder is roasted cocoa beans, with much of the cocoa butter removed, ground into a powder – not to be confused with hot chocolate mix or sweetened cocoa powder. Because I am a chocolate snob and a pastry chef I use Valrhona cocoa powder – it is the best in the world – and I buy it online in bulk because it is a lot cheaper that way. Other brands of cocoa powder are readily available online. You can also find cocoa powder in most regular grocery stores. Just be careful to check the label and only buy unsweetened. iHerb: cocoa powder Amazon: cocoa powder
Cocoa nibs are smashed up roasted cocoa beans. If you just finished reading about cocoa powder above, it will not surprise you in the least to know that I use Valrhona cocoa nibs and I buy them online and in bulk because it’s cheaper that way. Other brands of cocoa nibs are readily available online. In the US you can find cocoa nibs at Trader Joe’s, PCC, and Whole Foods, and increasingly in the “natural” or “health food” sections of regular grocery stores. Make sure they contain nothing but cocoa beans. iHerb: cocoa nibs Amazon: cocoa nibs
Coconut Milk – THICK / Coconut Cream / Cream of Coconut
Thick Coconut Milk aka Coconut Cream or Cream of Coconut is coconut meat made into a thick, creamy paste. It gets tricky because coconut milk and coconut cream seem to have a huge variety of meanings to different people. When I include “thick coconut milk” in a recipe I am referring to the coconut milk that comes in a can and is extremely thick, and it is unsweetened. If you open the can without shaking it, you have an almost solid white mass with some clear “water” on the top. You can find other brands in regular grocery stores, and also in specialty stores such as Asian and Indian. I use Thai Kitchen brand. Amazon: thick coconut milk
Coconut Milk – THIN
When I use “thin coconut milk” in a recipe I am referring to the coconut milk that comes in a carton and is exactly like cows milk in color and thickness. Coconut Milk is the #1 cows milk alternative. I use Trader Joe’s brand, but most supermarkets have other brands. Always make sure it is unsweetened.
Coconut oil is the #1 oil for cooking. It is very stable when heated and does not taste of coconut, although you will doubt that until you’ve tried it because it smells heavily of coconut. Coconut oil is packed with MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) which are highly beneficial to our bodies. It is readily available online. You can buy coconut oil in most grocery stores. Check the cooking oil section, or the natural food section. iHerb: coconut oil Amazon: coconut oil
Coconut Oil Spray
Coconut Oil Spray is used to grease baking trays and dishes for baking. It is readily available online. You can also buy this is regular grocery stores and you will find it along with the other baking oil sprays. Amazon: coconut oil spray
Egg Whites – powdered
Absolutely the easiest and cheapest way to get egg whites is to use them in powdered form. They are readily available online. Reconstituted they work exactly like regular egg whites – they even make great meringue – except you don’t have to crack them and separate them, and you don’t get left with a whole pile of egg yolks. iHerb: egg white powder Amazon: egg white powder
Glucomannan Powder or Konjac Flour is a fiber made from Konjac Root and it is my go-to thickener instead of corn starch (cornflour) or wheat flour in sauces and gravies. It is readily available online. You use much less glucomannan than you would use corn starch or flour, so a little goes a very long way. iHerb: konjac/glucomannan Amazon: konjac/glucomannan
Guar Gum is an emulsifier and thickener. It is readily available online. In the US you can find it in a lot of grocery stores now. It is not cheap, but you use tiny amounts in recipes so it will last you a long, long time. Store in an air-tight jar. iHerb: guar gum Amazon: guar gum
Hemp milk is cows milk alternative made from hemp seed. It has a slightly thicker texture and a few caramel-y undertones. I use this in dessert and other sweet recipes rather than savory dishes. I use this mainly for various flavors of ice cream. It is readily available online. In the US it is increasingly available in grocery stores. Amazon: hemp milk
By sugar-free syrups I am referring to the clear syrups sold primarily to flavor coffee and other beverages. These are readily available online. In the US you can buy them at Starbucks and many grocery stores such as Safeway, Fred Meyers, IGA,etc. Amazon: sugar-free syrups
Whey Protein Powder
Whey Protein is one of the best sources of protein, and it is extremely useful in increasing our protein intake. Beware – protein powders are a minefield. Most of them are filled with garbage and not particularly healthy. Luckily, Jonathan Bailor did all the leg work for us here. We use Optimum Nutrition brand 100% Whey Gold Standard. It comes in a variety of flavors and sizes. I only use vanilla in my recipes so you don’t feel like you need to buy every flavor they make! You can purchase this at Super Supplement stores, but it is usually cheaper online. iHerb: vanilla whey protein powder Amazon: vanilla whey protein powder
Xanthan Gum is a thickener and stabilizer. It is readily available online. In the US you can find it in a lot of grocery stores – PCC, Whole Foods, Safeway, IGA, etc. It is not cheap, but you use tiny amounts in recipes so it will last you a long, long time. Store in an air-tight jar. iHerb: xanthan gum Aazon: xanthan gum
Xylitol is a natural sweetener to replace sugar. It is readily available online. I buy it in bulk because I get through so much of it in recipe development that it is a lot cheaper per pound that way. Make sure that you get xylitol that is made from birch bark and not corn. NOTE: Like chocolate, xylitol is harmful to dogs, so please be sure to keep any xylitol-containing goodies away from them! iHerb: xylitol Amazon: xylitol
And…since I’ve been eating this way for a while now, everything in my kitchen feels normal. What did I forget? See something in one of my recipes that is strange to you? Let me know and I’ll add it above!
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