Lately, I’ve been asked about the ingredients I use when I bake/cook and where to find them. So I thought I would enlighten you.
The ones I’m speaking of are not your meat, vegetables, or fruit, but baking and cooking ingredients to accompany those “natural” ingredients. Like in the picture above – cassava flour, arrowroot starch, gelatin eggs, unsulphured dried cranberries, raw honey, sea salt, coconut oil, baking soda.
Some of the ones I use are a bit unusual, so I’ll gladly help you out with the ones that I and most of the Paleo community use.
As you know I don’t eat grains so in order for me to make things I can eat, there are a few grain free flours that I use. Namely:
This is part of the tapioca plant that is cooked, then dried, then ground into a fine flour. This particular flour has become a staple for me as I make just about everything I bake with it – scones, pie crust, pizza crust, Paleo Christmas cake, Paleo pancakes, AIP crumpets, AIP English muffins, AIP Bagels, and more.
Tapioca flour/starch is made from the root of the cassava plant it is the starchy compound used to make this ingredient. It is actually the same as what is used to make tapioca “pearls” that you might buy to make puddings. Tapioca flour and starch are the same thing. It is used to add structure to a recipe. You don’t need to use too much tapioca flour/starch, and that’s a good thing because it can impart its own flavor to a recipe. Some people will use cornstarch instead, but then it’s made from the starchy part of the corn and for me in particular that’s not a good thing.
Arrowroot Starch/Flour is made from the rhizomes of the arrowroot plant which is used to make medicine and as an ingredient for cooking/baking. I mainly use arrowroot in combination with cassava flour when making many baked goods. Arrowroot is my go-to starch for a thickening agent in soups, stews, or gravies. It can be substituted with less expensive starches such as potato, rice, tapioca or cornstarch.
This flour is one of my favorites. A little goes a long way – you only have to use a small amount to produce a great recipe. Using coconut flour, you have to be careful to measure it correctly, otherwise your recipe may not turn out the way you hoped. So before measuring, fluff the flour with a fork, then measure without pressing it into the measuring cup. Coconut flour is, a lot of the time, used in combination with other flours such as cassava flour.
This flour has many nutritional benefits. Among them are healthy saturated fats, high in metabolism boosting medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), and the protein and fats in coconut flour will reduce the glycemic load of baked goods that contain sweeteners. Coconut flour is heat stable and can be stored on your shelf for a long time without going rancid as the fat in the flour is saturated fat, unlike in almond flour (which should be stored in the fridge) which contains a large portion of polyunsaturated fats. Coconut flour is also high in fiber (6 gm. for 2 tablespoons of flour). What’s not to like!
Potato Flour and Potato Starch
Potato flour and starch are made from potatoes which are a nightshade, I do not use this flour. But you might be able to. Please be sure to know the difference between potato flour and potato starch. Potato flour is from the actual potato and its peel, where the starch is only made from the potato, dried, and ground to a fine powder. It is often used in recipes to make a more dense finished product. DO NOT confuse this with potato starch – which when used in baking actually produces a much lighter, fluffier product. It also produces great gravies, and will thicken soups and stews. It is much like arrowroot/tapioca or cornstarch.
Sweet potato flour (which is actually made from White Sweet Potatoes), and TigerNut flour (not from actual tigers!) are two great flours to use. These are fairly expensive flours, they come in small quantities and are used for very special occasions.
Aside from grains, other ingredients are needed to help put together a dessert or treat that is acceptable. Such as:
I use tiger nuts for a snack – a very healthy snack, and a lot of times will make milk from them and then make my own tiger nut flour out of the pulp left over from the milk. That way, I’m not paying a lot of money by not utilizing what I already have. The tiger nuts have to be soaked for 24-48 hours before making milk, so you have to plan ahead. I usually have them on hand, as I try to buy them in the biggest amount I can and keep them handy. The snack type I use is peeled tiger nuts. They are very chewy, but have a great flavor and can be eaten right out of the bag.
As most coconut yogurt at the grocery store or even in health food markets contains too many added ingredients, I make my own, using coconut milk, probiotics, and gelatin and make it in my electric pressure cooker with the yogurt setting. It really is great and can be used in just about any recipe I make that either needs yogurt, or requires milk.
A very stable, medium chain triglyceride, saturated fat, that I use in many recipes, stove top cooking, and baking. We started using it every morning to do our oil-pulling (see my post here). Such a versatile oil that can be used for many things: oil-pulling, cooking/baking, facial cleaner/moisturizer, toothpaste, just to name a few things.
Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
I often use unsweetened shredded coconut or flakes in my baking, but also use it to make my own Coconut Butter/Manna. It is a very easy process, just place a couple of cups of the shredded coconut in your blender, put the lid on, turn it to blend, and wait – it takes about 5 minutes or more depending on the power of your blender. I’ll do a more detailed post about this in a bit.
Olive Oil and Avocado Oil
These oils, along with coconut oil are pretty much interchangeable when baking. When cooking on the stove, I most usually use avocado oil because it has a higher smoke point and a very neutral flavour.
Instead of buying this lovely addition to cooking/baking, I make my own by blending coconut flakes until it becomes a butter. It is shelf stable, so you don’t have to use up valuable refrigerator space. It will keep soft at over 76F (23C), but can be warmed up to use if/when necessary.
Gelatin is a very versatile ingredient used in all kinds of things from puddings and jello’s to cakes/muffins/pancakes to smoothies to yogurts. It can be made into an egg substitute which you will find in a lot of my recipes as I don’t use eggs too much in recipes anymore due to the fact they affect my joints too often. Gelatin is so good for: providing the amino acid glycine to increase hydrochloric acid to help with digestion and assimilation of nutrients in the intestinal tract; helps maintain muscle mass when you are ill and unable to move around but also helps athletes recover after extreme exercise due to the many amino acids it contains; helps with affects of inflammation that causes arthritis by helping keep joints lubricated; can help alleviate allergies by sealing an inflamed and porous intestinal lining; helps with wound repair by providing arginine and glycine – two amino acids needed to provide healthy connective tissue; helps balance hormones by providing glycine to help regulate insulin and prevent hypoglycemia and helps the body produce glutathione which helps remove excess estrogens; assists our adrenals (kidneys, adrenals, and bladder) deal with stress and cortisol which is released when we are stressed; weight loss by helping you feel full longer; contains the essential amino acid glycine which is effective as a liver detox that helps remove toxic chemicals; and gelatin contains easy to digest calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals which help build a healthy bones. Not good if you are a vegetarian, as it comes from animal sources – mainly beef or better still grass fed beef.
Collagen is another great source of protein, I often add collagen to my smoothies to get that protein in that meal instead of eating meat. Those ladies amongst us know how valuable collagen is in our diets because it is what helps keep our skin wrinkle free, supple and have more elasticity. As we age (as you are reading this blog post) collagen starts to diminish and we need to help our bodies by supplementing with collagen powder or pills to help keep our skin, nails, hair and teeth healthy. Another bonus is that collagen helps reduce stretch marks and cellulite! Collagen helps with joint pain and degeneration such as happens with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis sufferers, by keeping your joints lubricated and supple. Another benefit of collagen is it helps with gut/stomach issues by helping to seal the gastrointestinal tract to help prevent bad bacteria from attacking and causing more issues. Collagen keeps your liver healthy by helping your liver’s ability to remove the toxins that will ultimately make you unhealthy like alcohol and other chemicals. Bone broth is a wonderful way to get your collagen without having to add powder or pills to your diet, but you must use it regularly. You will have a healthier heart taking a collagen supplement or drinking bone broth as it will help avoid the occurrence of plaque buildup in your arteries thereby helping to prevent artheriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
To all the vegetarians out there, you might consider taking a supplement even though it is from an animal due to all the health benefits.
Unrefined Sea Salt
I know many say Salt is Salt, but…. Unrefined Sea Salt is a more “natural” substance that is NOT processed like table salt. It contains many more nutrients that are very good for the body. When regular table salt is processed, it is stripped of the nutrients actually needed for your body. Also, it has many chemicals added to make it seem healthy when it is in fact not. Like Sodium Chloride which comprises approximately 97% of processed table salt, and the rest is comprised of ingredients such as anti-caking chemicals, iodine to help prevent goiters, MSG and/or white sugar to help stabilize the iodine, and aluminum derivatives, such as sodium silico aluminate! Really! This FAKE salt puts people at risk of cardiovascular events and chronic disease and causes you to retain fluid, which then causes such diseases as diabetes, gout and obesity. Most people think that iodized salt is good for you, but in fact may cause you to over-iodize which could cause enlarged thyroid gland which may then cause thyroid-related autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. WOW, I wish I had known all this when I was much younger!
Some types of Sea Salt you might want to consider using instead of regular table salt are: Pink Himalayan Sea Salt which has a delightful flavor, dates back to earth’s creation, contains all 84 trace elements in the body; Celtic Sea Salt has a gray colour, is harvested in Brittany, France near the Celtic Sea, and uses an ancient method to preserve its nutritional balance; Flake Sea Salt is naturally formed, has thin, flat crystals allowing it to dissolve quickly, and has a saltier taste but is lower in trace mineral content than other sea salts; Hawaiian Sea Salt (Alaea Sea Salt) is a red colour due to iron oxide from the red volcanic clay, is very expensive and is very hard to find outside of Hawaii; Italian Sea Salt which comes from the Mediterranean Sea by the coast of Sicily (may also be called Mediterranean Sea Salt).
Just because it’s called Sea Salt and has more health benefits doesn’t mean you should have more of it than you would table salt. Keep in mind that they both have sodium content and should be used in moderation.
I use mainly powdered spices like cinnamon, mace, ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, and other non-seed based spices in my cooking and baking. I also regularly use fresh herbs – basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, and garlic.
Most people will say, why don’t you use regular tap water? Well, because there are so many chemicals added to our tap water to make it SAFER for us, that they actually overdo it and can cause other health issues for those of us with autoimmune diseases. We actually triple filter the water that we drink, and I use double filtered water for just about everything else that goes into our bodies, including cooking and baking.
Even though I tend to react to eggs, I do sometimes add them to a recipe. However, I will tell you I can feel the difference in my joints the next day, but sometimes a recipe just won’t work well without them, so I will put up with some discomfort to accommodate a better finished product. When I buy eggs, they are organic, free range eggs. We buy them at Costco – two dozen at a time.
I do not drink or cook with cow, goat or any other animal’s milk. I do, however, mainly use coconut milk in my recipes (not in a tetra pack or carton, but in the can and full fat with no additives). Sometimes I’ll get a bit adventurous and make some Tiger nut milk, which I will use in place of my coconut milk , or to replace almond, soy or regular milk in a recipe. It might change the taste, but it’s worth it for me.
Oh wow, do I ever get great results using this gem. Palm shortening is like vegetable shortening without the hydrogenation and other dangerous fats. The baking I do that requires this ingredient turns out perfectly every time. If you are looking for a healthy fat to use – try this to replace your “Crisco”. It’s a bit more expensive, but your health is worth it!
I’ve taken to making my own jams these days as the ones you buy in the grocery store contain way too much processed sugar, which for me is a total no-no. Now my sweetener of choice is either raw honey or natural maple syrup,
Raw Unfiltered Honey and Organic Maple Syrup
These two have become my sweeteners of choice. I occasionally will use coconut sugar or maple sugar in a recipe, but they are a lot more expensive to use. For honey using organic, raw and local is the best because it actually helps with any seasonal allergy issues you may have. Maple Syrup should be organic and unprocessed, other than from the tree!
I will use vanilla, but very sparingly due to the alcohol content. I don’t find I react, which is really great, but I will also use vanilla bean powder in some recipes.
Because store bought baking powder contains aluminum and cornstarch (a no-no for me), I make my own baking powder with baking soda, cream of tartar, and arrowroot powder.
I buy baking soda by the bag, but also have a small box in my cupboard. Why the bag? Well, I use the big bag of baking soda to make all my cleaning products, toothpaste, and creams. There are so many uses for baking soda, it’s worth it to buy in bulk.
I use two types of molasses – blackstrap and original – both unsulphured as I have a problem with sulphur dioxide.
This is a tough one as it is very difficult to find good unsulphured fruit. I actually found my dried cranberries at Costco and was so excited. But that was the only unsulphured fruit they were carrying at the time. I keep looking, but usually have to resort to on-line resources for others.
There are a lot more ingredients I use regularly, but these are the main ones.
Where do I get my ingredients, some are on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca, but I may be able to find a lot of things either in a regular grocery store, or health food resource. Most flours can be bought in the gluten free isle in the grocery store or health food store, but cassava flour and tiger nuts have to be bought on-line as I’ve not yet found a resource around me. I source my shortening on Amazon as well. Costco has become a very good resource in the recent past for many Paleo foods and ingredients.
If there are any other ingredients you would like to know about, please let me know in the comments below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more detailed information.
Have a blessed day and week ahead.