All these ingredients were chosen with health and pocketbook in mind. When you can buy organic – do.
Almond Flour – Honeyville makes a great almond flour that is nice for baking. Very moist and kosher, by the way, it’s a great choice, but not cheap. A 1-lb bag will run you about $10.
Agave Nectar – This is a really great substitute for sugar. It is comprised mostly of fructose (92% and 8% glucose), which has a much lower glycemic index than table sugar. But it is still a form of sugar and should be moderated, in my opinion. Because it is in liquid form, it is a wonderful way to sweeten salad dressings and drinks.
Great for baking as well – it provides a sweetness without imparting a particular flavor, like that of honey for example. I buy the Wholesome brand, by the case from Amazon because it is organic and raw. I also like Madhava’s lighter organic, raw syrup, but it’s not currently available in the smaller containers. If you use the dark nectar, simply use less.
Butter Substitute – Earth Balance is a butter alternative product that offers several options: Organic Whipped Buttery Spread and the Original spread – both soy based, but they also have a soy-free option. My favorite butter substitute is grapeseed oil (see below).
Baking Powder – I use Rumford – it’s GFCF, aluminum free and Kosher.
Baking Soda – I use Arm & Hammer – always have, always will. It is synonymous with baking soda and gluten-free.
European Style Chocolate – You can buy Hershey’s – the traditional brown tin of unsweetened chocolate, which is a good deal dollar-wise, but if you want something special, try the organic Navitas Naturals Organic Cacao Powder from Amazon. This is a treat for GFCF as well as soy-free individuals wanting the chocolate flavor in a “milk shake” or cookie, without the dairy.
Block Chocolate – Trader Joe’s delivers a wonderful product here. For GFCF, buy the semi-sweet, bittersweet or dark blocks that offer a bit over a pound for $5! They are a German company and offer great quality chocolate.
Chocolate Chips – I love the semi-sweet chips from Trader Joe’s. GFCF with a wonderful flavor and minimal stabilizers so it melts beautifully. If you need GFCF and soy-free (GFSFSF), try Enjoy Life.
Grapeseed Oil – I buy from Trader Joe’s. It is lighter than the middle eastern brands and has a lovely buttery flavor that lends itself well to baked goods. I also use it for salad dressings, when olive oil can be too heavy a flavor.
Mayonnaise – Best Foods (known as Hellman’s east of the Rockies) is gluten-free. They claim to not have any free glutamic acid (the rebranding of MSG or monosodium glutamate) in it, but it does contain Calcium Disodium EDTA, a preservative. I like to make mine homemade.
Olive Oil – Costco carries an organic Kirkland brand that you can buy two at a time. The oil is derived from olives from Italy and Spain. I like to buy local whenever possible, and Trader Joe’s also offers a good California olive oil as well.
Quinoa – Nutritionally, quinoa might be considered a supergrain, but it’s not a grain at all. Distantly related to spinach, it is the seed of a leafy plant that grows high in the Andean Mountains.
It is a an excellent source of protein and unlike other grains, it is not missing the amino acid lysine, so the protein is more complete. Quinoa offers more iron than other grains and contains high levels of potassium and riboflavin, as well as other B vitamins: B6, niacin, and thiamin. It is also a good source of magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese, and has some folate (folic acid).
Quinoa provides a lovely base for tabouli, fresh roasted vegetables and herbs. You can find it occasionally in bulk at Costco, but also at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Traditional markets have caught on too.
Quinoa Flour – Ground from quinoa seeds, this flour holds up really well as a coating for sauteed protein as well as baking, but it’s not cheap for sure. A 22-oz bag will set you bag around $10. You can purchase at your local health food store, Whole Foods or bulk at Amazon.
Quinoa Flakes – flaked from the quinoa seed, this is a great warm breakfast alternative to oatmeal. Plus, the flakes add lots of protein and texture to baking. Again, you can find this at your local health food store in a box. I like the Ancient Harvest brand.
Rice – Basmati is my rice of choice and I always buy organic. Various studies note that more pesticides are found in rice than other grains – perhaps because of growing conditions (standing water). Luckily, organic rice is almost as cheap as conventional. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s.
Rice Flour – I use organic brown rice flour from Bob’s Red Mill. I buy mine bulk from Amazon. You should be able to find this easily at your local health food store and even at conventional supermarkets.
Salt – I use kosher as well as sea salt. I buy my sea salt at Trader Joe’s — it’s a total bargain. Sea salt is harvested from evaporated sea water and is considered unprocessed. Kosher salt is harvested from evaporated salt bed or from the sea and contains no preservatives. Both have a superior flavor compared to table salt, which I avoid.
Stevia – There is some debate about Stevia in this country and it’s about right here that I feel I need to make one of those disclaimers about how my opinion is only my opinion, and doesn’t reflect the wisdom of God, etc., but I really can’t figure this debate out. Stevia is a green leafed herb used for decades in Japan as a sweetener (it commands about 40% of the sweetener market there). It is, however, only recently available in this country as a supplement (go figure) and not as a sweetener, although anyone who uses Stevia uses it in the capacity of a sweetener. Here’s more info if you’re curious.
The bottom line? It’s crazy sweet! And compared to sugar, it takes a fraction of Stevia to produce the same punch. I use it because it has been used for 30 years without incident in Japan. Moreover, it has been used by South American natives for centuries without incident. I buy mine organic, at Trader Joe’s. It’s great with a squeeze of lemon in some cool water. With anything sweet (even though it’s not sugar), I tend to use it in moderation.
Vanilla – I use the one from Trader Joe’s but you can buy the Simply Organic brand at Whole Foods. The worry with vanilla is that alcohol, made with a grain like wheat or barley, could contain gluten. Typically, the distillation process removes the gluten, which is the typical ingredient of vanilla. In case of any doubts, use vanilla marked “gluten-free”, “non-alcohol”, or even “bourbon vanilla” which is gluten-free.