Good food, in my opinion, is food that is not only absolutely delicious, but decently healthy. Packaged junk food does not enter our home. In fact, very little packaged food does. Candy is almost unheard of around here. When I was unemployed I made everything we ate from scratch; now that I have a 40-a-week job, I make as much as I can but supplement with prepared foods here and there.
When baking and cooking, I rely on certain ingredients consistently. I have some health issues including hypoglycemia and various allergies so we eat a lot of protein (animal-based lasts in my system longer than legumes) . We do not use artificial anything as I ardently believe that nature gives us the best food for us, but everything in life is about balance and moderation. That being said, here are a list of ingredients I use most:
- Extra-virgin olive oil – A good quality brand for drizzling, salad dressings, and mixing with Cajun or Italian seasoning as a dip for fresh bread.
- Unsalted butter – I have a sensitivity to salt water so I like to control the amount of salt in my dishes to minimize the amount of salt in my body.
- Grapeseed oil – Canola oil is derived from the highly-toxic rapeseed, and no matter how much marketers say it is 100% safe, I don’t trust it. I use grapeseed oil in place of canola oil for all applications. Possible danger aside, grapseed oil is ridiculously high in nutrients, and since I only pretty much use it for baking, it is worth the high cost.
- Pure olive oil – I use this for frying, and oiling pans rather than using my good extra-virgin or butter.
- Bacon fat – A little bit adds a lot of flavor to sautéed onions, leeks, potatoes…mmmm….
- Sesame oil – I use just a dab for sautéeing or in salad dressings when I want a punch of flavor.
- Peanut oil – By far the best oil for making fried rice, I tend to use it a lot for stir fries.
Sugars: I am allergic to all artificial sweeteners, so using them is out of the question even if I agreed with the idea of them. I use a variety of natural sweeteners instead, which I feel is healthier than putting another artificial food in our bodies.
- Raw sugar - Refined sugar has been stripped of the naturally-occurring molasses which contains many vitamins. Raw sugar is therefore a bit more nutritionally sound. The fact that it is more expensive just ensures I use it in moderation.
- Honey – As I have an allergy to antihistamines but also have terrible seasonal allergies, I try very hard to procure locally-made honey. Being made from the same plants that are bothering me, it works like an antidote. Honey also has a low glycemic-index which is good for maintaining my blood sugar levels. When we want to sweeten most things, this is what we reach for. I have not tried raw honey yet, but plan to very soon. Edit: Tried it, loved it, hooked.
- Brown sugar – Raw sugar that has extra molasses added in for that crumbly texture. We do use this for some things as its texture is just better than anything else for those applications: some breads, muffins, streusel, etc.
- Pure maple syrup: The Grump hates this stuff, but it’s the best thing in my opinion for some hot, fluffy pancakes. No “pancake syrup” for me, nosirree.
Flours & Grains: I use King Arthur brand for all my flour, whenever possible. I just prefer the texture of it and find it is very much worth the extra cost.
- Unbleached all-purpose flour
- White whole-wheat flour – I replace some of the flour in every recipe with whole wheat flour for added nutrition. White whole wheat is my preference because the flavor is milder and I can use more of it without compromising the texture of whatever I am making.
- Whole-wheat pastry flour – I use this for cookies, pie crusts, cakes, etc.
- Unbleached bread flour – for softer loaves of bread, especially when it has heavy grains like oatmeal or cereal.
- Rolled oats – I use these in a great many of my breads, scones, waffles, pancakes, and muffins for added nutrition, texture, and flavor.
- Spelt flour – I just recently started using this, and I really love its slightly nutty taste and the texture it brings to quick breads. I plan to start using it for yeasted breads too.
That is all I can think of. I will add more to this list if I feel it necessary. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment!