I’d like to invite you to come into my kitchen for a moment; I’d like to share with you some of my staples I’d never be without: the foods and kitchen tools/appliances we use every day to maintain health and wellness.
Everyone has a list of things they use in their kitchen. Invariably, those items change over time, but I wanted to share mine and elaborate as to why these foods are so important to me and the health of our family.
The following are items we use in cooking and in raw/fermented/cooked preparations such as home-made salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and for baking.
Coconut oil – I’ve been buying various brands over the last few years including Nutiva, Jungle Products Beyond Organic, and Tropical Traditions. I’ve liked all the brands pretty well, but I think Beyond Organic is my favorite so far. Right now I’m using a northwest regional brand called Aunt Patty’s Extra Virgin Coconut Oil from Eugene, Oregon. It’s a really great oil too, although my son says he prefers the Beyond Organic, which is an especially nice coconut oil, but Aunt Patty’s is currently cheaper than Beyond Organic. Read here about the amazing health benefits of coconut oil.
Olive Oil – We have been using Napa Valley Naturals extra virgin olive oil brand for some years because the health food store sells it and the taste is really good. This year we bougth a gallon of Chaffin Family Orchards Olive Oil, which we really love. It is fruity and light, and I can use it for making mayonnaise.
Apple cider vinegar – we use Bragg’s organic raw apple cider vinegar. It’s a great all-purpose apple cider vinegar, and it’s the only raw vinegar I have been able to find in our health food store. I’d like to start buying my other vinegars raw, but I’m still looking.
Cod liver oil – we buy the Blue Ice Royal fermented CLO from Green Pastures. This along with our diet and the fact that we received a great deal of sun exposure last summer and fall before the extreme cold set in, I believe, has really helped to keep all three of us from getting sick this winter (knock on wood). This is the only way I can get my son and husband to take CLO (capsule form). I admit, I have a hard time swallowing the cream form myself.
Omega 3-6-9 oil – I have been using Udo’s brand, a mixture of organic flax seed, coconut, evening primrose, sunflower, sesame, oat germ, unrefined DHA algae, and bran oil. This oil I use to maintain a balance in my health in case I am not getting enough Omega 6s and 9s in my diet (I get plenty of Omega 3s).
Sea salt - I buy our sea salt from the health food store in bulk – Redmond Real Salt, and it’s a really nice mixture of red, white, and dark colored salt minerals, which I believe offers a good variety of trace minerals for health.
Beef tallow – this is something I am still learning how to use, and I bought two 14 ounce tubs of it from U.S. Wellness Meats before the holidays so I could make pie crust with it. I have frozen it, and use it as needed. I am still needing to learn how to render it so I can use it for other things. We do also occasionally buy meat from U.S. Wellness Meats, and I have been very satisfied with their products.
Lard – we use lard for so many things we eat. I used it to braise meats, casseroles, cook vegetables, in soups, stews, desserts, and many other meals. It is one of our most used staples in the kitchen.
Natural sweeteners – although I typically don’t do a lot of baking, this past winter season I did bake much more than usual. I have Wholesome Sweetener’s Organic Sucanat and Body Ecology’s Lakanto. Sucanat is a great natural sweetener that I have heard recommended by various traditional foodists, and Lakanto is a zero glycemic index, naturally fermented sweetener made from the luo han fruit grown in China. It does NOT feed candida! This is especially important to me because I have had a candida problem for some years – and I know most people have a candida overgrowth, but I’ve really been trying to be conscientious about keeping mine under control because it can keep me awake at night if I am not careful.
Maple syrup – I buy the real, Grade B variety (because it is less refined and contains trace minerals) of whatever is on sale. Currently, we are using Spring Tree and sometimes we buy Coombs Family Farms as well.
Butter – we use Kerrygold. Kerrygold is from grass-fed cows, but they are pasteurized. Kerrygold is not organic, but their farming practices are very clean. I was buying raw, organic butter from grass-fed cows from a fantastic farm in Canaan, Vermont – Baum Farm. The owner, Rob, is really friendly and accommodating. I highly recommend their butter if you can get it. I had to stop buying it for the time being as we are having to watch every penny right now as we get our family business going, Treasure Valley Solar and TGT (green IT planning and implementation). Read here about the amazing difference between real butter and fake fats such as margarine.
Mayonnaise - I have finally had success in making my own mayo! This year I got a stick blender and used Chaffin Family Orchard’s olive oil, and it turned out great. I have splurged in the past and bought a big bottle of Wilderness Family Naturals to avoid the nasty GMOs and other toxic ingredients in most commercial mayonnaise. Last year, I bought a small bottle to try and liked it a lot. My husband is not crazy about it, but my son likes it. To save money, however, I’m making it a priority to make mayonnaise again as well as other lacto-fermented foods.
The following are some of our other basic foods we usually have around:
Sourdogh or sprouted grain breads – I am on GAPS, so I’m off grains, but my husband and son still eat them. We normally try not to eat grains except once a week or so. When we do, we use Silver Hills breads and BigWood long-fermented sourdough bread. I haven’t yet started baking my own breads, but my goal is to do this during the new year. Silver Hills breads are mostly organic and are all sprouted. Most of their breads do not contain soy, and their ingredients are very basic and varied – as in, they do offer a nice variety of breads with different grains. Sometimes we use Ezekiel sprouted flour tortillas, but we don’t use them more than a few times a year due to their soy content. I’ve also heard that Ezekiel is now using wheat gluten in their products, and that it is not labeled. Read here about the health benefits of eating sprouted and soaked grains.
Sprouted flour – we use To Your Health sprouted flour. I keep it in my freezer and use it as I need for baking, pancakes, and various other recipes.
Germinated brown rice – we use DHC germinated brown rice. According to Elements4Health, “Pre-germinated rice (PR) is an emerging health food whereby brown rice is soaked in warm water prior to cooking; the warm bath induces germination, or sprouting, which stimulates rice enzymes to produce more nutrients. One such nutrient is the important brain chemical GABA (PR is thus often referred to as “GABA rice”), and animal studies have shown that a PR-rich diet can improve cognitive function. Other studies have found that PR can also act as an anti-diabetic.”
Raw cheese – UPDATE! we used to buy Organic Valley cheeses, but since I wrote this post, I discovered that Organic Valley uses practices I don’t like such as ultra-high temperature pasteurization on their products, have made a requirement that none of their farmers can sell raw milk to their customers, and apparently the cheeses they sell with the “raw” label are not actually raw. I have read that they are heated up to at least 161 degrees fahrenheit. That’s not RAW! Unfortunately, there isn’t really any raw cheese locally here in Boise where I live. I have considered making it, but I don’t usually have enough raw milk leftover to make cheese as it usually all gets drank around here. Last year I bought some raw cheeses from U.S. Wellness Meats to try them. But I have heard great things about their cheese.
I would often also point out that if you bought two of these packages, equaling one pound of cheese, it was comparable in price and sometimes lower than most 1 pound packages of Tillamook cheese, which is good quality and supposedly from grass-fed cows, but is not raw. We also occasionally buy cheese from Ballard Farms in Gooding, Idaho. It’s a local cheese from cows that are on pasture at least some of the time, and they don’t use any hormones in their milk. However, their cheese is more expensive so I try to buy it less often.
Grass-fed beef and steak – We buy all locally-raised, 100 percent grass-fed beef. There are various farmers from which I buy – Wilsey Ranch in Marsing, ID, Malheur River Meats in Vale, OR, and Matthew’s All Natural Meats in Weiser, ID. For more information about the difference between humanely raised, grass-fed meats, read Whole and healthy meat…does it really exist?
Raw milk – also from a small, local family farm in Nampa, ID. I make weekly batches of yogurt and kefir with our milk. The results were very satisfactory! Read more about why pasteurized milk is not healthy to consume.
Chickens and eggs from pasture-raised environments – we have been buying chickens from Matthew’s All Natural Meats in Weiser, ID and eggs from Turkey Ridge Farms from Payette, Idaho. These chickens and eggs are really fantastic. The chickens are a bit expensive, but as I reported in my post about real food not necessarily being more expensive, I can get 3 to 4 meals out of one chicken. Most of the name-brand eggs in our health food store are from factory “organic” and factory “free-range” sources, which I won’t buy. And they cost anywhere from $4 – 5 per dozen. I’ll take my local, bright yellow-yolked pasture-raised ones, for $4.50 a dozen, thank you very much!
Wild-caught tuna and salmon – I have bought Vital Choice canned sustainable tuna once to try it. It’s the best canned tuna I’ve ever eaten! As our financial situation has still remained tight, I won’t be buying more tuna for the time being. But I do purchase wild Alaskan salmon from various butcher counters in stores locally.
My son loves tuna fish, so I really want to give him the best quality available. We also love salmon, but this time of year there isn’t much available that is fresh or wild caught in our area…but we recently scored some at a great price from the health food store and had it for dinner last week. Then we made fantastic salmon omelets for breakfast the following day. Right now for us, Vital Choice salmon is just too expensive to buy.
The following are kitchen appliances and tools I’d never be without:
Food dehydrator – this is one of my first purchases that has enabled me to graduate to the next step of preparing traditional foods. We bought ours in December last year from Cultures for Health. It’s an Excalibur and I am very pleased with it. So far we have made granola and dried fruit. I am planning to make jerky soon, and some other foods I’ve been learning about in the great recipe book I received with my appliance.
Stainless pots and pans – we have a really nice set of All-Clad stainless pans and pots we bought well over 12 years ago, and they are in great shape.
Cast iron – we have a cast iron pan, but unfortunately we let it sit out with food on it one too many times, and now the enamel has been eaten away. We still use it, but will have to wait to purchase a better one.
Crockpot – our crockpot just stopped working, but we had a Rival, and I recently found out it contains lead in it, so I’m either going to buy something else next time or keep looking until I find a lead-free brand. For broth and slow-cooked meals, I’ll continue using my stainless stock pot.
Pyrex, glass, and ceramic baking dishes – I have some of the original Pyrex baking dishes and mixing bowls from my mother (pre-1960) that I treasure and use often, plus a few ceramic baking dishes as well. I know the newer Pyrex aren’t supposed to be as good quality, so I’m grateful to have the ones I do. The glass probably isn’t as safe, but they will have to wait to be replaced until sometime in the future when funds allow.
Mixer - I own a Kitchen Aid hand mixer which I normally only use for desserts which I make infrequently.
Cusinart Food Processor – we’ve had ours for years and it’s great for so many uses, including chopping up nuts and vegetables for culturing, slicing potatoes for breakfast and casseroles, stews, etc.
Cuisnart Stick Blender – I won this stick blender on a giveaway this past spring. I was so excited! It’s been super handy for making mayonnaise. Home-made recipe coming soon!
Omega Big Mouth Juicer I was excited to bring this addition to our kitchen, and we use it for juicing. It’s very powerful, and is easy to assemble and clean up.
Goals for the future:
I will continue to look for bacon, hot dogs, and sausage without nitrates and other chemicals. Those have been hard to find – as well as local cheeses that are raw and without chemicals/hormones/antibiotics. Although raw is not an absolute necessity, the other requirements are and I’m going to continue to search for them.
My wish list would include foods like organ meats and kitchen tools such as a grain grinder, a juicer (I really want a Vitamix), a nice mixer (I like Bosch and Kitchen Aid). Those last few items are incredibly expensive, so they’ll definitely have to wait. I’m also really anxious to acquire some Le Crueset cast iron and ceramic cookware. Those will also have to wait, but they are so beautiful and I have heard they are fabulous for cooking.
What types of staples do you have in your kitchen – the ones you’d never be without? What is your wish list for items you currently don’t have but wish you did?