Our pantry #4 – herbs, spices, cacao products, sweetners and other

Our pantry #4 – herbs, spices, cacao products, sweetners and other

Herbs and spices

Basil – For us, this is a must have in our kitchen. It goes well with other herbs, like rosemary or oregano.It is great for making pestos or as a part of a pizza topping.

Oregano – One of the most important herbs in Mediterranian cuisine. Health wise, it is an antibacterial, anti-oxidant, nutrient-dense spice. It adds a wonderful aromatic flavor to all the dishes.

Rosemary – fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. Its name means „sea dew“ which means that for it to grow only sea dew is needed. It can be used for cooking, health problems, body care…

Garlic powder is dehydrated ground garlic, either in flakes or a fine powder. We use it in soups, stews, for making plant-based cheese. We like fresh garlic even better.

Ground Ginger – Although fresh ginger is much better health wise, ground ginger gives that spicy flavor to your foods and can also make a delicious tea for winter months.

Turmeric is a miracle spice, praised to be the most powerful herb on the planet. A number of studies have even reported that using curcumin (one of the compounds in turmeric) is more advantageous than certain prescription drugs. It will make your dishes taste delicious and give them a beautiful yellow color.

Bay leaves – Pleasantly aromatic bay or laurel leaf is one of the best-known culinary spices in use since the earliest times. Although fresh leaves can be used, dried are much better because drying process removes their natural bitterness.

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices in use. There are two different kinds, Ceylon and Chinese. Ceylon cinnamon has been hailed as the “true cinnamon” or the “real cinnamon”. It possesses outstanding health benefits especially for the diabetics and those challenged by obesity and high cholesterol issues and is about ten times more expensive but worth every penny. Chinese cinnamon might cause some health issues like liver and kidney damage from too much coumarin.

Cilantro or Coriander is also one of the world’s healthiest herbs. Seeds and leaves give the dishes light citrus flavor. Its health benefits include control of blood sugar, cholesterol, and free radical production.

Garam masala is the most common spice mix in India. It consists of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, bay leaf, and cumin.

Cardamom is the world’s third-most expensive spice, surpassed in price per weight only by vanilla and saffron. It is native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, and Nepal. It has a sweet flavor similar to those of grapefruit and ginger.

Himalayan salt – Rock salt mined in the Himalayan region of Punjab in Pakistan. It is said that it contains 84 trace minerals and elements that are found in the human body. When consuming this salt, you are actually getting less sodium intake per serving than regular table salt. For cooking purposes, it is less salty which makes it able to control saltiness of the dish better.

Smoked paprika – brings a deep, smoky aroma and flavor to everything. It is made from pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over an oak fire, then ground into a fine powder.

Sweet red paprika powder – paprika peppers are strongly associated with Hungarian cuisine. Paprika can range in flavor from mild and sweet to fiery hot and is used heavily in Eastern European cooking.

Cumin has a powerful, unique flavor that enhances dishes like roasted vegetables, chilies, Mexican dishes, curries, soups…It is a good source of iron, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. It also helps digestion.

Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. It is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cooking. There are two main varieties of parsley – curly leaf and flat leaf. Because of its light scent and fresh taste, parsley can be used in anything from soups to sauces and vegetables.

Celery is an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes. It is famous for its aromatic flavor. Celery leaves are typically used as a salad ingredient. Its seeds are used as a seasoning or dry spice in many dishes. Celery stalk and leaves are also considered a base ingredient in soups and stew dishes.

Caraway seeds are highly aromatic and have a distinctive earthy anise flavor. They are great for homemade bread, stews, and roasts.

Anise has a sweet, licorice flavor. Although star anise and anise seeds are botanically unrelated, they have nearly identical flavors. The flavor may be enhanced by gently toasting the seeds. It is being used in soups, sauces, bread, cakes, biscuits, herbal teas…

Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisines and also as a medicinal herb in India. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. It is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries.

Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree and they provide warm, sweet and aromatic taste. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine and basil, as well as onion, citrus peel, star anise, or peppercorns.

Nutmeg is a delicate, slightly sweet spice that is widely used in cuisines around the world, including both Asian and western recipes. You can use it in hot beverages, baked goods, cream sauces… It has a number of health benefits and it is antibacterial.

Curry powder is a blend of many spices and comes in almost infinite varieties. The most common and advantageous ingredients of curry powder are turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cumin, sweet basil, and red pepper.

Thyme is packed with numerous health benefiting phytonutrients (plant-derived compounds), minerals and vitamins that are essential for overall wellness. It is widely used in Italian cooking and even more in French cuisine. When cooking with thyme be sure to add it early in the process so the oils and flavor have time to be released. This herb is great when used fresh, and goes well in many typical southern Italy pasta sauces. It is also a great complement for many vegetables, including tomatoes and roasted potatoes.

Chives blend nicely with almost any dish, and their bright green color makes a nice garnish. Try mixing them into a soft cashew cheese to get a delicious bread spread.
Saffron is one of the most expensive food on earth. The most classic use is rice dishes: risottos, pilafs, and paellas. A small pinch adds brilliant color, aroma, and flavor. For general cooking, it is best to add saffron early on in cooking so its flavor can infuse into the other ingredients.

Pepper, “king of spices”, has a long history of being used as a seasoning, a preservative, and even currency. By far the most frequently used spice, pepper adds an excellent depth of flavor to nearly any savory dish, and many sweet dishes as well. Black, white, and green peppercorns all come from the same vine. Because of its antibacterial properties, pepper is also used to preserve food.

Dried vegetable mix – mixed veggies are a medley of dehydrated carrots, onions, tomatoes, peas, celery, green bell peppers, green beans, and parsley.

Cacao products

Cacao powder is made by finely grounding cacao beans. It is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, cholesterol-free saturated fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, natural carbohydrates, and protein. But like with all the other foods, use it in moderation.

Cacao butter is white in color and has a rich, buttery texture that resembles white chocolate in taste and appearance. Also great to make raw desserts with.

Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces, much like chocolate chips, without the added sugars and fats. They contain all the fiber, fat, and nutrients that the cacao bean does.

Dark chocolate – Our favorite treat for a better mood. Occasionally we use it in desserts.


Agave nectar is made from the Agave tequiliana plant. It is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than regular sugar. It is said to be manufactured using a highly processed procedure that basically strips the naturally occurring agave juice of all nutritional value. Since we have limited research done on the health benefits and risks of agave, we’ll say it again – use it in moderation.

Date syrup – Delicious sweetness of dates made into a syrup. It is thick, dark brown and super-sweet and is typically quite unrefined meaning that many of the nutrients are retained. Date syrup is very commonly used in the Middle East, in numerous desserts.

Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (around 35). It is very tasty and can be used as a direct substitute for sugar.

Maple syrup is simply the concentrated sap of the maple tree and is considered to have a low glycemic index (around 54). It is a 100% natural sweetener that is claimed to be more nutritious and healthier than sugar.

Lucuma is a super nutritious Peruvian fruit and has a low-glycemic index. It contains many nutrients including beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. Recent research shows that lucuma may be helpful for supporting skin health, blood sugar, and even cardiovascular health.

Xylitol is typically made from birch sap and is actually a form of crystalline sugar alcohol. Xylitol has an incredibly low glycemic index – around 7 – and in addition, has two-thirds of the calories of sugar.

Carob is rich in protein, A and B vitamins, and essential minerals as phosphorus and calcium. It is also much lower in fat and—especially because it is naturally sweet—in calories than chocolate or chocolate products.


Coconut milk and coconut cream are made by boiling the coconut meat with water. The difference between milk and cream is in the concentration and consistency. Coconut milk has the liquid consistency of cow’s milk and is made from simmering one part shredded coconut in one part water. Coconut cream is much thicker and richer. It is made from simmering four parts shredded coconut in one part water.

Agar – Plant-based alternative for gelatin made from red algae.

Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It is especially useful in gluten-free baking that requires the structure that gluten provides.

Xanthan gum is a powder milled from xanthomonas campestris. It replaces the gluten in bread and baking with gluten-free flours. A small amount (half a teaspoon or less) is more than enough to bind the dough for baked goods such as cookies. We use it sparingly.

Canned foods

Canned tomatoes and tomato puree – We rarely use canned goods but when we do we make sure that cans are BPA-free.

Olives – We live in the area where olives and olive oil are considered the most important part of the diet and there are plenty of local brands to buy in the store. If you are gluten-free, be careful when you buy olives stuffed with red peppers because sometimes they contain gluten.

Capers – Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa plant. After the buds are harvested, they are dried in the sun, then pickled in vinegar, brine, wine or salt.

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