Here is a list of my favourite natural flavorings and seasonings I use a lot in my recipes.
I use vanilla many of my smoothies, desserts, and baked goods. It adds a depth of flavour that is beneficial in most recipes and just can’t be compared. For a strong vanilla flavour I will add a generous amount of vanilla extract. But vanilla is also a wonderful non-characterizing flavouring when added in small amounts. It enhances the flavour of chocolate, coffee, nuts and fruit beautifully.
You can break open a vanilla pod or use vanilla paste, which is glorious, but can get extremely expensive. At some times of the year the price of vanilla beans can reach prohibitive levels that makes even the most discerning foodie cringe. The most easily accessible and economical way to add a touch of vanilla flavour to treats is to use the natural liquid vanilla extract sold at health food stores and gourmet grocers. This is what I use in all of the recipes on the site.
Buy organic, alcohol free, pure extract. I always buy Frontier or Nielsen-Massey which are gluten free. The extract is made by squeezing the essential oils from the vanilla bean and mixing it with a vegetable oil (usually soybean oil) or glycerin base. I always purchase vanilla extract with a glycerin base. Those of you with soy allergies will need to be careful of this.
The “imitation vanilla” extract or "vanilla flavoured" extract is full of sugar, treated with chemicals by soaking alcohol in wood that contains vanillin. It is toxic and just doesn’t compare. Spend the extra dollars and invest in natural vanilla extract which is divine and superior in flavour.
If you are using vanilla flavoured extract in my recipes halve the quantity and add to taste.
Alcohol Free Flavorings
Frontier Herbs, The Spicery Shoppe, and St John’s Herb Garden all have a fantastic range of natural, non-alcoholic liquid extracts like almond, lemon, banana, pineapple, peppermint and coconut. These natural extracts are made by squeezing the essential oils from the respective foods and then mixing it with either a vegetable oil base (usually soy) or glycerin base with water. The essence mixed with a glycerine base are the ones I purchase. Those with food allergies will need to be mindful about soy bases or each individual extract source. These oils don’t contain sugar and don’t feed yeast so these are great flavourings for people with candida or diabetes.
These flavourings are usually quite potent so a little goes a long way. This is particularly true of almond essence. I will use this a lot for an almond or marzipan flavour. I usually only need 1/8 teaspoon or it is just too overpowering. I also use coconut extract a lot too, which doesn’t tend to be as powerful. I usually add in about one teaspoon. These flavourings are invaluable for enhancing the natural flavour in foods and giving them a bit of a boost. Store these extracts in a cool dark pantry and they should keep for years.
Carob powder has a caramel-like flavour that is fantastic to work with. It requires very little sweetener and is sensational for use in smoothies, desserts, and baked goods, and I use it for a bit of variety from raw cacao nibs when adding flavour to sweeet treats.
Carob powder is ground from the seeds of long carob pods from the carob tree which is a tree related to legumes grown in the Middle East. Carob pods are between four and ten inches long, and are dark brown with a series of holes that each contain a seed like a watermelon. Each carob pod can contain up to fiften seeds. Both the seeds and the pod are edible. It is the seeds that are ground to make carob powder.
Carob powder is very often used as a healthier substitute for cocoa. Carob is free from the caffeine and therobromine that are found in chocolate. These stimulants can cause food allergies. Carob is also naturally sweet, which means that a lot less sweetener is required in order to make goods made with carob palatable.
You can buy raw or toasted carob powder. The latter is more readily available from mainstream sources. I always purchase raw carob powder, Ask your local health food store to order in the raw variety or order it online. For raw food purists, just note that a lot of carob powder that is labeled “raw” has actually been heated to about 118 degrees. Make sure you research how your carob powder has been produced to ensure you are getting what you need.
Carob powder is rich in B Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, and contains some iron and manganese, as well as a bit of protein. Carob is also loaded with pectin which makes it a fantastic colon cleansing aid!
Just a note for people with food allergies: a lot of baked goods and vegan bars containing carob use soy flour and soy lecithin. Those with soy allergies should be mindful of this and might want to use raw cacao nibs to flavour baked treats instead. To substitute carob for cacao or cocoa powder in these recipes you will need to reduce the sweetener.
Raw cacao beans are the seeds of the fruit the cacao tree native to South America the West Indies. I use raw cacao in a ton of smoothies and desserts.
Raw cacao powder makes a fantastic drink substitute for coffee and tea and is one of the best known food sources of magnesium which aids the absorption of calcium and supports healthy heart and muscle function. Raw cacao also contains other essential minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and sulphur. But best of all, raw cacao keeps us happy! Not only does it taste absolutely phenomenal, it contains Phenythylamine (PEA) which helps to increase mental focus and alertness. It also contains inhibitors that allow more seratonin to circulate in the brain; and contains neurotransmitters such as dopamine and anandamine.
Raw cacao beans have an impressive anti-oxidant profile that contains fourteen times more antioxidant flavanoids than red wine, twenty-one times more than green tea, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Pure raw cacao beans, nibs and powder contain no sugar and a lower fat content than most other nuts; and are a much healthier alternative to conventional chocolate which contains milk solids and sugar.
Cacao is still a stimulant, can strain on the adrenal system. It should be consumed in moderation.
I like to eat handfuls of raw cacao nibs as a snack when I am travelling with Goji berries or fruit. I also throw them into smoothies and shakes for a chocolate hit. They are wonderful blended into raw ice creams, puddings, and cookies or used as a topping for cereals and fruit. Try making oatmeal with coconut milk and topping with raw cacao nibs and maple syrup for a blissful comforting treat in the Winter.
Cocoa powder is made by grinding roasted cacao beans. Cacao nibs are ground into a chocolate liquor which is then pressed to separate out the cocoa butter and the cocoa solids. Unsweetened cocoa powder is produced when these cocoa solids are pressed again to remove the majority of the cocoa butter. This substance is then dried and ground to produce a natural cocoa powder that is very strong and dark and naturally acidic.
It is this unsweetened cocoa powder that is best for gluten free baking, as natural acidity reacts well with baking powder to enable baked goods to rise. This is especially important with gluten free flours that need all the help they can get! “Dutch” cocoa or alkalized cocoa powder is produced by adding an alkali which neutralizes the acids creating a cocoa powder with a milder flavour and lighter reddish/brown colour. This cocoa is not appropriate for baking where you want a rise. The extra alkali can cause baked goods to fall flat or rise unevenly. But it is fantastic for pastries and cookies and for puddings, pies, and smoothies as it is less acidic and more soluble.
I always use Green and Black’s organic fairtrade cocoa powder when I use alkalized cocoa powder. It sets the bench mark for depth of flavor, not to mention, ethical production standards. Cocoa powder is very bitter on its own and requires a fair bit of sweetener to really make it sing. I use cocoa powder a lot to flavour baked goods. If I want a really intense chocolate flavour I will use dark chocolate pieces in addition to cocoa powder. But if I just want a hint of chocolate to enhance the flavour of nuts like hazelnuts, macadamias and chestnuts I will just use cocoa powder. My pantry always has a can of organic powder ready for use in that last minute sweet treat.
Gomasio is a macrobiotic condiment made from roasted ground sesame seeds and sea salt. I use this a lot as a more interesting substitute for plain sea salt. Not only does it contain more nutrients and flavour, but it is a fantastic garnish when plating up dishes. I will often sprinkle some gomasio over a dish for a fabulous finishing touch. It is also fantastic sprinkled on grains, stir-fries, soups, stews, steamed vegetables and salads. I use it a lot to add flavour and a crunchy texture to savoury dishes.
Eden organics make a fantastic prepared gomasio that is widely available from health food stores. But it is so easy to make your own by toasting one cup of raw sesame seeds in a pan until they begin to pop and release a nutty fragrance. Allow the seeds to cool and combine them with 1 ½ tablespoons of Celtic sea salt. Grind everything together in a suribachi (Japanese mortar and pestle) until the seeds are about half crushed. Store in a sealed glass container in the pantry.
Herbamare is a fantastic proprietary blend of organic herbs and sea salt based on the original recipe from the famous Swiss naturopath, A. Vogel. It contains sea salt, celery leaves, leek, cress, onion, chives, parsley, lovage, garlic, basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and kelp. These herbs are mixed with the French sea salt and steeped for about a year. This mixture is then dehydrated creating a phenomenal blend of flavours that is absolutely delicious.
I use this seasoning all the time to add a quick burst of flavours to grains, stir-fries, soups, stews and steamed vegetables. It adds an easy touch of magic to any blend. Trocomare, (which contains horseradish) is also wonderful.
Maine Coast Sea Seasonings – Dulse with Garlic, Nori with Ginger, Kelp with Cayenne are absolutely delicious, and a fantastic quick easy way to get your daily hit of sea vegetables and sprinkle a bit of mineral density to savoury dishes such as grains, pilafs, stir-fries, soups, and salads. I use these every day to enrich my dishes. They are loaded with nutrients, are great for garnishing dishes and are absolutely fantastic!
Celtic Sea Salt
The excessive consumption of processed foods and common salt has led to numerous health issues in the general public. A diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. But a small amount of natural salt eaten in the right way, as part of a whole foods diet devoid of processed foods can be beneficial to health.
However, not all salt is created equal. The quality and quantity of salt is vital to heath and vitality, and it is really crucial that natural sea salt is consumed in the right way. Common salt, which is the salt most commonly used in prepared foods and eaten by the majority of people is generally mined from inland deposits, heated to extreme temperatures, iodized, bleached, processed, refined and diluted with anti-caking agents. It is, indeed, toxic if consumed in large quantities. I never touch it! Potassium iodide or sodium iodide is added in the processing to create iodized salt, and sugar (dextrose), sodium bicarbonate, and sodium silico-aluminate are added to make the salt white and easy to pour. This salt is bereft of any kind of nutritional value and has no health benefits.
Sea salt, on the other hand, is obtained through a simple natural process of dehydrating sea water under the sun. Because it is naturally hand harvested and slow sun dried, it retains most of the natural minerals from the sea, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium; and trace elements that can be easily absorbed by the body. This natural sea salt is vital for life and has important medicinal properties. The brain is 85% water encased in salt water, and the body is 75% water. Healthy cell function requires a PH level of about 7.4, and natural salt water helps to rid the body of excess acidity.
Sea salt enhances the healing power of foods, and helps to alkalize the body and bring it back into balance if use correctly and you are on a diet devoid of highly processed foods. I only use Celtic sea salt as it is naturally alkaline and so rich in minerals -- containing over eighty! Himalayan crystal salt is also loaded with nutrients. Celtic sea salt helps to provide energy, replenish the body’s electrolytes, fight bacterial infections, aid healthy digestion, and combat environmental pollutants and free radical damage.
But how much salt is required for health varies from person to person depending on how much sodium we lose through perspiration and other bodily functions. Obviously, those people living in hot climates will require more water and salt. I am not advocating excessive amounts of salt. But just pointing out that a little bit of good quality clean natural sea salt has enormous health benefits. Listen to your body and let your instincts be your guide, and consult your physician about your salt intake. I will often add a pinch of Celtic sea salt and a pinch of sodium bicarbonate to my filtered water for a quick alkalizer or energy boost.
I use Celtic sea salt in all of my recipes to increase the healing power and digestibility of whole foods, bring out the natural flavour and sweetness in fruits and vegetables, help strengthen the proteins in gluten free flours, and to balance out the expanding quality of cold pressed butter and oils. I generally use finely ground Celtic sea salt as it dissolves easily.
I also use Himalayan salt, which also has great health benefits and fabulous flavour.
Wheat Free Tamari
I use a dash of wheat free tamari here and there in main meals, salad dressings, marinades, sauces, pilafs, stir-fries, soups, and stews to add flavour. It is a fantastic way to add a saltiness and depth of flavour to vegetarian dishes, and blends so well with spices such as garlic and ginger.
Tamari is a soy sauce made by brewing and fermenting soy beans with wheat. Wheat free tamari is made without wheat, and is the one I use so that I can have a gluten free product. It has a smooth rich complex flavour that is incredibly versatile for savoury dishes. Make sure you purchase organic tamari that is natural. A lot of the soy sauces sold at regular grocery stores and Asian grocers contains artificial additives and preservatives, MSG and corn syrup.
Tamari can be stored in the pantry if unopened. Once opened, store in the fridge. If you do not want to consume fermented products, Bragg's Liquid Aminos are a fabulous alternative. I use liquid aminos in my raw recipes.
Sorry, to those of your with soy allergies. This condiment is not for you. Try the “non-soy” sauce made by Coconut Secret. It is vegan, gluten free, soy free, egg free and dairy free. It tastes like a light soy sauce and is a fantastic allergy-friendly alternative to conventional soy sauces.
Miso paste is a protein-rich fantastic live food that is produced by fermenting soybeans with barley or rice. Miso pastes are traditionally used in Japanese cuisines to make soups and to season other dishes. There are a wide variety of miso pastes, and they have different personalities depending on how they are produced. My favourite types of miso are Genmai (brown rice) miso, Natto miso, White (white rice) or Shiro miso, and yellow (white rice) miso. I stear clear from any miso fermented with barley as it is not gluten free. Those of you with soy allergies will have to refrain from miso.
I use miso paste to add a depth of flavour to soups, stocks, sauces, dressings and vegetable side dishes. It is also the best thing in the world for adding a cheesy flavour to vegan cheeses, pestos, and sauces. You only need 1 to 2 tablespoons and you would swear there was parmesan in there!
It is loaded with B Vitamins, microorganisms and digestive enzymes, and boosts circulation and aids digestion, not to mention the fact that it is downright delicious. Try making a coconut miso soup with creamed coconut and miso paste with some chopped vegetables and seaweed. It makes a scrumptious strengthening breakfast with a grain ball in the winter.
Nutritional yeast or “savoury yeast flakes” (as it is sometimes called in Australia and New Zealand) is a deactivated yeast that is made by culturing yeast with beet molasses and sugarcane and drying it. It is widely available from health food stores as yellow flakes or ground powder.
Nutritional yeast has a strong nutty cheesy flavour that is good for making vegan cheese, sauces, dips, pies, and savouries. I find a little goes a long way before an unpalatable aftertaste develops. For replicating a cheesy flavour, I prefer to use miso paste. However, it is useful for making cheesy kale chips. You can also make wonderful spicy cheese popcorn with some cayenne pepper.
Don’t confuse nutritional yeast with brewer’s yeast, which looks the same, but doesn’t have the same effect. Nutritional yeast is a good source of protein with a complete amino acid profile. It also contains vitamins, particularly B Complex (it is a great source of Vitamin B12) and is naturally low in fat. Store in a glass airtight container in the pantry for up to a year.
**Please note: Nutritional yeast is different than yeast extracts that are added to many processed foods and are known to have high levels of MSG due to processing. Nutritional yeast does not have the same processing. Having said that, "NON-Active Saccharomyces cerevisiae Nutritional Yeast" does contain small amounts of "free glutamic acid"—the same neurotoxic compound as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and should be eaten in moderation.
Nutritional Yeast is strictly classified as an "excitotoxin"—a classification of neurotoxic compounds that can stimulate the neurotransmitters. MSG is not added to Saccharomyces cerevisiae nutritional yeast, but it occurs as a direct result of its growth and processing.
But it is my understanding that these levels are very small, and if you only consume a small amount of nutritional yeast in some dishes in moderation it is perfectly acceptable.
I don't eat it very often. But, it is used in a few recipes on the site. So, I wanted to give you some more information.
Rosewater is the liquid that is left when roses and water are distilled to make rose oil. Most of us are familiar with rose oil as a welcome ingredient in fragrances, bath, and skin care products. Try using rose water mixed with filtered water for a fantastic natural toner. It is amazing!
For culinary purposes, rosewater has been used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines with spectacular results for many years. Rose water can be found at health food stores, Middle Eastern grocers, and exotic foods shops.
Try to find 100% pure rose water. Some are blends of 80% rose water, 20% water and natural flavouring. Do not buy rose syrup, which is loaded with refined sugar, citric acid, colouring and flavouring. Rose water is so wonderfully fragrant, and a nip in dishes can bring a decadent flavour that can help to reduce the amount of sweetener required.
Check out the date and walnut loaf.