Reading about all the oils on the market and their various health risks and benefits can cause your head to spin a little. It is difficult to sift out which oils are good to use and which are not. I am no expert on cooking oils but it is an area that interests me. I have read widely on the internet regarding this topic including looking at work by wholefoods guru Jude Blereau and the wonderful My New Roots blog.
Over the past year we have changed over to using Rice Bran Oil for a lot of our cooking needs. Rice Bran Oil has a very high smoke point so it is stable at high temperatures which makes it ideal for roasting and frying. It doesn’t impart a strong flavour onto your food and it contains anti-oxidants that remain intact and good for you even when it is heated. It is free of trans fats and cholesterol (which are really bad for you), and contains approximately 23% saturated fats (which are not quite so bad for you), 35% polyunsaturated fats and 42% monounsaturated fats (which are better for you).
Ghee or clarified butter is also very stable and has health benefits from the antioxidants and vitamins that it contains. You can cook with butter but it burns at a much lower temperature than ghee. Undoubtable delicious to cook with, ghee can be expensive to buy and often there is not much choice in brands. You can make your own on the stovetop – check out the ‘Ghee Whiz’ post on My New Roots – or in the thermomix – check out the Dairy Substitutes post on Quirky Cooking.
We still use good quality extra virgin olive oil for cold applications like salad dressings but don’t cook with it. Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point so when heated it breaks down and creates free radicals which are carcinogenic, that is, associated with heart disease and cancer.
Another oil I have read about that is considered good and stable for cooking at high temperatures is coconut oil, but I haven’t gotten around to giving this one a try yet.
I love scraping the vanilla seeds out of a fresh vanilla pod. They smell so wonderful and have such fantastic flavour. I am often disheartened by the ridiculous price of vanilla beans in the supermarket or even specialty store, and the fact that they are often so dry with very few seeds inside when you split them open. Well, I have the solution to both of those problems. Beautiful, fat, shiny, delicious vanilla beans at a very affordable price delivered to your door. e-bay. Yes, you read it correctly, e-bay.
I had read about ordering spices and vanilla beans through e-bay on a few blogs and decided to give it a go. There are quite a few e-bay stores selling them. I’ve bought through The Spice Mill with no problems at all. I haven’t ordered any other spices or spice mixes from them but I think I will in the future. They state that their spices and spice mixes are pure spices, no additives, preservatives or fillers.
How about the price? I ordered 12 vanilla beans from The Spice Mill for $13 including postage within Australia. To buy 12 vanilla beans from the leading supermarkets you’ll pay at least $45! and they won’t be anything like the gorgeous ones you’ll get delivered to your door. The beans come packaged in a high-quality, thick zip lock bag and mine have always arrived in perfect condition.
Once you have your fabulous vanilla beans, kick that vanilla essence, vanilla extract and vanila paste to the kerb and use fresh seeds or make your own vanilla essence and vanilla sugar. Plus, of course, you can scrape out the seeds and add them directly to your cakes, ice creams, custards, panacottas … yum!
How happy are my little girls that we now have pink salt in the kitchen? Answer: extremely! They quite love gazing at the pale pink salt in the glass jar on our counter.
Himalayan Pink Salt is one of my latest discoveries. Compared with ordinary salt, which is primarily Sodium Chloride, Himalayan Pink Salt contains 84 minerals and trace elements which are beneficial to health and healing. The trouble with regular table salt is that it has usually undergone heavy refinement and thus contains harmful chemicals and impurities. Maldon Sea Salt is better than regular table salt in that it hasn’t had this heavy refinement, however it still doesn’t contain the compliment of minerals and trace elements found in Pink Salt. In addition, Himalayan Pink Salt crystals are naturally structured in such a way that they are easier for the body to absorb, metabolise and excrete than regular salt. Since Pink Salt is unprocessed and unrefined, it is a ‘raw food’.
Price wise it’s pretty good. I have ordered from a couple of Australian sites www.safesalt.com.au and www.purepinksalt.com.au. Both these sites have a fair amount of info on the benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt (as you would expect), or you can Google to your heart’s content and read about it on many natural health websites.
It costs about $10/kg for fine or granular pink salt incl p&h within Australia. At your local supermarket you’ll find Maldon Sea Salt for a whopping $41/kg, while regular old Rock Salt or Table Salt comes in at $4/kg.
What’s more, Himalayan Pink Salt actually seems to make food taste even better than regular salt, but maybe that’s just because I’m thinking of the health benefits.