If you want to eat better, start with the best ingredients. Buy local, shop at the farmer’s market, buy produce that is in season, and buy the best brands.
FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES – As much as possible, we shop at the local farmers’ markets and farm stands. Local growers have the advantage of growing varieties for taste rather than for shipping and shelf life, and the difference can be enormous. And if you shop at the farmers’ market, you will be also be shopping local and buying produce that is in season.
Brands matter, so we list exactly what we used, and why this matters. We have no affiliates and are not paid to mention brands. We just love buying the best. While looking for the best ingredients, we discovered that many companies that care about quality also care about sustainability. Eating better made a huge dent in our carbon footprint. We ended up improving our lives and saving the planet at the same time.
Different brands of the same product can vary immensely. With some ingredients it will not matter much, but with others, it can mean the difference between success and failure. The following is a list of ingredients where it really matters and an explanation of why. To get the same quality, and the same results you will need to use the brand listed in the recipe. If you are putting in the time to create something, it is worth it to start with the right ingredients.
- KING ARTHUR FLOUR – King Arthur is an employee-owned company that responsibly sources the wheat for their flours, and it pays off in the taste and quality. They have a “never bleached” guarantee, which means their flours don’t have an off taste or unpredictable results that can be caused by bleaching. They also carefully calibrate the protein content, which means the flour gives you the same results, every time you bake.
- GOLD MEDAL FLOUR – Gold Medal all purpose flour is lower in protein, which makes the baked goods more tender. The protein content is carefully calibrated so you get consistant results.
- Gold Medal unbleached all purpose flour – 10.5 percent protein – for baking cookies and pies.
- HORIZON DAIRY PRODUCTS – We think Horizon products taste better than any other dairy products we have tried. This is probably becuase the products are organic and from family farming partners. Just as important, Horizon is a certified B corporation that has commited to becoming carbon positive across their entire supply chain by 2025. That’s a big committment, since it’s only a few years away. Cows are a big contributor to methane production and therefore climate change, so becoming carbon positive is huge. They are reducing emissions through soil health practices and the management of the cows’ diets and manure. And they are helping their family farmer partners boost the energy efficiency of their farms.
- WHOLESOME SUGAR – We think this is the best tasting unrefined sugar we have found, and the size of the sugar crystals makes it easy to bake with. Also important to us is that it is produced from organic sugar cane fields that are green cut and are not burned or treated with herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. Burning sugar cane fields contributes to air pollution and climate change, and is a major cause of the destruction of the rain forest. Buying sugar from fields that are green cut helps prevent this destruction.
- Wholesome organic cane sugar – We use this for all recipes that would call for white sugar and we make light brown sugar and dark brown sugar by adding molasses. We also use this to make superfine sugar by putting it in a food processor for a minute.
- Wholesome organic powdered confectioners sugar – We use this for powdered sugar.
- VALRHONA CHOCOLATE – Valrhona produces some one of the world’s finest chocolate; unique, artisan quality chocolate with complex, balanced and consistent flavors. Additionally, they are a certified B corporation and are working to limit the environmental impact of chocolate production by becoming carbon neutral by 2025. Their chocolate is responsibly sourced from growers with whom they have long term partnerships and they have committed to assisting producers, protecting the environment and promoting innovation. Chocolate production is one of the major causes of destruction of the rain forest, and long term partnerships with stable growers is good way of preventing this destruction.
- DIAMOND CRYSTAL KOSHER SALT – Salt not only varies greatly in taste and texture, but it measures differently depending on the size and structure of the crystal. It’s very important to use the same brand as the original recipe to acheive the same results.
- SAF RED LABEL INSTANT YEAST – I don’t know why. We just have much better results with this yeast.
- PECANSHOP PECANS – wild-harvested, Texas native pecans from a sustainable, permaculture three generation family farm. Pecans in Texas are a viable alternative to raising cattle. We use these instead of nuts grown in California on irrigated land in order to preserve the water for other uses, like fighting forest fires, providing streams for salmon and promoting climate control crops. Pecans are also native to America.
- HONEY – we buy honey only from local beekeepers we know, or from farmers markets when we travel where we are buying directly from the beekeeper. Honey is a product that is easily adulterated, so it is important to know the source.