Christina's Pantry

Essential Pantry

Almond milk

Almond milk is a milky drink made from ground almonds. Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains no cholesterol or lactose. It is low in calories, high in fiber and protein, and can be used in any recipe in place of milk. It’s completely vegan, with a slightly nutty, sweet flavor. Read the labels carefully and be sure to buy unsweetened organic almond or soy milk. Otherwise, you’re just getting another sugary drink. There has been some controversy around almond milk with companies using more filler than almonds in their product, so do some research and find an almond milk that contains more almonds than anything else.


Fruit kernels of the almond tree. They keep best when purchased in their thin brown skins, which protect their freshness and flavor. Also available in their skinned, blanched form, slivered, minced and ground into a flour for convenience of use. High in antioxidants and good quality fats for health. I recommend using organic almonds when you can.


A very tiny, brownish-yellow seed, high in protein and lysine, similar to quinoa in flavor. Cooked as a whole-cereal grain, it has an earthy, nutty flavor and cooks quite quickly.


A high-quality starch made from a tropical tuber of the same name, used for thickening much the same way as cornstarch is used. Arrowroot has virtually no taste and becomes clear when cooked, making it ideal as a thickener for puddings, gravies, and sauces. Less expensive than kuzu, it can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Avocado oil

A monounsaturated oil made from pressing whole avocados. Perfect for sautéing, frying, baking, and other cooking. The mild, buttery flavor is perfect for just about any dish and its stability under heat makes it an essential cooking oil. Its full-bodied texture and light taste give baked goods a moist crumb.

Baking powder

A leavening agent made up of baking soda, cream of tartar, and either cornstarch or arrowroot. Double-acting powder releases carbon dioxide on contact with liquid, creating the air pockets responsible for the light texture in baked goods. Always try to purchase non-aluminum baking powder so that sodium aluminum sulfate is not released into your foods, possibly compromising your health.

Baking powder is more perishable than you might think, not lasting much beyond the expiration date on the can. Store in a cool, dry place and purchase in small amounts for the best shelf life.

Baking Soda

Sodium bicarbonate is a white powder used in making effervescent salts and beverages. With a slightly alkaline taste, it is often used in conjunction with baking powder in vegan baking to support leavening in cakes and quick breads.

Balsamic vinegar

Italian vinegar made from white Trebbiano grapes. The vinegar becomes a deep, rich amber color during aging in wooden barrels. The best balsamic vinegars are syrupy, thick, a bit sweet, and a little more expensive than other vinegars, but well worth it. Natural balsamic vinegar is rich in live bacteria and enzymes that aid in digestion.


Said to be the oldest cultivated grain, barley is native to Mesopotamia, where it was mainly used to make bread and ferment beer. In Europe, barley has been replaced by wheat and rye but is still the staple grain of many countries in the Far and Middle East, Asia, and South America. In modern cultures, barley serves to make everything from livestock feed to malted whiskey to tea to miso.

However, by itself, barley is a great, low-fat grain, chockfull of nutrients and is reputed to aid the body in breaking down fat.

Bay leaf

Also known as laurel leaf, this herb has a delicate aromatic flavor and is used in soups and stews, especially with beans and grains since they contain compounds that help in the digestion of the fiber of these foods.

Black turtle beans

A sturdy, very satisfying common bean. Earthy and mildly sweet, these beans go well with stronger, spicier seasonings, like those commonly used in Brazilian, Caribbean, and Mexican dishes, and make great, creamy soups and spicy dips.

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe is a green cruciferous vegetable. The edible parts are the leaves, buds, and stems. The buds somewhat resemble broccoli, but do not form a large head.Like other bitter greens, including escarole, watercress, dandelion and arugula, rabe is said to aid the liver in its work metabolizing fat and protein.

Brown rice vinegar

A vinegar traditionally made by the agricultural communities of Japan, it is composed of brown rice, cultured rice (koji), seed vinegar from the previous year and well water. The vinegar is then fermented for nine to ten months. Brown rice vinegar has a sharp taste and is used for everything from salad dressings to preserving vegetables. It is also commonly used in sushi rice for flavor and for its preservative properties.

Cannellini beans

Creamy white oval beans most commonly used in the Italian dish pasta e fagioli. Their creamy texture makes them ideal for purees, dips, stews and creamy soups. Studies show they can help lower cholesterol making them a great choice in heart healthy cooking.


Little pickled flower buds, most commonly used in Mediterranean cooking. Salty and briny in taste, they really add flavor to sauces and salads. If they taste too strong for you, simply rinse lightly before use.

Chia Seeds

Salvia Hispanica, a flowering variety of the mint family produces the tiny seeds we know as Chia…yes, like the pet. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acid, chia is nature’s perfect food. A great source of fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, chia seeds are hydrophyllic meaning they hold ten times their weight in water, so they help us stay hydrated. Sprouted in water, with a splash of lime they are the basis of a great natural energy drink. Sprinkled on salads or whole grains, they provide incredible nutrition without needing to be ground to release their valuable nutrients.

You can buy chia seeds here in our marketplace.

Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)

Beige round beans with a wonderful nutty taste and creamy texture when cooked. Traditionally used when making hummus, a creamy spread, combining chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of garlic. Also wonderful in bean dishes combined with sweet vegetables as well as in soups and stews. Chickpeas are reputed to help balance the spleen and pancreas which aids in controlling our sweet cravings.

Chili flakes

Dried, flaked chili peppers. Used in cooking, these flakes are quite hot, since the drying has spread the capsaicin throughout the pepper.Chili flakes are said to stimulate circulation, contributing to a healthy heart.

Chili powder

A powdered blend of ground chiles, ranging from mild to hot, often combined with oregano, cumin, garlic, and salt. Add it slowly to dishes, adjusting the spicy taste as you go along, as the hot taste increases as you cook it.


Available fresh and dried, they range from mildly spicy to blazing hot. Remember that the real “heat” comes from the capsaicin in the seeds and spines, so removing them reduces the “fire.” I recommend you wear rubber gloves when removing seeds so the oil, containing capsaicin, doesn’t get on your hands—and then into your eyes when you rub them. It takes several hours, even with washing, to remove this oil. Ancho, chipotles, Serrano, habaneros, poblanos, and jalapeños are the most common varieties used in cooking today.

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