Aileen's Favorite Ingredients: Part 1

This post is affiliated with the Vegan Month of Food.  Learn more about #VeganMoFo here.  In each post this month, I hope to give you a tidbit of information that will make you think about your food or animals.

If you've noticed, I use certain ingredients in my recipes.  This post is all about why I do this!

Coconut Sugar (also called Coconut Palm Sugar)
According to Livestrong, "Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. It comes with a higher price tag than granulated sugar but offers the same number of carbohydrates and calories. Coconut sugar isn't a nutritional superfood, but it does offer more vitamins and minerals than white table sugar. It contains trace amounts of vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper. Coconut sugar also provides small amounts of phytonutrients, such as polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanidin, and antioxidants. You'll also find the B vitamin inositol, often used as a mood booster, in coconut sugar." 

Coconut sugar also has a low glycemic impact and has less fructose than conventional sugar.  It was named the most sustainable sweetener in 2014 by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Although it might not be the best health decision, you can substitute brown sugar for coconut sugar in my recipes.

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil was shunned for a long time because of its high saturated fat content, but not all fats are created equal.  

Shape states, "Because it tolerates high temperatures, coconut oil is a notable substitute for butter, shortening, or other vegetable oils in Paleo-worthy baked good recipes. Scones, cupcakes, muffins, brownies, and cookies will have a lightness that you just can’t get with butter."

Maple Syrup
Another great natural sweetener is maple syrup - the pure stuff.  Most syrups out there are filled with corn syrup.  Its benefits certainly outweigh white sugar: it has cancer-fighting properties; it fights bloating; and fights colds with zinc and manganese (according to 

To save a few bucks, I grab mine at Trader Joe's or Aldi.

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
There are many differences between whole wheat flour and white flour.  Fiber is one of them.  According to Healthy Eating, "1/2 cup of white flour contains 1.3 grams of fiber, while an equal serving of whole-wheat flour contains 6.4 grams."  WWPF has a lower glycemic index level than white flour and higher vitamin content.

                                                                                           image from Bob's Red Mill

                                                                                           image from Bob's Red Mill

As for the "pastry" part, it makes it a little lighter for baking; whole wheat flour can be a little dense.

Organic Non-Hydrogenated Shortening
According to Fit Day, "Shortening is a solid fat that is derived either from plant or animal sources. Shortening derived from animals comes from lard, while those derived from plants undergo a process known as hydrogenation that changes the chemical composition and allows a normally liquid oil to remain a solid. Shortening is used for many purposes in cooking."  In other words, it's a bunch of weird chemicals that are bad for you.

                                                                   image from Spectrum 

                                                                   image from Spectrum 

Organic non-hydrogenated shortening, like Spectrum's mechanically pressed organic palm oil, is one of the best substitutions.  There is some controversy about palm oil because of the chopping down of palm trees.  

Spectrum states, "To make Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening, we start with organic palm oil, extracted via manual pressing without the use of harmful chemicals. The oil is refined using a certified organic, chemical free process similar to Spectrum's other organic oils. The palm oil is then whipped using nitrogen, resulting in creamy consistency similar to conventional shortening. Spectrum Organics is an active member of the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Founded in 2004, RSPO’s mission is to advance the production, procurement, finance and use of Sustainable Palm Oil Products by creating a credible global standard for the entire supply chain."  They state that their palms are sourced sustainably from a family-owned property.

That's my first listing of why I choose these ingredients.  Let me know if you have any questions!