I have a James Bay song stuck in my head. Have you guys listened to his new album yet? It’s amazing. And it’s off topic. James Bay has nothing to do with this post. We’re not here to talk about James Bay.

Welcome to Ingredient Insights!
And welcome to the start of June.

You probably know the drill by now: blah blah blah Sunday blah blah blah Ingredient Insights blah blah blah four ingredients we use blah blah blah benefits blah blah blah more benefits

Okay great! Let’s get started!

Avocado Oil:

Avocado oil? You can make oil out of avocados?! Yes. You can. In fact, you can make oil out of lots of things – but let’s stick to avocados for today.

Usually, oils are extracted from the seed of the plant, but no sir, not this one. Avocado oil is actually extracted from the flesh of avocados. Its nutritional values are most similar to olive oil – they just have some different benefits behind them.

Try not to get too overwhelmed by how great avocados are for you, but:

  • Avocados contain more potassium than a banana.
  • It’s one of the highest fatty fruits in existence.
  • The fats in the avocado help soothe the digestive system.
  • It helps slow down aging & helps fight against any sort of illness/disease.
  • It contains plenty of magnesium & antioxidants.
  • It’s good for your oral health (so like, the more oil you consume, the less likeliness you’ll get gum disease).
  • It’s the richest natural source of vitamin E.
  • It’s considered a cholesterol lowering food – helping balance HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body

I know, that was a lot – grab yourself a glass of ice water, if you need to.

Best thing about avocado oil is that its verrrrry versatile and since fewer people are allergic to avocados (as opposed to other nut-based oils), it’s easier to incorporate into any diet.

When it comes to cooking, avocado oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil and it’s magically still able to preserve its nutrients at high temperatures, leaving no funky flavors behind. Avocado oil has a neutral flavor, which makes it ideal for making mayo, aioli, and other applications you don’t want a potent flavor in.

We’ve mentioned the difference in pricing of avocado oil in our mayonnaise post (which we used avocado oil to create) – lesson learned: check a local oriental market before settling for major market chains.

Vanilla Extract:

Ahhh vanilla truly makes the world go round. It’s great in everything: cakes, milkshakes, lotion, candles, and even helping that cold sore in your mouth.

Ready for this? There are over 150 varieties of vanilla plants growing around the world but only two species are used commercially. Two! There are so many “vanilla” products on the market today that aren’t even made from actual vanilla beans! Instead, they’re created synthetically from lignon, which is a byproduct of sawdust!!!

I know, it’s weird.

Real vanilla extract is basically a solution created with vanilla beans and alcohol. Here’s an article explaining the entire process of curing the vanilla beans, because they explain it better than I ever will – you’ll understand why vanilla ranks second on the list of expensive spices (next to saffron, of course).

In a quick whim, vanilla extract:

  • is a powerful antioxidant
  • is antibacterial
  • reduces inflammation
  • helps reduce anxiety and depression
  • and helps lower high cholesterol

You can find pure vanilla extract at pretty much any major grocery store. It may be a little pricy, but it’s definitely worth it. Or you can make it yourself by soaking vanilla beans in vodka! … Yeah, that’s literally all it takes.

Nutritional Yeast:

Savory yeast
Vegan powdered cheese
And the most repulsive abbreviation of them all “Nut Yeast” (which is our personal fave)

You can call it whatever you want, it’s still the same inactive yeast that grows on sugarcanes and beet molasses.

Nutritional yeast goes through an entire fermentation process, then it’s harvested, washed, pasteurized, dried, and finally packaged to safely make its way into your pantry. It contains folates, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium, and zinc – all of which creates the perfect nutty & cheesy superfood to sprinkle into your mac n’ cheese or as a condiment on top of your salad!

Even better, it’s low in sodium and fat, it’s gluten-free, and it doesn’t contain any added sugars or preservatives.

Hold your nuts, there’s more. Nutritional yeast also:

  • is a good source of vitamins B6 and B12
  • has antiviral & antibacterial properties
  • helps improve digestion – usually used for diarrhea and lack of appetite

When you go looking for nutritional yeast in major grocery stores (Whole Foods is your best bet), CHECK THE BULK SECTION FIRST. It typically comes in the form of flakes, granules, or even powder. Or find it at some cool, hipster pizza joint nearby – they probably have it in replacement of parmesan!

Balsamic Vinegar:

What helps improve the regulation of blood sugar? Balsamic vinegar.

What contains antioxidants that protect the body from heart disease and cancer? Balsamic vinegar.

What has a great source of calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium? Balsamic vinegar.

What are you going to drizzle on top of your roasted brussels sprouts tonight? Balsamic vinegar. 

This condiment has a pretty cool story behind it. First off, even though balsamic vinegar is considered a wine vinegar, it’s actually not even made from wine. In fact, it’s made from grapes that cannot be made into wine! Like white Trebbiano or Lambrusco Grapes.

The entire process can take up to 100 years, but the balsamic vinegar that you would easily find in stores are aged for at least 12 years. The process starts by pressing the grapes (skin, seeds, stems, everything), then taking the liquid mixture and boiling it down into a dark syrup. That syrup is then placed into a large oak barrel, with a vinegar “mother,” then left alone. As years go by, the syrup is transferred into smaller and smaller kegs, going through different types of wood barrels, such as Chestnut, Cherry Wood, Mulberry, or Juniper until it’s ready to be bottled & sold.

As balsamic vinegar goes through each wood barrel, moisture evaporates, which helps thicken the vinegar and bring upon a new character as it concentrates.

Finding balsamic vinegar isn’t difficult – I mean, it’s sold pretty much everywhere, but finding traditionally made balsamic vinegar will cost you a plane ticket to Modena, Italy.

An assignment for you: blast James Bay’s new album while you’re dancing and whippin’ up some dinner tonight!

See ya next Sunday!
– Kimberly

One thought on “ Ingredient Insights: Avocado Oil, Vanilla Extract, Nutritional Yeast, & Balsamic Vinegar ”

  1. I am so loving your “insights” and informative post. You have made it so easy for me to understand the fundamentals of different ingredients. Thank you!


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