Ceylon cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a small tree native to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and is considered "true cinnamon." Ceylon cinnamon is lighter in color with "lighter, brighter citrus tones." In contrast, products labeled just "cinnamon" are likely cassia cinnamon, which typically comes from Indonesia, China, and other countries. Cassia cinnamon tastes "stronger and hotter." Ceylon cinnamon may be better from a safety point of view because it has been found to have only trace amounts of coumarin compared with cinnamon commercially available in the U.S. where "substantial amounts" of coumarin were found. Coumarin is a naturally occurring organic compound that can cause liver damage in some people if consumed in excess, although any cinnamon used in moderation as a spice is safe.  [Source: ]

cocoa powder: Cocoa powder is made from cacao beans (from the cacao plant), which are defatted (the saturated cocoa butter removed), fermented, roasted, and ground into powder. Non alkalized cocoa powder is healthier than Dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa, which is done to reduce acidity, resulting in a powder that's less bitter, slightly darker in color, and more soluble when added to liquids. However, the cocoa powder I've been using (Scharffen Berger natural cocoa powder) has a tasty bold and full-bodied chocolate flavor that works very well in recipes that call for cocoa powder; so I choose it for its better health benefits over the Dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa. Health benefits of cocoa include decreased inflammation and boosting of our immune systems. It's also packed with phytonutrients (phyto-: plant) that lower blood pressure by reducing arterial stiffness, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, and boost our "good" HDL cholesterol.

Daiya Cheddar Cutting Board Shreds: Although there are several brands of vegan cheddar shreds, Daiya Cheddar Cutting Board Shreds is specifically mentioned because we have found that they taste and melt better than other brands.

date sugar: Date sugar is not really sugar. It's actually whole dates that are ground finely into a sugar-like texture. It's not as sweet as regular granulated sugar, but it's a great way to add whole-food sweetness, along with the vitamins and minerals found in dates.

Italian seasoning (herbs): I prefer the Simply Organic brand because it's organic, it has six different herbs with no added salt, and it tastes great!

soymilk: The soymilk (also spelled soy milk) brand I use is Trader Joe's. It compares with Westsoy as far as being organic and unsweetened with simple ingredients: water and whole organic soybeans. That's all! And they both taste great. As far as price is concerned, though, Trader Joe's brand is the most economical plant milk I've found (most recently $1.79/quart in aseptic packaging).

Zsweet®: Zsweet is a natural sweetener that measures cup for cup as a replacement for sugar, so there's no need for artificial sweeteners when you want to reduce your sugar intake for your health's sake. (Note that Zsweet doesn’t actually taste quite as sweet as refined sugar, so it is helpful in training your taste buds to enjoy less intense sweetness—a good thing!) Zsweet is made of erythritol (a sugar alcohol) that is naturally cultured from sugar, then infused with organic stevia leaf extract, as well as natural botanical extracts, and then crystallized. Zsweet looks, feels, and tastes like sugar but without the downsides of sugar. From their Website: "The Z in Zsweet® stands for…Zero Calories, Zero Glycemic Impact, Zero Net-Carbs, Zero Artificial Ingredients, Zero Gluten, Zero GMO's, Zero Worries!" So Zsweet is safe to consume, but only as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to eat more sugary junk food.

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