The little things are always the ones that get me most - the unexpected card, the surprise candy bar, the little gesture to show me someone cares. So it's no surprise that when it comes to food, there are a few little things lurking around my kitchen and pantry that make my gustatory life a lot more satisfying. Check out the list below for the edible must-haves in my home.
Publix Roasted Garlic Bread
This ain't your average garlic bread. It's a delicious sourdough-type loaf with whole cloves of roasted garlic. You barely need any butter or olive oil with it. Because the garlic is roasted, it has almost a sweet flavor, but there's still enough flavor for it to stand up to fragrant Italian foods. It keeps really well, also. We have the Publix deli slice it for us, and we put it in the freezer, only pulling out what we need for each meal. Simply pop in the toaster oven, and you're good to go. We have been known to stop by Publix to pick up a loaf "just in case," even when we know there's half a loaf already in the freezer - it's that good. Do yourself a favor and check this out the next time you're having Italian.
Runner up: Publix's Sunflower Bread
Light Champagne Vinaigrette
I'm a big fan of salad dressing, but here's the caveat: I LOATHE mayonnaise. I do not keep it in the house (poor B!), and I have very few mayo-based dressings. I like blue cheese with wings, and ranch with fries, but on a salad? Mayo dressings are too heavy on lettuce. This dressing, however, is not. The perfect mixture between tart and sweet, with a good blend of spices, this stuff is wildly addicting. You can't tell it's "light" dressing. If your salads are a little blah, keep this on hand to spice things up.
Runner up: Newman's Own Light Oil and Vinegar.
Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea
With my Lorelai-esque obsession with coffee, it's probably a surprise that I actually drink and enjoy hot tea, but I do. A lot. But good tea is hard to find. Some tea is too sweet, some too bland, and some you just don't like. This is both tart and sweet, very flavorful without being fake-tasting. It's decaf, so you can have it any time of day. When coffee just won't do, grab a mug of this and warm yourself from the inside out.
VERY CLOSE runner up*: Yogi "Bedtime" Tea
*This was a truly impossible choice. The only reason the orange won is that I have some hesitancy about drinking tea to relax you in the middle of the day. I have enough trouble staying awake as it is. But flavor-wise, it's a tie.
Trader Joe's South African Spice Blend
What is there to be said about this that I haven't already said (like here, and here)? It's smoky. It's spicy. It makes a delicious addition to meat, vegetables, soups, chilis, and side dishes alike.
Runner up: freshly cracked black pepper. I go through TONS of the stuff.
La Crema Pinot Noir
My two criteria for a good wine are, 1) that it be red and 2) NOT be sweet. I can't stand sweet wines. Bleh. Give me smoky, leathery, spicy, oaky, whatever. If I wanted something sweet, I'd be having one of those dippy girly cocktails. I don't want sweet wine, and this wine isn't. It's subtle and light so that it doesn't overpower fish or chicken, but it has a really fantastic spice to it on the back end so it stands up to hearty or strongly spiced foods. At $18 at Costco, $22 at Green's (cash or debit), and $24 or so at Total Wine, it isn't exactly an everyday kind of wine. But we always try to keep a bottle in the house because you never know when you're going to cook a meal that just DEMANDS a good wine.
Runner up: Alamos Malbec. It's the anti-sweet wine, and I love it.
Trader Joe's Crunchy Cookie Butter
I was extolling the virtues of cookie butter to a coworker, who, for some insane reason, does not like Nutella (seriously, how do you not love Nutella?). She asked, "But what do you EAT the cookie butter stuff on?" Honestly, a spoon works just fine. And much to B's chagrin, I frequently just dip a finger into the jar from time to time. It's good with pretzels or crispy breadsticks or anything savory, to balance it out. But my favorite is on apples. Just crunchy enough, just soft enough, just juicy enough, apples make the perfect pairing for cookie butter. You have to get the crunchy kind, though - it's the best. Cookie butter with crumbled cookies IN it? Um, hello. But then again, I'm the girl that likes extra-crunchy peanut butter. If you're one of those weirdos who insists on smooth peanut butter, maybe you should stick with the regular cookie butter, too. Amateurs... ::shaking my head::
Runner up: Nutella. Duh.
Prima Pasta Spinach-Mozzarella Ravioli (aka "Crack")
Yes, there are days (a LOT of them lately, it seems) where I just cannot get my ass in gear and cook a legitimate dinner. Sometimes we get takeout. Sometimes we eat leftovers in the freezer. Some days I just eat Girl Scout cookies. But when we need something fast, cheap, and NOT dessert, this is my go-to. It's been my go-to well before I met B. Back then, it was even more crucial, because I NEVER cooked. Spinach mozzarella ravioli every single weeknight, and takeout on weekends, that was the routine. My mother nicknamed it my "crack" because I had to have a bag. Truly. Back in those dark and lonely single-girl days, it was pretty much all that stood between me and starvation (or diabetes). Now, it's just a useful and easy filler for those days where we don't want to spend money on takeout but need food easily and quickly. Boil for 6-8 minutes, drizzle with a TINY bit of olive oil, and sprinkle the parmesan cheese/spice blend on top. Done.
Runner up: Girl Scout cookies. What, you think my taste buds changed just because my relationship status did? Huh-uh.