A few weeks ago, a bunch of my friends got together for a girl’s night and did a “Favorite Things Party”. Have you ever heard of these? Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t. It was quite possibly the best thing ever. Basically it was a spin-off of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” but local, not quite so over-the-top, and everyone benefits! Each girl brings 5 of one of her favorite things (5 of the same thing– less than $5 each) to the party. When you arrive at the party you write your name on 5 little slips of paper and throw it in a bowl. During the party each girl takes a turn and talks about their favorite thing. Then they draw 5 names from the bowl to give their favorite thing to.. so you come to the party with 5 things and you leave the party with 5 completely different things. I walked away with some great new stuff! Now, what did I bring to the party you ask? Well.. I will get to that.
Anyway, my point of all this is… I got to thinking of all of my favorite things and SO many ideas came to mind… of course, most of them had to do with cooking. I have a lot of gadgets and gizmos that I love to use in the kitchen but that will be for another day. Today I want to share with you some of my favorite food-type/preparation items that I use ALL. THE. TIME. You won’t walk into my kitchen at any given time and NOT find any of these items. I always have these things readily available to use! Before I begin, I must fully disclose that I was absolutely not contacted by ANY of these brands/companies. These are STRICTLY my PERSONAL favorite things and I am not being compensated in ANY WAY for sharing these with you. That said… here are a few of my favorite things:
GOURMET GARDEN HERS/SPICES- You know how I said I would tell you what I brought to the party? Well… THIS was it. I was surprised how many of the girls there had never heard of this stuff. This is what inspired me to write this post because I just HAD to share how much I love these little tubes of flavor! I ESPECIALLY love the garlic and ginger. I use the garlic almost every day. Have you ever used the minced garlic that comes in those big jars? So have I. Do you agree that it just doesn’t taste anything like REAL garlic? It tastes… pickled. Well, the Gourmet Garden DOES taste like real garlic because it IS real garlic. And the best part, you don’t have to PEEL it and smell like garlic the rest of the day after chopping it up. You simply squeeze it into whatever you are cooking and that’s it! Oh and the ginger couldn’t be easier, same deal, no peeling or grating or chopping. You just pop the lid and squeeze it in. Done. This makes Chinese food SO much easier to prepare! You will find these in the refrigerated PRODUCE section of your grocery store, usually next to the fresh herbs and spices.
SRIRACHA HOT CHILI SAUCE – Oh Sriracha. Oh how I love thee. We go through Sriracha like many families go through ketchup. We put this on EVERYTHING. If you look on the bottle itself you will find a list of recommended items that you can put this on… pizza, pasta, rice, sandwiches, burritos… I can honestly say I have used this on ALL of the things it mentions PLUS some. The first time I tried it.. years and years ago… it brought me to tears. Not just because it was so delicious but also because it tastes much like how I would imagine lava would taste. This stuff is stinkin’ HOT but oh man it is good. Since then I have gotten used to it and enjoy it for both the flavor and the heat. You will too! If you haven’t tried it yet, I suggest starting small.. trying it in stir-frys, rice bowls etc.. just using a drop or two. In no time you will be squeezing it on everything!
RONZONI SMART TASTE- If there is one thing I absolutely HATE, it is sacrificing taste for… well.. anything. To me, whole wheat pasta is one of the worst offenders. It is always dry and chewy and nasty and tastes nothing like the good ol’ enriched white pasta. That is why I LOVE Smart Taste pasta. It is the very best of both worlds. It has the health benefits of wheat pasta (5g of FIBER per serving) but it TASTES like regular pasta. I am not even kidding.. even my husband can’t tell a difference and THAT alone says it all!
LAUGHING COW CREAMY SWISS– As mentioned above– I will avoid sacrificing flavor at any cost if I can help it. However, if I can find something that gives me health benefit AND flavor– I am all for it. What is better than eating something that has FULL flavor and not feeling guilty afterwards? This is a GREAT substitute for cream cheese in savory dishes… to be completely honest, I like it MORE than cream cheese! There. I said it. This stuff is awesome. I use it on crackers, wraps, veggies, pastas, etc. It melts beautifully and the taste can’t be beat… neither can the calorie count. Only 35 teeny-tiny calories per wedge! They have a ton of different flavors now and I love them all!
MORTON’S KOSHER SALT – You will find no other salt in my kitchen. Period. Have you ever watched any show on Food Network or anywhere where they use iodized salt? Me neither. There is a reason for that. If you are still using that gross iodized salt in the cardboard canisters, do yourself a favor and use it in a way that you aren’t EATING it. It is probably good for something but it sure isn’t good for eating. If you search Pinterest enough I am sure you will find some way you can use it for cleaning something in your house or killing some kind of plant in your yard. All I know is that if you do a side-by-side comparison with Kosher salt, you will NEVER go back.
TABASCO GREEN PEPPER SAUCE (AKA GREEN TABASCO) – If you are scared of regular Tabasco sauce — try THIS. It is NOTHING like regular Tabasco. It really isn’t THAT spicy and just adds a tiny little kick to whatever you are making. We go through bottles of this each year. I use this in my chili, on my tacos, in my enchilada sauce.. but most importantly.. in my guacamole. I simply WILL NOT make guacamole without this. It adds a flavor that simply can’t be beat.
MR. YOSHIDA’S ORIGINAL MARINADE AND COOKING SAUCE – This is the base for so many of my sauces and marinades. It is great for BBQing, stir-frys, marinades, dips… it is just an all-around winner in my book. When I am home alone, I will often just cook up some spaghetti noodles with frozen stir-fry veggies and throw this over the top (with some Sriracha of course). It is so versatile– I ALWAYS have this on hand! It has such a good sweet/savory flavor and I haven’t found a teriyaki-type marinade I like better. This is so easy to dress-up and make EXACTLY how you want it for whatever you are making. You will find this with the BBQ sauces (not the Asian section) in almost any grocery store. I actually buy it at Costco in the big ol’ jars because I really use it THAT much.
WYLER’S CHICKEN GRANULES – I hardly ever buy cans of chicken broth. They take up too much room and you can’t really add more or less flavor if you need to. I’m not a big fan of bouillon cubes either. I am too impatient waiting for them to dissolve and I don’t enjoy unwrapping them. Powdered bouillon doesn’t do it for me either. I don’t have a great reason for not liking the powder. I just don’t. Maybe it is because I can’t pinch it as well. I like to grab a quick pinch– as if I am grabbing a pinch of salt. The granules, in my book, are the best thing to use all around. I love them!
HIDDEN VALLEY RANCH SEASONING (IN THE PLASTIC JAR) – I use powdered ranch dressing more than I would care to admit. I have tried other powdered ranch dressings and they just aren’t the same. It HAS to be Hidden Valley. As you can probably guess from my previous commentary– I don’t like to be told how much of this or that I have to use in my cooking. I definitely do my cooking “to taste”. That is why I don’t like getting the ranch in the packets. Sometimes I like to add more than what is in the package. When I need less than what is in the package, I don’t like closing it off and throwing the half-used package back up with my spices (I know you all know what I am talking about). I love just pulling this down out of my cupboard and sprinkling it on chicken, pork, potatoes, marinades, pasta salads, crock-pot dishes..etc… I even love using it in chili!
There you have it, my friends! Now that I have shared with YOU some of MY favorite things… I would like to know some of YOUR favorite things!!! In the comments section below, please share some of the things that YOU can’t live without in YOUR kitchen!