I'm a big fan of making most things from scratch. Especially for things that really don't take much time to make yourself ( salad dressings, pesto, sauces, soups etc). Why buy a pre-made version that's full of sodium and preservatives or high fructose corn syrup (and probably doesn't taste all that good), when you can whip it up yourself? But we all run into occasions when we need to use something premade, because of a lack of time (you just got out of work and have a party to go to in an hour) or a need for convenience (you're exhausted and just boiling water for pasta seems like a monumental task) and at those times I'll cheat and use a store bought product. However, this isn't the only time I cheat. Once in a while a store bought product comes along that tastes good enough to be home made (and isn't filled with bad for you ingredients). This is a starter list of my favorite pre-made / store bought items (in no particular order!). Scroll over the titles for links to websites.
1. Wildly Delicious Fine Foods, Peppercorn Shallot Merlot Bread Dipper
I stumbled upon this one year while doing Christmas shopping when I lived in Portsmouth and J and I both immediately fell in love with it. Of course, the store I found it in stopped selling it shortly after so I went on a quest to find it elsewhere. I found it finally and have been ordering it in large shipments ever since. As the label says, it's absolutely delicious to dip your crusty bread into (who needs butter?) and I recommend using it also as a salad dressing or marinade for chicken. It's the perfect mix of tangy vinegar and oil. A 12.6 oz bottle retails around $11. The website (link above) can point you to online retailers as well as local stores near you that may carry it. They sell 6 or 7 other flavors that you may also want to try.
2. Taverna Classic Spinach Pie
You'll find this one in the freezer section of most grocery stores and it retails for almost $4. It comes in a green cardboard container that you actually cook the pie in (yay, no dishes!). My mom started buying this after realizing that it tasted pretty close to her own homemade Spinach Pie (which tasted delicious but took hours to assemble). I bought it a few times in college since I didn't know how to cook and the directions were easy and I've continued to buy it since to keep on hand when I don't feel like cooking but want something yummy, healthy and can essentially cook itself! Pop it in the oven and 50 minutes later dinner is done. Think of all the things you can get done while it's cooking! I serve it with some butternut squash with butter and brownsugar. Lots of iron, Vit K, A, & C, folate, magnesium, and potassium and it tastes good without too much fat or sodium. Oh and it's made in Boston (and it's nice to buy somewhat locally).
3. Northeast Kingdom Spicy Maple Mustard
I love my mustards (and no, I don't make my own so I guess this doesn't fit the bill in my description above but it's staying!) and I'm always trying new flavors. We were camping in Vermont this summer and visited the Cabot Creamery when I discovered this one. They have a room where you can sample just about anything. J, me and our friends pretty much spent a good 40 minutes hovering around the cheese table poking toothpicks into each flavor of cheese (so many to try!) and then we moved on to their flavored mustards, dips and maple syrups. Awesome! This mustard is just one of the great products they sell there, I absolutely recommend stopping in if you are ever near Cabot (which is also near the Long Trail Brewery, could be a great day tip, oops, I've gone off on a tangent!). I wouldn't normally think maple and mustard would go together. The idea actually grossed me out, but I have a young unrefined palate, I have no clue what goes together till I taste it. It's pretty spicy, just a little sweet and only has ingredients you can pronounce. A 9.75 oz jar will run you $5. As an adorable side note, I ordered my second set of jars (we finished the one we bought at Cabot within a week of coming home) in December and when they arrived they came with a personalized note from the Wheeler family (the owners). So cute! Must order more to support their small business.
This list shall be continued in future posts!
*I am not employed with or affiliated with any of these companies. I receive no compensation for mentioning these products here. They're listed here purely for you to enjoy because I enjoy them.*
All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley