There is inherent joy in discovering something new. The thrill of finding a new restaurant, making a new friend or being introduced to a new artist. It feeds our curiosity, nourishes us and compels us to keep looking for the next new thing that speaks to us. This exercise can be particularly delicious when discovering new food products.
Homemade vs Store-Bought Dilemma
Though I do cringe at buying certain foods I can easily make at home, there is convenience in finding a packaged food item that is as-good-if-not-better than what we can make at home. For example, the Whole Foods brand of hummus takes second place to homemade hummus. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is the first choice, but who has time to squeeze citrus every morning? Instead, the Whole Foods 365 Organic Orange Juice with extra pulp is something that can stand in for the luxury of fresh-squeezed on the daily. But, fresh-squeezed is mandatory on the weekends. While I would prefer to make my own gluten-free bread, Canyon Bakehouse Heritage loaf is what I lean on.
Packaged for Convenience
Luckily, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are hyper-vigilant about bringing new products to the stores. And Trader Joe’s is particularly ambitious when it comes to pushing out an array of new products TJ fanatics flip over. There is even a special section in the store dedicated to all things new–and, I admit, I peruse this rack religiously.
Since we’ve all been challenged to cook more than we would like to over the last year, why not lean on really good packaged food items that make our lives easier and more enjoyable? It saves time, effort and there’s a feel-good component in supporting a food entrepreneur who has dialed in the best recipe for their product. Having been a food manufacturer, it feels good to fall in love with an exceptional food product and cheer on small-batch food producers. And, most important, is that I am grateful to be able to make one less thing from scratch.
My New Pantry Staples
While some of these items have been in my repertoire since last year, I have recently stumbled across a handful of new food items that David and I both approve of. This growing list of must-have items in our house means these items are too good not to have around and share with friends. I hope you find inspiration with some of these new bites and sips that we have fallen for.
Hu Crackers–When a snack attack is in full effect, cheese and crackers to the rescue. I love homemade crackers, but that requires extra time and snack attacks don’t allow for prep. These Hu crackers are the best crackers I have found. They are gluten-free and paleo, which makes them even better.
Zack’s Mighty Organic Tortilla Chips–There are tortilla chips and there are tortilla chips. These are tortilla chips. Made from organic corn, these authentic tortilla chips will make you feel like you are in Mexico. That, my friends, is a very good thing. Homemade guacamole is the ideal partner, but salsa is a good second choice. And if you are into chilaquiles, these are the tortilla chips you will want to use.
Whole Foods Mild Fire Roasted Salsa–I am a homemade salsa kind of girl. It’s easy to make, particularly when tomatoes are in season. But when tomatoes are not yet in season, this is the salsa I buy. It pairs beautifully with Zack’s chips for another quick and easy snack.
But this isn’t the only option, there are a handful of prepared cantina-style salsas to choose from.
365 Sparkling Water–If you are into sparkling water, this is perhaps one of the best varieties on the market. Priced at a low $4.49 for a 12-pack, choose from plain, lime, ginger, grapefruit and/or black cherry. Lime is definitely the most popular, at least in Santa Fe, because the store is always out of stock.
Not interested in a case? Slip by the refrigerated grab-and-go beverage section and you’ll find single cans. Try one of each and see what flavors you like best. My top three choices are pure, lime and ginger.
Feeling like non-flavored? Dress up the pure sparkling water with a splash of juice and a few drops of Stevia to make a healthy drink that’s way more exciting and colorful.
Gluten-Free Linguini–I’ve been searching for years for a gluten-free pasta that eats like a gluten pasta. Invariably, the gluten-free pasta is sticky, gummy or breaks apart. Not with this one. Nope. This Taste Republic gluten-free fresh pasta tastes and chews just like the real deal. And it even stands up to reheating. Priced at $5.99, it’s less expensive than Cappello’s almond flour pasta and better.
Chili Onion Crunch–I get nervous when the jar gets low. Seriously. This oily chili onion crunch is so good and addictive, consider yourself warned. Not spicy, but with a kick of heat, this crunchy oil makes everything better, especially Asian food.
I spoon it liberally any time we get Thai or Chinese take-out or when we make super easy and satisfying pork and asparagus stir-fry at home.
And when I am not up for a stir-fry but want a quick, healthy and easy meal, I liberally spoon chili onion crunch oil on top of the next packaged item on the list and I eat it all.
Riced Cauliflower Stir-Fry–When you are starving but have no idea what to eat, you’ll be set if you have this stashed in the freezer for moments just like this. Good and good for you, I have been making and sharing cauliflower rice with you, dear readers, since 2011, but this easy, pre-made option is almost as good as the homemade version. I start with an assortment of sauteed veggies and then add the cauliflower rice. It makes the dish a bit heartier and helps me use up some vegetable scraps that need to be eaten. Top generously with chili crunch oil and this may be your new favorite quick and easy meal.
Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert–Made with coconut milk, this is the smoothest non-dairy ice cream I have ever had. And at $3.99 for a pint, it’s the best-priced non-dairy ice cream. Because it’s rich, dark chocolate and a little bit will do you.
If you fall in love with one of these items, it will lighten your load in the kitchen and you’ll love that it’s already made for you. Because that’s what food is about…sharing foods we love with one another so we can all live and eat better.