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Top Ten Food Items I Love

Created January 10, 2017
By keeping a few key ingredients in my kitchen, there are endless possibilities for making mouthwatering dishes.

People ask me all the time, “What products do you love to use the most?” The answer is pretty simple. I use a handful of great ingredients that can be used in more than one way. Want to know what my go-to ingredients are?


1. Fresh herbs.
I always have fresh herbs on hand. Flat-leaf parsley is probably the most versatile and the one I rely on the most. I use it as a salad green, to brighten pasta dishes and to add color to grilled meats. Basil, chives, dill and cilantro are also great and grow in my garden during the summer. One of my favorite recipes using herbs is Herbed Ravioli.


2. Garlic-herb cheese spread.
I used to buy this just for crackers. But I have discovered that it is great melted into pasta, used as a base for pizza or flatbread and spread on garlic bread.


3. Parmesan cheese.
I start to get panicky if I do not have at least three kinds of Parmesan cheese in my fridge at all times. I like to keep a nice wedge of Parmesano-Reggiano for shaving onto pasta or onto a salad. It is expensive, so I use it sparingly. I also have shredded and grated, too. What can you not add it to?


4. Sea salt.
Sometimes called fleur de sel, sea salt can be found in specialty food stores or online. I started buying it for baking. (It is what I use to make salted caramels.) But then I started using it as a finishing salt. It is coarser than table salt but finer than kosher salt and slightly damp. Sprinkle a little on salad, fruit or on anything that needs a little flavor lift.


5. Heavy whipping cream.
Heavy cream adds body and richness to store-bought sauces and also makes a quick sauce for chicken or shrimp. But really, I like to have it to make whipped cream. Of all of the things that I make, people are most impressed with freshly whipped cream. It is so easy, and just I don’t get why people don’t make it more often. I like to top ice cream and waffles or pancakes with whipped cream when I am feeling fancy.


6. Olive oil.
I use olive oil for everything. I make all of my own salad dressings with it. I drizzle it over grilled vegetables or use it in marinades for chicken and shrimp. I also like to bake with olive oil…it makes baked goods taste incredible!


7. Vanilla extract.
I make my own vanilla extract because it is so easy to do. It takes 5 minutes to make, but it does need a month or so to get strong enough to use. When you rely on vanilla as much as I do, it makes sense for me to make it myself. I buy vanilla beans (which are another product I love for many reasons) in bulk and some cheap vodka. That’s it. It has amazing depth of flavor.


8. White sanding sugar.
I love to sprinkle this coarse sanding sugar on muffins, breads and cookies. It not only sparkles and makes baked goods look gorgeous but it also adds a nice crunch. This used to be hard to find, but now I can get it in craft stores.


9. Fresh lemons.
Where do I even start to talk about my favorite ingredient of all time? I use lemon in just about everything I make. Lemon vinaigrette is always perfect on grilled asparagus, and in sweet form, a lemon bar is hard to beat.


10. Pure maple syrup.
When I use maple syrup, I like the natural kind. Yes, I know it is expensive, but the flavor is unbeatable. Of course, it belongs on pancakes and waffles, but it also is wonderful drizzled on your morning oatmeal, in a sauce roasted on root vegetables and baked into muffins and breads.

There you have it—the 10 products I cannot live without. What are your go-to ingredients?