Kitchen Must Have – “The Amazing Olive” Olive Oil and Vinegar

amazing olive

I absolutely love flavored olive oil and flavored balsamic vinegar. They pack such a delicious punch and can really elevate your dish to something extra special. My favorite place to shop for these fine goods is at The Amazing Olive in downtown Port Jefferson, NY. Their store is beautiful and very well laid out with plenty of rustic charm and ambiance to go around. The best part is that you can sample ALL of the delicious oil and vinegar that they offer and with so many flavors to choose from, you might want to visit on an empty stomach!

A really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar are two staples in my home. My favorites are their Tuscan Seasoned Blend Olive Oil which is perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of garlic flavor and their 25 Star Balsamic Vinegar which is rich, thick and so complex in flavor. Both are incredible and are a “must have” in my kitchen. I love to use the olive oil for dipping and to add extra flavor to my Italian Tomato Sauce . Also, a little drizzle goes a long way in adding amazing flavor to my Italian Meatballs as well.

Some other notable favorites of mine are their Apricot Organic Balsamic Vinegar and Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil both of which are so light and fruity. They are the perfect addition to a fresh, crisp salad and so much more flavorful and better for you than store-bought bottled dressings. I have a vast selection of their oil and vinegar because it’s just too hard to choose one or two plus, they are so versatile so the more the better. You can use them to flavor meats, drizzle on fruits and veggies, add to sauces and stews or even bake with them! Check out their Butter Flavor Infused Olive Oil  for use in all of your baking.

Aside from their expansive selection of oil and vinegar The Amazing Olive also offers an array of other wonderful products such as unique salts and spice rubs, an assortment of jams and jellies, gift baskets and handmade bath products! If you’re a local, you can even host a Tasting Party for up to 12 of your friends at both the Port Jefferson and Patchogue locations. Click here for more details on scheduling! Lastly, gourmet oil and vinegar make fabulous gifts and party favors and The Amazing Olive will help to make your event more special and memorable with personalized bottles complete with your choice of sayings, dates and pictures. Check out all of these great offerings the next time you’re in town.

Don’t live on Long Island? No worries! All of their amazing products can be ordered online by clicking here . Enjoy!

Kitchen Must Have – Vanilla Paste

Vanilla Paste 2

Aaaahhhh……………vanilla. What’s better in baking then the rich, deep flavor of vanilla? It adds such amazing flavor to everything from candies to cakes to cookies, it’s an absolute staple in every kitchen the world over. Like most people, I use to always bake with vanilla extract but then I discovered vanilla paste and once I did, my whole world changed. Vanilla paste will take your baked goods to the next level, it’s THAT good!

Vanilla paste can be used in exactly the same way as extract only it has a richer, stronger flavor. It also imparts all of the appealing vanilla flecks into your baking so not only will your baked goods taste better, but they will look prettier too! Although called “paste” it really doesn’t have the consistency of paste at all, it’s more like a thick, rich maple syrup. Because vanilla paste is made from the scrapings of a vanilla pod and not alcohol, it won’t have the unpleasant flavor of extract if you taste it straight. Instead, it will taste rich and delicious.

I keep both vanilla extract and vanilla paste in my spice cabinet but I use them in different ways. For recipes where the vanilla flavor will be very pronounced (buttercream, custards, pound cake, puddings, sugar cookies, etc.) I will opt for the vanilla paste since the flavor is stronger. Plus, I love the flecking in baked goods that are very vanilla forward. On the flip side, when a recipe calls for vanilla but it’s not really the “star of the show”, I’ll use the vanilla extract instead. The nice thing is they can be used interchangeably and they measure out teaspoon for teaspoon. That being said, I have been known to double the vanilla paste in some recipes because when it comes to vanilla, you just can’t go wrong with adding a little more!

Vanilla paste is readily available in many stores, especially cooking stores such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. A popular brand is Nielsen-Massey (pictured above) which is absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. You can also find vanilla paste online, my favorite site for all things vanilla is Beanilla . Their prices are fantastic and their products are wonderful, especially their Grade A vanilla beans which are so fresh, soft, and oily. Generally speaking, expect to pay a little more for the vanilla paste then you would for vanilla extract however, I think the extra cost is worth every penny.

I truly cannot recommend vanilla paste enough, it really is a “Kitchen Must Have” and it’s one of my most favorite ingredients. The next time you’re baking up a cake or a batch of sugar cookies, definitely give it a try. I am confident that once you try vanilla paste, your little bottle of extract will start to collect some dust in that spice cabinet!

**Tip** – When using vanilla extract always use “pure vanilla extract” and NOT “imitation vanilla extract”. Pure vanilla is made by extracting flavor from real vanilla beans using 35%+ alcohol. Pure vanilla should be dark and rich just like the beans it was extracted from. Imitation and “clear” vanilla extracts are made from artificial ingredients.

For more information on vanilla extract and to learn how to make your own, click here .

 

 

Kitchen Must Have – Penzeys Spices

penzeys

I will preface this by saying I do not in any way work for nor do I get any kickbacks from Penzeys however, I feel that I have an obligation to share when I find something amazing and Penzeys is truly amazing!!! Their spices and seasonings are without a doubt the best I’ve ever had. Everything tastes so fresh and bright as if it was bottled five minutes before they sent it to you. I’ve literally fallen head over heels in love with this company’s products!!

They are also super affordable, their prices are so much better than what you will find for stale, old spices in the supermarket and they run amazing deals on a consistent basis as well. Every order over $30 is free shipping and sometimes they will lower that amount down to only $20! Also, they always include one (or two) of their spices as a free gift when you spend over $50. Plus, if you sign up for their emails, they will also send you a slew of promo codes for free spices and some they will even send to you without having to buy a thing! No obligation. TOTALLY FREE SPICES!! You cannot beat that deal!

They carry every spice and seasoning you possibly can think of and then some! They have baking spices, chili spices, salad seasonings, different types of peppers, vanilla beans, salt free options, and more! All are available in different sizes and at different price points, many coming in at under $3 for the smallest jar. Some of my favorites are:

  • Shallot Pepper – This is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The smell alone will make your mouth water. It contains coarse salt, Tellicherry black pepper, shallots, tarragon, and bay leaves and it can be used on everything from meats to veggies. It’s one of a kind, I am crazy about it!
  • Penzeys Pepper – This is a nice, bold pepper but it’s finely ground so it blends in nicely on your food and in recipes.
  • Sunny Paris – This is a delicious blend of purple shallots, chives, green peppercorn, basil, tarragon, chervil, bay leaf and dill weed. It’s great on chicken, fish, or veggies and you can even combine it in yogurt for a yummy dip.
  • Penzeys Cinnamon – Literally the BEST, most fragrant cinnamon I’ve ever had. A little goes a long way with this one.
  • Lemon Peel – The second you open the jar it smells like fresh lemons are bursting out. This is absolutely wonderful for the times you need a little lemon zest but are out of fresh lemons.
  • Cinnamon Sugar – This has the most perfect blend and balance. It makes for the best cinnamon toast too!
  • Air Dried Shallots – These smell amazing and work great in any recipe that calls for fresh, diced shallots.
  • Apple, Pie, Pumpkin, and Baking Spices – It will smell like fall in your kitchen. Each one of these are amazing and they add incredible flavor to any baked goods.
  • Tuscan Sunset – This is a really fragrant and delicious salt free seasoning that pairs well with most everything.
  • Natural Cocoa Powder – This is a really rich grade of cocoa and it will make your baked goods taste extra awesome.

These are just a few of the amazing products they off but the list of my favorites could go on forever. They really are incredible and because they are so inexpensive, you won’t feel bad trying out a few. Check out their website (Penzeys Spices) and take a look around at all of the wonderful things they offer. They even have a really nice cooking page where a ton of recipes are available. Give them a try and then comment below and let me know what you think. You can thank me later!! lol I have no doubt that Penzeys will become your “go-to” place for spices. Enjoy!