Monday, November 8, 2010

A little piece of heaven

I think it's pretty obvious that I'm obsessed with Trader Joe's. It's become one of those, if they make it, I buy it, kinds of addictions. But I have an even bigger one that lays silently in all my recipes, Penzey's Spices. I'm lucky enough to live near two of their retail locations and not too far from their main location either. I don't even know where to begin with this addiction love.

First off, their catalogue is great. There are recipes galore along with stories from families. And too makes it better, there are cute pictures from young foodies. The recipes overflow into the store and you can leave there with handfuls of the cards.

Second, the herbs are always at the perfect state. Most chefs know that many dried spices do not measure up to the fresh equivalent. But these are the closest I have ever come. Plus there are usually multiple varieties of a spice or in different forms. Do you want Korintje, China Tung Hing, Vietnamese, or Ceylon cinnamon? Or maybe a blend. Do you want your rosemary whole, cracked, or powdered? These are the important questions you have to consider and Penzey's has you covered. And don't get me started on the salt and pepper collections. I think I have spent multiple paychecks procuring all of the choices in that category.

One of the things that I'm learning to love about cooking that Penzey's offers me is spice blends. I've always been one to think that the best of the cooking world make their own blends, but let's be honest here, nobody has the time for that. Plus I'm  all about trying new things and that's what the blends has given me an opportunity to do. I bought a small jar of the breakfast sausage mix last spring and jar and have come up with my family's favourite breakfast item: apple-shallot chicken breakfast sausage. I never thought about venturing into the sausage making world until I came across this little jar at one of the Penzey's retail outlets. Now I can't live without it.

Last thing I love about Penzey's: the gift giving potential. I have yet to give a Penzey's gift (I know, shame on me), but I'm excited to do it one day! They have loads of gift boxes pre-packaged for particular occasions and for various price ranges. You can also make your own package, which I may do soon. I like the idea of having your own "famous" recipe and then creating a little gift box of four jars of spices for said recipe.

Now to decide, what are my favourite Penzey's products... Like I said, I live off their peppers and salts, because there are a variety and it is an easy way to play with flavour and the breakfast sausage mix. I'm loving on the new Penzey's Cinnamon blend. I put it on my almond butter and toast or my oatmeal for breakfast everyday. We received a few sample of it when it first came out and that little jar lasted me about a week. I have a few jars in my house right now, but I may need a separate pantry just for this yummy cinnamon. For baking, I have the double strength vanilla, which has wowed me with flavour. I can use less than I normally need. I love Mexican food, but need help with balancing flavour, so I have a large jar each of the fajita and taco seasonings. I also have a jar of Chilli 3000 to add kick to anything I cook. And in the land of plain herbs and spices I cannot live without my powdered rosemary, California basil, and whole nutmegs. But as I said, I love all of it, these are just my all time need to have, favs. Try it out everyone!

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