My Favorite Things: Here’s What I Don’t Want to Live Without.

My Favorite Things: Here’s What I Don’t Want to Live Without.

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I love reading lists of peoples’ favorite things, most notably in New York Magazine’s The Strategist. It’s like a little glimpse into their lives, even if I don’t know who they are. I find it fascinating.

Here are my favorite things. I’ve included links to the product websites, but note that I’m not working with any of the companies that makes them. I called this ‘What I Don’t Want to Live Without,’ because ‘What I Can’t Live Without’ (NY Mag’s title) ignores the fact that I’m coming from a place of privilege. Lots of people – too many, in fact – live without these things and many, many more. 

Some of these things are great gift ideas. With holiday season coming up, remember that!

I’d love to hear what your favorite things are!

Food.

Ezekiel bread. 

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I love the Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 version, which comes frozen. It’s made with sprouted grains, no sugar, and is just a great texture. It’s higher in protein and fibre than other breads, too. 

I prefer it toasted, because at room temperature, it’s a little rough. 

I make all of my sandwiches on it, although when I make something like French toast or a BLT, I prefer a white bread like brioche or challah. I’m not THAT healthy.

Muffuletta Spread.

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I hate roasted red peppers. Like, I’m afraid of them I hate them so much, but for some reason, I love this pepper-carrot-celery-olive spread (in spicy version, of course) in olive oil that kisses everything you put in it with a new level of deliciousness. 

I buy the Molisana or Longo’s version in Canada, and in the US, look in the Italian food aisle of the supermarket  – I’m sure there’s one there.

Nespresso Vertuo Machine.

I’m one of those people who used to spend a disgusting amount of money at Starbucks every year. Their coffee isn’t even good, but it was like a little ritual for me and my husband to take the dog every morning and go get our Starbucks. Our daughter finally convinced us to get a Nespresso machine in order to save money, and I’ll never go to Starbucks again. 

Nespresso and the accompanying Aeroccino, which heats and froths milk, make the greatest coffee.

I look forward to it every morning, and yes, even with the money spent on the machine and pods, it’s still a lot less expensive than my Starbucks habit was. 

Pecorino Romano.

My mom told me about Romano cheese, and now I buy it religiously instead of Parmesan. Romano is creamier and a lot more flavourful. My kids still like Parmesan, but to me, it’s just like sawdust. I buy already grated Romano at the market near my house, and I put it on pasta (obviously) and salads. I crave it now. It’s less expensive than Parmesan, too. Bonus.

Wonderful Sea Salt and Vinegar Pistachios.

I love the taste of salt and vinegar, so these already-shelled pistachios are my go-to snack. They have protein and fibre, and no shells to get in the way! I dish them out (because otherwise I’ll eat the entire bag) and eat them while I’m working or just hanging out. My husband loves them, too. They come in a variety of flavors, but the salt and vinegar just hit my tastebuds the right way.

180 Degrees Crackers.

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I picked up these oat flour-based crackers one day on my way out of town to a retreat where I had to bring my own food. I figured they’d be good with cheese or something, but little did I know they were going to be seriously addictive. They’re made in New Zealand and are sort of hard to find, but when I see them, I literally buy 6 boxes at a time. I love the Hazelnut Oat flavour, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the varieties. They’re hearty and healthy, and all the seeds in them make them crunchy and delish. 

I eat them with St. Agur blue cheese, and it’s heavenly. 

La Costena Diced Chipotle Peppers.

I adore chipotle peppers, which I recently learned are actually just dried jalapeños! These diced chipotles come in a little jar, so it’s easy to spoon them out and then put the rest back into the fridge – unlike those whole chipotles that come in cans. I use these to make a scrumptious sauce for tacos and basically everything else, by combining them with mayo, yogurt, garlic, and lemon juice. I’ve also dropped them into Bolognese. They deliver a smoky flavour and depth, plus they’re blazing hot. 

Publix Coconut Cake.

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Listen, I love coconut. A lot of people hate it, but it’s my favorite flavor. It’s hard to find a good coconut cake in Toronto, because, well, this is the North. But I’m usually at our condo in Florida for my birthday every year, and a Publix coconut cake is always what I ask for. For the uninitiated, Publix is a supermarket in the American South. I call it ‘the happiest place on earth,’ because everyone who works there is so nice, and the sheer size and selection makes Canadian supermarkets look pathetic. 

Publix coconut cake is a vanilla cake with white icing and coconut flakes and flowers and maraschino cherries. It’s totally lurid and amazing. I can never make it to my birthday dinner without eating literally half the cake through the day. I start with cake for breakfast, and it goes from there.

If I was on a desert island and I had to bring one thing to eat, it would be Publix coconut cake. 

Le Grand Classic Pesto.

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I like keeping condiments and sauces on hand because my husband always complains that my cooking is too basic. I know, so rude. Anyhow, Le Grand has these sauces that come in pouches with a spout, so you can use what you want and then seal them up. The best thing about them is that taste really fresh and not at all like bottled sauces, that always seem to taste off. We love the pesto and chimichurri, which I use on steak. I don’t love the company’s ‘non-GMO etc etc’ advertising, but the products are really delish.

Oreo Double Stuf.

I have simple tastes. Give me Oreos any day of the week. I prefer the filling-to-cookie ratio of the Double Stuf ones, and if there’s Mega Stuf, I love those, too. I’m a real icing fiend. I don’t need any of the fancy Oreo flavors, either. Like, I don’t need Oreos that taste like birthday cake. No thanks.

Give me a couple Double Stufs, and leave me alone. I’ll be good.

Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar Cheese.

 

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I’m a sucker for a mature cheddar, and when it comes to making my epic sandwiches, an old cheddar is non-negotiable. Kerrygold makes a great one, although Snowdonia Cheese Company’s Black Bomber is my #1 fave (but probably isn’t available in the US). Kerrygold has a great fatty mouthfeel, and it crumbles just right. For some reason, I also love the packaging. 

Hellman’s Mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise is a divisive ingredient – not only whether or not you like it, but which one you prefer. Hellman’s is the only one I’ll buy, both in Canada and in the US. It’s rich, but doesn’t have any sort of sweetness or gloppiness. It’s just a pure, blank canvas that enhances food.

I use mayonnaise a lot, actually, in sauces, sandwiches, and even on the outside of grilled cheese before I put them into the pan. Yep – try it. 

Kitchenware.

Lodge cast iron pans.

If I could choose just one pot or pan for my kitchen, it would have to be a Lodge cast iron frying pan. I have these in the 15-inch, 12-inch, and 5-inch, and I make pretty much everything in them, from roasted vegetables to steaks to chickens to pizza to chili. They heat quickly and evenly, and during roasting, they crisp everything perfectly. They deliver the perfect sear to steak, too. The only thing I don’t make in my cast iron is fish, because I’m afraid I’ll never get the smell or taste out of the pan. 

I’m asking for the grill pan this Christmas. 

Braun Hand Blender.

I actually got this immersion blender when I was working with Braun. I used it on National TV one morning to make squash soup in front of the entire country. It comes with all sorts of extra tools now, but the one I have is the first model, so it’s just the blender itself. I love it because it’s easy to use, it doesn’t spray food all over your kitchen, and it’s strong. Like, I own a Vitamix, but I rarely use it because I have this blender, which can basically do most of what the Vitamix can do (except for crushing ice and making a great hummus). Plus, the Vitamix is a pain to clean. With the Braun hand blender, you just unsnap the bottom part that does the blending, and throw it into the dishwasher. Doesn’t get any easier than that.

All-Clad 5.5 Quart Dutch Oven.

 

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Nobody’s saying that All Clad is inexpensive, but their cookware is durable and high quality. I love the way All-Clad’s pots and pans feel – they’re sturdy and solid. They also heat evenly. 

My mother in law bought me this Dutch oven for Christmas one year, and I use it to make soups, stews, and even to boil pasta. It’s the perfect size, and it’s easy to clean. I have the All-Clad roasting pan, too – I stole it from my mom, and she’s never getting it back…even if it means that I’m now responsible for making the turkey on every holiday.

Kitchenaid 9 Speed Hand Mixer.

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Again, my mother in law bought this for me one year for my birthday. I don’t own a stand mixer, and I don’t need one, because this little guy does the work for me when I bake. It’s so small, so it’s easy to store, and it can handle whatever you throw at it. It blends cookie dough, whips cream easily, and I once used it to make butter. It’s built to last, inexpensive, and I love the red color, too.

Nakiri Knife.

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A Nakiri knife is a Japanese knife with a rectangular blade that’s typically used for cutting vegetables. It’s halfway between a chef’s knife and a cleaver, and the one I have was my dad’s. When my dad got sick with cancer, I spent a lot of time at his house, preparing his meals and my own as well. He loved knives, and he had this Nakiri knife made with Damascus steel, so it has whorls and swirls in the metal blade. I fell in love with it. It feels great in my hand, and it makes rhythmic chopping so easy. 

The truth of the matter is that I took that knife home with me once my dad got so sick that he wasn’t eating anything, and he wasn’t able to come downstairs to the kitchen. I wanted to make sure that it would always be mine and that one of my brothers didn’t swipe it. My dad would have given it to me gladly, even if he was well. 

Every single time I see it or use the knife, I think of my dad. Come to think of it, he bought me a set of Global knives, which I also adore. They make a nice Nakiri knife, too. Good knives last forever.

OXO kitchen scissors.

I have three pairs of these, but I’m down to one because my kids keep stealing them for their art projects. Nice and sturdy, these shears make spatchcocking a chicken quick and easy. I use them to snip herbs, trim flower stems, open packaging, and cut meat and pizza. They last forever, and they aren’t expensive. OXO makes great stuff. 

Soap Dispensing Brush.

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We used to use scrub sponges in our kitchen, but they always turned disgusting when someone would scour a pan with eggs or something in it. I’d throw them into the dishwasher, but I couldn’t help feeling like they were bacteria magnets.

Enter the OXO Soap Dispensing Brush. It’s all plastic, so it scrubs well but doesn’t trap grossness. You put dish soap into it, then press the top to release the soap while you’re washing a pan. I buy them two at a time, because they’re sort of hard to find around here. 

Williams Sonoma Marble Salt Keeper.

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When I buy kitchen tools, I look for practicality. But when I find something that’s practical and that also looks and feels beautiful, I’m in. This salt keeper is smooth and cool and heavy; it just feels good. It sits on my counter and is always full of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which I love, too. I just reach in, take a pinch or two of salt, and go on with my cooking. 

It’s not a ‘need,’ it’s more of a ‘want,’ but I love it. 

Microplane Citrus Zester.

favorite gifts

Not only do I use this for zesting citrus, I also grate garlic and ginger on it instead of mincing them with a knife. I HATE mincing garlic…like, hate it, and grating a clove on my microplane does a far better job and takes a fraction of the time. There are plenty of other similar brands to Microplane, so use what works for your budget.

IKEA Bevara Bag Sealing Clips.

I recently did some work with IKEA, and I got to discover all of the amazing products they have. One that I really fell in love with was the Bevara bag sealing clips. My husband and kids absolutely can not seem to close bread bags and cereal bags and whatever other bags they use, so needless to say, the food in them gets stale fast. 

Bevara clips are colourful and easy to use – they have a satisfying ‘click’ when they close that tells you that your food bag is safe and closed. We keep a mason jar of these on the kitchen counter, so nobody forgets to use them. 

Lifestyle.

Native Deodorant.

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In general, I try to avoid talking about my armpits. But Native deodorant is honestly the best pit stick I’ve ever used, and everyone in my family has one now because it’s that good. Even if you’re a super stinky person, Native is magical. Not that I’m the one who’s super smelly, but *ahem* teenagers *cough*

I used to scoff at Native because it’s so expensive, but once I tried it, I was hooked. 

I always found that other deodorants quit working after a while, but not Native. I order it straight from the company, and they have a ton of delicious fragrances. It’s #1 on my list for a reason.

Chapstick.

Someone on Twitter asked their followers what their favorite simple, cheap pleasure is. Mine is Chapstick. It never dries my lips out, and I’m obsessed with collecting all the flavors. We don’t have any of the good ones here in Canada, so I research them on the Chapstick website and then search them out when I’m in the States. My favorite flavour is probably the watermelon one, although the marshmallow one is delicious, too.

I haven’t been across the border in a year and a half, and I’m super excited to get the new vanilla mint and grape flavours. I keep Chapsticks in every nightstand, purse, car, swim bag, and room in my house. I can’t fall asleep without using it, either. I know, weird.

Foam Earplugs.

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When I say I don’t want to live without these earplugs, I mean I can’t sleep without them, either. 

You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve worn earplugs almost every single night since my last year of university, so that’s 30 years or so. I even wore them when I had babies, because unless you live in the Taj Mahal, you’ll hear the sound of your little one through a pair of earplugs. I did. 

Little noises bug me when I’m trying to sleep (even more now, because I’m so used to silence), and I married someone who snores, so yeah, my future is pretty much guaranteed to have many more of nights wearing these earplugs. 

I love these particular ear plugs because they work the best, they’re cheap (the Canadian drugstore Shoppers has similar ones under their store brand name), and I can use each pair for weeks before tossing them. Honestly, if you’re a light sleeper and haven’t tried these, you need to. You’re welcome.

Michael Crummey’s The Innocents.

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Oh my god, this book.

It’s about a young brother and sister who live on their own in the wilds of Newfoundland in the 1800s. It’s a heartbreaking story of survival, and its one of the best books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it, but I’m warning you now – there’s incest in there. Still, the writing is unbelievable, and the story will stick with you for a really long time.

Nalgene Bottles.

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I’ve been carrying a 1L wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle since I was in nutrition school in the 90s. I have 4 of them, although my kids are always stealing them. They’re the perfect size, they come in pretty colors, and I love how they’re clear, so I can see how much water I’ve had. They also save on plastic.

Two of these a day and I’m good…on top of my coffee, of course. 

AirPods Pro.

I don’t love being dependent on Apple products, but here we are. I had the regular AirPods, and they sucked. When my book was released during Covid, I did all my publicity virtually, which meant that I was doing radio, podcasts, and broadcast spots from my kitchen. My AirPods never worked properly, so I upgraded. The sound quality of the Pro version is a lot better, and unlike they did with the regular ones, nobody complains that I sound like I’m underwater. They’re noise cancelling, too – so when I’m on my Peloton singing along to all the 80s tunes, I can’t hear my family telling me to be quiet.

Bath and Bodyworks Suntan Candles.

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When I was single and in my 20s, I used to splurge on Jo Malone French Lime Blossom candles, which are nauseatingly expensive. Bath and Bodyworks Suntan candles are the perfect dupe, and they’re super cheap. I have these in every room of my house. I bought them on clearance, so they were like $5 each. Besides smelling like French Lime Blossom, they also smell like Coppertone, and I just love that smell.

They aren’t available right now, but if they bring them back next summer, grab them…before I do!

Cerave Everything.

favorite things

I recently discovered Cerave. I started using the Cream to Foam Cleanser, which takes my makeup off really well. Unlike other cleansers that either dry my face out or leave an aggravating waxy coating on it, Cerave Cream to Foam is perfection. I then started buying the creams and serums, which I found are amazing, too. I’ve used all of the expensive brands, but they’re full of fragrance that makes my eyes itch, and I never found that the high-priced products were really all that great. I use Cerave vitamin C, retinol, and hyuralonic acid serums, the eye cream, and the night cream. 

Their salicylic acid cream that comes in a tub is thick and it heals my disgusting dry feet so well. 

The product packaging is really ugly, but the products are fantastic, and you can get them at the drugstore. 

UGG Genuine Shearling Slippers.

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I have a scar on my ankle and leg that limits my ankle’s range of motion and makes walking around without shoes really uncomfortable. These slippers, with their chunky soles, are the answer. My husband and I have the women’s open-toed ones and close-toed ones – the men’s version are just not as comfortable. I bring them everywhere, too. Italy? UGG slippers. Florida in July? UGG slippers. The soles are thick, and the sheepskin is divine. I’ve worn two previous pairs until they had holes in them, and I plan on wearing my current pairs to the same state.