Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Top 10 “daily driver” food/drinks

Here are ten food/drink products that I cannot live without every day!
(All pictures taken with my DSLR camera! Look at dem bokeh’s!)

1. John McCann’s Steel Cut Oats (SCO). 

I have had this for breakfast almost every day for the past year. Except for the hot summer months of July and August, when I have cereal instead (Shredded Wheat), this is how I start the day. If you have not done so already, I strongly recommend you give these a try. Steel Cut Oats, or Irish/Scottish Oats as they are known in the UK, are not to be confused with pre-processed Rolled Oats (Quaker Oats, etc); they cook much slower than Rolled Oats, at about 30 min vs. 10 min, but the cooking time is so worth it. If you’ve never liked oatmeal, it is probably because you have only tried the bland, mushy, inferior oatmeals made with Rolled Oats.

Not all Steel Cut Oats are created equal. You cannot go too wrong with supermarket-brand Steel Cut Oats, but the John McCann’s Steel Cut Oats give off the most nutty smell/taste. 

At $27.96 for four cans at Amazon, they might seem a little pricey. But consider this: I easily make 6+ breakfast for two per can. Add a few Craisins, a little honey, and some freshly-cracked walnuts, and you are having breakfast fit for a king, for around $1 per person. Now that is how I want to start the day!

2. Golden Blossom Honey (U.S. Grade A).

As I already mentioned above, I have honey almost every morning. I am convinced this is how our family never catches the cold. I am not (yet) a honey connoisseur, and do not have a strong preference for any particular brand. See also below:

3. Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt.

This is my favorite Yogurt. Put a large spoonful or five into a bowl. Add some honey, and mix well. Voilà. You have made for yourself the Promised Land treat. (Land of flowing milk and honey, anyone?) If you have never tried Greek Yogurt with honey, you are really missing out.

4. Marmite.

It’s not for everyone, and it is quite hard to find outside of the UK and NZ, but man: I cannot live without this stuff. This goes well with toast (add a little butter!), and also inside any sandwiches with ham/cheese filling. The salty/umami taste really gives the zinger to anything it is added to! 

5. Tabasco.

Here are several interesting facts that not many people know about Tabasco: 

  1. It has only three ingredients: vinegar, salt, and pepper. 
  2. The mixture is mashed and then aged for up to three years in wooden barrels (source).
  3. The pepper they use for the sauce is actually called Tabasco pepper. It has a Scoville rating of around 50,000, putting it between Habanero peppers and Jalapeño peppers on spicy scale.

6. McCormick Pure Ground Black Pepper.

Growing up, I used always wonder why we had salt and pepper on dining tables across the world. I could understand the salt; but pepper? Why would anyone put that on food? But now, I put black pepper on most meat-dish that I eat. Even on ham-and-cheese sandwiches (which, if you have been paying attention, already has Marmite spread thinly inside. Yum). What changed? I don’t know; maybe it just grew on me. Now I cannot live without it!

Interesting fact: Black pepper used to be called “Black Gold” back in 15th century; that’s how valuable it was. It’s what made the City State of Venice into a Maritime world power, according to John Green. It’s crazy to think that people in the 15th century spent (what must have been) a big chunk of their monthly income to buy this stuff, much as we buy iPads. Now, with the progress of technology, we can get 112 grams of this stuff for less than $8 on Amazon!

7. French’s Classic Yellow Sauce.

It is a real shame about the packaging of this product, but when I first set my eyes on this, I thought this would be one of those heavily-processed yellow sauces laden with artificial chemicals. I was wrong. This has fewer ingredients than most other foods: vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika, and garlic powder. And I really love it. It is my favorite sauce, after Tabasco. (And they both have quite different uses, which is nice.)

8. Twinings Earl Grey Tea.

Here is the thing: most people in the US have not had a proper cup of tea in their lives. This blows my mind. I might do a separate post about how to brew a proper cup of tea, but here are the most important points (in order of decreasing importance): use bottled water (see below); actually bring the water to the boil, and add the water to the tea bag while the water is actually boiling; add just the right amount of milk (about two teaspoons), and use skimmed (zero fat) dairy milk, not the “half-and-half” nonsense; do not leave the tea bag in for too long. As long as you have the temperature right, the tea bag does not need to be in the water for more than two minutes. Just give it a quick stir one minute in, and take it out after another minute. The tea in the cup must be hot enough so that when you drink it, you should be a little scared of it (that it might scald you if you are not careful). Needless to say, I have several cups of tea throughout the day. One of the highlights of my day.

Much like black pepper above, it is fascinating to think that empires rose and fell over this stuff. And now, we can just buy it at the click of a button for less than 20 cents per tea bag!

9. Poland Spring water.

Not much to say about this, but it is the single most important food item in our family’s life. One bottle makes two cups of tea (see above), and we gave up on New England tap water (at least the unfiltered kind) a long time ago.

10. Polar Seltzer Water.

For those times when you have a fizzy-drink craving, this is a healthy alternative to Coke or Ginger ale. I particularly like the lemon and lime flavored ones, and our fridge is always well-stocked with these!


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