When we first moved to the mountains, our little college town was woefully short on opportunities for retail therapy. Within a year, a Tuesday Morning opened, and the next, we got our own T.J. Maxx. The nearest Target is still over an hour away, but I'm good.
Most of my clothes are purchased at T. J. Maxx these days. I've been on quite the Tahari kick over the last year -- two pairs of jeans (one skinny, one not), a pair of skinny black pants (major score: id="mce_marker"0 on clearance!), two gorgeous lightweight wool sweaters, one dressy black shirt and another that is my new favorite thing to wear to school on non-teaching days, as well as several tees. My newest T.J. Maxx Tahari finds are two of my favorites -- a lightweight black trench coat that I am loving on these rainy early fall mornings and a pair of dark gray patent leather pumps that I can't wait to wear.
And then there is the far back corner of our T.J. Maxx where I find fabulous dishes and linens for photo styling and an ever-changing array of specialty foods. I never leave the store without checking out that aisle.
Olive oil is a staple in most pantries these days. I use olive oil for much of my frying and sauteeing, and extra virgin olive oil for marinades and salad dressing. Extra virgin olive oil is more refined and has a lower smoke point so I prefer not to cook with it. I buy basic grocery store olive oil -- Bertolli and the like -- or Costco's Kirkland brand for cooking and marinating. For salads though, I recommend going for the best quality affordable -- like chocolate, more expensive tends to be better. For this reason, most of my good quality extra virgin olive oil comes from T. J. Maxx. Zoe extra virgin olive oil is my go-to when it's available. I've bought their Spanish extra virgin oil, a "Best Choice" in a recent New York Times taste test, several times during the last couple of years, and offered it as my recommendation to other T.J. Maxx customers staring blankly at the wide variety of olive oils. My most recently purchased bottle is Zoe's Diva Select Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil. No Zoe? I just go with my instincts, never buy the most or least expensive, and have never bought a bottle that didn't make me happy. My usual price range is id="mce_marker"0-15 a bottle. The Greek Zoe cost me around id="mce_marker"0.
Another must have is premium vanilla. Good quality pure vanilla extract bears no relation to the imitation vanilla extract that you buy at the grocery. Don't be fooled by the Premium Imitation Vanilla either. You want the real thing. When available, I buy Nielsen-Massey's Pure Vanilla Extract at T. J. Maxx for about id="mce_marker"5. If you find "premium vanilla" for less than that, it is probably not what you're looking for. My son B and I call Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract the "secret ingredient" because it makes everything you bake taste better. For desserts with a limited number of ingredients, like pound cake, panna cotta and bread pudding, using pure vanilla extract makes an especially big difference. It's also a killer addition to iced coffee.
The last of my favorite food finds is a recent purchase of hot smoked paprika. I needed some a few months ago for a Charcutepalooza project and couldn't find any at our fairly upscale grocery or the fancy kitchen store that stocks some spices. I checked T. J. Maxx, not really expecting to find hot smoked paprika there. Project back on track! I have a tin of sweet smoked paprika that I purchased at T. J. Maxx as well. Each was around $4.
What other great products can you buy in T. J. Maxx's specialty foods section? Look for Balsamic and champagne vinegars, agave nectar, maple syrup, lemon curd, fruit preserves, mustard, spices and fleur de sel. But don't wait until you need it to shop because the stock can vary considerably. Happy Hunting!