In our series Stuff Texans Love, our state’s most stylish celebrities share their must-have items. 

The beginning of a new year often starts with a slate of goals and promises. Maybe you want to try a short-term elimination diet or use your oven for more than heating frozen food. If either of these thoughts have crossed your mind in the last five years or so, you likely already know about Alex Snodgrass and her blog of easy-to-accomplish, wholesome recipes, the Defined Dish.

Snodgrass grew up in Celina, a small town about 45 minutes north of Dallas. Her mom cooked nearly all the family’s meals, so when Snodgrass went off to college at Texas Christian University, she felt unmoored by the lack of home-cooked meals.

As soon as she was able to live in an apartment, she was making dishes like lobster paella for her roommates. It was after she had her first child and was dealing with postpartum anxiety that she leaned on the Whole30 diet (a meal plan that starts with a month of eschewing dairy, legumes, and alcohol, among other things) and changed her thinking around grocery shopping and ingredient labels. “[Doing Whole30] was to get out of a time when I really wasn’t taking care of myself,” Snodgrass says. Her blog became a resource for many people who wanted to try Whole30 but still wanted to eat something delicious.

While the Defined Dish has drifted away a bit from its early, Whole30-heavy days, weeknight dinners, sheet pan meals, and slow-cooker stews are still Snodgrass’s bread and butter. You’ll see plenty of those in her third cookbook, Dinner Tonight, which came out last month. While you will still find recipes using coconut milk, arrowroot starch, and avocado oil, you’ll also see Snodgrass incorporate grains and dairy (two Whole30 no-no’s).

Despite the approachability of her recipes and the fact that she’s a Texan, Snodgrass doesn’t come off as a down-home gal in line with Ree Drummond. (“I don’t really do the whole casserole game,” Snodgrass says.) She’s perhaps more like her early idol, Ina Garten, shooting her photos and videos in her stylish Preston Hollow home with her husband and two young daughters and favoring a “crisp” martini on a night out. (She recommends the ’tinis at Dallas haunts il Bracco, the Charles, and Beverley’s.)

Her uptown sensibility mixed with the accessibility of her content makes her a hero among women in their twenties and thirties, as I witnessed during an event she held at the Made In in South Austin late last year. A line of young women wrapped around the cookware store sipping Clayton’s Margaritas (a popular recipe on Snodgrass’s site, developed by her husband) and waiting for the opportunity to chat with Snodgrass and get a photo. There will certainly be more of that to come this month as Snodgrass tours the country promoting Dinner Tonight

Here, she provides some suggestions on what to buy a beginner cook who wants to dip their toes into the kitchen, with some assistance from premade spices and sauces and eye-catching essential tools.

Defined Dish Book Trio: The Defined Dish, The Comfortable Kitchen, and Dinner Tonight

Dinner Tonight is Snodgrass’s latest cookbook, and if her last two—both New York Times best-sellers—are any indication, it will be massively popular. They all “represent exactly who I am,” she says, but her first book “leans a little more into the Whole30-paleo world,” while her second features the easy recipes she’s known for alongside things one might “cook on a Sunday for a family,” like a long-simmering Bolognese. For her third effort, she’s going back to her roots, with weeknight favorites that have short ingredient lists. “If I’m not willing to make this on a Wednesday after a soccer game, it’s not in the book,” she says.

Graza “Drizzle” and “Sizzle” Duo

You’ve likely seen this olive oil brand on Gen Z kitchen counters and in trendy “shoppy shops,” and Snodgrass, who is an investor in the company, swears by it. The Drizzle is a flavorful finishing oil, great for salads or atop avocado toast, and the Sizzle more neutral-flavored, for heating and cooking. But “the squeeze bottle is what makes it fantastic,” Snodgrass says.

Material Kitchen reBoard Cutting Boards

With their fun colors, these plastic cutting boards are more than decorations for Snodgrass—they’re a way to organize the cooking process. “I’ll have the purple one out for the raw meat and the orange one for chopping veggies,” she says.

Alex Snodgrass shopping column
Chipotle Ranch SideDish dressing, offered in the multipack. Courtesy of Alex Snodgrass

SideDish Dressing + Sauce Multipack

Snodgrass ventured into consumer packaged goods (CPG) about a year ago with her self-funded line of sauces and dressings, called SideDish. There are now five flavors cooks can use when they need “an easy, grab-out-of-the-pantry flavor booster,” she says. They’re made with avocado oil and without refined sugar, which hews closely to Snodgrass’s clean-ingredient ethos but sometimes posed a challenge in the research and development process. She came up with miso Caesar dressing because when she tested a shelf-stable traditional Caesar dressing with anchovies, “the fish got rancid after a month,” she says. The miso provides the umami in its place. The honey Dijon and the creamy sesame are fan favorites and go great with chicken and Brussels sprouts and stir-fries, respectively.

Spices From Dalkin & Co.

Snodgrass is friends with Gaby Dalkin, the owner of this seasoning line and the food blogger behind What’s Gaby Cooking. The two have always connected over having public platforms, but now that they’re both in the CPG game, they “talk three to four times a week” about everything from “who we’re using for our copacker” to “how we’re updating our SEO practices,” Snodgrass says. “We make each other better across the board.” She describes the Gaby’s Everyday seasoning, made from herbs, garlic, and paprika, as an elegant version of Montreal steak seasoning.

Yummly Smart Thermometer

“I’ve gifted this so many times,” Snodgrass says of the wireless, app-connected meat thermometer. She loves using it for holiday dishes, including her beef tenderloin.