Food. We all need it. We all eat it. However, eating the same tired recipes can get monotonous. There’s an entire world of flavors out there! What are you waiting for? Keeping a stock of various herbs, spices, and seasonings will help you mix it up in the kitchen. You can spend an entire day prepping food, or you can keep some simple items in your pantry and refrigerator to make meals come alive.
To help with the latter, I’ve listed the top five most useful items to keep on hand for quick and flavorful meals…
Jarred Garlic: This minced garlic, also called jarlic, is less pungent than the fresh stuff and you can add it to pasta, pizza sauce, soup, stir fries, salad dressings, marinades, and more. Find it in the international section or the produce section of most grocery stores. A half teaspoon of “jarlic” is equivalent to 1 clove of fresh garlic.
Ginger Paste: Similar to jarred garlic, ginger paste has a less intense flavor than fresh, but some people prefer it that way! Ginger paste is great for seasoning vegetables like green beans, spinach, and broccoli or for adding to Thai, Indian, or other Asian dishes. It’s found in the produce section either in the refrigerated or regular section. Bear in mind that this paste must be refrigerated after opening. When you cook with it, you can use the same amount of ginger paste as fresh ginger in your recipe (i.e. 1:1).
Cumin: Cumin is a member of the parsley family and is native to regions from the eastern Mediterranean to South Asia. Cumin comes in a few varieties and can be added to Mexican cuisine (think tacos and chili) or as a part of Indian dishes and curries. Try dusting sweet potatoes with cumin and cinnamon before roasting.
Lemon Juice: A bottle of lemon juice is not only more convenient, it’s less expensive than fresh lemons. Lemon juice is great as part of a marinade for fish, pork, or chicken. You can also blend it with olive oil and Dijon mustard for a quick salad dressing. Buy 100% juice and store it in your refrigerator for use all week.
Salsa: Salsa can be added to black beans for a quick soup or chili, or doused over salad instead of dressing. Cover chicken breast with your favorite salsa in a slow cooker in the morning and you’ve got a quick and tasty meal upon your return. There are so many varieties to choose from, from mild, medium and hot to corn, black bean, peach, and mango. Which will you try first?
By Lisa Andrews MEd, RD, LD
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.