I try to keep our fridge and pantry as well stocked as possible. I have found over my years of cooking that there are some items that are harder to keep fresh than others and some that will just last until I need to use them.
I have found a few pantry standouts that I always have on hand that just make cooking easier for me. They are simple ways to add flavor or to cut down on prep time.
Bouillon: I am a big fan of bouillon. I very rarely keep chicken stock around because I don’t go through it quick enough without it going bad. Pop a bouillon cube in some boiling water — boom. Chicken stock. I find I don’t notice a difference either between bouillon and stock. I sometimes find it a tad salty, and then I’ll just dilute it with some water. But I probably reach for bouillon a few times a week.
Flavored olive oil: I love me some flavored olive oil. My friend and I bought a Living Social deal for one of those fancy olive oil shops back when I lived in DC (for those who are curious, it was Olio in Old Town Alexandria). Going around and tasting all the different varieties was so much fun for a foodie like me. I left with two in particular that have been staples of mine ever since — Sundried Tomato Parmesan Garlic Olive Oil and White Truffle Garlic Olive Oil. I use these for a simple pasta sauce or on veggies before roasting. The little bottles I got have lasted me a long time, but when they eventually run out, I think I might try to infuse some of my own.
Spices: Some herbs are just better fresh — basil, cilantro, sage. But I find that sometimes dried herbs are just as good if not better, and they are a lot easier to keep and store. One of my favorites is ground ginger. I love fresh ginger, but I have never used up a whole little root, despite how many recipes I’ve made. A little spring of ground ginger in a stir fry or some quinoa can really give a dish some zip. I’m also a big fan of high quality chili powder — it makes a huge difference when cooking tacos or chili. Another one of my favorites is vanilla bean paste. I love vanilla bean in many things. It adds depth of flavor to plain chocolate chip cookies, pound cake or even waffles. Vanilla beans themselves can be quite expensive, but vanilla bean paste is just as good, if not better. I highly recommend picking up a jar.
Pre-chopped garlic: As an Italian, I feel like it is sacrilege to say that garlic chopped and stored in oil is a pantry favorite. But I just cannot help it. It is so convenient. I use it more in everyday recipes — if I was making something for a special occasion I would bust out the fresh stuff.
Let me know in the comments what are your MVPs of the pantry.