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Refresh Your Pantry for Spring

Spring is almost here! You can smell it in the air. Let go of winter and let spring fever take hold! You can bring that freshness of spring into your home by making these simple changes in your pantry: reorganize, rotate and refresh.

First, get rid of excess. Throw away those items that are expired or have been open for more than a year and have either lost their potency or become stale.

Reorganize your shelves so that all grains, flour, sugar and dry ingredients are on one shelf; oils, vinegars and bottled ingredients on another shelf; spices, extracts, cans and condiments on a third shelf, and paper goods on their own shelf. Put open bags of sugar, pasta, grains and flour in resealable bags or in plastic stackable containers. Label all items with the current date so you have an idea how old the ingredients are.

Rotate your stock. Bring your older items that will soon expire to the front of your pantry and move the newer items to the back. Group like items together. For example, place the pastas together, all sweeteners together and all flour together, so you aren't searching all over the pantry for an ingredient.

And now for the fun part: Refresh your pantry. Restock with a few "newer" staples that you could use in your everyday cooking that would add something unique and broaden your palate as well. This is the pantry equivalent of trying a new hairstyle, experiencing a new yoga class or getting a much-needed facial.

Start with a new olive oil. If you've been using an Italian extra virgin olive oil, add a bottle of an organic Greek olive oil such as Terra Medi. Enjoy the subtle buttery and grassy notes that a Greek olive oil adds to your dishes.

Try a different vinegar. If you find that you use balsamic vinegar in most of your dressings and marinades, substitute Columela Sherry Vinegar from Spain. The sherry vinegar imparts a tart, yet sweet and nutty flavor to foods.

Add a different-flavored jam to your ordinary grape jelly. Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, bursting with tiny, whole wild blueberries, will bring toast and jam to new levels.

Now, stretch your palate and go beyond your comfort zone. Introduce a new shelf-stable ethnic sauce to your pantry. Just as a jar of spaghetti sauce is good to have on hand to add to pasta for a quick dinner, so are Seeds of Change Indian Simmer Sauces. The Korma, Jalfrezi, Madras and Tikki Masala sauces are exotic and delicious to pour over chicken or vegetables for an amazing meal.

Savor spring with these simple and subtle changes in your pantry that will carry through to your home and your palate.