Chef Luella Semmes on The Natural Pantry from Canvas Long Island magazine

It’s a New Year—a time for resolutions, setting personal goals, and starting a clean slate. Some people start as early as December to prepare for the New Year by cleaning their homes from top to bottom, getting rid of clutter and all the messy accumulations that invaded the house throughout the year. One likely household candidate that lacks attention throughout the year is the kitchen pantry. Depending on the organization of your pantry and your frequency of cooking, items can be lost for years until they re-surface after a thorough kitchen cleaning. Let’s face it, most of us don’t adhere to a regular schedule of kitchen maintenance on top of our multitude of daily tasks.

If your New Year’s resolution is taking great care to exercise a wholesome approach to eating, now is a great time to clean out those shelves and stock up on healthy ingredients.

Here are some handy tips to keep your resolution in check:

  • Pancake syrup vs. maple syrup. Only pure maple syrup can be called Maple Syrup on the label. Pancake syrup such as Aunt Jemima and Log Cabin is made from high fructose corn syrup. The evidence is on the label.
  • Use less disposables. Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins. Buy a stainless steel cup holder to stop hoarding plastic bottles.
  • Minimize soda intake. Load up on natural juices and hydrate with water. It’s not a secret that sodas are high in sugar and caloric intake, and contribute to weight gain.
  • Stock up on organic rolled oats. It’s a healthy alternative for breakfast and a wholesome snack as a parfait with yogurt. It is also filling and a good source of fiber, keeping your hunger at a minimum throughout the day.
  • Substitute meat with quinoa. With the cost of meat on the rise, quinoa is a healthy substitute for protein that can be cooked in stews, salads, and with your favorite vegetables.
  • Make your own almond butter. Almonds have the property of lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (the good cholesterol). Spread some on whole grain toast, spoon into your salad, and add to your baked treats.
  • Set up a seasonal pantry by refreshing your staples every season from ingredients found at the farmer’s market. Remember to store seasonal sugars, spices, flours, oils, and herbs in air-tight containers that are clearly labeled with a date. Oils for marinades and vinaigrettes should be kept in their original bottles since they have a shorter shelf life.

If random inspections were to take place throughout several households, pantry items would most likely be found alarmingly beyond their expiration date. A quick way to alleviate this dilemma is by creating an open pantry with minimal depth. A pantry should generally have low light and humidity, and a cool temperature. It would be helpful to minimize the depth so ingredients are not difficult to find and there would be less chance of staying on the shelf for years to come. A helpful food list and storage life can be found on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website at

Chef Luella Semmes

Your Kitchen Companion, LLC


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