The New York Times really came through for me yesterday with a very useful article on which prepackaged items to toss from your kitchen pantry and how to replace them with simple, nourishing alternatives. My biggest challenge is going to be making the switch to using real vanilla beans instead of the bottled stuff. Cookie baking is my hands down favorite activity in the kitchen and, while I like to think that I bake from scratch, I generally welcome the convenience of a bottled ingredient when I can get it. But Mr. Bittman is really selling me hard here, so I'm going to give it my all with the real thing. Another convenience that I enjoy and would like to add to the shared master pantry list is Jessica Prentice's Local Food Wheel. It is an excellent guide, commonplace in many of my friends' refrigerator magnet scenes, that helps you to remember which fruits and vegetable are available year-round and which are coming up seasonally. You spin the top wheel to highlight your given time of year, and then you are better able to shop at the grocery market in the same way you would shop at the farmer's market, buying the freshest produce that also happens to be what your body expects to be eating in a given season. So, yes! This very day, you can lock down early January, load up on kohlrabi and artichokes, pair them with some of Mr. Bittman's advised barley and prosciutto, and have yourself a very fine winter meal. Also, very exciting for my Manhattanite friends, a different wheel is available for the New York watershed as well! And, very exciting in general, the wheel is real pretty and the wee drawings always make me smile.