The One Ingredient I Can't Live Without

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From time to time I get on a roll in the kitchen. For a month, I'm obsessed with variations on oatmeal. The next, I'm roasting every vegetable in the fridge like a boss. However, through thick and thin, warm day and cold days, there's always one ingredient that I'm bound to have on hand. Wondering what's so amazing that it's continuously on my grocery list every week? Eggs? Bananas? Kale? (Just kidding.) It's lemons!

Just about every other time I'm at the grocery store, I pick up a few lemons. Sometimes it's for a recipe — lemon and herb roasted chicken or creamy lemon pasta. Typically though, I have no agenda for these lemons. Instead, they find their way into everything I cook, adding a necessary brightness in these cold winter months.

Looking for a quick pasta dressing? Olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper are a staple made even better by the liberal squeeze of a lemon. Want to spice up morning toast without an extra scrape of butter? Zest a little bit of lemon. Trying to keep up with that resolution to drink more water? Lemon is where it's at. There's no shortage of useful perks to having lemons on hand all the time.

If they're starting to get less than fresh, I'll toss thin slices together with vegetables to roast and pile over grains, or use slices as the perfect muddled base to a tart post-work cocktail. Aside from use in cooking, there are countless less conventional uses like refreshing cutting boards, cleaning knives, keeping produce fresh, and reviving soggy lettuce. Heck, remember when you used to use lemon in junior high to make your hair lighter when laying out at the neighborhood pool?

Not only are lemons a super versatile way to add some zest to any meal, they're bright and beautiful. Much like cut flowers, I love the sunny effect of having this fresh citrus fruit around. If I'm feeling down, a bowl of vibrant lemons as the table centerpiece perks up the morning coffee routine.

What do I do if I ever find myself with a surplus of lemons around the kitchen? Why I make lemonade of course. Here are a few favorite recipes.

What's the one ingredient you can't live without?

What do you do with lemons after they're zested?

→ Tip: Five Ways to Use Naked Lemons

(Image credits: matka_Wariatka/Shutterstock)

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