For my birthday, I decided that what I really wanted this year was to update and organize my spice rack.

I cook regularly and am always running out of one spice or another, trying to think up substitutions and spreading my herbs a little too thin. I sometimes feel that my spices all run out at the same time, and the need to refill each bottle can be a daunting reality.

But one of the best parts of living in Baton Rouge is the small community of specialty stores and local produce stands and markets, and I consider myself lucky to have freshly grown kale, Gulf seafood and olive oil and herb stores so easily at my disposal. Whenever I do get low on spices, I make a trip to Red Stick Spice Co. on Jefferson Highway. Red Stick sells herbs, rubs, olive oils and teas in bulk replete with a super friendly staff and a charming atmosphere.

You’re free to sample any olive oil or vinegar of your choice (even the extracts if you’re up for it) and the wall of spices never fails to remind me of what else my pantry is missing.

Instead of going to a national chain grocery store or specialty bulk foods store as I know many of my friends and family are inclined to do (apparently, these places save you money), I find there’s a certain pleasantness of filling your spices in bulk. Herbs are always priced by the ounce or gram, meant for those home cooks who know they’re going to run out of oregano sometime this week or coarse salt the next and is not without its benefits.

When purchasing, you pay for the spice and not the packaging, and you can buy more or less based on your home-cooking habits. Overall, the process can save you a lot of money.

By buying spices in bulk, you can avoid this process and reuse your containers from home (they’ll even fill them for you in the store).

After my trip to Red Stick, I chose to spice this simple baked eggs with bacon dish with the addition of thyme. Thyme is one of my classic culinary choices because of the lovely fragrance and flavor the herb’s natural oils infuse into any savory or sweet dish. Even in its bulk, dried form, thyme brings life to breakfast ingredients like eggs with a fragrant earthy flavor.

I must note that baked eggs are a remarkably easy dish to make, perfect for when fried or scrambled have grown a bit boring. To liven up the dish, I added roasted greens to the ramekins using leftover broccoli from the night before, but these eggs taste just as lovely with roasted spinach, kale or any hardy winter green.

Dressed in freshly grated Parmesan, crisped bacon pieces, salt, pepper and a little bit of thyme, these baked eggs have a beautiful, simple flavor that’s slightly gourmet.

Of course, any of your favorite spices would substitute here as well: oregano, a dash of sweet paprika or even cayenne if you’re feeling dangerous. Whatever the spice, I find this is one birthday present that’s going to good use.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at or via email at