Spicing Things Up

The Food Network’s other name is Food Porn, and it’s addictive.  I like to watch chefs do all kinds of interesting things that I know I’ll never make but find fascinating when prepared from start to finish in nice neat 30-minute segments.   Sandra Lee is one I think is slightly insane with her insistance on using seasoning packets instead of real, yanno, spices.   None of the other FN chefs would dream of that.  But they also have kitchens stocked with every kind of spices and herbs that you could want for any recipe.  It’s miraculous.

spicesMy kitchen is somewhat different.  I tend to use the same basic things over and over, completely forgetting about the curry powder or alspice or some such thing.  Before I moved I tossed out a ton of things that didn’t look familiar and my current spice/herb supply is skimpy.

When I buy a new one, I’ve learned to write the month and date on the container using a sharpie.  That way I can see that my jar of ground ginger is five years old.  Oops, that’s about four years too long.  I just hate the idea of throwing away things I spent good money to buy.  On the other hand, old spices don’t have the punch and flavor of fresh jars and food tastes better when things are fresh.

Quality ingredients matter.  Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, always says to buy the best vanilla you can find, that it makes a difference in the flavor of the dish.  And she’s right.  Last month I bought some really good vanilla and the smell alone is hugely different, not to mention the taste.  It’s making me wonder about some of the other things I could have on hand to perk up my meals.

Needing some direction and inspiration, I did some searching and found two really good starting points for ideas:

I think it’s time to weed through the cabinet again – and pick up some new spice, looking for small containers of things I don’t use often and bigger ones of things I go through fast such as bay leaves.   A visit to Edge of the Woods or Trader Joe’s seems to be in order.

5 thoughts on “Spicing Things Up

  1. If you’re willing to wait for delivery, Penzey’s is the best place to order herbs and spices. They pack whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves in the box with your order – a nice touch, and there’s nothing better than freshly grated nutmeg! They’re on the web and they also have stores in some cities. Alas, mine isn’t one of them.

  2. I don’t find that spices get bad with age, but maybe I’m not that picky. I have TONS of spices because I love cooking with a variety of them and want everything on hand. But I don’t cook as much as I used to so I’m sure lots of them are OLD.

    P.S. While they are cheaper, I don’t find that TJs has a wide selection of spices. A “regular” grocery store or Whole Foods is way better…for me at least!

    Glad to see you are doing ok with typing with the sling! 🙂

  3. Lori W.

    I second the notion about Penzey’s plus they might even have one near you (they have really expanded; there’s one in Richmond, VA now).

    I just went through the combined spices of two households. There sure seems to be a lot of cinnamon between two people who don’t even cook that much. (I’m guessing French toast on his part, I don’t know WHY I had any.)

    PS With the Penzey’s you can start from scratch with one of their box sets too.

  4. Thanks, Debbie and Lori, for the Penzey’s recommendation. I’m putting an order together with folks from work so we can share shipping. They have a store in West Hartford but since we’re getting a boatload of snow tomorrow, I’m going to do mail order for now and can plan a trip there another time.

  5. I always have wondered about Sandra Lee and if she has a Martha-esque temper? She used to do segments on the View and Joy would always dish her cooking and tell her it taste bad.

    I’m off to check out Penzey’s website.

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