I have this bad habit of bringing in the harvest from the garden and not doing anything with it. I have a few things I know exactly what to do with (I'm looking at you, collards and ham hocks...), but I keep doing those same things over and over again, rarely varying. Can you say "Boring!" I think it's because when I do try to vary, to expand out and stretch my recipe repertoire, I have more misses than hits. So the veggies sit and wait, and wait ... and wait ... 'til inspiration strikes me. By the time that happens, the veggies are past their prime, making for a rather lackluster performance in the pot, through no fault of their own.
Here's the thing: They're not still good. Really. They're not.
First, go to the bulk spice aisle at the grocery store and stand there for a while. Admire the organization, look at the colors, drink in the scents. I was there yesterday, looking at all the containers containing all the lovely scents and flavors, feeling the possibilities. Oh, the possibilities! Steaming plates of ... warm bowls of ... aromatic spoonfuls of ... . I made up my mind right then and there: Nigella Lawson here I come!
After I chose the things I was familiar with (celery seed, dill weed, Italian seasoning, thyme...), I picked a few things that I knew a bit about, but seemed a little different (sweet smoked Spanish paprika, herbs de Provence...). I thought I was done and started to walk away, but stopped. I wanted to be free, adventurous, gutsy. I wanted to expand my cooking skills. I wanted to be Nigella, right?
Nineteen little baggies, twelve little dollars, and forty-five little minutes later, I was done. I wheeled my cart and my new determination over to the canning aisle to get some jars. If you keep your herbs and spices in airtight containers, they last a lot longer. Plastic doesn't cut it ~ it's gas permeable. And I didn't want to have a pile of baggies to look through. I wanted easy-to-find. And pretty. I found some 4 ounce jars and got two dozen (eight bucks a dozen ~ cheap), along with a few larger jars for the things I bought a lot of (minced garlic, onion flakes).
Once I got home, I grabbed an empty box and headed for the spice cabinet. I took everything out. Once it was all there, sitting on the counter out of it's normal home, most of it looked like what it was ~ stuff that needed to be chunked. It was wild ~ just getting it out of the cabinet made all the difference. Suddenly it seemed easy to get rid of. But as I took each jar in hand, looking for things to put in the box, I started wanting to keep things I knew I shouldn't. So I changed my outlook and started to look for things to keep. That's the ticket! I picked out half a dozen envelopes and three jars to put back in the cabinet, washed out the shelves, and put everything else in the box. Done.
Now comes the fun part: putting all the treasures in the jars and lovingly labeling each one. The jars came with cute little labels, but I got some different ones I liked better. Whatever works for you. Just make sure to also date them. I didn't want to write that on the label on the front of the jar since I'd have to cross it out as I refill the jars. After a while, there wouldn't be any room left on the label, and it'd make it look messy. So I put more labels on the bottom of each jar for dates.
It's so nice now! When I open that cabinet, I see all the pretty colors all stacked neatly on top of each other, ready to be used in my next masterpiece. I feel like I just might be capable of making that masterpiece now, or at least capable of not screwing up as much as I used to.
Wheeeeeeeee!!!!! I can't wait to cook now! So I'll see y'all later. I'm headed out to the garden to find something to pick.
UPDATE: It's been a little more than a week and MAN what a difference this has made! I haven't had one flop in the kitchen since! Some things have been better than others and one thing that wasn't all that super great, but it was still good. So, DO EET! Change out those spices NAO!