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!
Very Cool. I am so glad that my old friend Kyle that now works with you sent me to your blog. I am a Canner, gardener, garden center employee too! If you have a chance, check out my Facebook page, "Earth to Glass Canning".. I have also posted your blog there too! :) Have a wonderful Holiday and tell Kyle I said hello. I miss him. :) - Leslie from Earth to Glass Canning, (NJ)ReplyDelete
Is that Kyle Conway? He's a doll!! We all love him. Thanks for the kind words and I'll have to check out your facebook page. Canning ~ I grew up doing that. But I tell you, when they came out with ziploc bags, Mama wanted to find the inventor and kiss their feet. ;)ReplyDelete
Yes Linda, that is the one and only Kyle Conway... I was the Sales Manager and he was the General Manager of the nursery we worked at together. I miss him dearly.. You are very lucky to be working with him as he is a wealth of knowledge and an endearing personality.. He sent me your page to check out and I love it.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry y'all lost him, Leslie, but I'm sure glad we got him. He really is exactly what we needed. I know I'm not telling you anything when I say that he's a joy to work with ~ constantly in a good mood, circulating through the nursery looking for ways to help us regular employees, looking for fires to put out. I love working with him.ReplyDelete
I asked him today if it was he who sent you and he smiled and said yes, that he thought we'd hit it off. I can't wait for a bit of free time to seek out your blog (can you put the url here? If you don't mind) and read it.