Spices 101: Storing Spices (Recipe: Black Pepper Shrimp)

If you’ve been following our Spices 101 series, you may have had some spice myths debunked, and also may have decided to invest in quality spices.  Today, we’ll learn how to store your quality spices properly so that they’ll maintain their maximum freshness and potency.

It may come as a surprise to you, but a decorative spice rack conveniently situated above the stove is not doing your spices any favors. Sure the row of little glass jars are pretty to look at and the rack itself may be a space saver, but with all the heat, steam, gas and fallout from your cooking, your spices are no better off than the Icelandic cattle living in the path of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano spew.

OK, maybe a little better.

Here’s how to store everything from anise to za’atar.

What Your Spices Should Avoid

No sauna’s (or volcanoes) please! When storing spices, your biggest enemies are:

  • Air
  • Light
  • Heat
  • Humidity

What comes to mind? Can you think of someplace that’s airtight, dark, cool and dry? Read on! [Read more…]

Been to a Farm Lately? (Recipe: Asparagus & Cherry Tomato Pizza)

Much can be said about the environmental and economic benefits of eating locally sourced foods. More can be said about the adage that a local food advocate from my town often uses: Eat food you know from people you know.

Every summer my family makes more than a handful of pilgrimages to local farms. These trips are more than just a way to escape the city and another day at the park.  They are a way for us to share with the people who produce our food. And more importantly, a way for us to show our girls that meat does not come on a styrofoam tray and vegetables grow in the dirt.

Oh yeah, and farms are fun. All kids love dirt and animals.

[Read more…]

26 Kitchen Organizing Tips from Real Cooks – Twitter Style

There are magazines, books and TV shows devoted entirely to the subject of organizing, but sometimes the best tip is passed along by a real person. It could be via a penciled-in note in the margin of a thrift store cookbook purchase, a helpful suggestion from grandmother, or a good friend who called you up and said “Guess what I’ve discovered!”

Twitter is a fantastic platform for exchanging information with real people. If I’m excited about a new kitchen cleaning trick or cooking shortcut, I always share my knowledge with my followers–and they do the same with me. It’s as if we’re swapping homemaking secrets at an old fashioned quilting bee, only quite a bit more modern!

I love gleaning information via Twitter because:

  • It’s up-to-the-minute. Be it the latest and greatest tip on how to make my kitchen greener or a hot new tool, Twitter tips are never stale.
  • It’s everyday people like me. Not a brand, agency or sales rep selling me an product. These kind folks are passing along pointers that have improved their life.
  • It’s quick. Who has time for a 30 minute TV-show on organizing the pantry? A few tweets can pass along exactly the information I need.
  • It’s concise. A 140-character limit does not allow for an introduction, body and conclusion to a recommendation.

SO! In the spirit of quick and straightforward communication, I asked my followers to send me their BEST kitchen organizing tip. Together we’ve compiled a varied and comprehensive list for you to peruse and make notes. These are real people, working in real kitchens, not studios, and they are sharing what simplifies things in the kitchen for them.

26 Kitchen Organizing Tips from Real Cooks – in 140 characters or less [Read more…]

Weekend Reading: Spice Edition

We’ve been talking plenty of shop in our Spices 101 series, and a few of you might be wondering: how does this Simple Bites editor know about spices anyway?

If you’ve got a few minutes, let me share how I learned about spices and back up some of this information I’m dishing out.

We’ve also got our usual link love, as well as special ‘Spices 101’ links, so pour a coffee and join us. [Read more…]

Spices 101: What You Need to Know About Buying Spices

One might think that learning which spice to add to which dish is one of the first things you would be taught in Spices 101, but they would be wrong.

Learning to source and purchase fresh, quality products is paramount when learning to cook well with spices. Would you make a fruit salad with moldy fruit? Spread rancid butter on fresh baked bread? Of course not.  Likewise, you should aim to use the best spices and herbs possible, for reasons we will discuss below.

This is the second post in our Spices 101 series. In my first post, I debunked common spice myths and pointed out how proper selection and addition of good quality spices  to a dish can elevate the flavor of a dish with little effort and minimal cost. Next week we will talk about how proper storage is important for preserving your newly acquired quality spices, followed by how to grind whole spices and finally,  learn what spices to stock your pantry with.

For now, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly facts about buying spices. [Read more…]