If you’re wondering why your chili doesn’t taste as good as you remember, it might be the chili powder that’s off. You might not have realized it, but spices can actually lose their freshness and flavor over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to check them periodically to see if they’re still any good. What better time to do so than New Year’s? You might as well check it off your to-do list right after you change the batteries in your smoke detectors.
Spices are some of the most important ingredients when it comes to flavoring food. Just imagine an apple pie without cinnamon or an Indian curry without curry powder. Those recipes wouldn’t be the same without those spices. It’s easy to take spices for granted when you use them so often, but they need some attention, especially when it comes to storing them.
Ground vs. whole spices
Many of you tuned in to Food Network’s special, The Big Waste, that aired last week, and we heard from lots of you about how eye-opening and shocking it is to see how much perfectly edible food ends up in the garbage. Even if you’re not tasked with cooking a meal for 100 people using wasted food like chefs Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay and Michael Symon were, you can still learn how to get the most out of your groceries with the tips below.
1. Treat fresh herbs like flowers and give them a vase. Who doesn’t hate it when you need a tablespoon of fresh parsley for a recipe but you’re forced to buy a giant bunch? You can hang on to the extras for another use if you treat them well. Fill a glass halfway with water, remove any twist ties or rubber bands from the herbs, and then place them in the glass, stems down. Cover with a plastic bag (the produce bag you probably brought them home in is perfect), then secure the bag to the glass with a rubber band. This will keep them fresh and usable for much longer than if you’d just tossed them in the crisper drawer.
Keep brown sugar soft and moist »
Last year The New York Times and other news outlets reported a scary statistic: Americans throw out approximately 40 percent of all the food we purchase. Let’s say you spend $100 a week on groceries — that’s like taking $40 and just tossing it in the trash. If you’re one of the many of us who are resolving to spend money more wisely in the new year, then taking a look at your grocery shopping and food storage habits and making some improvements will help stretch your food dollar even further. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing helpful tips to make the most of the food you buy and help you avoid having to throw anything away.
1. Don’t let oil or nuts go rancid. Whenever I cook in a friend’s home, rancid olive and vegetable oil is the number one food sin that I see committed. Many people don’t realize that oil goes bad, so it’s very important to keep it (especially pricey olive oil) in a cool, dark place. Take the sniff test to determine if yours has gone bad: if it smells musty and off, it’s time to say goodbye. (And here’s an important food disposal tip: if you must throw it away, don’t pour oil down the drain; it’s terrible for waste-water treatment plants.) If you don’t use a lot of oil, avoid buying giant bottles so it won’t go bad before you use it up.
The worst offense you could commit »