Kitchen Tips and Ideas

Here's just a few ideas and tips that Anna and I use around the kitchen. With maybe a few equipment suggestions or recommendations thrown in for good measure.


  • Date Your Spices
    • When you buy new spices and get them home, write the date on the side of the spice container. That way you will always know how old your spices are. If they're over 1 year old, you should probably throw them out and buy fresh. So don't buy more than you think you will use in a year, even if that huge jar of spice powder looks like a good buy for the volume.
    • If you do find yourself with more of a spice than you think you will use quickly, place it in a small zip-top bag, rap the bag in foil, label this package, and store in the freezer.
  • Reviving Older Spices
    • If your spices do get a little old you can bring out more of their flavor by heating them for a few seconds in a small dry skillet before use. Use low to medium heat, and keep the spices moving. You just want to warm them through.
  • Self Ground Spices
    • Buy yourself a small coffee / spice grinder. They're only about $10. Not only are fresh ground spices much more flavorful, but whole spices keep better much longer. Comparing just the smell of fresh ground black pepper or cinnamon to the pre-ground stuff in a bottle will make a believer out of anyone.
  • The Difference in Chili and Chile Powder
    • Chile powder is pure dried chiles that is ground into a powder. It contains nothing but the ground dried chile, or a mix a several dried chiles.
    • Chili powder is a blend of ground chile (chile powder) and other spices. This usually includes cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and sometimes salt
  • Buying Fresh Chiles
    • Fresh chiles, especially jalapenos and serranos, can vary a lot in their levels of heat. The best way that I have find to choose the hotter chiles is to look for the ones with the fine cracks on the outer skin. Look for firm shinny skinned chiles with the fine brown lines. I'm not saying to always get the hottest chiles, just that this is a way to help pick chiles with a constant level of heat. If still in doubt, taste the chile before using in your cooking to judge the heat level.
  • Storing Fresh Herbs
    • Most fresh herbs will keep the longest if you wash them if needed, lay them out evenly on paper towels, roll them up in the paper towels, seal them in a plastic zip bag, and then store in the vegetable crisper. The hardier herbs will keep longest, but you'll get days or weeks out of most herbs. This also works extremely well with lettuce.
    • For herbs that don't take cold and moisture very well, like basil, place them in a glass with enough water so that the stems are in the water but not the foliage. Put the glass in a cool spot in the kitchen or in the refrigerator on a self near the door in the front (this should be one of the warmer areas of you fridge).
  • Reviving Limp Celery
    • When celery loses its crispness, cut a thin slice off the bottom end(s), and place it in a picture of ice water. Let the celery sit in the water for a couple of hours. Remove the celery from the water and you should find that it's got most of its original crispness back.
  • Keeping Buttermilk on Hand
    • Very few people keep buttermilk around all the time anymore. Our solution is to buy the powdered buttermilk in the baking isle. You can keep this on hand at all times (we keep ours in the freezer for longer life). Just follow the directions, adding the powder to the dry ingredients, and then add the correct amount of water to the wet ingredients. We use this in almost all recipes calling for buttermilk and no longer have to make the special trip to the market for the regular buttermilk.

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