Monthly Archives: September 2011

How long will spice keep its flavour?


Spices and herbs will last for months or even years if stored in jars that seal well. The same spice left in a paper bag will lose all its aroma and taste in a short time.

Spices and herbs will last for months or even years if stored in jars that seal well. The same spice left in a paper bag will lose all its aroma and taste in a short time.

Photograph by: Arnold Lim, Times Colonist,

I have a collection of dried herbs and spices in tins and jars. What is their vague shelf life?

Pamela Samson

Pam’s use of the word “vague” in her question is appropriate, because suggested maximum storages times vary from source to source.

On spice/herb maker McCormick’s website,, they note whole spices, such as nutmeg and cloves, will keep three to four years. They say ground spices will keep two to three years, while dried herbs will keep one to three years. Other sources I checked say whole spices will keep one to two years, ground herbs and spices six months to a year.

That’s quite a variance and greatly affecting how long they’ll actually last is how they were stored before and after purchase.

If you’ve bought them from a bulk food store their shelf life will often be shorter than if purchased in a tightly sealed bottle or tin. Every time someone scoops that dried herb or spice out of the bin, it’s exposed to air and humidity, things that can have a detrimental affect on flavour and longevity.

If you did buy a spice or herb from a bulk food store, once home, store it in a tight-sealing container. Spices and herbs sold in bottles and tins can, of course, be stored in them.

Store dried spices and herbs in a dark place away from excessive heat and moisture. Racks on the wall near the stove, dishwasher or window are not good places to store them.

When using dried spices and herbs, don’t sprinkle them directly from the container into that steaming pot of stew or other dish. Steam rising from the pot can make its way into the container and negatively affect shelf life and cause caking, particularly in ground spices. Instead, when you need some, use a measuring spoon to get the herb or spice out of the container and into the pot

If you’re not sure how old some of your dried spices and herbs are, do visual and smell tests. Herbs and spices that still have life in them will not look faded and dull and when you rub some in your fingers, will be aromatic. If they don’t have these qualities, throw them out.

Remember that dried herbs and spices are most often added at the beginning of cooking so they have time to reconstitute and release their flavours into the dish they are simmered in. When using herbs and spices in salad dressings and other cold preparations, allow them to reconstitute and meld with the other ingredients at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The last two weeks I answered readers’ questions on dried herbs and spices. Next Sunday I’ll answer a reader’s question on using fresh herbs.


Salad Dressing

This tangy dressing is flavoured with such things as basil, oregano and garlic. Drizzle it on mixed green salads or use it to flavour grilled vegetables, bean salads or tomato salads.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: About 1 cup

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey, or to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp paprika

n pinch crushed chili flakes

n salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3/4 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients, except oil, in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture. Let the herbs steep in the dressing at least 15 minutes before serving. If kept in the refrigerator in a tight-sealing jar, the dressing will keep up to 10 days. Shake well before using.

Eric Akis is the author of the best-selling Everyone Can Cook series of cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

Make Your Own Nutella

Nutella is one of those foods I rarely buy because, honestly, it’s a bit pricey and my kids will eat an entire jar in about 48 seconds, not even including the time it takes to lick the lid clean. I don’t even really like hazelnuts, but I dig Nutella. So when I saw that Instructables had an awesomepossum recipe for making it from scratch, I thought to myself, “Self, we’s a-tryin’ that!”

Now, I did have to tweak the recipe a bit to get the official Caitlin and Zac seal of approval, being the Nutella connoisseurs that they are, but the end result was even better than I expected. And, because I got a buttload of it, it ended up costing me about a third of what I’d spend to buy a jar already made. This is my version of the recipe, with modifications, but if you’d like to read the original version, click the link above.

You’ll need:

7 oz hazelnuts (yes, they come in an 8 oz bag)
10 oz baking chocolate
1 can condensed milk
1/3 C regular milk
1/4 tsp salt

Roast the hazelnuts in a pan until they’re nicely browned. Do not abandon them to go update your Facebook page, or they will burn. Yes. Trust me.

Put the hazelnuts in your food processor, and blend the hell out of them until you’ve got something that looks and feels like peanut butter.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe dish. Sure, you could use a double boiler, but I’m a fan of working smarter, not harder.

Add the condensed milk, and mix.

Dump your hazelnut mix in with the chocolate and condensed milk. Yes, it looks poopy. And yes, it tastes amazing.

Add the salt.

Warm up the milk, and gradually add it into the mix. This will be sort of liquidy at first, but as it cools it will thicken.

Blendity blendity blendity blend.

OMG TASTY! Dip it with graham crackers, shortbread cookies, or just eat it with a spoon.

Store it in an airtight container in your fridge. Tell the kids it’s onion gravy so they’ll stay away.



*** Outside the Lines: Make Your Own Nutella.


Forgiveness as a Key to the Future

love pencil

Image by yanni via Flickr

One of the most important gifts you can give yourself is the gift of forgiveness. Choosing to forgive releases you from the burden of anger and pain allowing you to live in the present and look forward to the future.  By no means does it mean to forget, only to release and go on. Forgiveness does not happen on it’s own.  You must choose to forgive.

Nor does forgiving mean resuming or continuing a person or people that have harmed you.   As in the words of Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., author of Forgive For Good – ” If a person won’t meet you halfway or has been abusive, it may be better to forgive simple to make your own life less stressful, but continue to keep your distance.”

Dr. Luskin’s suggestions –

1. Get the frustration – tell your story to a few close friends.  This will help you explore your feelings about the rift and obtain a clear sense of perspective.

2.  Focus on what’s in it for you – it’s not always about who was right.  Remind yourself that forgiving can free you to move on with your life.  Tell yourself that the point is to reduce angst.  After all, living well is the best revenge.

3.  Breathe in calm – instead of tensing up or starting in on your inner rant, inhale and exhale deeply or relax in whatever way appeals to you.

4.  Turn the details of your story around – victims don’t have control of their lives; heroes do.  So make yourself the hero of your own saga.  Think of it this way; Although someone else may have precipitated your misery, whether you stay miserable is entirely up to you.

You may have been hurt by something that your partner did to you.  You may have been hurt because your expectations weren’t met.  You may have been hurt and you don’t even remember why.  You may have done something to someone else that you are sorry for.  And you remember the pain and carry it with you like a grudge everywhere you go.  When your burden becomes too great, it becomes the relationship, it consumes your life and it changes who you are and what your relationships can be.  It is a wall between you and the intimacy that you seek.

Forgive is defined as – giving up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry ith.

  • When you forgive you relieve yourself of the burden of the past. Letting go of the hurt, pain, anger and loneliness allowing yourself to begin to heal.
  • You give both yourself and the person or people you forgive the chance to live in peace allowing the the chance to change for the better


  • Forgiveness is not forgetting
  • The pain may take a while to be completely gone. You can forgive and still grieve a loss or feel pain from a wound.
  • Damage and wounds can take time to repair.
  • Forgiveness does not deny responsibility for behavior it is simply being committed to NOT hold the other person in debt.

Suggestions of Ways to forgive

An exercise in forgiveness for yourself:

  • By hand… Yes, it is important that it is handwritten!  Write down with pen and paper all the things you feel you have done wrong.
  • Read the list
  • Say, ” I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I now forgive myself and go free.”
  • Burn, shred or tear-up the list.
  • Repeat the exercise for every other person who have hurt you.
  • Now begin to live your life without the burden of the unforgiving pain causing yourself unnecessary suffering.

Individual forgiveness – forgive yourself for judging yourself for not being worthy of love, happiness and joy.  You are worthy of love.  You are worthy of happiness.  You are worthy of joy.  Stop judging yourself.  Have the strength and courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable.  Be kind and loving to yourself. Practice holding a positive vision for yourself.  Make choices that support you in moving forward in your life.  It is all about choices.  Choose to forgive yourself and then move forward and let go of your past.  Live for today and enjoy the journey of life itself.

An exercise in forgiveness for couples.

It is suggested that this exercise is done using positive, loving communication.  If this is an issue reading books on the topic or taking communication training may help.  Once you becoming comfortable discussing difficult subjects, try these exercises.

Work on one issue at a time.  Be sure that you both agree you are ready to discuss the issue.

  1. Using active listening techniques such as The Couple’s Fair Exchange Process or Speaker Listener and ground rules that you have agreed to, discuss the pain and concerns that you have about the issue.  The objective is to understand how you each feel about the issue.  Do not point the finger, do not place blame, but try to understand the consequences of each other’s actions.  You must show respect and care for each other.

  2. The offender asks for forgiveness.  Apologies are extremely powerful.   Understand the pain and feelings of the offended person.

  3. The offended person agrees to forgive.  Commit the issue to the past without getting even or holding the offender in debt.  The issue will not be used as a weapon in future conflicts.

  4. The offender agrees to change their behavior as appropriate.

  5. You both move forward with a commitment to create a better future.

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