Spice is Nice

When was the last time you looked in your spice drawer? If it has been a while, then go on: really look in it, with an unflinching eye. Now toss out the oregano that looks like yellow grass; eighty-six the cardamom that smells like stale air; and get rid of the jars with labels so worn you can no longer read what they say. Keep in mind that with the vast majority of spices, if you can't smell them, they won't flavor your food.

Replenishing your spices—even just two or three—is like opening up a whole new world. There's nothing like that first whiff of a fresh cinnamon to transport you to India, or the Middle East, or your grandmother's house where fresh-baked cookies lined the countertops. If you don't regularly cook with spices, you're definitely missing out.

You're also missing the boat. According to NPR, spice consumption in this country has skyrocketed since the 1970s. We're now purchasing 300 percent more cumin, 900 percent more cinnamon, and a whopping 1600 to 1700 percent more ginger than we were just four decades ago. Need another reason? Spices are antioxidant-rich and have well-documented health properties. They can help everything from reducing inflammation to regulating your blood-glucose levels.

So go on: make an Indian chicken curry or some cardamom cookies. Just be sure your spices smell punchy before you begin. If they don't, start your meal prep with a quick trip to the grocery store.

Like this? Read these!
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Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule. Read all of Cheryl's iVillage posts here.

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