I am a spice nut. I have an entire drawer dedicated to spices, and it still overflows! I have been acquiring spices of all kinds- from simple Sichuan peppercorns (hua1jiao1 花椒)to poultry seasoning to amchur (green mango powder). Aside: Whenever possible, I buy whole spices (nutmeg, cumin, coriander, cardamom, black peppercorns, etc) so they keep for longer without losing their potency. I have made it a habit to label my spices with the purchase date so I know how fresh/strong they will be.

Spice Islands says:
Ground spices: 2-3 years
Whole spices: 3-4 years
Herbs: 1-3 years
Seasoning Blends: 1-2 years
Extracts: 4 years

A rough guideline for how long to keep herbs and spices.

  • Ground Spices 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices 3-4 years
  • Herbs 1-3 years
  • Seasoning Blends 1-2 years
  • Extracts 4 years

– See more at: http://www.spiceislands.com/SpiceEducation/ShelfLife.aspx#sthash.tpVGbVvd.dpuf

A rough guideline for how long to keep herbs and spices.

  • Ground Spices 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices 3-4 years
  • Herbs 1-3 years
  • Seasoning Blends 1-2 years
  • Extracts 4 years

– See more at: http://www.spiceislands.com/SpiceEducation/ShelfLife.aspx#sthash.tpVGbVvd.dpuf

Even though the spices take up a good bit of space in my kitchen, I have the freedom to make spicy food and not have to run to the store for xyz missing ingredients.

I have been trying to cook with legumes more at home, and one of my co-workers, who is Indian, brought in a homemade kidney bean curry dish for me to try, to thank me for bringing baked goods (that he would regularly try) so consistently. I liked it a lot, and realized, hey, I have lots of Indian spices..I can probably make this, too! I don’t remember his verbal recipe exactly, but I found one online that had lots of similar ingredients.

Rajma, adapted from Show Me The Curry

-kidney beans – 1.5 cups dried beans, soaked overnight in enough water* to cover, plus 1 tsp salt, then cooked until tender, OR 4.5 cups canned (drained and rinsed)
-oil – enough to cover the bottom of the pan
-onions – 2, finely chopped
-ginger – 1.5 tsp, ground with garlic in a mortar and pestle, OR coarsely chopped
-garlic – 1.5 tsp, ground with ginger in a mortar and pestle, OR coarsely chopped
-cayenne powder (~1/2 tsp to start), chopped green chile peppers (1-2 to start), or whatever hot/fiery source you want
-turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
-ground cumin – 1/2 tsp
-ground coriander – 1 tsp
-garam masala+ – 1 tsp
-tomatoes – 2 cups, fresh or canned (fresh would be better), coarsely chopped
-a few pinches of amchur powder (green mango powder)
-salt – to taste
-cilantro – to taste

1) Cook the soaked kidney beans in a pot for about an hour with 1/4 tsp turmeric, or until tender (taste one!), or rinse them if you have canned beans. 

2) Add oil, onions, garlic, and ginger to a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a Dutch Oven). Cook on medium to medium high, stirring constantly, to semi-scorch the onions and soften them.

3) Lower the heat to medium low.

4) If you are using fresh peppers, turn on range hood / fan / open windows, add chopped up hot peppers, and stir to wake the heat up 🙂

5) If you are using dried peppers, add turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and pepper powder. Stir constantly for about 20 seconds to wake the spices up.

6) Immediately add tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes to heat up the tomatoes if using canned tomatoes. For fresh tomatoes, cook until the tomatoes break down and get saucy.

7) Add beans, amchur powder, and adjust for salt.

8) Stir in cilantro (or not, if you husband despises the taste D:) and serve with rice. 

+Make your own garam masala:

-1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
-16 whole cloves
-6 whole cardamom seeds (green)
-1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
-1 teaspoon whole black, small cumin seeds
-2 bay leaves
-2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

Grind all of the ingredients in a coffee bean grinder or pepper mill. Store in a airtight jar and use anytime a recipe calls for garam masala!