Happy Herbivore Blog

Shelf-Life of Spices and Herbs

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

We all know I'm a short-cut cook and I love my spices. Ahh how much easier (not to mention tasty!) spices make my life...

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend -- she'd said she added a whopping 1 tbsp of cayenne to something and it still wasn't spicy... what gives? 

My eyes started tearing up at the thought! Cayenne is so strong! How could my friend possibly stand all that heat and say it's bland?! 

Then a light clicked on. "Jenny, how long have you had that cayenne?" I asked. There was a brief silence and then she replied "mmm about 2 years maybe.... why does it go bad?"

Spices don't go bad (that's the good news) the bad news? They lose their oomph. 

How often should you replace your spices?!

The general recommendation is 6 months, but I find if you store your spices correctly (in am air tight container in a cool, dry place) they can last much, much longer.

Whole spices (i.e. cinnamon sticks or peppercorns) last for years on end. Ground spices (i.e. ground ginger or ground cumin) can last a good 2 years, maybe longer. Dried herbs tap out pretty early, unfortunately, but some of the more potent ones will make it a full year. 

So how can you tell if your spices are still up to snuff? 

For one, when you sniff them, the smell will be really strong. With herbs, you want to go one step further and rub them between your fingers. If the smell still isn't strong,  they've probably lost their luster. (Sometimes herbs don't smell in the jar, but when rubbed they smell -- so they're still good to go. The color might also fade, but that doesn't automatically mean it's time for a new spice).

and since I know this question will bubble up...my favorite brand, without question, is Badia. 

This brand is inexpensive, you can find them at target and their spices are really, really strong and flavorful.

I'm convinced that Badia cinnamon is a gift from the Gods. You have not lived until you've had their cinnamon -- I mean it. (Buy it!) Here's how obsessed I am with the cinnamon: I take it with me when I travel. I gave bottles of it away at Christmas last year. It was humiliating but everyone thanked me later! :-)

I'm also a little crazy about Badia curry which I slip into anything that I think needs a little something else. I pretty much buy every spice Badia makes. They don't make ALL the spices that I use, but they do make most. 

One last thing about spices! I love granulated garlic powder and onion powder -- yes, but they're not to be confused with the powdery kind. I like the kind thats granulated like salt and not flour-like. Sometimes they're both called "powder" or the flour kind is "California style" just to make our lives more confusing! 

My awesome friend Tess snapped this picture to show the differences -- I like the one on the far right thats golden in color.

This Week's Q&A (10/27)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Ask Happy Herbivore: Your Questions Answered!

Have a question for me? leave a comment, share it on the Facebook wall or send me an email! Lindsay-at-happyherbivore-dot-com

1. What are some protein-rich foods?

Quinoa, greens (i.e. spinach), beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy (such as soy milk and tofu). Bare in mind that all foods -- even bananas and kale -- have protein. So even when you're not eating a protein-rich food, you're still getting protein.

Also, please, please read my blog post on (plant-based) vegan protein which links to many helpful and important resources and articles. 

2. What are "Flax" eggs?

You can mix 1 tbsp ground flax seeds with 3 tbsp of warm water to make a sort of goop that can replace 1 egg in a recipe. 

For more egg substitutions, download my handy egg substitutes chart (below). 

Download the PDF here

(The picture is not the complete chart--just a glimpse of it.)

Note: Since I don't cook or bake with oil, I haven't tried some of these substitutes out myself -- I just heard about them or read about them. My go-to substitute is bananas or applesauce.

3. I struggle with quinoa - help!

I did a video post on quinoa that's helpful. I generally use quinoa as a substitute for grains like brown rice since it cooks in a fraction of the time. Usually I am putting my stir-fry on top of it, but I've made cold salads with it and a sort of "oatmeal" when I wanted a little variety. 

Quinoa is also a great, whole foods substitute for TVP.

4.  How can you healthfully *gain* weight?

You'll need to add more high calorie and high fat foods to your diet -- more raw nuts and raw seeds, coconut and avocado. You also want to make sure you're eating healthy foods like brown rice, which are high in calories. 

When I was a personal trainer, I had a client who couldn't seem to go beyond 90lbs. She was naturally very thin due to a high metabolism, but she was also very athletic -- a marathon runner. We didn't fuss much with her weight until she wanted to get pregnant and her doctor thought she might have better luck if she'd gain 10 lbs. 

At first, my client stopped exercising and was eating tons of candy bars, cupcakes and fried foods trying to pack it on but she came back to me saying she didn't feel her best and she missed feeling high on life. She complained of bloating and fatigue and a general meh feeling. I talked her into dropping the junk food and instead eating handfuls of raw almonds and cashews (her favorites) adding flax seeds to her smoothies and adding avocado (which she loved!) to almost every meal. Within weeks she'd gained weight but within days she reported feeling fabulous, more alert and much healthier. She ended up having a baby and was a healthy, glowing mama her entire pregnancy -- she's still a healthy, glowing mama and she's still eating lots of nuts and avocados to keep the weight on. 

5. Can you cook quinoa in a rice cooker?

Yep -- using the "white rice setting" -- same 1:2 ratio. Though I have to admit I don't like quinoa in the rice cooker as much as I like it on the stovetop. 

Where I Find Inspiration

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

Anytime I'm interviewed, this question comes up -- and it's a good one!

Where do you get inspiration for your recipes? 

 For me, it’s a mix of trying to recreate foods I used to eat that were either not vegan or maybe not so healthy, responding to requests and suggestions by Herbies and being moved by an ingredient. 

For example, I might spend all day playing around with chickpea flour because I think its a great alternative flour that is often overlooked. Or maybe I’ll see a really beautiful bunch of, say, rainbow chard, and think “gosh! I need to come up with a way to use that!” 

Also, when writing both of my cookbooks, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and Everyday Happy Herbivore (which comes out in 6wks!) I took care to find an ingredient that’s underutilized and create a way to celebrate it. 

For example, with HHC, I realized I had no recipes for kidney beans so I set out to write one that really let the kidney beans shine. The result was Rajma Masala (p. 78), and it’s one of my favorite recipes. 

I also cook on the fly and out of hunger a lot. One of my most proud and favorite recipes is my Chickpea Tacos. One night I was starving, standing in front of my empty pantry with a can of chickpeas in my hand wondering what I could make. Then my eyes rolled over a seasoning packet for tacos and that was it. Recipe born! 

Putting meals together, creating recipes, its all very organic for me. I often have a hard to putting it into words beyond “it just comes to me! I just “know”!”

For example, when I was making a butternut soup, I had a taste and just knew I needed to add curry powder to it. So I did... and the rest is history... or more accurately, a really delicious 3-ingredient Butternut Squash Soup

Now that's not to say I always get it right. I've gotten it wrong and things have fallen flat or been too spicy or just not that tasty. It happens. What matters is I keep trying. Keep experimenting. Keep exploring because I never know when I'm going to create the next kickass recipe!