Helpful Hint: Put Out Herbs and Spices in Little Bowls

I know, I know! We're not supposed to leave our delicate herbs and spices 'exposed' to air, sunlight and heat, lest they loose their freshness and potency. But I'm still recommending this helpful culinary practice: to leave out a few of your most favorite herbs and spices in little bowls on your counter. Read on for my reasons why.

The idea: Fill small bowls with a few pinches, maybe a tablespoon total, of a few herbs and spices and leave them nearby and in sight, either on your counter or above your stove.

The reason: We often forget about our herbs and spices when they're tucked away in a cupboard or safely sealed away in a jar. And even if we think about them, sometimes we don't want to be bothered to root them out. But when they're nearby and available for a quick pinch, we're much more apt to use them. They'll inspire us, too, to experiment.

But wont they get stale? Not if you use them! The idea here is to only put out small quantities, which if you cook even a few nights a week will be used up pretty quickly.

Still don't like the idea of leaving them exposed and uncovered all the time. Well then, just arrange your bowls on a plate and cover them with another plate before you go to bed. It's helpful here if the bowls are all the same height.

Bonus suggestions: Also include an herb or spice that you don't often use but are curious about: just having it conveniently nearby will encourage you to experiment. Also, try to rotate your selection based on what you're cooking that week, or the season, or even by cuisine (Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, French, etc.)

This method works for me because I'm one of those 'out of sight, out of mind' kind of people and I got tired of tossing spices just because I had completely forgotten them in the back of my cupboard. If you're like me, then I'm sure you'll discover that this little trick is a great way to liven up your cooking!

Related: Quick Guide to Every Hern and Spice in the Cupboard

(Image: Dana Velden)