This post is brought to you by a recent visit with a close friend of mine. I have a lot of spices, seasonings, and spice blends thanks not only to my job, but also to the fact that I like adding flavor to my cooking, and a spice blend is an easy way to do that quickly. Part of my collection is a large section of spice blends from Ava Jane’s KItchen that I have used to create recipes over the years. My friend asked if I ever got tired of them and how to keep things “fresh” sort of speak. This post has tips to help you get the most out of your new spices. Tip #1 — Familiarize yourself with your spices. Open the jar, take a big whiff. Then, take a tiny pinch and taste it. Yes, on it’s own. This is a good way to figure out how spicy/salty/sweet something is so you’ll know what other things you may need to make up for when cooking. Nothing worse than using an extra spicy seasoning and then finishing your dish with hot sauce to the point of not being able to eat. The first rule of cooking well is tasting, so start here! Tip #2 — Don’t let the name of a product dictate how you must use it. Sayulita Steak & Veg is delicious on steaks — it’s hearty, robust, and coarse so you get tons of flavor and texture. But it’s also great in omelets, salad dressings, or pasta. Tip #3 — Start out bland. Some foods are versatile, meaning they take the flavor of everything pretty well. Typically flavorless on their own — chicken breast, rice, pasta, eggs, potatoes — these are great for testing a spice to see what the flavor really is. Tip #4 — Mix and match! You don’t have to limit yourself to one seasoning. One of my favorite combos is Nana’s Italian seasoning with Hot Roasted Garlic. You get herby, green flavors with a bit of complex heat. Not sure if two will work? Go back to tip #1 and try them together. You’ll be surprised what works well together, and also by what doesn’t. Tip #5 — Know when to fold ‘em. Spice blends don’t last forever — they lose potency over time. Storing them away from light and heat to maximize performance, but once they smell weak (or not at all) you’re not doing your food any favors. Luckily it won’t kill you, but it won’t help you either. If you can barely smell anything, toss it and start from scratch.