Toss the leg warmers and spices

Getting ready for holiday baking, I checked out my spice rack for supplies. Woe and behold, I found a 15-year old can of McCormick cinnamon (I really liked the little can, so I hung on to it). Hmmm, just for fun, I'll check the aroma, I thought. Amazingly, it still smelled pretty good. But foodies, and food processors, who keep track of these things, know that spices need to be replenished often for optimal results. It's a message that spice manufacturers would like to send to consumers, as well, so McCormick teamed up with Chef Michael Schulson, host of the Style Network's Pantry Raid, to send the word: Raid Your Pantry! and take the Spice Check Challenge. It's a foolproof way for home cooks to check the age of their spices to be sure that the ingredients in their pantry deliver peak flavor (unless you allow your spices to sit on a sunny window sill, a real no-no). "If you were wearing leg warmers when you last bought your cinnamon, it's time to throw it out and buy a new bottle," says Schulson. "Using spices that are too old means the flavor in your dishes could be compromised. I can't believe what I find in people's pantries -- spices that are five, 10, even 15 years old! And, no one is more surprised than their owners, who just lost track of when they last bought spices." Schulson says it's easy to check the age of your spices to ensure you're putting your best flavor forward. Start by visiting spicecheckchallenge.com: Use the McCormick Fresh Tester to determine exactly when a spice, herb or blend was produced. Keep in mind the following "shelf life" guidelines for spices, herbs and seasonings: Ground spices 2-3 years Whole spices 3-4 years Herbs 1-3 years Seasoning blends 1-2 years Extracts 4 years Try some of Chef Schulson's pantry tips, such as stocking up on essentials you'll need to get you to New Year's Day, “like nuts, chutneys, herbs and spices, chocolate, salsa and bread crumbs" to create quick and creative appetizers and side dishes. Enter to win a free set of new spices from McCormick. There will be a new winner each week until Dec. 31, 2007. In addition, to thank America's home cooks for checking their spices, McCormick is providing support to Feed the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping hungry people. Yes, it was time to throw the can away. But then again, I found a spot for it above my kitchen cabinets where I house my ever-growing collection of industry commemorative tins and bottles and cans of failed beverages. It's time to add some new spice to our lives. McCormick Online http://links.mkt310.com/ctt?kn=4&m=1047746&r=ODUzMzg2NDYyMgS2&b=0&j=MzQwMTkzODYS1&mt=1 Spice Check Challenge http://www.spicecheckchallenge.com Feed the Children http://www.feedthechildren.org

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