You would think that my recycling bin is a theme park ride, the way the cans, bottles, and jars are lining up to get in. So much so, that I'm thinking of installing velvet ropes on the kitchen counter. Let them do the same cattle dance that we all do, while waiting for the next available seat on Thunder Mountain.
But while staring at the row of clean, empty glass jars the other day, I got an interesting idea. Recycling isn't just about sending these things off to be broken down, and smelted back into usable glass products. It is also about reusing items, in new and different ways.
So how about filling large glass containers, like mayonnaise and peanut butter jars, with ready made spice mixtures? You might spend four dollars at the grocery store to get less than an ounce of a specifically designed spice combo. While I can spend the same four bucks on dollar store spices, mix them up myself, and fill a sixteen ounce pickle jar. The dollar store often stocks basil, oregano, chopped and powdered onion and garlic, cinnamon, red pepper, meat tenderizer, paprika, and bacon bits. Not to mention salt, pepper, and bouillon. They even have specialties like lemon pepper, and Italian mix. When spices at the grocery store go on sale, or if a coupon becomes available, then gather up things like thyme, rosemary, sage, cumin, bay leaves, and others. You can save a lot of money, by stepping over to the international aisle, and buying certain spices, by the bag, in their whole natural form. You can chop up a twig of rosemary yourself, can't you? If you're handy enough to grow your own herbs, you can save even more.
So, what to put in these jars? That depends on what you cook the most. My family is a big fan of Italian food. In fact, my kids know nothing about Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy, but they sure know Paul Newman makes spaghetti sauce. So, the biggest jar I have will hold a mix of garlic powder, salt, black pepper, parsley, basil, oregano, sun dried tomato, red pepper, and even a touch of sugar. This is my sauce jar. Ready to just be poured into a large can of unseasoned tomato sauce.
A good mix for seafood or chicken might consist of a store brand lemon pepper combo, tossed with red pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, and dried lemon peel.
Okay the rest is up to you. What do use in your beef stew? Your chicken soup? What would you rub onto your steak as it sizzles on the grill? How would you season a roasted chicken or turkey?
An added bonus to this idea is that a large jar of mixed spices, makes a nice gift for anyone who cooks, and that's just about everyone. You can design your own label on the computer, print it out, and secure it to the front of the jar with a large strip of clear packing tape. Attach a tag, with a list of the ingredients, with a piece of ribbon tied around the neck of the jar. Viola, you're Martha Stewart!