I bought The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila on a whim. I think I saw it mentioned on someone’s blog. When it arrived I quickly glanced through it, realized that I probably already had these recipes in other cookbooks and laid it aside, thinking I’d made a bad decision. About a week later, seeing it laying beside my chair, I picked it up and gave it closer look.
I am so glad I did.
I am now on page 200 of it. Yes, I am reading it like a novel. It’s that good. Before each and every recipe is a page with a little story, a little introduction. They are all interesting and entertaining and relate in some way to the recipe.
Before her recipe for yellow cake the story opens with this paragraph:
“On days when I cannot follow rule #1 of sane parenting (never take more than one child to the supermarket at a time!), my girls and I inevitably spend 20 minutes in that zone between buckets of carnations and the “freshly baked muffins!” studying the Dora sheet cakes, the upright Disney princesses with their chiffon cake gowns, and the Thomas roll cakes. The miserable teenager in the fake chef’s hat ignores us as the girls press their noses against the glass case. They can almost taste that hard blue frosting, and in their minds it is ambrosia. Birthdays are far off, but they try on the cakes for size, imaging their own names scripted in lovely red #5 gel.”
She then goes on to write a little more about the events actually leading up to the birthdays, and then concludes with the recipe, which she says is adapted from the 1-2-3-4 cake from Alice Waters. All that makes me love her even more. The story is cute and relatable and I love that for a lot of the recipes she notes that they adaptations from other recipes. Because really unless you’re some crazy inventive new age chef, most recipes are riffs off of others.
The other thing about this book is that it is amazing quality. The pictures are gorgeous and the pages are heavy paper. It is probably one of the nicest quality cookbooks that I own.
Allright, so I’ve covered the cute stories and the quality of the book, what about the contents?
Amazing. This book covers everything. Everything.
The chapters are called aisles (cute!):
- Aisle 1 dairy
- Aisle 2 cereals and snacks
- Aisle 3 canned fruits, vegetables, and beans
- Aisle 4 condiments, spices and spreads
- Aisle 5 soups
- Aisle 6 baking needs and mixes
- Aisle 7 frozen foods
- Aisle 8 pasta and sauce
- Aisle 9 breads and crackers
- Aisle 10 drinks
- Aisle 11 candy and sweet treats
Everything from how to make ricotta cheese, maple popcorn, beef jerky, ketchup, pancake mix, beef stew, ice cream, pasta – dough and sauce, syrups, teas…really the list goes on an on. I hate to even list anything because I can not do it justice.
I have made her hummus, and it was fantastic. What I especially loved about it was that it used a whole pound of chickpeas and gives directions for freezing. If you are going to go through the steps of making hummus, you might as well make enough to last. So, now I have all these lovely single serving jars of hummus in my freezer, perfect for lunch! Not all of the recipes make such large amounts, but the ones that you might want to make in big batches all do. The instant oatmeal (which is just genius) makes 12 to 15 servings and gives storage options for pantry, fridge and freezer.
It is the most complete basic pantry cookbook that I have. And even calling it a basic pantry cookbook is a misnomer, because how many basic pantry cookbooks have rhubarb ginger syrup for soda or the recipe for coffee liqueur?
I can not say enough good things about this cookbook!