Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome to the home of the Pantry Cookbook!

The Pantry Cookbook is a free cookbook that teaches how to cook nutritious meals, from scratch, on a budget, when time is short. The Pantry Cookbook has over 130 recipes, including basics like hard-boiled eggs, baked chicken, boiled beans, boiled grain, and sautéed vegetables; classics like beef stew, borscht, and pulled pork; and “Quick Recipes” that can be put together in thirty minutes on a weeknight using ingredients prepared on a weekend. Additional features include shopping lists and menus for a week's worth of meals, an extensive list of substitutions, boxed lunch suggestions, kitchen safety information, money-saving tips, spice mix recipes, ideas for feeding toddlers and other picky eaters, and a complete Thanksgiving menu.

The Pantry Cookbook is freely available as a printable .PDF file, and is intended for use as a fund raiser and as a teaching tool. The book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute which allows non-profit organizations - like yours! - to publish, sell, and collect royalties on the book, so long as the profits are used to support programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

Would you like to read the Pantry Cookbook on your computer right now? It's free.  Click here!

Would you like to print copies of the Pantry Cookbook? You will have to pay the printer, but the files themselves are free to use and ready to print.   For basic printing, you will need two: the all-text black-and-white book interior, and the full-color cover.  Those files can be taken to a local or an online ("print on demand") printer to create a 7 x 10 inch book.  If you wish to print only a few copies, I recommend  For larger print runs, you may get a better deal with a local printer.

Would you like to sell copies of the Pantry Cookbook to raise funds for a non-profit organization that addresses hunger or nutrition issues? You can!  The Pantry Cookbook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute which allows non-profit organizations - like yours! - to publish, sell, and collect royalties on the book, so long as the profits are used to support programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

Do you want to just purchase a copy for yourself? You can do that, too! Click here.  These copies of the cookbook are printed through and sold through Amazon.  I get a few dollars per book sold this way, which is nice.

You might be wondering how I am making any money if I am giving away this book. The answer is this: I'm not, with the slight exception of the sales through The Pantry Cookbook was conceived as a means to help the patrons of my local food pantry. This book represents a year of volunteer work, and I don't expect to make any serious money from it. The Pantry Cookbook is my gift to the world. Please enjoy it, and if you find it useful, please share it and promote it. Send your local food bank a link to this page, “like” the Pantry Cookbook on Facebook, or be spectacularly awesome by purchasing a copy and passing it along to an organization or individual that needs it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Here's my Spokesperson. . .

This is my daughter Kaylee, showing off my box full of copies of the Pantry Cookbook.  I'll be mailing these to the nice folks who gave me help and encouragement on the project, plus various family members.  The remainder will be sent to food banks.

Would you like to buy a copy of the Pantry Cookbook?

You can!  The Pantry Cookbook is now available at for $9.85.  While it isn't necessary for you to purchase a copy - I am, after all, making it available in .PDF format for free - if you buy a copy, I make a whole three dollars!

The book is a soft cover, and I'll post photos of it shortly. . .

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Now Available!

The final version of the Pantry Cookbook is now available!   It is free, for your viewing or printing pleasure.  The files can be found at Google Docs here.  For quick and easy printing, grab the Cover and Inter .PDF files and use them to make a 7 x 10 book, with black and white interior on white paper, at CreateSpace.  Printing at CreateSpace is easy - just make an account and follow the directions for publishing a book.

If you prefer to do something a little more complex, such as adding text to the book interior or cover, or using your own cover art, you can do that as well with the other files.  I will explain those later. . .

Update. . .

I am now making the final, minor tweaks to the Pantry Cookbook.  I will be proceeding from here directly to publication.  Once the book is out of my hands again, I'll be putting more attention into this blog and the Facebook page.  In the mean time, sorry about the mess.  Stay tuned!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cookbook publishing, round two!

The Pantry Cookbook has been uploaded to CreateSpace for the second, and hopefully final, round of reviewing.

I am so ready to order up a box of cookbooks and call it a wrap!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Never index your own book."

That's a quote from Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut.  I have no idea how I can retain that absurd bit of trivia from a book I read once, fifteen years ago, but it stuck with me.  And now that I have first-hand experience with indexing my own book, I understand what a profound and beautiful statement it is.

Argh argh argh I'm in index hell!

Okay, so it''s not all that bad.  I just hoped and expected to have the last imperfections ironed out a few days ago, and another proof copy ordered up by now.  But the index is the primary way by which many cookbook users find things in a cookbook, so I'm going over mine as thoroughly as I can manage, when I am awake enough not to mangle the job.

On the bright side, the proof copy is darned pretty.  I'll get a photo of it posted soon, so that folks can see what they're getting.

Among other things that this last (cross my fingers) revision has fixed were mis-spellings, an improperly numbered chapter heading, the addition of a substitute for page numbers, and one recipe that got lost between drafts one and two.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Pantry Cookbook is Now Available for Download!

The Pantry Cookbook is now available for download!  You can read it online, or download it for reading, here at Google Docs.  It's free!  If you want to, you can even print out copies.  These files are formatted specifically to be printed by CreateSpace, at 7 by 10 inches, in black and white, on white paper.  You will have to pay the printer if you have copies printed, but you won't have to pay me anything.

I will caution you, however, that you might want to wait on printing until I have a chance to review my proof copy from the printer.  It should get here on Wednesday.  I'll post with the go-ahead to print as soon as I have reviewed the book.  [Update: the copy has arrived, and looks great!  However, I do want to revise a few small things.  I estimate that the book will be ready for printing in December.]

Some more about printing, and copyright stuff: instead of US copyright, I am using a "Creative Commons Attribution", so that this book can be easily used as a fundraising tool.  The text of the attribution is as follows:

This book is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. This means you are free to share (copy, distribute, transmit) the book, and you are also free to adapt the work, so long as you attribute the work to Michelle Clay. You may not use this work for commercial  purposes, with one exception: you may sell copies of this book so long as all profits go to support food banks, school or community gardens, or similar non-profit programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

 So, if you are raising funds for a cause that has something to do with hunger or nutrition, you have my blessing to sell printed copies or sell digital copies or sell it online (all of which can be done easily through CreateSpace), so long as the profits go to the cause.  May this be the easiest fund-raiser you've ever done!

Incidentally, part of my reason for doing this is my disgust at all of the fundraisers I was forced to participate in as a student.  There is nothing as demoralizing as selling cheesecakes or candy or wrapping paper or Girl Scout cookies only to have 75% or, yikes, 90% of your hard-won cash go to the company that makes the shoddy product that nobody wants to eat.  (Well, at least Girl Scout cookies are tasty, if you like highly refined food-like products.)

With this fundraiser, you can set the price of the book yourself.

Uploading a book to CreateSpace is free.  From there, you can print copies of the Pantry Cookbook using the Author's Discount for something like $5 per copy, plus shipping.  If you pay the $39 to be upgraded to the Pro Plan, it's closer to $2.50 per copy.  (Sorry, I'm sleepy from a rough night with the baby, and can't seem to find the specific price on CreateSpace right now.  But those numbers are pretty close.)

If you want to just order one single copy and don't want to bother with the rigamarole of uploading and setting up an account, then you are welcome to order a copy from my account.  As soon as it's approved and posted to Amazon, it should be available at list price of $9.85, which will earn me a few bucks with each copy sold.  And maybe if I'm lucky, I'll make back what I spent on the cover art!  :)

Happy fundraising!

Post Script: I have set up a page for the Pantry Cookbook on Facebook.  I can't seem to figure out how to add a "like" button on my page here, but if you would like to receive Facebook updates on the cookbook project, please visit the page and "like" it.  Thanks!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Proof positive!

The proof copy of the cookbook has been ordered and should be here by Wednesday!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mmm, cake!

I am eating the Cake of Success.  See there, I just dropped a key in the keyboard.  Do you know why I am eating the Cake of Success?  Because the Pantry Cookbook has been sent off to CreateSpace for its review!

The cake is not a lie!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am a dirty, dirty liar.

This was a recipe that I had attempted to write several months back.  And failed.   I think it was the pumpkin bread recipes that threw me for a loop.  Most other quickbreads follow the same general recipe, but canned pumpkin throws things off a little.  Anyway, I don't believe I've ever seen a universal quickbread recipe, which is silly, because there ought to be one.  Somewhere.

This really should be tested a dozen times before going in the cookbook, but that's just not going to happen.

This evening's apple bread came out a bit (burp) gooey.  But oh so good.

Banana Bread, Apple Bread, Zucchini Bread, etc.

“Quick bread” is a fluffy sort of bread or cake that uses baking powder or baking soda to quickly make the batter “rise” or puff up as it cooks, as opposed to the yeast in regular bread, which takes a much longer time to generate the gas that makes the bread rise. Banana bread, apple cake, and zucchini bread are just a few of the quick breads that all follow the same basic recipe. These breads can be eaten as a dessert, or for breakfast.

This makes enough to fill one 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. These are the “dry” ingredients:

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon, or any other Pumpkin Pie spice (1.05)

These are the “wet” ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup brown or white sugar
1/3 cup oil or melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup chopped, grated, or mashed fruit

Optional ingredients:
½ cup of chopped nuts or chopped dried fruit

If making banana bread, squishy over-ripe bananas are ideal – bananas that are so brown nobody would eat them. You can save such bananas in the freezer until you have time to cook banana bread. Apples can be peeled and diced into small pieces, or, more conveniently, can be grated, skin and all, just like zucchini. You can also use this recipe to make pumpkin bread, using fresh, grated pumpkin. Or, use ½ of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. Other unusual fruits or vegetables may work as well. Try an interesting combination, such as pineapple and beet!

Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Rub butter or oil inside of the loaf pan, and then sprinkle the greased surface with flour.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Then pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and stir just until the batter is almost free of dry lumps. Then stop mixing! The finished product will not be as good if you stir too much.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake it at once. The bread will need to cook for about 70 minutes. Stick a sharp knife (or toothpick) into the bread to see if it is done: the knife will come out clean when the inside of the bread is fully cooked.

Home-Made Larabar

This is the last recipe, I SWEAR!

This is also one of the few recipes that I made up entirely myself.  Er, that is, after I read the ingredients on a few Larabars. . .  But I was more recently inspired to try this idea because yesterday Whole Foods had a version of this to taste at their Thanksgiving booth.  Their date balls were so loaded with cocoa powder that they tasted like chocolate truffles.

I just made my very first batch of this stuff, and holy cow, this is going to be a staple in our house.

Date Nut Treats, i.e. Date Nut Energy Bars

Dates are so full of sugar that they are practically candy all by themselves. But even better, when chopped up, they turn into a wonderful sticky mess that can be used to bind together all sorts of delicious things. The best part is that the results can either be served up as fancy cookies, or eaten as a snack in place of a pre-packaged energy bar – because, after all, it's fruit and nuts! Pricy commercial versions of this, such as Larabars, are sold at high-end grocery stores.

A food processor would be useful if you wish to make large quantities of date nut treats. However, it's quick and easy to make in small batches with nothing more than a cutting board and a chef's knife. And since no actual cooking is required, it's a fun recipe to make with small children.

(optional) chocolate chips, raisins or other dried fruit
(optional) peanut butter, almond butter, or other nut butter
(optional) additional nuts
(optional) Pumpkin Pie spices (1.05), or other spices or flavors that go well with sweet things, such as cardamom, mint, or vanilla
(optional) baking cocoa, powdered sugar, white or brown sugar, or powdered hot chocolate mix

Chop up equal quantities of dates and nuts. When the dates are minced enough that they stick to every surface, use your (very clean!) hands to squish the nuts and the dates together. Continue to chop the mixture if you prefer a more smooth texture.

Add any optional dried fruit, chocolate chips, and/or additional nuts that you like, and work them into the gooey mass. You may want to chop these things a bit if they are large – but you can chop the mass of gooey stuff if you decide the lumps are too large after adding them. For more nutty goodness, add spoonfuls of nut butter. If you want chocolatey balls, you can knead baking cocoa into the mix. Dates plus baking cocoa make a lovely dark chocolate flavor without the need for any additional added sugar.

Finally, pinch off marble-sized quantities of the mixture, roll into balls, and roll these balls in baking cocoa, powdered sugar, white or brown sugar, or powdered hot chocolate mix. This will prevent the balls from sticking together. Baking cocoa is the most healthful option if you are trying to minimize the sugar in your treats.

Alternatively, squash the mixture flat onto a cutting board, and cut it into bars. You can then dust them with the optional powder, or not, as you like. Then if you want portable treats for lunchboxes, you can wrap the bars individually in parchment paper.

Store these treats in the refrigerator for up to a week, or for longer in the freezer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feature Creep

"Feature Creep" is what we call it in the games industry when additional stuff stealthily makes its way into the schedule, in a naughty way.  I have been puting my foot down on feature creep in the cookbook in order to reach my October milestone; but since I gave up on NaNoWriMo, I have a little time to put back features that I was forced to exclude.  So, the grand finale for the meat section:

Corned Beef

This recipe is in two parts. Part 1, Brining the Meat, is instructions on how to turn a beef brisket into brined, raw corned beef. Part 2, Cooking Corned Beef, is how to cook the raw corned beef, whether you brined it yourself or bought it already soaking in brine.

Corned Beef Part 1: Brining a Beef Brisket

Corned beef is an inexpensive cut of meat, beef brisket, which is then soaked in salty water, called brine. Historically, beef was “corned” in order to preserve it and ship it without refrigeration. The word “corn” is an old word for grains of salt.

Corned beef brine also historically used saltpeter as an ingredient. Saltpeter is a chemical used in the making of gunpowder, and it is not particularly good for you. Because we have no need to preserve meat for months in a barrel without refrigeration, this recipe does not include saltpeter. Saltpeter adds no flavor to the meat. Aside from preserving the meat, the only other thing it does is cause the meat to have an odd pink color. Without the saltpeter, your corned beef will be gray. This is just fine.

You will need the following:

1 beef brisket
2 quarts water
1 cup salt

To this, you can add any number of different spices. The following is just one possibility. If you don't have everything on this list, don't worry about it! And if you happen to have ground spices instead of whole, you can use that instead.

1 tsp whole peppercorns
½ tsp whole cloves
8 bay leaves, crumbled
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
½ tsp allspice berries
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp ground ginger

And have on hand:

2 trays of ice
1 2-gallon ziploc bag, or a 2-gallon plastic container (preferably with a lid), or a glass or enamel container large enough to hold the meat and the brine.

In a pot on the stove, heat the water, salt, and spices, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the ice to the water to cool it. This is your brine. If necessary, refrigerate the brine in order to chill it. Then put the meat into the brining container, and pour in as much of the brine as will fit. Try to completely submerge the meat in the brine; but if it doesn't fit entirely, you can turn it over occasionally over the next ten days.

Now put the container in the refrigerator. The meat needs to soak in the brine for about ten days to get that proper corned-beef flavor, but you can pull it out a few days sooner or a few days later. If the beef isn't entirely submerged in the brine, turn it over every few days. This is a handy recipe for feeding visiting relatives, because you can get it ready a week in advance, and then there it is, on hand, and ready to cook at your convenience.

Corned Beef Part 2: Boiled Dinner

“Boiled Dinner” is a New England meal consisting of boiled corned beef, and potato, carrots, and cabbage, all cooked in the corned beef cooking water. You can use this with a corned beef that you have brined yourself, or you can use a raw corned beef from the grocery store.

As an aside, you can boil a corned beef without the vegetables – but why waste that delicious cooking water? At the very least, you should save the cooking water in the refrigerator to cook some vegetables in later. The cooking water from corned beef imparts an amazingly delicious flavor on cabbage.

1 raw corned beef
1 cabbage (or less, if it's a really big one)
a few potatoes
a few carrots (or rutabaga, parsnip, or turnip)
an onion or two

Rinse the corned beef thoroughly and discard the brine. Then put the beef in a large pot, and cover it with water by about an inch. Bring this to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to low, put the lid on, and let the pot simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the meat is “fork tender”. Remove the corned beef from the pot and slice it thinly against the grain.

Now, have those vegetables ready to go into the pot. The root vegetables should be scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Cut the cabbage into wedges. (You can stick toothpicks through the cabbage wedges to keep them together.) These all go into the corned beef water, and get boiled until they are tender.

Then return the sliced corned beef to the pot, and serve it up like a soup or a stew. And be sure to save that leftover corned beef for sandwiches!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Cover!

Here is me, attempting to use my illustration background to do graphic design!  I'm finally starting to know my way around the Gimp.  (It's free, I keep telling myself. . .)  Tomorrow, when he is no longer gaming, I will need to sit down at Chris' computer to do some clean-up in the white areas.  My monitor has such lousy colors that everything looks washed out, which is useless for color editing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What is the Pantry Cookbook?

The Pantry Cookbook: how to cook nutritious meals from scratch, on a budget, when time is short.

This 160-page cookbook will be available in printed form this December at, and is now available for free in .PDF format here.  Would you like to use the Pantry Cookbook as a fundraiser?  Click here.

The American diet is all too often a mishmash of pre-made, mass-produced foods which are expensive, high in calories, and low in nutrients. The popular alternative, gourmet cooking, makes all home cooking appear to take long, and involve expensive, intimidating ingredients.

But home cooking doesn't have to be this way. In the Pantry Cookbook, you will learn fundamental recipes and cooking techniques that allow you to whip up nutritious, cheap meals, from scratch, in a minimum of time. This is a user-friendly textbook for beginning cooks, a reference for those who wish to rely less on canned soup and instant side-dishes, and a resource for those who already know how to cook a few things but wish to have a more solid foundation of cooking skills.

The Pantry Cookbook has over 130 recipes, including basics like hard-boiled eggs, baked chicken, boiled beans, boiled grain, and sautéed vegetables; classics like beef stew, borscht, and pulled pork; and “Quick Recipes” that can be put together in thirty minutes on a weeknight using ingredients prepared on a weekend. Additional features include shopping lists and menus for a week's worth of meals, an extensive list of substitutions, boxed lunch suggestions, kitchen safety information, money-saving tips, spice mix recipes, ideas for feeding toddlers and other picky eaters, and a complete Thanksgiving menu.

The Pantry Cookbook is also a fund raising tool! Instead of a standard copyright, the Pantry Cookbook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute which allows non-profit organizations to publish, sell, and collect royalties on the book, so long as the profits are used to support programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.  For more information, contact Michelle Clay at .

What a Relief

During a chat with someone today about projects that never see the light of day, I said that I would rather see a project be shut down early rather than proceed with a lack of resources.  And I had a lightbulb moment.  NaNoWriMo just isn't right for me this year.  I learned a ton from my week of writing, and I have a strong start on a novel that I fully intend to finish - at a less breakneck pace.  

But for now, I'm putting all of my efforts back into the cookbook.  What a relief!  First order of business: the visuals.  The interior layout was surprisingly painless.  The book interior .PDF is done and ready for upload.  (It was delayed at the last minute by an unplanned test of the pumpkin pie recipe, and the discovery of a mistake in said recipe.  The pie was ultimately tasty, however, and the recipe has been fixed.)

Today I waded into the upload process for CreateSpace, and I got a draft of the entire cover laid out.  Though to my disgust, I laid it out at the wrong size.  Ugh.  Redoing that tomorrow.

I also wrote up the back-of-the-book blurb, which I shall be posting next.  It gets its own post so I can use it to update the side-bar click-on-me-for-more-info widget.

I am VERY much looking forward to mailing copies of this book to large food banks across the counry!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Index done.

The cookbook is ready to go off to its first round at the printer.  The stats: 138 recipes, 164 pages, 46,566 words.

I'm limping along pathetically but consistently at NaNoWriMo, and it is unlikely that I will hit the 50,000 word "win" limit.  But it occurs to me that many Young Adult novels similar to mine chalk in at 30,000 words, so I may well finish the first draft of my novel within the month anyway.

Ironic to think that I may write a novel that is several thousand words shorter than my cookbook!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo adventure begun. . .

Yesterday I successfully completed day 1 of National Novel Writing Month.  Here is what I posted at the NaNo forums:


If I tried to write this as fiction, it would sound contrived. First, I've been cramming to wrap up a previous cookbook project by Halloween. I had to eat into time I had left aside as overflow time, but that's what the overflow time was for, and it looked like I was just barely going to make it.

I'm a stay-at-home mother of two. My writing time is at night, after the kids go to bed. Sustainably I can manage an hour; on a good night, two.

A couple of weeks to go and my husband brings home news of having to work late one month out of three for the foreseeable future, starting the last week of October. Great.

Three days before Halloween, my three-year-old has an epic round of diarrhea, necessitating that we put him back in diapers. Great.

Two days to Halloween, it snows. It's the worst October storm on record here in Massachusetts. The leaves are still on the trees, and the snow is sticky, so down go the trees. A third of my town loses power, including us. Okay. My husband chops wood. So we have a little camp-out in the basement by a roaring fire. I do some of my final cookbook work on battery power by firelight. It's cold and the floor is hard, but it's managable.

Then my son wakes up with another poop attack. My husband takes him upstairs into the cold house to clean him up; ten minutes later I go to see what all the screaming is about and find a scene that looks like the Blair Witch Project. Thank the FSM we still have hot water.

The next morning we find a coffee shop that still has power. After minor ordering mishaps, we all eat, and feel better, until my son has to make repeated restroom trips and has a meltdown over something inconsequential. No big deal. At least he was able to make it to the toilet. But when we get home, he starts to vomit. Thank goodness he waited until we got home!

Now it's Halloween. With the house warmed by the sun, and enough time to clean up and prepare for another night of cold, we were surprised and delighted when power was restored. Trick-or-treating wasn't even an option, because the town cancelled it. What a relief. We spent a delightful, warm night in our own soft beds. I got my cookbook wrapped up, and got a few hours of sleep before having to clean up the next vomit storm. Thank the FSM for electricity!

Anyway, NaNoWriMo Day arrived, my husband was hit with the tummy bug, and my son continued to erupt periodically. I hit my first night's quota of words. Took care of the sick kid in the middle of the night again. Almost failed my saving throw against actual caffeinated coffee this morning, which I reserve for emergencies. Going to call the doctor as soon as their office opens. . .

This is all just a speed-bump, right? I'm ready to get back to normal.


Someone liked my post style, so I thought I would save it here for later amusement.  Anyway, Gabe and Chris are on the mend.  The cookbook only needs a teeny bit more index work before I get it to the publisher.  And I am waiting for Kaylee to get tired so that I can have my NaNo writing time.  Pleas, baby, get sleepy now.  This is getting silly.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The revised intro. . .

This is the current, and possibly final iteration of the book's intro.

The Pantry Cookbook
How to cook nutritious meals from scratch, on a budget, when time is short.
by Michelle Clay
cover art by Martinique Fisher

This book and its cover are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. This means you are free to share (copy, distribute, transmit) the book, and you are also free to adapt the work, so long as you attribute the work to Michelle Clay and Martinique Fisher. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. However, you may sell copies of this book so long as all profits go to support food banks, school or community gardens, or similar programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

You can set this cookbook up as a fundraiser for your organization! A digital file of this book is available, for free, online. If you have a non-profit organization that addresses hunger or nutrition issues, you may upload this book to CreateSpace or another self-publisher, for the purpose of publishing copies for your program's patrons, publishing copies for fundraisers, and/or selling copies through an online source such as Amazon for the purpose of collecting royalties for your organization. For more information, visit

Or contact the author at If you decide to use this book for your organization, I would love to hear from you!

0.00 Welcome to the Pantry Cookbook!

How to Use This Book

Welcome to the Pantry Cookbook! In this book, you will find recipes and information on how to cook nutritious meals from scratch, on a budget, when time is short. While this book has been written for the complete kitchen novice, it is also thorough enough that it can be a reference book to experienced home-cooks as well.

If you have little or no experience cooking from scratch, start by reading the rest of this this Welcome section. Continue on to the Basics of Cooking (1.01), Basic Cooking Equipment (1.02), and Cooking Safely (1.03). Then you may want to skip ahead to the chapter on Quick Meals (10.00). Other good places to start are the recipes for Boiled Grains (6.01), Boiled Beans (7.02), Sautéed Vegetables (5.02), Baked Chicken (9.02), and Pot Roast (8.06).

If you already know how to cook and you have the necessary equipment, then you can proceed to the recipes. Use the table of contents to find specific recipes.

You may notice that every recipe in this book has a number. Each section heading, such as Chicken (9.00), has a whole number. Subsequent chicken recipes are labeled with decimals: 9.01, 9.02, etc. Information on cooking is in the 1.00 section, and everything else is recipes. I used this method of numbering rather than page numbers so that the book can easily be printed in different page formats or with additional recipes.

We Eat the Wrong Things

Here in the U.S. we eat too many of the wrong sorts of foods. Fast food, restaurants, and pre-packaged foods leave out nutritious, whole ingredients in favor of cheap fats and sugars. Because these foods are so convenient, we eat too many empty calories, and not enough of the other nutrients that we need to stay healthy. The results are obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other serious health problems.

What Are the Wrong Things?

Sugary drinks: soda, fruit juice, energy and sports drinks, flavored water, etc.
Fast foods: hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, French fries, etc.
Snacks: potato chips, corn chips, candy, etc.
Grain-based desserts: donuts, cookies, cake, pie, sweet rolls, etc.
Dairy desserts: ice cream, cheese cake, etc.
Pre-packaged foods: mac-n-cheese, canned pasta, frozen meals, etc.

Any of these foods would be okay in moderation, but the fact is that we are not eating them in moderation.

What is in these foods that is so bad? Fats, sugars, and salt.

Some salt is necessary to a healthy diet, and almost all food needs some salt in order to taste good. However, snack foods, pre-packaged foods, and food from restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, tend to include far more salt in a single meal than is good for us.

Some fat is necessary to a healthy diet. Fats supply essential fatty acids, and help the body to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. In general, “solid fats” - fats which are solid at room temperature - are less good for you than “oils”. Food from restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, tend to include far more fat in a single meal than is good for us.

Some sugar is necessary to a healthy diet. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates are what fuel our bodies. However, “added” sugars, such as white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, are not necessary at all. These added sugars are what make soda, sweetened fruit drinks, and desserts taste sweet. Refined carbohydrates from white flour and white rice are also bad for us in excess. Our bodies function best on “complex” carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains.

Why Don’t We Eat the Right Things?

People used to eat more whole grains, until someone figured out that if the brown outer layer was processed off of the wheat or rice, then the grains had a much longer shelf-life. Similarly, salt, sugar, and oil were found to be excellent preservatives of food. Almost all preserved foods last longer at the expense of nutrition.

The ability to store food for a long time protects populations from starvation when crop failures occur. So over the centuries, we have likely survived by developing a taste for foods that are preserved: overly salty, overly processed, overly oily, and less nutritious. This is in addition to an ancient instinct to eat high-calorie foods when we can get them.

Restaurants and food manufacturers capitalize on our taste for fats, sugars, and salts, because it is cheaper for them to cook from preserved ingredients than it is for them to make food from fresh ingredients, and because the more extra salt, sugar, and fat that they add, the more we seem willing to pay for and eat what they cook. Additionally, most restaurants do not consider themselves obligated to cook nutritious and low-calorie meals. By contrast, when we cook for ourselves and our families, and especially our children, we must strive to cook and serve nutritious food, in order to be healthy.

What Are the Right Foods?

The most nutrient-rich, low calorie foods we can eat are whole grains, vegetables, eggs, low-fat dairy, lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts, and seeds. When we cook with these things from scratch, the results are far better for us.

Isn’t it More Difficult to Cook from Scratch? Yes and no. Cooking from scratch can be very difficult, but this cookbook focuses on recipes that are easy to cook.

Isn’t it More Expensive to Cook from Scratch? Yes and no. This cookbook focuses on ingredients that are inexpensive and easy to find.

Doesn’t it Take Longer to Cook from Scratch? Yes and No. This cookbook focuses on three types of recipes: those that can be cooked in a hurry, those that can be cooked in advance and then reheated, and those which can be cooked in advance and then used as an ingredient in a quick recipe.

Additional resources:

Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate: an easy-to-read resource on what constitutes a balanced diet.

The World’s Healthiest Foods: a lexicon of whole ingredients, the nutrients they contain, and how to best cook them to preserve their nutrients.

How to Cook Everything, by food writer Mark Bittman. This inexpensive cookbook may be the only cookbook that you ever need.

The US Department of Agriculture's SNAP-Ed Connection recipe finder. This is a database of recipes for foods made from inexpensive whole ingredients. It includes nutrition information, cost per serving, and print options:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Harvard Fixed the Plate!

Harvard has fixed the USDA's flawed plate image!  Thank you Harvard!  I have sent them a request to use it in the cookbook.  Hopefully I'll hear back from them soon. . .

The Gods Be Praised. . .

I HAVE FINISHED CROSS-REFERENCING THIS INFERNAL BOOK!  Hallelujah!  I think my eyeballs are going to wither up and drop out of my head.  Big thanks to Faith for watching Gabe, and for Kaylee for taking an epic nap.

I still have to skim and troubleshoot the first third of the book again, because when I started this last pass, I assumed I would have time for another revision.  About a third of the way in I stepped up my efforts because I realized I would not have time.

And then I have to do the graphic design.

And I insist on getting this all done by November, which is coming up like a Mac truck.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Argh!  Last night we decided to kick up our heels and make something quick from a box.  So I dumped the mac into the boiling water, and up floated a couple of insects!  The next box in the cupboard had a lovely little worm hanging out in it.  Lovely.  Our cupboard is infested with Indian meal moths.

I should have caught on when the sunflower seeds clumped together.  I assumed they were just old and decomposing.  The dried mango that went yucky. . . I just assumed that it was a contaminated batch, and I hadn't looked too closely.

Now that I know what I am dealing with, I realize I have to strip out all of the cupboard's non-canned dry goods, and dispose, freeze, or eat them promptly.  And vacuum out the cupboards.  And hope like hell that there are no meal moth larvae lurking under the oven or in another room, because it appears that these bugs are hard as hell to be rid of.

The worst part will be the spice cupboard, but I've been needing an excuse to sort it and start over.

It's a damn good thing these bugs don't carry diseases.  They are disgusting; they eat your dry goods and poop in them, and web them up with silk, but they're edible; or at least won't make you sick other than at the thought of eating insects.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cookbook Cover!

We have our cover!  Many thanks to Martinique Fisher for her lush, delicious painting.  I have had friends ask me why I wasn't illustrating the cover myself.  Two answers: I don't have time!  And, even if the circumstances were perfect, I doubt I could do justice to a picture of food.  I know my limits as an illustrator.

But, ahem, I'm too clueless about graphic design to know my limits, so the real GD-ers out there can have a laugh at my novice attempt to do something psudo-professional with text.  I used to have fun mangling Palatino for fliers back in my college days, and it was a treat to fiddle with it again.  I'll be tweaking the cover layout some more before the final version goes to the publisher, no doubt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playing Hookey

Well, I would like to write about all the cookbook work that I got done today, but I shirked my duty, instead using nap time to write up an outline for my NaNoWriMo novel.  :D  On the plus side, I think I'm still on track to participate in NaNoWriMo.  I had left the second half of October open partially as schedule padding, and I'll be needing it to finish up, for sure, but it may just save my literary butt.

I'm still burning caffeine fumes, so time for a little more cookbookery. . .

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Coffee, Please. . .

Being back home with family has allowed me to be a coffee addict again.  My parents drink it morning and afternoon, and they upgraded to a maching the grinds the beans right before brewing.  Afternoon coffee has fueled my night-time writing.  I am so spoiled right now.  Next week, I'll be switching back to decaf.  It'll be messy.  There may be tears.

I lost my cookbook momentum with the arrival of my sister and my adorable little nephews.  For the three days of weekend, there was a katamari ball of sticky little boys rolling about the house.  I got to tell my sister about the cookbook project, and I cooked a little for her.  To my delight, she had never eaten barley as a rice substitute, and even more to my delight, she liked it so much that she asked how to cook it.  No higher form of flattery can come from my sister.

I also won over my mother with some pink veggie balls.  My mother likes her slabs of meat.  She is a genius with gravy.  What she taught me was the foundation for this book.  But she frequently declines to venture outside of her comfort zone.  She ate these bizzare balls, though, even though they were vegetarian, and even though they contained lots of beet.  And she liked them.  Woot!

My sister's family left behind a little viral gift, so I've spent the past days dealing with a sick baby instead of writing.  And Saturday's flight is looming large.  Time to put it into high gear.

Anyway, before the loss of momentum, I was churning through the book, cross-referencing the recipes, and filling in the gaps that were unearthed in the process.  The following are a couple of the new additions, and some sections which were heavily reworked an/or filled out.

13.11 Croutons
Croutons are small bits of bread that go on top of salad. Croutons are another way that you can use up leftover stale bread, but you can also make them with fresh bread.

There are any number of ways to make croutons. You can cut or tear buttered toast into small pieces. You can cut or tear fresh bread, and then bake or broil it on a cookie sheet. You can even stir-fry cubes of bread in a little butter or oil. Croutons can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and spice mixes. You can even use chunks of bread in a salad without toasting them at all.

5.11 Fruit

Technically, since they are a part of a plant, all fruits are vegetables. But sweet fruit that require no cooking tend to be put into their own category. Fruits low in calories. Sweet fruits are high in sugar, but are also high in fiber, which slows the body's absorption of the sugar. This makes fruit an ideal snack food. Whole fruit stacks up especially well against fruit juice, because a large glass of fruit juice contains all of the sugar of several pieces of fruit, and none (or negligibly little of) the fiber.

Some fruits will continue to ripen after they are picked. These fruits may be kept at room temperature until they are ready to eat. Once they are ripe, they can be moved into the refrigerator to store for a few more days at peak ripeness – with some exceptions. These fruits can be left to ripen on the counter:

Banana (Do not refrigerate – the fruit will turn black!)
Honeydew melons
Tomatoes (Tomatoes can be refrigerated, but their flavor will diminish.)

To hasten ripening, fruit can be left in a paper bag on the counter. To further hasten ripening, put a banana in the bag.

The following fruits stop ripening when they are picked, and should be put in the refrigerator at once:

Apples (Apples can be stored for months in the refrigerator, so stock up when they are in season!)
Blueberries (You can also wash and then freeze blueberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Cranberries (You can also wash and then freeze cranberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Raspberries (You can also wash and then freeze raspberries, if you intend to cook with them.)
Blackberries (You can also wash and then freeze blackberries, if you intend to cook with them.)

Apples and berries are good fruits to stock up on while they are in season, because apples can be refrigerated for months at a time, and berries can be frozen for use in Berry Sauce (15.12), Smoothies (2.02), Pancakes (2.06), Oatmeal (2.04), or other recipes such as pies or jelly.

Dried fruit is just as good for you as fresh fruit, and has the advantage of a long shelf-life. Try dried fruit in Grains with Nuts, Seeds, or Dried Fruit (6.05); or for breakfast, in Yogurt (2.01), Smoothie (2.02), Cold Cereal (2.03), or Oatmeal (2.04). Dried fruit is also great in desserts like Fruity Bread Pudding (16.06), Energy Bars (16.02), and Oatmeal Cookies (16.01). Fresh fruit works well in most of these recipes, too.

3.00 Store-Bought Bread

Bread has many uses beyond the sandwich. In addition to fresh bread, stale bread also has many uses, from French toast to breadcrumbs. This section gives examples of recipes which call for store-bought bread as the main ingredient. Other bread recipes can be found elsewhere in this book: Dessert Bread Pudding (16.05), Breakfast Bread Pudding (2.07), and Cinnamon Toast (16.03), French Toast (2.08), and Croutons (13.11).

Most breads are made from wheat flour. Wheat flour comes in two varieties: white, and whole wheat. White flour and whole wheat flour are made from the same plant, but in white flour, the outer portion of the grain has been stripped off. This gives white flour a longer shelf life, but unfortunately also removes more than half of the nutrients that are found in whole wheat. So, white bread contains a lot of empty calories. Use whole wheat bread when possible.

One slice of sandwich bread torn or cut up makes roughly one cup. One loaf of sandwich bread will usually have16 or more slices, not including the heels. One slice of bread (or one hamburger or one hotdog bun) makes between ¼ and ½ cup of bread crumbs.

3.01 Storing Bread, and Keeping Bread Fresh

Bread gets stale when it is exposed to the air, so the best way to prevent bread from getting stale is to keep it sealed in a plastic bag. It is fine to keep bread stored at room temperature. However, sealed bread will get moldy after a few days or a week. If you aren't likely to eat the whole loaf in time, you can store it in the refrigerator.

Did you know that sliced bread freezes nicely? Buy more than you need when it’s on sale, and put the extra away in the freezer. Frozen slices can be thawed in the microwave, or put directly into the toaster. Frozen bread must be thawed by heating it, however. Bread thawed in the refrigerator or on the counter will likely be ruined by the ice crystals that then melt and get the bread wet.

3.02 Making Stale Bread On Purpose
Many recipes call for stale bread: Croutons (13.11), French Toast (2.08), Dessert Bread Pudding (16.05), Bread Crumbs (3.03), Stuffing (3.07), etc. To make stale bread, leave slices of bread on the counter overnight without any sort of airtight covering. You can put them in a paper bag if you prefer.
To make stale bread in a hurry, put the bread on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for a half hour.
If your recipe calls for cubes or torn-up pieces of stale bread, you may find that it is easier to cut or tear the bread before it has gone stale.
Stale bread can be frozen until you need it. This is particularly useful for Thanksgiving stuffing, which is a hassle to make if you leave the bread-chopping until the last minute. Save up heels of bread as you finish eating loaves of bread, dice them at once, and store them in a bag in the freezer. Then when you need them, the stale chopped bread will be ready to grab and use. You can toss them right into your recipe without thawing.

3.03 Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs are an ingredient used in various recipes, such as “breaded” meats, and in Balls, Patties, and Loaves (12.00). If you don't want to buy bread crumbs,you can make your own by crumbling or chopping stale or toasted bread.
Some kinds of bread make better bread crumbs than others. Ironically, the easiest bread to make bread crumbs from is exactly the sort that you wouldn't want to eat any other way: cheap, mass-produced white bread. Whole grain breads and artisanal breads have a tendency to become rock-hard when stale. These can be grated to produce bread crumbs, but white bread becomes so delicate that it can be crushed into crumbs in your hands.
One slice of bread (or one hamburger or one hotdog bun) makes between ¼ and ½ cup of bread crumbs.

6.00 Whole Grains

Far too much of the typical Western diet is made up of “refined” grains. Refined grains are grains which have had the outer portion of the seed-hull removed. This makes the result white: white bread (made from wheat) and white rice being the most common. Traditionally, this was done to make the grain and flour last longer on the shelf. Whole grains go rancid faster. However, most of the nutrients and most of the fiber are contained in the brown outer layer of the grain. The “white” versions are pure carbohydrates, which are high in calories, and which break down into sugars quickly during digestion.

Whole wheat flour and brown rice are far superior foods. And there are quite a few other whole grains that are just as good for you: barley, oats, rye, wheat berries, and millet are just some of the grains available. Whole grains should be stored in the freezer if you don't plan on cooking them within a few weeks of purchase.

Whole grain flours are used in any number of recipes, but this section deals with whole boiled grains. For recipes that use flour, see Pancakes (2.06), Gravy (15.02), and Oatmeal Cookies (16.01). See Pasta (14.00) for recipes that use pasta made from whole wheat.

Lastly, if you prefer the taste of white rice, you can use the recipes here to cook white rice, too.

15.14 Cream Sauce

This sauce is the primary ingredient in Fettuccini Alfredo (14.03), but it can also be used as a sauce for meat or fish, or with Creamy Grains (6.06). Use this sauce in moderation, because it is high in calories and fat!

2 tbsp butter
1 cup cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the cream, turn up the heat a little, and boil, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. This will thicken the sauce. Stir in the cheese. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Hungry Muppets"

From a Seasame Street press release:


"The Food for Thought program will provide families with an educational outreach kit, which includes an original video featuring the debut of four new Sesame Street Muppets, the “Superfoods.” The video also features Elmo and friends, along with real families as they try new foods, learn about the importance of healthy snacks, and discover that sharing a meal together is a perfect opportunity to connect as a family. There is also a special section for parents and caregivers that addresses the social and emotional issues related to food insecurity; and a segment with award-winning chef Art Smith, who shows families how to stretch a meal and shop locally while saving money. Additionally, for the first time ever, the Muppet story featured in the outreach kit will air on Sesame Street on PBS on December 8th (check local listings)."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another Week's Menu, Done

Gads, these week-long dinner menus are tough to write, because I have to check every recpe that I reference.  I'm feeling guilty for putting them in the cookbook untested, but I just don't have the time.

Chicken and Summer Vegetables Week

Grocery list: 1 whole chicken, 1 pound or more of ham, 1 lb brown rice or other grain, 1 lb split peas, 2 pounds or more of carrots, 1 bunch of celery, 6 or more medium onions, dill (dried), 1 head of garlic (or granular garlic), soy sauce, 6 or more tortillas, Monterrey jack cheese, 3 tomatoes, 1 head of lettuce, butter, 1 loaf of sandwich bread, ½ gallon of milk.

Saturday: Cook the rice using the Boiled Grains recipe (6.01). Cook Baked Chicken (9.02) and pull all the meat from the bones. Refrigerate the carcass as well as the meat and the rice. Dinner: Stir-Fried Anything! (5.04) with cooked chicken, onion, carrots, and celery with soy sauce and garlic; serve over rice.

Sunday: Use the chicken carcass plus onion, celery, and carrot to make Chicken Stock (9.03). Refrigerate the stock. Dinner: Chicken Salad (13.05) with celery, onion, and dill, served with salad greens, tomato, and grated carrot. Dress salad with Basic Oil-and-Vinegar Salad Dressing (13.04).

Monday: Make Quesadillas (10.07) with chicken meat and Monterrey jack cheese, topped with Salsa (13.10) made from a chopped tomato, onion, and garlic. Use diced ham if the chicken is running low.

Tuesday: Make Quick Soup (10.02) with cooked chicken, chicken stock, rice, carrot, celery, onion, milk, dill, and garlic. Use diced ham if the chicken is running low. Make enough to have leftovers.

Wednesday: Make Southern Breakfast Gravy (15.05) and cook some ham and carrots in it. Serve over brown rice reheated using the Reheated Grains recipe (6.02). If any rice remains, freeze it.

Thursday: Cook Grilled Cheese (3.06) with sliced tomato and serve with leftover soup.

Friday: Make a pot of Split Pea Soup (7.10) soup with diced ham, tomato, garlic, and frozen rice, if any is left. Dice and freeze the remaining ham, if any is left.

At week's end, your pantry will have dill, garlic, butter, and soy sauce.

Split Peas and Lentils

Yet another forgotten recipe.  I haven't really tested this, but it's so simple, it should work just fine.

7.10 Split Pea Soup or Lentil Soup

It will take upwards of an hour to cook this soup, but you can largely leave it unattended. There are many possible variations, with and without meat. This recipe is a good opportunity to try out different spice mixes. Add milk or other liquid when you reheat the leftovers.

2 onions, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas or lentils
½ tsp salt
pepper to taste
5 cups water or broth
(optional) chopped greens, carrots, or other vegetables
(optional) cooked meats, or ham
(optional) spices of any sort! Try Turkish or French Four Spice (1.05)

Over medium heat, saute the onion until transparent. Add the peas or lentils, and the liquid. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Stir periodically for about 30 minutes, tasting occasionally. When the beans start to get soft, add salt and pepper to taste.

You can eat the soup when the beans are soft but still retaining their shape, or you may continue to cook until they are reduced to delicious mush. You can hurry along the beans to the mush state if you like by using a potato masher, or by running the soup a bit at a time through a blender.

After mashing the beans, add any optionals you like, and continue to cook until the optionals are heated through to your liking. Add more water a half-cup at a time if the soup is looking too thick.

Finally finished the Salsa recipe

13.10 Salsa, i.e. Bruschetta

A salsa is just a finely-chopped salad with a spicy dressing. You can use it as a topping on any number of dishes: salads, eggs, meats, grains, beans, bread, etc. By the same token, bruschetta (or more accurately, the topping which goes on bruschetta) is really just a salsa with olive oil instead of hot pepper. You can use it on anything.

Salsa can be primarily tomato, but it can also be corn. Or, for that matter, it can be made out of peaches, or mango, or apple. There really aren’t any rules.

Salsa can be used to dip tortilla chips in, of course, but it can also be served over salad greens, over meat, on toast, or eaten with a spoon. Toss some salsa with some cold cooked grains (recipe #) and you’ve just invented a whole new salad. It’s up to you.

1 chopped tomato (or 1 cob of corn)
1 minced clove of garlic, or dried garlic to taste
½ small onion, minced; or a stalk or two of green onion, minced; or dried onion to taste
hot pepper to taste, or 2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sunday, October 2, 2011

So much mopping up. . .

I have cross-referenced about 1/3 of the book, set up an e-mail account to go with the book (and figured out how to have that mail forwarded to my main account), wrote the book's dedication, touched up the intro, and I continue to fill small holes, such as the missing paragraph explaining exactly how one is supposed to make grilled cheese.

The biggest hole I have found is the week-by-week recipes, which I had never fully written.  Oops.  So I write out a one-week menu tonight.  These are *very* slow to write, since I have to check each recipe and all the quantities, and I have about three more to go.

1.06 Planning a Week’s Worth of Meals

When you are eating on a budget, it is prudent to plan your meals a week at a time, to make sure that you have neither too little nor too much food on hand. The following are some suggested meal plans for a week of dinners. The quantities listed here are approximately enough for three adults, or for two adults and two small children.

To start with, you will need some staples in your cupboard: salt, pepper, flour, butter or oil, mayonnaise, sugar, oatmeal.

Note that each week's grocery list includes items that will last longer than just one week, such as spices, or extra beans for freezing. These purchases will help to slowly stock your kitchen, or bail you out if the recipes don't make quite enough food to get you through the week.

Meatloaf and Winter Vegetables Week

Grocery list: 2 lbs dry beans, 2 lbs ground beef, cumin, 8 or more carrots, 1 large winter squash, 1 cabbage, 6 or more apples, ½ dozen eggs, ½ gallon milk, 16 oz cheddar cheese, 1 loaf of bread, 2 15-oz cans of tomatoes, 1 small can of tomato paste, chicken stock, 1 lb pasta.

Saturday: Do the shopping. Cook Grilled Cheese (3.06), saute some cabbage (Sautéed Vegetables, 5.02), and chop carrot sticks for dinner.

Sunday: Cook Boiled Beans (7.02), Meatloaf (12.04), and Baked Winter Squash (5.08). Refrigerate half of the beans for this week, and freeze the rest for another week. Dinner is half of the meatloaf and half of the squash, plus apples. Refrigerate the leftovers.

Monday: Use the remaining squash to make Quick Squash Soup (10.03), and Coleslaw (13.07).

Tuesday: Use beans, canned tomato, half of the leftover meatloaf, and cumin to make Quick Chili (10.04). Top with grated cheddar cheese.

Wednesday: Use the remaining beans and cabbage to make Bean and Kale Soup (11.03). Serve with toast and sliced cheese.

Thursday: Make Marinara Sauce (15.09) with canned tomato and tomato paste, crumbling the last of the meatloaf into the sauce. Serve over pasta, with apple slices on the side.

Friday: Saute the remaining cabbage and carrots, and use them along with cheese and the leftover pasta to make Frittata (4.07).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

One more: unmentionables!

1.12 Digestive Issues

Although we don't like to discuss it at the dinner table, everyone occasionally has gas, diarrhea, or constipation. And, of course, what you eat has everything to do with it.

Fight diarrhea with the B.R.A.T. Diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Avocado helps. Be sure to drink lots of water to replace lost fluids. Diarrhea can be caused by too much salt, too much sugar, too little fiber, or too much fat, all of which can be found in overly-processed food. Food that is no longer fresh can also cause diarrhea.

Fight constipation with prunes, or any fibrous, sweet fruit. Apples and grapes are particularly good. Reducing your meat intake helps, as does avoiding B.R.A.T. Foods. Constipation can also be caused by dehydration, so drink lots of water. Stress and overly-processed foods can also cause constipation.

Whole grains and vegetables contain lots of fiber that helps maintain “regularity”.

Gas is caused by the breaking down of certain foods during digestion. While beans and vegetables such as cabbage are usually blamed, the biggest culprit is actually milk and milk products, especially as we age and our bodies become less able to digest milk. Try getting your calcium more from other sources to reduce your dairy intake. As for those troublesome beans and vegetables, eat them more regularly, and your body should become more efficient at digesting them, and thus produce less gas. You can also take a product such as Beano to help with gas.

Friday, September 30, 2011


The recipes and essays are in order now.  There are about 150 recipes, and 10 essays.  I found a few more gaps to fill while getting it all organized.  Once the gaps are filled, I need to cross-reference everything.

But first, sleep.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mopping Up Overlooked Bits

Oops, I never did finish writing about bread crumbs and stale bread. . .

I need to double-check that bread crumb measurement.

Making Stale Bread On Purpose

Many recipes call for stale bread: croutons, French Toast #, Bread Pudding #, Bread Crumbs #, Stuffing #, etc. To make stale bread, leave slices of bread on the counter overnight without any sort of airtight covering. You can put them in a paper bag if you prefer.

To make stale bread in a hurry, put the bread on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for a half hour.

If your recipe calls for cubes or torn-up pieces of stale bread, you may find that it is easier to cut or tear the bread before it has gone stale.

Stale bread can be frozen until you need it. This is particularly useful for Thanksgiving stuffing, which is a hassle to make if you leave the bread chopping until the last minute. Save up heels of bread as you finish eating loaves of bread, and collect them, diced and stale, in a bag in the freezer. Then when you need them, they will be ready to grab and use. You can toss them right into your recipe without thawing them.

Bread Crumbs

Bread crumbs are an ingredient used in various recipes, such as “breaded” meats, and in Balls, Patties, and Loaves #. If you don't want to buy them,you can make your own by crumbling or chopping stale or toasted bread.

Some kinds of bread make better bread crumbs than others. Ironically, the easiest bread to make bread crumbs from is exactly the sort that you wouldn't want to eat any other way: cheap, mass-produced white bread. Whole grain breads and artisanal breads have a tendency to become rock-hard when stale. These, of course, can be grated to produce bread crumbs, but white bread becomes so delicate that it can be crushed into crumbs in your hands.

One slice of bread (or one hamburger or one hotdog bun) makes about a half cup of bread crumbs.

Just. . .one. . .more. . .

. . .or two more. . .

I swear, these are the LAST recipes going into this cookbook.

Beef and Barley Soup

This recipe is great if you have a chunk of tough stew meat in your freezer. You don't have to thaw the meat – just put it right in the pot. The recipe will take about 50 minutes to cook, if you use barley, but most of that time you can leave the soup unattended.

You can use any meat for this that you like, really, and you can substitute any other type of grain. The exact ingredients and measurements are entirely up to you.

Uncooked barley, or other grain
stew meat of any sort, fresh or frozen
beef or vegetable stock
(optional) chopped vegetables, such as beet, onion, carrot, or greens
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) other spices, such as Parisian Bonnes Herbes or Greek #

Put the meat, barley, and stock in a pot, and bring to a gentle boil. After a half hour or so, remove the meat from the pot and cut it into bite-sized pieces. When the barley is almost tender enough to eat, add the optional vegetables, and continue to boil until the vegetables and barley are tender. Add the optional spices, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bean and Kale Soup

If you have frozen or canned white beans on hand, chicken stock, and frozen kale, you can throw this soup together on a moment's notice. Add sausage for additional heft. Exact measurements and exact ingredients are up to you.

white beans, frozen or canned
chicken or vegetable stock
kale or other greens, fresh or frozen
(optional) fresh or smoked sausage, such as Italian, kielbasa, or chorizo
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) other spices, such as Old World Seasoning or Greek #

If using optional sausage, first crumble and brown the sausage in your soup pot over medium heat until it is cooked through. Use a little oil if using a poultry sausage, which tend to be dry. Spoon out the rendered grease, if necessary.

Add the stock and beans, and heat until a boil is reached. The add the kale – lots of it! Boil for about five minutes, or until the kale is suitably soft.

Add the optional spices and salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerating and Freezing

Ugh. . . this is the last essay.  I'll need to hammer on it some more, but the hard first draft is done.  I also had friends review the "food safety" essay, and they gave me great feedback, which I have implemented.

This leaves two more soup recipes I would still like to shoehorn in, and then lots of revisions.

This vacation is turning out to be quite productive!

Refrigerating and Freezing Your Cooked Foods

Cooked foods need to be eaten, refrigerated, or frozen within two hours of being cooked. The sooner the food is refrigerated or frozen, the longer it will last, and the quality will remain higher for longer.

The USDA recommends that refrigerated leftovers be eaten or thrown away within two days. However, foods that are cooked for later use, if handled carefully and refrigerated promptly, can be good for up to five days when refrigerated . This makes it possible to cook meal elements on a weekend (such as Boiled Beans #, Boiled Grains #, or Pot Roast #) that can be assembled into quick week-night meals.

When you need to put a hot food into the refrigerator or freezer, avoid leaving it out to cool at room temperature, because this extends the time that the food will spend in the danger zone. You can cool some foods quickly (such as boiled grains, boiled beans, or steamed vegetables) by putting the food in a colander and running cold tap water over it. You can cool a large pot of food by setting it in a sink filled with ice and water. Large chunks of meat or whole poultry can be cooled by cutting up the meat and placing it on a cold plate before moving it into a container for storage.

While you can cool food by moving it directly to the refrigerator or freezer, if you do this with too large a quantity of food, you run the risk of putting everything in the refrigerator or freezer in the danger zone. If you need to do this, make sure the hot food has as much space around it as possible, so that the cold air can circulate.

Hot glass cookware should not be cooled quickly, because it could shatter.

When handling foods prior to storage, practice safe food-handling: wash your hands, and also handle the food as little as possible with your hands.

Refrigerates foods can be moved into the freezer at any time. However, a food that is on the verge of spoiling before freezing will be just as bad when it comes back out of the freezer. The sooner you freeze your food, the better.

“Disposable” plastic boxes are ideal for refrigerating and freezing foods, because they are inexpensive and can be washed and reused until they break. These boxes come in a range of sizes, and can be heated in the microwave. To remove a frozen block of food from one of these boxes, run some hot tap water over the box. Do note, however, that these boxes become brittle when frozen, which can make them shatter when dropped.

When freezing soups, boiled grains, beans in their cooking water, or other wet food, it helps to save the food in individual serving sizes. Baby food and broth can be frozen in ice-cube trays and then moved to a sealed container. Chopped greens can be saved in any sized container, because the desired amount can be easily broken off with a fork. To keep them from sticking together, slices of meatloaf, pancakes, French toast, and similar items can either be frozen on a cookie sheet, and then moved to a container; or they can be frozen separated by pieces of parchment paper. Cooked beans and meatballs can also be frozen first on a cookie sheet in order to keep them from sticking together into one large mass.

Fresh produce can be be “blanched” (dipped in boiling water) and then frozen for long-term storage. More information on blanching can be found online at

The safest way to thaw frozen food is in the refrigerator. Small items will require a day or two to thaw in the refrigerator. Larger items, such as turkey, will take about one day to thaw for each 4 or 5 pounds.

Smaller quantities of frozen food can be thawed safely in a bowl of cold water, or in the microwave on the “defrost” setting. Never leave food to thaw at room temperature.

More information on freezing can be found at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baby Food

I had taken this section out, but wok up this morning inspired to put it back in.  Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Baby Food

When your baby can hold up her head, and when she begins to watch and grab for what you are eating, it is time to introduce “solid foods” into her diet. “Solid food” really means “any food other than breast milk or formula”.

Jarred baby food is generally quite good in quality, if bland. However, it is expensive, and if used improperly, wasteful. To avoid waste, do not feed the baby directly from a jar of baby food and do not heat food while it is in the jar. Transfer a small amount of the food to its own bowl, and save the remainder of the jar for the next day. Discard leftovers after 24 hours, to be absolutely safe.

Baby cereals are finely-ground grains that need only to be mixed with baby food or a liquid. No cooking is required.

Consult your doctor as to what foods to introduce when. Keep in mind that the guidelines have changed frequently over the years, and that some foods (such as peanut and spices) which are not usually fed to infants in the United States are regularly used as baby food in other countries.

You can make your own baby food by cooking Steamed Vegetables #, and then mashing the vegetables with a fork and then adding a little water, breast milk, or formula. The same technique can be used with some fruits and meats, as well. A food processor or blender will help if you wish to make more than one or two meals' worth. Save baby food for later by freezing it in an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the cubes of frozen baby food into a tightly-sealing container.

Frozen baby food can be heated on the stove in a pan, or in the microwave. Always stir heated baby food, and always test baby food temperature before feeding it to the baby. You can use a clean finger to test the temperature, or you can taste the food.

Some fresh fruits lend themselves very well to being made into baby food: banana, avocado, peach, nectarine, mango, and the gooey interior of tomatoes. Baked Squash # and Baked Root Vegetables # also work reasonably well. And there are any number of foods that you might cook for yourself which can be mashed on your plate in tiny quantities to share with your baby.

Infants need to start with foods that are as as close as possible to the consistency of milk. Over time, the baby can be gradually introduced to foods that have a more lumpy consistency, such as mashed banana with no added water, followed by small bites of foods that require no chewing, such as Cheerios which have been broken into pieces. You can test small bites of food by holding it in your mouth. If, after holding it on your tongue for a short while, you can swallow it without chewing, then you can let your baby try it.

Be sure to read up on the Heimlich maneuver for infants before introducing solid foods.