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:

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