pantry basics – new category

my pantry

My friends joke how I make everything from scratch – not true, but I try to do as much as I can. When I serve them ricotta, they giggle, “Did you just happen to whip it up when you had five free minutes?” The truth is – I hate letting food go to waste. In recent years, especially with the economy being what it is, folks being out of work, including my own parents, and a general turn towards thriftiness, I find that I am reflecting on the resourcefulness of my grandparents – who used every scrap of food as much as possible to waste a little as they could. For them, it was living through the early Soviet era coupled with the devastation of WWII. For my American friends’ grandparents’ generation, it was the impact of the Great Depression. But I find that resourcefulness in the kitchen is very empowering. It makes us feel more competent as cooks.

Between my “Tips” section and the actual recipes featured here, I want to feature the building blocks that make our pantries better, more efficient, and teach us how to better use what we have in our kitchens. I’ve been thinking about these building blocks which are part recipes, part foundation for kitchen know-how – and trying to figure out where to fit them on this site. So today, I present to you a new category called Pantry Basics – things I do in my kitchen to make me a better, more resourceful cook. From ricotta (new method coming soon) to homemade stock to crème fraiche – these basics, among many others will be included in that category. I hope you find it useful. Tips will remain as they are and I will post Pantry Basics as they come up in my kitchen. Some will have a story, some will be pretty rudimentary. In any case, I hope that you find them useful.

First Pantry Basics will be up tomorrow. Stay tuned!


  • Stephanie R.

    i am so excited to hear your tips and ideas! i’ve been working in my household to stretch our food dollars a lot farther… and make sure it’s all going to as many local producers and vendors as possible. :)

  • mel

    great topic! and i share the same impulse to save and stretch ingredients. i know i get it from my mother who grew up during WWII. in fact these days, when i visit her i have to do a purge of her fridge for leftover that are beyond usable.

    have you read How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher? I found a lot of usefulness from it, esp in terms of saving energy by making the most from a hot oven, rather than using it just for one dish.

    looking forward to reading more of your pantry basics posts!


  • Sara

    This feature is right up my alley. I absolutely hate wasting food too. In the past few weeks, I have been making a list of all perishable items in my fridge and tacking it up in the kitchen so nothing gets forgotten and goes bad. It’s also satisfying to cross something off the list as the week progresses.

  • KJ

    Great idea. I can’t tell you how many new recipes are born of necessity, either to finish the left overs or find a substitute for a missing ingredient. I am looking forward to your posts.

  • Janice Harper

    You read my mind. Just this morning I was thinking I’d change my habits from “run to the store when I need or want a new ingredient” to “get over it and work with what’s at hand.” My own pantry basics include a freezer full of different home-made herb butters (dill; chipotle; and sage/roquefort), croutons, bread crumbs, and stocks (in cubes and pints). Looking forward to reading more.

  • Evi

    This is a great idea, I think people have a hard time with this. For us, if I know we’ll have more of a certain vegetable, I try to look for another recipe with that same produce- nothing gets thrown out. Also, saving veggie scraps to make veggie stock! Can’t wait to read more of this!

  • Colleen

    I can’t wait to hear your tips and tricks. I find that this economy is changing the way that I cook. No food is wasted. 1 serving leftovers are frozen. Bones get thrown into soup. Veggies scraps go in the compost pile.

    Great post topic.

  • Jean Fournier

    Great idea! Recently finished a great book-“Little Heathens” by Mildred Armstrong Kalish,
    describing growing up during the Great Depression on an Iowa farm and getting 3 meals a day
    on the table. Everyone worked so hard! Between meals they canned to prepare for winter.

  • jackie

    I am excited to see this addition! Only cooking for two this is how I do monthly batch cooking…making up the staples to have on hand at the ready. I would love to have your mom’s cottage cheese recipe! I am home all day and love cottage cheese…would love to be able to make it myself. Thanks for all your generousity in sharing your knowledge.

  • lia

    my parents lived through soviet times too and my mom is the master of thrift. one of her thrifty recipes that people love i have dubbed “compost pancakes”. i take out the boiled vegetables from my stock/chicken soup that i won’t be eating and puree in food processor with eggs and flour to bind and salt and pepper and fry them up. or else i freeze the “compost” for when i need a quick veggie side. another tip is to freeze all the tops/cores of things from vegetables (broccoli stem, kale ribs, carrot tops, etc.) for stock (can be kept in freezer until needed). then the stock discards can be used as a compost pancakes… the double use of what others tend to toss makes me particularly proud!

Leave a Comment