I cleaned out my pantry today. I cleaned the refrigerator, too, but I don’t want to talk about that because for some reason cleaning the refrigerator is work and traumatic. However, cleaning the pantry is refreshing. You feel organized and energized! It also gives me a chance to see what we’re low on (Ramen. My son loves Ramen therefore, we are always running low.) and what we are completely out of. Granola. We are out of granola and I really didn’t need to check the pantry because Thing 1 had already let me know of my failure to maintain the granola. And, in case you didn’t know, it is considered a fail not to keep a well stocked pantry. I know this because my mother told me so. She had a HUGE pantry in our basement while I was growing up and there were always extras on those shelves. With the aid of that massive deep freezer that she kept in the garage, a meal was always at your fingertips, even if it was Hamburger Helper. I’m not quite that good. I mean, I keep the basics like peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, some canned soups (for emergencies) and our favorite cereals, among other things. But then there are some items that I consider necessities that I’m sure my mother would look at me with a raised eyebrow. For instance…
Here’s my coffee shelf and I go out of my way to keep it stocked. My mother used to keep one big can of Folgers in the kitchen. Well, I’m not a strictly Folgers kinda of girl. Some days I like a full-bodied Sumatran and other days it might be Duncan or an Italian roast. This girl needs variety and let’s face it – I would surely die without my coffee.
I do like to keep a variety of pasta because everyone like pasta.
However, I like my pasta pretty. Why have plain old spaghetti when you can have tri-colored hearts and flowers? I like to make a pasta salad with olive oil, garlic and seasonings or pair it with pasta sauces that I find in specialty food stores, salad and bread. It’s quick and makes everyone happy.
However, I have to admit that because I love to bake, the majority of my pantry is taken up with baking ingredients. It is inconceivable to me that at any moment, day or night, I wouldn’t have the ingredients to make a really good chocolate chip cookie or a simple 1-2-3-4 cake…no box mix necessary. Therefore, there are always at least 2 bags of milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in my pantry. Same for baking bars (milk, semi-sweet, unsweetened and white chocolate). I keep dutch processed cocoa, a really good vanilla (never imitation) and of course extra flour (regular and cake), sugar (white, dark brown, light brown and powdered), baking soda and baking powder. There are a few other additional fun things, but basically, if you have these ingredients you’re ready.
I have an obscene amount of sprinkles, sanding sugars and other decorations. It’s fun to do and the girls love it! I guess that I can’t really expect all of you to share my passion for baking, but I am going to leave you with a very simple recipe to keep in your back pocket for that moment when your spouse invites a coworker over unexpectedly. Or, when you suddenly remember that you were supposed to bring a dessert to the church pot luck tomorrow. Or when you can’t sleep and you want something sweet so you need to make a cake, then singlehandedly demolish it before dawn. I’ve never done that…just using my imagination.
Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup of sour cream
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and beat well. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with frosting of your choice.