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What’s in YOUR Pantry? March 11, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, random stuff, soupe du semaine.

We hear so much these days about “cooking from your pantry” and “shopping in your pantry” and “keeping a stocked pantry,” but what, exactly, constitutes a “pantry?”

PhotobucketSure, when I lived on the farm that was an easy question – the pantry was that space right off the kitchen with the shelves in it – much larger than a closet, but nowhere near big enough to be considered a room unto itself.  But now, unless you live in an old farmhouse, it may not be so simple to define.

(I don’t live in an old farmhouse.)

And besides, in this day and age, I tend to think of the “pantry” more as a state of mind than an actual physical space.

PhotobucketWhile I don’t have actual PANTRY space, I do have kitchen cupboards.  And shelving in the basement.  And the freezer(s).  And honestly, sometimes things just get away from us.  Stuff gets shoved to the back of the cupboard, shifted to the bottom shelf, or buried in the freezer.

Hey, it happens in the best of families.  (Or so I’ve been told.)


I’m almost embarrassed to admit that we found a hunk of beef that we’d bought to make sauce, um, let’s just say we bought it a while ago.

But it had been vacuum sealed, and you know those ads about how much longer your meat will last when you vacuum seal it?

They’re all true.  This stuff was in the freezer almost five years – and there wasn’t a hint of freezer burn or loss of flavor.


However.  It may have been the oldest thing we’ve found in the freezer (so far), so it had to go.

In addition to a few shallots and a leek or two, we had, of  course, carrots in the fridge, and I’d recently picked up some parsnips, so what better time to work on my knife skills than now?


Once the beef was well-browned (with the shallots and leeks), I first deglazed with a bit of red wine (what kind of pantry would I be keeping if I didn’t have wine?), then once that liquid had cooked off, I tossed the carrots and parsnips into the pot and let them just soak up the beefy-winy goodness for a few, until most of the liquid had evaporated.


But fear not!

There was more liquid to come!  I added a pint of (my very own) canned tomatoes, along with what was left of the beef stock that we’d canned that weekend – it doesn’t always come out even, you know, no matter how hard you try.

So call it a cup and a half of beef stock.


Plus, I added my secret ingredient (which I just made up) – about a cup of our very own V-14 juice.

I’m pretty sure I wrote down, somewhere, what vegetables we used in this juice, but I don’t remember where.  I’m sure you could use V-8 and be just fine.

I do know that one of the vegetables in my juice was jalapeño peppers – and I’m reasonably certain that’s not one of the veggies in the commercial stuff.  I’m just saying.


In addition to the tomatoes and the juice, we (of course) (yeah right) remembered to add a healthy scoop of my veggie bouillon, along with the tiniest head of cabbage ever, and a can of “small red beans,” drained.

And no, I’m not sure how small red beans are different than kidney beans, only they’re, well, smaller.


And really, that was pretty much it.  I don’t have an actual recipe for this soup – it was mainly just tossed together from stuff lying around in the pantry, then left in the fridge for a few days to build its flavor – it was a great soup!   Full of great beef and vegetable flavor, hearty and filling – and healthy besides – how can you go wrong?  Add to that the fact that the soup was built entirely from ingredients on hand – or that should be on hand – and it’s a sure winner.



1. The_Swedish_Chef - March 11, 2010

So much to comment on, in this post! 🙂

First: “the pantry was that space right off the kitchen with the shelves in it – much larger than a closet, but nowhere near big enough to be considered a room unto itself. But now, unless you live in an old farmhouse, it may not be so simple to define.” HEY!!! I demand that you get that LIVE VideoCam OUT Of My Cottage, okay!!! LOL My cottage is from the 1920’s and you described to a ‘t’ what I have: an 8′ x 8′ room, right off off of the kitchen, which houses wrap around, floor to ceiling shelving & the refrigerator and upright freezer. With only the briefest of stays in a highrise in Chicago when my DH and I first moved there (it was a corporate apartment for transferies), I’ve never lived in an apartment or home that wasn’t built later than 1930! Even our current home in Lincoln Park (built 1889) has a monsterous pantry, with a Butler’s Sink, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I actually don’t know if I could live without a pantry; it’s my “7-11 store” for all things I need to cook and bake. 🙂 Every early Spring (like right NOW) I go through the entire thing, clean every frickin’ shelf, access what stuff stays or goes (like vases, containers, etc.) and feel good about how sparkly it is and how nice it smells. Things are organized by group: Baking essentials; soup ingredients; main dish ingredients; alcohols, grain products; etc. Makes it easy to stock and keep inventory when things aren’t jumbled about.

Second, so glad to know that the 5 year old beef was TOSSED!!!! Please, we want to keep you alive to write this blog! Beef is NOT an endangered species! LOL

Third, I admire deeply, cooks who can just toss things together in a pot and be happy with the results. I’m too right-brained for that, which is why I prefer to bake. I love the precision, I love the calibration, I love the specificity of it all. My BFF is a professional chef and she is always “creating” something by just tossing in things, no measureing for that gal! But, she does NOT like to bake: calls it “too fussy” for her personality.

GREAT posting today!!! Really enjoyed the journey you took me on and the memories of growing up on my Grandparent’s Minnesota farm, that had the world’s largest pantry! But, with town 40 miles away and no electric frig, you HAD to keep as much on hand as you could. They had a root cellar, an actual ice box that used ice, the milk shed to keep things really cold and the pantry, which was about 12′ x 12′. All the canned goods went in there and it reminded me of the caves of Sinbad, filled with the treasures of the seasonal harvest.

I remember the jars and jars of canned goods lining the shelves in the pantry . . . tomatoes and fruits and jams, every year. We were several miles from town, too, and that town was, well, decidedly lacking – grocery shopping was generally done in a larger town – the “county seat,” actually! (Does anyone even still recognize that anymore?)

One of my goals I’ve set myself is to consistently provide tasty, healthy food – not necessarily from a recipe, but to really UNDERSTAND what it is I’m doing – and why. To pair flavors and technique in the best possible ways. That said, I do enjoy baking (though not cookies!) for the same reasons you do – the precision and science of it.

I’m a complicated gal, I am. 😉

2. judy - March 11, 2010

As the snow comes down this morning that soup looks especially inviting. I am a little confused about the meat though. Did you use the 5 year old pack from the freezer or start with newer meat? Good eating!

The_Swedish_Chef - March 11, 2010

I think she threw it out, based on this: “However. It may have been the oldest thing we’ve found in the freezer (so far), so it had to go.”

Toy Lady - March 11, 2010

Actually, guys, it did go – into the soup. 😉

As I said, it had been vacuum-sealed and buried in the depths of the freezer. Plus the butcher had wrapped it well even before that – so I was pretty confident.

We’re still here, so I guess that’s a testament to . . . something. 😕

3. Mazco34 - March 11, 2010

Does anyone recognize county seats?

Sure, it’s where I go when they call me for Jury Duty.

Oh, OK. I just don’t think I’ve heard anyone utter the phrase “county seat” in a couple of decades . . . “

4. The_Swedish_Chef - March 11, 2010

Well, here in the MidWest, we use the term “County Seat, a lot. It’s usually where the biggest towns are located, plus the fair grounds and other important “things”. ~snicker~ I believe it’s more a rural thing than what you hear in the city any longer; I doubt most young Chicagoans would even know what it was, thinking it was a clothing store that specialized in jeans! LOL

As I recall, the county seat is where the county offices, county courts, county legislature, etc. are – basically, the “capital” of the county. So yeah, I guess you could consider that the “important” stuff – if, you know, you’re a lawyer or something. 🙄 We all know how important lawyers are.

Spending most of my life dealing with various municipalities, I guess I can’t help myself.

And you may be right – it may be a more rural term – I suspect that most urban areas are located at their respective county seats. . . huh.

5. The_Swedish_Chef - March 11, 2010

Other “important” stuff can also make you aware of the County Seat: like contesting a wrongful traffic ticket when the cop car next to you went through the SAME yellow light and you have their car # to prove it! Got the case thrown out of court, too!

When I lived in Boston, they were called “Shire Seats”; very Hobbit-like, me thinks! LOL

Massachusetts is a commonwealth – almost like a state, only just different enough to be . . . weird. 😉

And don’t even get me started on Louisiana – I hated having to learn all that weirdness!

Pennsylvania has “townships.”

And I’ll bet you could have gone the whole day without a lesson in municipal divisions, eh? 😕

6. anne - March 11, 2010

All this talk of Grandparents’ houses has brought back memories. Ours didn’t have a pantry that I can remember, but they had a cellar, which was a truly dark and scary place. Even darker and scarier was the root cellar. They used to grow a big garden every year, and “put up” jam, bread-n-butter pickles (yuk), and other mystery stuff. They had shelves and shelves of jars in the root cellar, dusty and old and scary. Did I mention scary? And dusty?

I would love to have a 8’x8′ pantry area. Mine is a couple of cabinets, with overflow in the laundry. And not nearly as well stocked as yours!!!

Anne, my parents had a root cellar, too, though, both of them being city dwellers originally, they had no idea, really, what to do with it. And it was a dusty, creepy place – with spiders and stuff. And a few shriveled-up, um, carrots? Maybe potatoes? After a few years of having been forgotten, it was hard to tell. . . 🙄

7. The_Swedish_Chef - March 12, 2010

You know, those old time architects really knew what they were doing. I didn’t think about it until late last night but in every home I’ve lived in, the pantry was 100% situated on the NORTH side of the house, with a wee window that opens and closes. Gran always used this to regulate the temperatures in the pantry to keep it extra cool and the shelf under the window was a great place to cool pies and cakes. Now, we never had central heating in the farm house, just a giant beast of a wood stove, so it probably never got warmer than 40 degrees in that pantry. But, she could also crack the pantry door a bit to let some heat in: old timey “thermostats”–windows or doors, opened or closed.

We also had a root cellar/storm cellar to escape tornadoes (Hi, Dorothy!) but ours was clean and well-kept. Had a beaten down soil floor that Gran laid old woven rugs on top of. Shelves were painted white and it had limestone walls that always felt cold to the touch. It was the BEST place to escape heatwaves in the Summer…you know, like 70 degrees! LOL

I so remember those tornado drills in grade school! 😆 I always thought everyone learned how to line up in the hallway of the school and sit with their heads covered with their arms against the walls . . . but these easterners thought I was nuts! (They thought I talked funny, too. 🙄 )

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