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A note to readers: For the next several months, a bit of medical mischief (new hips! new knees!) will knock me off my feet. To get ready, I've been cooking up a storm, and I have a summer's worth of brand new recipes to share with you. Though I might not be in the kitchen or scouring local markets for new pantry ingredients, and blog posts might not always reach you on their usual days, I'll be here, responding to comments, answering questions, and working on ebooks. (Truth? I'll probably be reading legal thrillers and binge-watching Modern Family, and maybe Mad Men, again.) To make sure you never miss a recipe, use the box at right to sign up for free email updates.

September 26, 2015

Pumpkin pie spice: like or dislike?

Pumpkin pie spices, from The Spice House.

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

I love the pumpkins you carve into faces that are silly or macabre, with flickering candles inside. I'm less keen on the pumpkins you cook into pies or soups or loaves of bread. If you're not a lover of pumpkin, however, you can still be a lover of pumpkin pie spice, a mix of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger powder, mace, and cloves. So many "warm" spices in one jar -- what's not to love? Try it in apple pie, or pear spice muffins, or a cake; substitute pumpkin pie spice for the total of the spices called for in your recipe. Pumpkin pie spice is a convenience food you might like if you bake a lot, or make those copycat coffee-shop pumpkin spice lattes.

Pumpkin pie spice: like or dislike?

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September 23, 2015

Shrimp, bacon and broccoli slaw with ranch dressing {gluten-free}

Shrimp, bacon and store-bought broccoli slaw, with homemade ranch dressing.

As you know, I'm not a big fan of convenience foods. It's just as easy to make most things from scratch, and you know exactly what you're getting. However, when it comes to broccoli slaw, I make an exception. If you look in the bag, you know exactly what you're getting: shredded broccoli stems and carrots and a little bit of red cabbage. Sometimes you can find the mix with cauliflower added, but cauliflower and I still are not friends, so I don't seek it out. You can use the cauliflower-added mix (sometimes called Rainbow Salad) in this recipe, unless you're inviting me for lunch. Broccoli slaw benefits from a few minutes of tenderizing --here, buttermilk does the trick, and in other recipes, mustard would do the same -- so make the dressing, toss it with the slaw, and let that sit while you finish the rest of the recipe.

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September 20, 2015

Slow cooker chipotle beef enchiladas

Slow cooker chipotle beef enchiladas.

Do this (trust me, just do it): get out your slow cooker. Toss in the ingredients for the chipotle beef (this will take ten minutes, at most). Turn on the cooker, and go out and do something. Go to the park, go to work or worship, go visit your grandma, go to a football game. Let the meat do its thing while you do yours. When it's finished, shred it, and refrigerate it, or even freeze it. And then, sometime, tonight, or tomorrow, or later in the week, or next weekend, make a pan of really great chipotle beef enchiladas. So easy. You'll have a lot of the beef left over (and some of the chipotle barbecue sauce, too) and you can use it in sandwiches or quesadillas, or in a rice bowl, wrapped in a lettuce leaf, or tucked into a lunch box. If you follow this recipe, you'll have a very mildly spicy dish (my grandsons loved it, and they don't like spicy food), but of course you can kick it up by adding an additional chipotle chile pepper, or more of the adobo sauce from the can. And you know me... I would never discourage you from doing that. I use flat-cut beef brisket, because I love it, but you can make this with a chuck roast, too. Just do it. You'll thank me later.

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September 19, 2015

Coconut milk: like or dislike?

Coconut milk

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

Coconut milk is one half of the magic "you can always make a quick curry for dinner" formula that sees me through many a last-minute meal. A can of coconut milk and a large plop of Thai curry paste (both red and green are always in my refrigerator), plus any leftover meats or vegetables, and maybe a splash of fish sauce or soy sauce or lime juice, will always satisfy. For those who are dairy-free, coconut milk is a life saver, as it can be used in baking, soups and stews, or any type of cream sauce. Do you keep coconut milk in your pantry?

Coconut milk: like or dislike?

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September 16, 2015

Autumn-spiced sour cream coffee cake

An easy autumn spiced make-ahead-and-freeze coffee cake.

Although I'm not a big tea drinker, I love the ritual of afternoon tea. Working at home can be isolating, and inviting a friend for tea punctuates my work day, which begins very early in the morning and often ends in mid- to late-afternoon. With tea, you should serve something sweet: fruit is nice, but let's face it -- cake is better. This sour cream coffee cake contains a hint of apple, plus all of the warm autumn spices like cinnamon and ginger. Though I'm not a good spur-of-the-moment baker, I love to make a few of these easy coffee cakes when the mood strikes, and stash them in the freezer (hint: cut the cakes in half before freezing, so you can defrost just enough for a tea party). Instead of frosting the cake, serve it with a big dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. According to the calendar, autumn begins a week from today. Why not be prepared, with a cake in the freezer?

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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