My Pantry Shelf celebrates its first anniversary this week.  The year has absolutely flown by (as it probably would have with or without the blog), but 90+ posts later this blog has taken on a life of its own.  This project began as an avenue to share my passion for cooking and preserving fresh seasonal ingredients.  Eating homemade meals made with fresh ingredients is a core value in our family.  Regardless of the time constraints of our busy lives, we make a strong effort to celebrate our family meals, expose our children to a wide array of seasonal foods, and utilize as much of our garden produce as possible.  I firmly believe that the modern working family, with a little planning, can still eat homemade nutritious meals made with the bounty of the seasons.  This is my little space in world to share my enthusiasm for fresh foods. It is full of ideas for how to prepare dishes to eat right away, as well as inspiration for how preserve the freshest foods to enjoy later in the year.

This site has proven to be more than I could ever  have imagined.  My life was full with two small kids and a full-time teaching job before I began writing these posts. Surprisingly though,  instead of overwhelming an already busy woman, My Pantry Shelf fulfills a deep need that had gone unnurtured in recent years.  It gives me a place to be creative and interact with others who share my passion for food. Through this space I have met so many wonderful cooks across the country who also seek to fill their days and their bellies with delicious foods.  This space belongs to me and all of you who have come to share it with me.

Thank you to everyone who reads and cooks along with me.  It is such a delight to know you are out there and trying my recipes.  I truly appreciate those of you who have reported back after making these dishes in your own homes and to those of you who spread the word about this site and help it grow!

As a tribute to the year, here are some highlights…

The most popular posts of the year:

Caramelized Onion Relish

Salt Preserved Lemons

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

Edible Gifts!  Chocolate and Caramel Sauces

My family’s favorite recipes:

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie

Buttermilk Pancakes

Sesame Ginger Meatballs

Weeknight No-Knead Bread

Mixed Berry Syrup

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken

Chipotle Black Bean and Butternut Squash Salad

Beets with Pistachios and Mint

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles

Food52 contest winners and Editor’s Picks:

Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart (winner Best Dirt Cheap Dinner)

Tequila Lime Tart (Editor’s Pick)

Orange Quinoa with Almonds, Olives, and Feta (Editor’s Pick)

Pumpkin Coconut Pudding

November 19, 2011

Pumpkin pie is essential at any Thanksgiving feast, but to be honest it is not the part of the meal that I look forward to.  After a heavy meal of turkey, gravy, and of course stuffing, I find it hard to rally excitement for pie.  Generally I enjoy a few bites of the filling and leave the crust lonely on the plate.  This is what got me thinking about skipping the crust completely and making a pumpkin pudding in its place.

Pumpkin Coconut Pudding is a thick, silky coconut milk based pudding seasoned with traditional pie spices.  This rich pudding is familiar enough to satisfy the expectation of a Thanksgiving pumpkin dessert, yet different enough to stand out as something special.  Using coconut milk means that the pudding (without the whipped cream) is actually vegan, so you can safely serve to a mixed crowd including those lactose and gluten intolerant folks who seem to be cropping up in every family.  This pudding could not be simpler to make.  Heat the coconut milk and pumpkin, then stir in a slurry of spices and cornstarch to thicken it.  For a casual fare, spoon it directly from a serving bowl and let guests add their own toppings.  For a fancier presentation, spoon hot pudding into beautiful dishes or glasses and decoratively top before serving.  This may be a break in tradition, but who knows, perhaps I am not the only one who is happy to leave the crust behind.

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Everyone needs a go-to cookie recipe and this is mine.  I have made it more times than I can remember for snacks, parties, camping trips, gift bags, potlucks, you name it.  They are my favorite!  Adapt it to what you have on hand by adding nuts (walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc.) or leaving them out.  The chocolate chips can be replaced with peanut butter chips or white chocolate, but do not dare leave those out!

Mix up the dough, then chill it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them (at least two hours).  You can also freeze the dough if you want to make it in advance.  Portion out the dough before freezing to make it easier to use.  The cookies bake up slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  They are great straight from the oven,  as well as days later.  There is never a shortage of taste testers!

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Apple Blackberry Cake

August 24, 2011

Summer is not complete without a morning spent picking blackberries.  Last weekend, under the pressure of a fall-like chill in the air and the craziness of back to school time, the kids and I pushed out for a ramble along the creek.  We brought the wagon, a gazillion containers, and a baby doll or two.  We dressed in our jeans and forced socks and closed shoes onto our spoiled summer feet.    We were ready for a  real berry picking session.  What we found however is that like all other summer fruits (tomatoes especially!) everything is super late this year.

Not about to let a little thing like red under-ripe blackberries get us down, we assigned ourselves roles for our Blackberry Team.  I picked the berries, my little man dumped the small containers into the bigger ones, and my little lady dragged the wagon up and down the trail laughing hysterically.  After an hour of hard work (and just a few scrapes), we cruised home with a half-gallon of berries.  Just enough for a few smoothies and Apple Blackberry Cake.  While we suffer a shortage of ripe blackberries, we have boxes and boxes of Gravenstein apples from my parents’ trees.

Apple Blackberry Cake is a treat to make each late summer or fall.  Though it is simple to prepare, somehow the cake has the ability to pass as both an elegant special dessert and a casual weeknight treat.  This time it even disguised itself as a birthday cake.  The apples are peeled and sliced and then pressed into a basic butter and brown sugar batter.  The blackberries scatter across the top lending both a colorful burst and a tart contrast to the apples.  The sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the top help to form a nice sweet crunchy topping.  This cake is well matched with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  I would not mind eating a slice for breakfast either with a nice cup of coffee.

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Our ice cream maker does not get much attention in the winter.  It sits lonely in the pantry, waiting to be remembered.  It is not that ice cream is not just as good in the wintertime, but I seem to be busy making other desserts and rarely break it out.  So the other day when our first hot days  coincided with my son’s case of strep throat, I knew it was time to make some ice cream.

The process of making homemade ice cream is simple.  Cream, milk, sugar and eggs cook into a custard.  The custard cools and then is poured into the ice cream maker to freeze.  The difficult part is making an ice cream that does not have an icy taste.  For a long time my go-to recipe was from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It is a great recipe and as usual his descriptions of the process and what can go wrong are extremely helpful.  After reading a glowing review on food52 though, I decided to try a new recipe this time.  I was not disappointed.

This Vanilla Ice Cream is rich and smooth with beautiful bits of vanilla seeds flecked throughout.  It did not have the iciness that plagues so many homemade ice creams.  Do not be tempted to reduce the fat here.  Yes, this is a rich treat, but really you only need a small scoop.  Enjoy yourself in moderation.  If you really can not find a vanilla bean, you can use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, but it will not be as good.  If you are new to vanilla beans and have questions about how to scrape the seeds, check out Marissa’s great video on Food in Jars.

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