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The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making

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“This is my kitchen. Come on in, but be prepared—it might not be quite what you expect. There is flour on the counter, oats that overflowed onto the floor, chocolate-encrusted spoons in the sink. There is Joey, the husband, exhausted by the thirty-five preschoolers who were hanging on him all day, and he is stuffing granola into his mouth to ease his five o’clock starvation. There are two little girls trying to show me cartwheels in that miniscule space between the refrigerator and the counter where I really need to be.”
In her debut cookbook, Alana Chernila inspires you to step inside your kitchen, take a look around, and change the way you relate to food. The Homemade Pantry was born of a tight budget, Alana’s love for sharing recipes with her farmers’ market customers, and a desire to enjoy a happy cooking and eating life with her young family. On a mission to kick their packaged-food habit, she learned that with a little determination, anything she could buy at the store could be made in her kitchen, and her homemade versions were more satisfying, easier to make than she expected, and tastier. 
Here are her very approachable recipes for 101 everyday staples, organized by supermarket aisle—from crackers to cheese, pesto to sauerkraut, and mayonnaise to toaster pastries. The Homemade Pantry is a celebration of food made by hand—warm mozzarella that is stretched, thick lasagna noodles rolled from flour and egg, fresh tomato sauce that bubbles on the stove. Whether you are trying a recipe for butter, potato chips, spice mixes, or ketchup, you will discover the magic and thrill that comes with the homemade pantry.
Alana captures the humor and messiness of everyday family life, too. A true friend to the home cook, she shares her “tense moments” to help you get through your own. With stories offering patient, humble advice, tips for storing the homemade foods, and rich four-color photography throughout, The Homemade Pantry will quickly become the go-to source for how to make delicious staples in your home kitchen.

288 pages, Paperback

First published April 3, 2012

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Alana Chernila

4 books98 followers

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5 stars
6,300 (36%)
4 stars
4,489 (25%)
3 stars
3,417 (19%)
2 stars
1,660 (9%)
1 star
1,474 (8%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 383 reviews
Profile Image for reading is my hustle.
1,469 reviews282 followers
June 28, 2012
This cookbook is the shit! I am pretty sure I have NEVER read a cookbook before. I have perused and flipped through, been inspired by the pics, and appreciated a good index. But read? Nope.

This cookbook, though? Read it cover to cover.
I plan to make most of the recipes.
True story.
Profile Image for MissBecka Gee.
1,439 reviews587 followers
February 29, 2020
This was just okay for me.
I found the little stories she included weird and ended up skipping past most of them.
I don't know you.
The recipes themselves were, for the most part, fairly tasty and some of them (I'm looking at you pop tarts NOMNOMNOM) are happily now a part of our routine.
The reason for the low rating has less to do with her book and more to do with me.
I like to cook and bake and have lots of tried and true family recipes that the author could never compete with---they are my childhood.
Also since I have been making the family ones longer they take waaay less time!
It's all about taste and efficiency in our house ;)
This could be good for people just starting to dip their toes into cooking/baking from scratch.
Profile Image for Terri.
54 reviews
October 11, 2012
A friend house-sat for us a few years ago. when we returned, she commented that we didn't have anything to eat. we told her, "we have ingredients."

As someone who's been cooking from scratch all my life, I didn't learn a whole lot new from this book. However, if you've been eating fast food and frozen dinners, this book is for you.

I laughed that she left out so many obvious things, too. Like, bottle your own water, cut up your own salad greens, etc.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,861 reviews191 followers
January 23, 2022
Alana Chernila sounds like a woman I’d love to befriend. She’s open, hard-working, with amazing progressive values. She’s a selectman in Western Massachusetts and a wonderful mom to her two girls; she teaches cheesemaking and helps oversee the local farmers’ market. She makes her granola, catsup, salsa, candy, bread, pesto, soups, vanilla extract and cakes from scratch, naturally, but she doesn’t stop there. Chernila makes her own ricotta, crème fraiche, Pop-Tarts, veggie burgers, lavender chamomile tea, pasta dough, tortillas, crackers, marshmallows, Oreos and Twinkies. Yes, I just typed Twinkies and Oreos. She’s more amazing than Martha Stewart and Julia Child combined; I’m usually sarcastic, but I’m being dead serious. I have no end of admiration for her, especially with a job, two young daughters, a husband and an important elected position.

I cannot give a rating to this book, but you know if this is a five-star book for you. But even if you’re a slovenly klutz like me, this is definitely a three-star book. I’m never going to make my own cream cheese, buttermilk, catsup, pasta, vanilla, yogurt, tortillas, crackers or Oreos (which I don’t even like!), but Chernila has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and stretch my cooking and save money and the earth. I wish I knew her in real life, and I wish every cook at the intermediate level or above would give this book a look.
Profile Image for Darla.
79 reviews2 followers
September 17, 2012
Love, love, love the quirky little stories, her down to earth manner, and all the recipes look delicious... I'm already gearing up to make some fantastic treats!

This may be the only cook book I have ever (and will ever) read cover to cover - great ideas, layed out well, and fun - a great book for the chef in your life.
184 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2012
yes, i'm adding another cookbook to my 2012 reads shelf...but it counts, trust me! this is no small book, and i read it cover to cover (ok, i scanned most of the recipes, but there's an essay accompanying almost every one, and some substantial chunks of text in between). i can't comment yet on the recipes; there's vanilla pudding chilling in my fridge right now, but it's only the second one i've had a chance to test drive. it's a beautiful book, though, with personal stories that place it somewhere to the left of "a homemade life" on the cookbook--memoir continuum. this is the second book i've bought in as many weeks that tells you how to make at home things you'd normally buy at the store: everything from bread and butter to ketchup and oreos. i have no desire to make our oreos (or out ketchup, for that matter--it's got about 37 ingredients), but i'm always interested in good recipes for more prosaic staples of our pantry, and this one's got a few i haven't seen in other cookbooks: instant oatmeal, pancake mix, and a "car snack" that the author calls a granola bar but that struck me, when i made it for a friend who just had her third baby, as more of a homemade energy bar. this is not a cookbook for people who are looking to cut back on their sweets--although she does try to replace refined sugar with natural sweeteners wherever possible--but it is a good resource for people who just want to be more independent with their kitchens, less reliant on processed foods and grocery store products with lots of additives. if you want a basic resource that will help you make most of the things you rely on in your daily life (including desserts!), this would be a good place to start.
75 reviews2 followers
July 17, 2012
The author freely admits in the beginning that she doesn't always have time to make everything herself. Some weeks she does, but other weeks she just can't because there are too many things going on. And it's important to remember that you're not a failure or a sellout just because you can't meet your own super-high standards all the time.

Most recipes don't seen overly complicated with uncommon ingredients. There is use of a stand-mixer in multiple recipes, which I don't have but may be able to find my way around that obstacle.

She also presents information on how to freeze recipes. This was probably presented more as a time-saver, but it also helps me as a happily-single adult who cooks for one. I love that I can freeze some foods in appropriately sized portions to eat at a later date.

Every recipe is prefaced by a page-long essay retelling some story or sharing some memory. The book could have been much thinner and more focused if these little vignettes had been left out. In a scrapbook with recipes - great. In a published cookbook - not so much. Unnecessary, really.

As a person who only cooks for herself, it seems I wasn't the intended audience of this book. The serving sizes are much bigger than what I would need in most cases, especially for something that can't be frozen. I don't need four portions of hot chocolate...I just need one. It'd take me a long time to eat my way through 3.5 lbs of granola. And sometimes dividing by 4 (or whatever number) leads to some weird quantities. (As I mentioned in the previous part of this review, I'm glad there's info on freezing some of the recipes.)
Profile Image for Kat.
117 reviews28 followers
February 19, 2013
So, I have to say...this was a major disappointment. I was SUPER-excited about this book but it just didn't live up to my expectations. Usually, when I read a cookbook, the darn thing is just filled with paper scraps to mark all of the recipes I want to copy/use. This time...three. I marked three measly recipes (two of which are syrups for soda and the third was the adorable toaster pastries from the cover). That's pretty pathetic.

My main complaint is that The Homemade Pantry is too basic and, welp, boring. Making food from scratch isn't really a novel idea. If the book is going to center around this premise then show some creativity with the recipes. For example, there was a condiments section that I was really excited about. I thought "Oooh! Maybe there'll be some unique vinaigrettes or other different sauces and dressings." The reality was homemade: ketchup, mustard, salsa (oh please!), hot sauce, Italian dressing, ranch dressing, and other basics. Yawn!

I already know how to make lasagna, and soups from scratch - so those portions were completely skipped over. Then there were some things that the time/results ratio was just way too low (but I'm sure there are some folks out there who would disagree with me). Sorry, but putting in the time to make ricotta cheese from scratch...not gonna happen.

Overall, this just wasn't for me. If you want to learn the fundamentals of making food from scratch...and are willing to put the time in to make basics by hand, then maybe this is your book. However, I really don't think that this book will appeal to a large population of folks. Too bad...because I thought The Homemade Pantry had real potential.
Profile Image for Kasey Jueds.
Author 5 books60 followers
June 11, 2012
I'm not sure I've ever read a cookbook cover-to-cover, the way I did with this one (very happily, on the train to CT to visit my in-laws). I did skim some of the recipes, but otherwise read every word--each recipe has a warm-hearted, thoughtful, often funny mini-essay that accompanies it, so really this is part cookbook, part memoir, part treatise on eating sustainably and mindfully (and with pleasure). So it's several of my favorite genres and topics rolled into one. Occasionally the writing gets a little too sweet/precious for me (the only reason I shied away from five stars), but it's only occasional, and for the most part I love Chernila's writing voice, which is honest and accessible and heartfelt. I also love the idea of making homemade versions of so many store-bought things... AND the fact that Chernila is so remarkably nonjudgmental about this process. She shares what works for her and encourages people to do what works for them--so if you don't want to make homemade pasta or twinkies (I don't--I'm one of the few people I know who hated them even as a kid), you don't have to. There are tons of things I do want to make, though. There's a great-looking recipe for jam using Pomona's pectin and any kind of berry, plus homemade ricotta and yogurt and granola and power bars and Oreos. Yum.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books264 followers
July 20, 2012
Yet more birthday book-a-liciousness. This one's from Rose who knows a cookbook is always a safe bet for me. Over the years I have come across many foods we usually buy from the store but that we can also make at home. Beginning with my parents who routinely made butter, tomato paste, pasta, and other delicious comestibles in the 1960s and 70s. (We won't even get into raising their own chickens and pigs ... but I can tell you there is nothing like a duck egg for breakfast. It beats a chicken egg all to flinders for excellent flavor.)

I have picked and chosen where I am willing to buy storebought and where it is worth the effort to produce it myself. Pesto, bread, mayonnaise - yes. Pasta - no. However, for the generation coming up simply cooking is a monumental feat much of the time as they have never been taught anything about it. I think of the brief and probably bewildering conversation I had with a pal as we picked up our CSA coolers from the farmer today. She was not sure why she couldn't saute a green bean without burning it. Poor, poor thing. She's coming over to my house soon for coffee so I can show her my kitchen equipment.

However, I digress. All of that is to say that the author's breathless excitement at producing ricotta and yogurt are praiseworthy and valid ... and probably very reassuring to those who have never considered making such things at home. For me, I like her enthusiasm and am interested to see the technique tweaks in a few places so far. (You can always learn something, even when you think you know everything and I am far from knowing everything.)

And it is good for me to be prodded out of my usual routine so that I actually do try some of the things I've read about so much. For instance, that ricotta ... it's going to happen soon, I think. Mozzarella I've always found tasteless, even the fresh stuff that I can get locally from Paula Lambert's Mozzarella Company. Provolone, now ... which I substitute for mozzarella ... that I might try making.

There were some wonky looking things (cake icing with only one cup of powdered sugar ... isn't that going to taste like fat? 2 tablespoons of cinnamon to 5 tablespoons of sugar ... won't the inside of my mouth burn into flames?), but perhaps they work and may be recipes I will test. This does have a number of good looking recipes to try (hamburger buns because I keep trying and every homemade recipe is too heavy, baking dried beans instead of boiling them because I've never liked the dried beans I've cooked myself) and the author's enthusiasm is sure to make people try something new in the kitchen. I'm all for that!
Profile Image for Laura.
2,027 reviews
August 10, 2012
This is a beautiful DIY book. What really separates it from other, similar books is the photos of the author and her family. She's also incorporated a small essay about each recipe - where it came from, why she loves it. It's a very personal book, and you feel like she is sharing a part of her life with you.

This is a great general DIY intro - the recipes are pretty general, and include lots of things you'd use every day. Some things, like pasta, aren't that original. However, I can't wait to make my own ricotta - she makes it sound soooo easy.

The downside of this book is that many of the recipes are influenced by other chefs (David Lebovitz, Mollie Katzen), and if you've read those books or used their recipes, their versions may be better. Also, I've already got several recipes for pudding. . . I really don't need to buy this book for things like that (or pizza, or sandwich cookies, or even ketchup).

So, the book didn't get 5 stars because a lot of the material is covered more specifically elsewhere (and possibly more thoroughly elsewhere). However, if you've been wondering how to make your own pop tarts and haven't already learned how, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Nicole.
118 reviews27 followers
December 14, 2012
I love, love, love this book. Oh, sure, I wanted it, I asked for it as a gift... I thought I would like it well enough but I didn't expect to love it like I do. The author's voice, the glimpses into her life and the creation of each recipe struck just the right chord and went straight to my heart.
Profile Image for Sarah.
6 reviews
June 12, 2018
This was a little too ambitious for me at this point. Though, I might still try the little pastries with pie crust and yummy filling and it did inspire me to experiment with making vanilla extract.
Profile Image for Jackie.
21 reviews2 followers
July 14, 2014
This is about so much more than just stocking the pantry with wholesome, non-industrial foods. It's a love story and a very charming one at that. Warm, friendly and delicious... totally enjoyed it and read it like a novel : )

If you are looking for an approachable way to eat better & healthier and save money, this book gives you the foundation for simple basics that will change your entire system of provisioning.

I can't wait to try the twinkies!
Profile Image for Sarah.
430 reviews11 followers
May 13, 2013
I didn't get as much out of this as I had hoped. There were some recipes that left me thinking it would be cheaper and less time-consuming to just buy the item instead of all of the ingredients. There were a couple I marked to copy later, but nothing grabbed me and made me shout, "Yes! I want to make this NOW!" Also, what's with all the wheat? Has it really become that much of an American staple that we can't cook without it?
Profile Image for Pablo Vazquez Camargo.
188 reviews5 followers
March 12, 2019
Yum 😋 Most Children’s and mom dad cooking the food and her was good she was gone and her cook 👨‍🍳
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
3,094 reviews29 followers
April 27, 2012
I much prefer homemade to store bought. This book is so well written, it's as if she is talking to you. I'm now following her blog. She teaches you how to make butter for goodness sake!!!! This cookbook is fantastic.
Profile Image for Beth.
368 reviews
October 13, 2020
Even if you only try a few of these recipes, it will make a change in your kitchen and your meals. I am personally not going to make my own marshmallows or curry powder, but I’ve been wanting to make my own ketchup and mayo for a while.

By making some of these basics yourself, you know exactly what is in them and you can control the amount of sugar, salt and fat in them. Plus, I’m likely to add some heat to my ketchup and some citrus to my mayo. Why buy pancake mix with who knows what in there when it’s essentially just flour, salt, baking powder and a little sugar?

A few of my favorites were buttermilk, graham crackers, hummus, fig bars and homemade brown sugar!
Profile Image for Shelley Kubitz Mahannah.
47 reviews6 followers
March 26, 2017
I think the recipes are accessible to any level of cook. But what really makes this book a keeper are the essays that precede each of Ms. Chernila's recipe.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,470 reviews99 followers
May 11, 2018
Appealingly written and with beautiful photography. I look forward to trying the roasted tomato recipe this summer.
Profile Image for Kelli.
115 reviews13 followers
August 26, 2018
Loved this! Will probably buy it to have it at home. The recipes I’ve tried so far have worked great. These are simple recipes for practical pantry supplies to make at home. Awesome
4 reviews
August 4, 2020
If I want pop tarts I’m gonna buy pop tarts. The rest of this stuff my mother taught me, or you can get the Less is More cookbook by Longacre.
Profile Image for Deborah.
55 reviews8 followers
March 3, 2023
I didn't actually make any of this food, but I read the whole book through! I loved the little essays and am definitely inspired to try some of these essentials. Need to purchase a hardcopy.
49 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2014
More than one person suggested this book to me, and I was curious but uncertain. The idea of homemade Oreos or Twinkies or Poptarts didn't really appeal to me; that's not why I cook/bake. There are recipes for all these things , but making favorite super processed food isn't really the focus. In fact, once I read the toaster pastries recipe, I didn't think Poptart, I thought of using up that extra raspberry jam I made and of making turnovers when I don't have puff pastry on hand.

Alana Chernila begins by inviting you into her kitchen at dinner time. She's making lasagna—and making each ingredient that goes into it: pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, sauce—while her husband devours homemade granola and kids do cartwheels in the tight space. I almost closed the book at the introduction, because it felt like pressure. I make lasagna, but I used packaged noodles and ricotta and mozzarella and sauce from the freezer. Even making it that way, sometimes it's tough to get it all together and cooked in time. Since I've had kids, I've frequently threatened to stock the freezer with frozen pizza. I don't, because I agree with Chernila on a lot of the reasons she has for making foods.

Chernilla says both that they don't cook this way every night and indicates where you can use a home made or store bought ingredient (buttermilk or vanilla extract or mayonnaise for example) to make something else. I was still feeling a little defensive, but decided to read on.

Chernilla leads with dairy which is the most daunting to me, perhaps because I haven't done it yet, which isn't to say I don't want to. I've been meaning to try cheese for a while now, ever since that Winter Fare when I went to a workshop on cheesemaking. Yogurt too (doesn't help that I really like Side Hill Farm's yogurt).

As I read through the book, I realized there are a lot of things I make already. I am a person who makes soup and bread and cans applesauce, jam, pickles, and salsa. I am a person who roasts tomatoes for the freezer and makes pancakes and waffles and cornbread from scratch.

I am a person who has made jerky and granola and buttered popcorn (my kids are reading some right now). I have made nutbutter and my own spice mix.

The friends who suggested this book to me were right. It's right up my alley. It's just a matter of deciding which things are worth the extra time and effort and where I want to stretch myself next. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, so my rating is based solely on reading the stories that go with the foods and my interest in the recipes included. The recipes themselves appear easy to read, but I never can tell until I'm standing in the kitchen mixing something up.
Profile Image for Lea.
173 reviews
October 29, 2012
This cookbook fits right into the DIY movement by providing (as the title suggests) recipes for foods that you could be making yourself instead of purchasing pre-prepared.

I already cook from scratch a fair amount and have a sizeable cookbook collection with recipes. So I already have recipes aplenty for many of the foods featured in The Homemade Pantry. I still appreciated this book, because its emphasis on the "pantry" was a useful reminder for how I could be putting my time in the kitchen to more efficient use by making larger batches to save some for later. I also like that the recipes have specific suggestions for solid technique.

For example, I already have a good granola recipe that I use regularly. But with this book, it has been improved. Chernila's recipe not only identifies granola as freezing well -- something I had never previously thought of although it makes sense - and makes a larger batch than my old standby, it also calls for parchment paper on the baking pans and leaving the pans to cool in the oven. These refinements provide for quicker clean up plus a better texture and more toasted flavor for significant improvement on a granola recipe that I had been happily using for quite some time.

It arranged "by aisle", with a couple of recipes for each. As in, a couple of savory condiments. A couple of jams. These are foods I had previously made myself. But what about crackers? Those I wasn't making regularly, but having seen how easy they are to put together, tasting the fantastic results, and realizing that like granola the crackers freeze well, they are now definitely foods I can see in the regular rotation in my oven. Similarly, this book's dairy aisle is inspiring a foray beyond basic butter and yogurst (which I have made before) to soft cheeses. And with such solid recipes, I know the results will be delicious.

Profile Image for Sarah.
317 reviews21 followers
July 28, 2012
So I’ve been reading a lot about homeschooling recently, as it’s something that my husband and I are considering for our family. On one of the blogs I follow fairly regularly, this book by Alana Chernila was listed. This book has the potential to be an amazing resource for many years to come, and not just because it’s a cookbook. All cookbooks fall into the category of being useful beyond the initial purchase. That’s actually one of the things I love about cookbooks. But this cookbook teaches readers to think about the types of foods they enjoy eating that are commercially made. Chernila brings up the excellent point that all this stuff is able to be duplicated, but done in a way that minimizes harmful additives and preservatives that seem to be out of control on our grocery shelves.

Recipes for favorites like toaster pastries, chocolate sandwich cookies, and cheese crackers are just a few of my favorites. This book also has the potential to save you a lot of money and reduce unnecessary waste. Suggestions like making your own brown sugar are simple changes that anyone who enjoys cooking will be able to do. This suggestion, in particular, is a great one because molasses has a lot of calcium in it, which I’m not sure the store-bought equivalent has.

A highly recommended resource for anyone interested in producing good food or experimenting with more traditional options. Very realistic ingredients, great suggestions on storage and “shelf” life, and not overly complex recipes. As an aside, I love that this book is a large paperback. It’s much easier to browse and use on the counter, plus it’s held up to my young daughter roughing up the pages.
Profile Image for Melinda.
746 reviews53 followers
July 1, 2012
I really enjoyed this cookbook. Written to encourage all cooks to make from scratch the foods that you normally pick up already made. I have made my own biscuits for years and have told any and all that it is easier and tastier to make my own rather than use canned biscuits. This cookbook follows up on that and gives recipes for basic packaged staples many families buy.

Make a real cake instead of a boxed one. Make real icing instead of canned icing. Make our own ketchup. Your own mix for pancakes and waffles. (why use bisquik!?) Even make your own pop-tarts! The picture on the front is of a variety of homemade pop-tarts, and they look yummy! I confess I have never liked pop-tarts, except the crust. The edges. I used to buy pop-tarts in my single pre-cooking days. I never really liked them, but I would eat the crust around the edges because that was the part I liked best. Well here is a great recipe using pie dough. Yea!

The section on pasta has encouraged me to get my pasta making stuff out and have another try at making my own noodles.

Lovely pictures, sweet stories about the author and her family, and encouraging recipes! What's not to like?!


Best lines in the book are from the section at the very end on whipped cream. "Life is too short to eat food that doesn't taste good. And if nothing else, let's eat REAL whipped cream." I agree!!!
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