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DIY pantry basics

Having basics on hand saves time and money. Never having to run to the store last minute and not paying prices that are full price can really be appealing. Here are three easy to make pantry basics with lots of variations to customize to your needs and tastes. Enjoy!

Making chicken stock is easy and saves on the budget.
Making chicken stock is easy and saves on the budget.
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Granola is an easy to make pantry basic.
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Basic soup stock is great to have on hand, to use as a base for soup, but to also add to other dishes. Try using stock in place of some or all the water when making rice. The rice will be subtly flavored and it will add nutrition. This also works when cooking pasta for a casserole or side dish or to flavor mashed potatoes. This recipe is for chicken stock, if you want beef stock just substitute beef bones.

Chicken soup stock

chicken carcass

water

2 onions

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

whole peppercorns, about 2 - 3 teaspoons

bay leaf

  • Remove as much fat from the chicken bones as possible. Don't worry about getting it all; there will be another opportunity to skim off the remaining fat before the stock is finished.
  • Place the bones in a large stockpot and add water to cover. Bring the water to a near-boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cooking at a low simmer creates a clear golden stock.
  • While the water is heating, chop the vegetables. They don't need to be bite-sized: quarter the onions or cut them in large chunks. Peel and trim the ends off the carrots. Cut them in thirds or coarsely chop.
  • Add the entire celery stalk, leaves and all cleaned thoroughly. Cut the celery into chunks. Combine the chopped veggies, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a bowl.
  • Check the simmering stock: a layer of fat will have risen to the surface.
  • Use a ladle or skimmer to strain off the fat.
  • After the stock has simmered for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, add the vegetables to the pot. Bring the stock back to a simmer and cook for an additional 45 minutes, skimming occasionally if fat rises to the surface.
  • Strain the stock through a fine colander. Toss the bones and vegetables.
  • The finished stock should be a clear, light color and have little or no fat floating on the surface. If the full amount is needed for soup, pour the extra into ice cube trays or small freezer containers and freeze them. Then you'll have small amounts ready to use when making a sauce, gravy, casseroles, or rice dishes.

Buying granola in stores is pretty pricey, but luckily, you can make your own for breakfast and quick snacks. It can be used as a topping on yogurt or ice cream and makes wonderful cookies. Just use a standard oatmeal cookie recipe and substitute granola for the oats. Its also fun to customize granola to your personal preference and to make as holiday gifts.

Granola

6 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped nuts - almonds, pecans, or a mixture.

1 cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, dates, currants

  • Preheat oven to 300°.
  • Combine ingredients in a large bowl; toss well.
  • Spread mixture evenly onto a cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 300° for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Cool completely. As it is cooling, toss every once in a while so it doesn't stick to cookie sheet.
  • Store in a zip-top plastic bag or plastic container.

Making homemade croutons is easy and saves money. Because you use stale, dried out bread, there is no need to throw the crusts and end pieces away any longer, make croutons! They taste delicious on salads, sprinkled on tomato soup or used as a stuffing ingredient for the Thanksgiving turkey. Note, if you are going to use it for stuffing, substitute sage for the Italian herb seasoning.

Croutons

stale bread, cut into 1 inch squares

olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of a small bowl

Italian herb seasoning

  • Mix the oil and seasoning together in small bowl.
  • Toss the bread cubes into oil/herb mixture
  • Transfer the bread cubes to a cookie sheet
  • Bake about 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to toast each side.
  • Store in an air tight container.