Organize pantry, freezer for creating comforting dishes


By Ann Cipperly

With all of us being home a lot more these days, it is a good time to serve comforting dishes to our family. Make mealtime special for your family by gathering at the table to dine and tell stories of good memories. Since children are home from school, let them help prepare meals. It is a good time to teach them to cook. Start with cookies and desserts.

This is also a good time to organize and stock your pantry and freezer for cooking at home. I have had a couple of requests to give ideas for items to have on hand.

Let’s start with items for breakfast for the pantry. Along with assorted cereals and oatmeal, keep breakfast and protein bars. To have on hand when the milk in the refrigerator is gone, you will need cartons of coconut milk, almond milk and non-refrigerated packages of milk (available in cereal aisle with coconut and almond milk). I also like to have cans of evaporated milk in regular, 2 percent and fat free. These can be used in cereals and coffee, as well as for creating a creamy sauce.

Pancake and waffle mixes are good. Get the ones that only need water in case you are out of eggs and milk. Be sure to have syrup and honey. Oatmeal and grits are good to have on hand. I also use the grits instead of mashed potatoes at dinner.

In the freezer, you can store a good supply of bacon, sausage (Capps is best), biscuits, yeast rolls, waffles, pancakes and loaves of bread. You can also freeze milk.

Stock the pantry with items for quick lunches, including peanut butter, almond butter, jellies and preserves, canned chicken, canned salmon and tuna. Have plenty of chicken noodle soup for children and cream of chicken, which can also be used in creating entrees.

Other items to have on hand include soft or corn tortillas, salsas, canned green chilies, black olives, taco mix, ranch dressing mix, chili mix, an assortment of beans, including black beans, baked beans, refried beans, northern beans for making soups and chickpeas for making hummus. Stock up on dried beans too.

Also have pizza crusts, pizza sauce and Parmesan cheese. While mozzarella, pepper jack, cheddar cheese and ricotta will keep a long time in the refrigerator, stock Velveeta cheese in the pantry if needed for making mac and cheese or for casseroles.

I always have a large selection of pastas in the pantry along with assorted jars of pasta sauces, including marinara and Alfredo. Keep one pound packages of ground beef or turkey in the freezer for making sauces with meat. Store boxes of breadsticks in the pantry for times you don’t have bread to serve with pasta.

Other items to have on hand for creating meals include jars of pesto and roasted red peppers, chicken and beef broth, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, breadcrumbs, mustards, soy sauce, vinegars, oils, olive oil, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, jars of minced garlic and minced onions for when the fresh ones are gone.

Don’t forget mayonnaise, ketchup, yellow mustard, pickles and barbecue sauce.

While fresh and frozen vegetables are the best, store canned ones in the pantry when needed. I generally have green beans, corn, tiny green peas, asparagus, beets, among others. You can get canned potatoes to have when you don’t have any fresh ones.

To use instead of potatoes, stock rice, egg noodles and grits. I make creamy grits by using half chicken stock and milk instead of water.

If you can’t get to the store for fresh fruit, stock the pantry with fruit juices, canned fruits, applesauce, cranberry sauce and assorted dried fruits. I keep a can of peaches for making a cobbler. Bags of dried fruit and trail mixes are good to have on hand.

For baking, stock the pantry with flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, shortening, brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, yeast, cocoa, chocolate chips, cans of pumpkin, vanilla, cooking spray, cake mixes, cornmeal mixes and assorted nuts to also have for snacking.

Other snacking items to have on hand include popcorn, pita chips and other chips your family enjoys, crackers and cookies. Graham crackers are good for snacking, and you can crush them for making a pie crust. You might want to include instant puddings and gelatins.

Don’t forget bottled water, coffee, teas and cocoa mixes along with other beverages.

In the freezer, have chicken breasts, ground beef and turkey, along with other meats and vegetables your family likes. You can select a wide range of frozen items, including frozen chopped onions. I always have bags of frozen vegetables for soup.

This is a basic list of things I keep on hand. Make your own list using items for making your family’s favorite dishes. Everyone has their own idea of comfort foods.

As we are home and praying for each other, let’s remember the mom and pop restaurants and shops in our area. Maybe you can order a meal to pick up or order gift cards from restaurants and shops as well.

We are thankful to live in my hometown and a great neighborhood at Bent Creek with Heritage Drive, Flintwood Lane and circles. Several people recently emailed everyone in the neighborhood to let them know that they will be glad to pick up items at the grocery store or help in anyway.

Think about those who live near you or attend your church. See if any elderly or others need help getting groceries or supplies. We have heard the saying so often that when life gives us lemons to make lemonade. With the changes we are undergoing with this virus, it is a chance for all of us to make “lemonade” by showing God’s love to others.

Cipperly can be contacted at


Double Chocolate Rocky Road Brownies
2 cups sugar
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped nuts, optional
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Line 13x9x2-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly. Stir sugar, flour, cocoa, soda and salt; set aside.
Mix melted butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add to flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in chopped nuts.
Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted one inch from center comes out barely moist. Do not over bake.
Remove from oven. Spread marshmallow crème evenly over brownies and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Return to oven for 2 minutes.
Remove and pull knife through topping to marble marshmallow and chocolate. When completely cool, remove from pan, peel off oil and cut into squares. Makes about 2 dozen.

Chocolate Cobbler
Payton Tatum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt in 8×8 dish:
6 Tbsp. butter
Mix together until smooth:
1 cup self-rising flour
¾ cup sugar
1½ Tbsp. cocoa
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup chocolate chips
Spoon batter in dish over melted butter.
Mix together:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
Sprinkle over batter.
Pour slowly over top of sugar mixture:
1½ cup boiling water
Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Makes 8 servings.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake with Pineapple Sauce
Ruby Worthington
1 stick butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 large can sliced pineapple
1 jar maraschino cherries
1 box Duncan Hines Yellow Butter Cake Mix
Melt one stick of butter In a 13 by 9-inch baking dish or pan, spreading over pan into corners. Sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of pan.
Drain sliced pineapple, reserving the juice. Place eight whole pineapple slices in pan. Cut two slices in half. Place down sides to meet whole slices. Place one maraschino cherry in center of each slice.
For the cake:
Follow directions on box for mixing cake. Pour cake batter over pineapple slices and bake in a 350 degree oven until cake is brown. Let cool ten minutes; loosen around sides and turn out on a large platter.
Pineapple Sauce
After cake is cooled: Melt ½ stick butter; add 1 tsp. flour and stir well. Do not brown. Add 1/3 cup sugar and blend well, add reserved pineapple juice and cook on low heat until sauce is slightly thick. Serve over each cake square.

Quick and Easy Chicken PieServe with cranberry sauce
1 boiled chicken, boiled chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken Salt and pepper to taste1 can cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup buttermilk or milk
1 pkg. frozen peas and carrots, optional
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sautéed, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove meat from chicken and slice; season with salt and pepper. Place chicken in the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Add peas and carrots or mushrooms, if desired.
In a small bowl, whisk together the soup and chicken stock; pour over chicken.
In another bowl, mix together melted butter, flour and buttermilk or milk; pour over casserole. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 8 servings. Cranberry sauce is good served on the side.

Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Mozzarella
1 lb. ziti pasta, cooked
2 jars pasta sauce of choice
8 oz. grated mozzarella, divided

  1. oz. container ricotta
    Parmesan cheese
    In a pan, mix cooked ziti with pasta sauce. Pour half of pasta into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Spread ricotta evenly over pasta and top with half of mozzarella.
    Pour remaining pasta in dish and evenly spread over cheese. Top with remaining grated mozzarella.
    Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Oatmeal Brickle Cookies
Payton Tatum
1 cup shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1½ tsp. vanilla
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
4 cups quick oats
1⅓ cups (8 oz.) Bit ‘O Brickle or English Toffee Bits
*May add 1 cup of chocolate chips for a yummy variation
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, blend shortening with sugars, adding sugar gradually. Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, salt and baking soda; beat well. Stir in oats and brickle.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Place cookies on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Makes about 42 cookies.

Quick and Easy Chili
1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
1 can Rotel tomatoes
One or two 15 oz. cans pinto beans or kidney beans
Large can Van Camp’s pork and beans
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Cooked rice, optional
Optional Toppings: sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, corn chips, chopped onions, sliced avocado
Brown meat in large saucepan; drain fat. Add Rotel, beans and Worcestershire sauce; simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Good served over rice with assorted toppings.
Note: If you don’t have ground beef or turkey, it is still good as a meatless dish.

Quick and Easy Peach Cobbler
Keep a large can of peaches on hand for making this. Let children help make it.
1 stick butter
1 cup self- rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 large can sliced peaches in heavy syrup
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 11 x 9 x 2-inch pan melt butter. In a medium sized bowl, add milk, sugar and flour; mix thoroughly. Add to melted butter and stir. Pour canned peaches including juice over this mixture but do not stir.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Good served plain, with ice cream or whipped cream.

White Bean Chili
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small cans diced green chilies
3 cans white northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp. cumin or to taste, optional
2 to 3 cups chopped cooked chicken, optional
Salt to taste
Optional toppings: sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, sliced avocadoes, tortilla chips
Sauté onion in olive oil; add garlic. Add beans, green chilies, cumin, broth and chicken. Cook on low for about 40 minutes.
Mash some of the beans for a thick mixture. Serve with toppings. Recipe is easy to double.
Note: It makes a good meatless dish without the chicken.

Chicken Tetrazzini with Cheddar
Kellie Blackmon
3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and cut-up
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. pkg. spaghetti noodles, cooked
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour, and then add broth and evaporated milk. Cook to boiling, then season with salt and pepper.
In greased 9 x 13 dish, place alternate layers of spaghetti noodles, chicken and sauce.
Sprinkle cheese on top; bake at 400 degrees until cheese is melted.

Three Cheese Pasta Bake
Kellie Blackmon
16 oz. pkg. ziti
2 (10 oz.) containers refrigerated Alfredo sauce or two jars Alfredo sauce
8 oz. container sour cream
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1½ cups mozzarella cheese
Prepare ziti according to package directions; drain and return to pot.
Stir together Alfredo sauce and sour cream; toss with ziti until evenly coated. Spoon half of mixture into a lightly greased 13 x 9 baking dish.
Stir together ricotta cheese and next 3 ingredients; spread evenly over pasta mixture in baking dish. Spoon remaining pasta mixture evenly over ricotta cheese layer; sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. elbow macaroni
5½ cups milk
1 stick butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
4-5 cups or more grated sharp cheddar cheese
Cook macaroni according to directions on package being sure to salt water; set aside.
Heat milk until hot. Melt butter in Dutch oven pan over medium-high heat, whisking until well blended and simmering a minute.
Slowly pour in hot milk; continuing whisking until milk begins to boil. Remove from heat.
Stir in 3 cups cheese; blend until cheese melts. Add 2 tsp. salt and nutmeg.
Add cooked macaroni.
Grease large baking pan or two medium-sized. Pour macaroni halfway up sides in both pans. Sprinkle half of remaining grated cheese over mixture. Pour in remaining macaroni, sprinkle top with grated cheese.
Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. Freezes well unbaked.

Gold Braid Bread with Honey Butter
Gail Swarthout
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
2 pkg. yeast
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups very hot tap water
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 stick butter or margarine
2 eggs (room temperature)
Measure 2 cups flour into large mixer mixing bowl. Stir in yeast, sugar and salt. Stir well to blend. Add soft butter.
Add tap water to ingredients in bowl all at once and beat with electric mixer about 2 minutes at medium speed. Make sure yeast is dissolved.
Add eggs and 1 cup more flour. Beat at high speed about 1 minute or until the dough is thick and elastic.
At this point take regular beaters out and begin to use wooden spoon. If you have dough hooks on your mixer, turn speed down and continue with them.
Add remaining flour, gradually beating well. Use just enough flour to make a soft dough which leaves sides of bowl.
If using dough hooks, knead about 5 minutes with them. If kneading by hand, turn out onto floured bowl and knead about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.
Turn into a greased bowl, greased with cooking oil. Turn dough over to coat all sides. Cover with a towel and let rise until about double in bulk.
Punch dough down. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. For each, roll into a 6x 18 inch rectangle on a floured board. Cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips.
Pinch lengthwise edges of each strip together to make an 18-inch rope. Braid the 3 ropes together. Begin in center and braid to each end. Place in a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Braid ends together to form a circle. Grease slightly to keep dough from drying out. Let rise until double in bulk.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Bake on lower rack of oven. Remove from pan immediately.
Honey Butter
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup honey
In a small mixer bowl, beat butter and honey until light and fluffy. Serve with Gold Braid Bread or your favorite.


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