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September 17, 2014

Italian vegetable soup {vegetarian}

Italian vegetable soup, packed with garden goodness and couscous. #vegetarian

With summer nearly at an end, I decided to celebrate the change in season by stirring up a giant pot of Italian vegetable soup, full of the bits and pieces left in my friends' gardens and passed along to me: zucchini, green beans, a couple of potatoes, fennel, kale, a few heads of garlic. This soup welcomes most stragglers, in any amount, so if your garden didn't give you fennel, but did leave you with more than a few zucchini, simply use what you've got. I added canned tomatoes, which are always on my pantry shelf, but if you have fresh tomatoes, or your own home-canned stewed tomatoes, by all means use those instead. If you're gluten-free, omit the couscous. Vegans can skip the parmesan cheese. And busy moms or dads can make a batch of this soup at the beginning of the week, and add leftover chicken or turkey sausage to make quick school night dinners.

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September 14, 2014

Slow cooker Caribbean pepper pot {gluten-free}

Caribbean pepper pot, filled with chicken, shrimp, squash and kale.

A few weeks ago, I awoke in the middle of the night, craving Caribbean pepper pot. Can you imagine what I was dreaming about? Adventures on the high seas? Salsa dancing on the beach? Bright colored head scarves and flowing tunics? Johnny Depp? I wish I could remember. Not to worry, though: I remembered the important part: spicy stew, filled with the goodness of the islands, and I absolutely had to make it. In my dream there was shrimp and rice and callaloo, a typical dark leafy green grown throughout the Caribbean. It's not impossible to find callaloo at specialty supermarkets, but I swapped kale, which was perfect. Most pepper pot recipes call for fiery hot habañero peppers in terrifying quantities. I substituted several milder jalapeños, and there was still plenty of kick. Please do not omit the pepper. If you don't like spicy food, make another dish. After all, this one is called pepper pot for a reason. I made enough for Ted, Christine, Rebecca, Shweta and Robby, who had his portion for breakfast, and when they polished it off, I regretted I hadn't made more. May the recipe bring you amazing food-filled dreams.

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September 13, 2014

Store-bought pie crust: like or dislike?

Store-bought pie crust.

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, even favorite cooking gear. Do you like, dislike, love, crave, despise, wish for, use in your own kitchen? The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell!

Of all the ways the world divides, add this to the list: people who always make pie crust from scratch, and people who wouldn't dream of doing that. I'm firmly in the store-bought pie crust camp, though I did make crust from scratch once or twice, just to try it. I keep a box or two of store-bought crust in the refrigerator, and use it to make the one fruit pie in my repertoire: apple pie, with local Macouns and Granny Smiths. I make darned good quiche, too. Once I attempted a rolled stuffed pizza thing, but it oozed all over the baking sheet. I didn't blame the crust for that.

Store-bought pie crust: like or dislike?

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September 10, 2014

Tex-Mex taco sauce {gluten-free}

Tex-Mex taco sauce fills a tortilla.

When I went off to college and had to cook for myself, I made lots and lots of spaghetti with red sauce. One of the few things I knew how to cook, it would feed a crowd, and leftovers went right into the freezer. Maybe there was something meditative about stirring the sauce pot, or maybe I was avoiding doing my homework, or maybe both. All these (many) years later, I prepare spaghetti sauce basically the same way, and this Tex-Mex taco sauce is a peppy riff on that sauce I used to make in my college dorm. You can spice this up or down, by playing with the canned green chiles and chili pepper proportions, but don't leave out all of the hot pepper ingredients. After all, it wouldn't be Tex-Mex without a little something to make you kick up your heels. Cook the full amount of the recipe, and freeze it in smaller portions for tacos, quesadillas, burritos or Sloppy Joes.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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