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A Look Inside Karen’s Cabinets

jenn-pantry-1-300x2001Trends have come and gone: World War II brought us Spam (spiced ham in a can—at least there was a good reason for it), the space age ushered in the instant food craze (Tang, anyone?), and the 90s gave us carte blanche to overindulge in anything that was labeled fat-free. Thankfully, healthy cooking is back in vogue with an emphasis on fresh unprocessed ingredients.
Cooking has always been my thing. Yes, I owned an Easy Bake Oven; yes, I chose culinary school over traditional college education; and yes, I worked in the industry. It was my calling.

Karen and her buns - circa 1978

Me and my buns—circa 1978.


Anyway, since an inventory of my kitchen cabinets was in order, what better opportunity to show the Eats crowd what a scratch kitchen’s pantry might look like?

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A quick perusal of the shelves shows a wide assortment of heart healthy vinegars and oils for my homemade salad dressings and a plethora of spices to keep things interesting. Yeast for handcrafted bread and a treasure trove of pastas and grains for energy-burning carbohydrates. Oatmeal and whole-grain breakfast cereals to start off the day and a variety of nuts and dehydrated fruit for snacking. Looks good, right?
But before my head starts to swell, another look is in order. The yogurt raisins are artificially flavored; the pancake syrup’s first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, and the hot cocoa mix is sweetened with poisonous aspartame! The Jif is fully hydrogenated (not so bad) but also loaded with sugar (not so good). The baking shelf is stuck in the 20th century with highly processed sugars and flours. The saving grace is the natural cane sugar and the whole-wheat flour I keep in the freezer for freshness (hmmm—isn’t that interesting). And I am sure there are other bits of what I like to call “chemical goodness” lurking in the shadows.

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My report card: not a disaster but not gold-star worthy either. A trip to Trader Joe’s, a few better choices, and a little more label reading is in order, that’s all. Some baking experimentation with agave nectar and Stevia wouldn’t hurt and could be fun. My refrigerator is stocked with only fresh unprocessed ingredients, so why isn’t my pantry?
As Bob Dillon said, “The times they are a-changin’.”Hopefully this trend is here stay.
Is your grocery list made up of the old standbys? Or are you trying some of the new and improved healthy products? —Karen

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