Monday, December 17, 2012


Earlier this year I bought a book aptly called Make-A-Mix.  I figured that rather than continue to order or locally purchase packaged mixes (spaghetti, chili, taco, pancake, etc.) which I've been doing all along, it's time to manage it on my own. The Make-A-Mix pancake mix is sitting on a pantry shelf now, though I keep forgetting to put the cooking directions on it (add one egg and 1 1/2 cups milk to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat mix).

There are 3 kinds of mixes.  The Dry and Semi-Dry are combinations for the pantry shelf. With lemon pie filling, herbed stuffing, granola, pancake, brownie, graham cracker crust, these are the basics I look for. The Freezer and Refrigerator section continues its usefulness. From meat mixes and freezer pie crust to chocolate syrup, cheese sauce, chicken gravy and cookies (though we all have our favorite cookie recipes already, don't we?), all these need to be kept cool or frozen. The Special mixes move back to the pantry, into spaghetti and chili seasoning, as well as hot chocolate and something called "Russian refresher."

But let's back up.  I can hear all those chef types yelling "You bought pancake mix?  Lame!"  I get it, I really do.  It's not like I only use packaged products but when cooking for six I freely admit I cut corners.  I'm also no chef so anything that's put together with "add milk" on its label is a wonderful gift.  The kids get a basic start with cooking too. Of course it's not as good as emptying all the cupboards on the counter and creating a masterpiece of from-scratch marvels, but refer to the earlier part of this paragraph: I don't cook.  I certainly don't experiment.  And I really really like the limited mess of a prepackaged or preprepared foodstuffs.

On that note though, it's time.  Before I know it there will only be two of us living at home, and keeping a cupboard of easy to prepare packaged foods is no longer going to cut it.  My husband will frown.

When we left Virginia I got rid of a number of cookbooks, about half I'd guess.  Of the ones I kept, one of my favorites is one I stole from my mom, or maybe she gave it to me, I can't recall, the Pillsbury Kitchens' Family Cookbook from 1979.  There's a microwave cooking section, from the age when microwaves were a wonder not a staple.  There are plentiful gelatin recipes. There are also wonderful and unfussy cookies and a delicious beef stew. Others on my shelf are a Cooking Light book, a Weight Watcher's book, Bittman's How to Cook Everything, several others, as well as my standard go-to, a binder filled with website recipe printouts.

My favorite recent find was a website of 2-ingredient snacks and treats.

See my second paragraph.

One of the 2-ingredient recipes combines self-rising flour and natural yogurt to make pizza crust. Pizza crust that involves no yeast and no rising. Yeast baffles me, though I know it shouldn't, but even as I seek out recipes for delicious breads the yeast makes me simply sigh.

I haven't looked far and wide for self-rising flour in Amman but I know it's not at my usual store.  But even if it was widely available, I thought "This should be easy enough to make and keep in my pantry."

So I pulled out Make-A-Mix.

And there's no recipe for self-rising flour.

A quick All Recipes search popped one up instantly so I'm not at a loss (and yay! no yeast!) but I have to say that the book disappointed me.

It shouldn't have.  Right in the description on Amazon it states that there are "67 make-ahead shortcut mixes for everything from all-purpose cake mix to meatball mix. These can be made on a weekend-or whenever there’s free time-and used to speed food preparation on busy days. The mixes are a key ingredient in one or more of the 306 recipes that follow."  There are 306 recipes, recipes I don't really need or want, while missing mixes I could use. 

In fact, to make the book more applicable to someone like me, I'd cut out the recipes entirely, fill in the mixes gap, and add a section on substitutions.  International substitutions, like what passes for yogurt or sour cream in other parts of the world. What are all those different kinds of sugars? When the only item on the shelf is labeled "farina" will that do? Spices, flours, pastas... they all play different roles and are listed under different names and are of different qualities.

The purpose of the book for me is to use the recipes I already know and love in my other cookbooks, when I can't buy Italian dressing, a cake mix, or taco sauce, or when I can't find a particular spice or seasoning.  I want it to supplement the books I use, not a collection of barely used meal ideas.

But that's me.  

Others may find the book a jumping off point for a new home and fresh start in the pantry. 
If you don't already have a favorite kitchen resource, Make-A-Mix is worth checking out.  But if you're one who already likes to experiment or has a knack for knowing which spices go together or even knows how to pull together a basic bread, this book probably isn't for you.

1 comment:

  1. This is great, thank you for sharing!!! Im at a consumables post so this information will come in handy!