Book Review: The Homemade Pantry

Recently, Cassandra bought the book The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila. We hadn't done a review (product, book, or otherwise) in quite a while and this book seemed like a good fit for we "makers" of things. Plus, it fit with our promised "food" theme for this week. Yea!

So, in our fashion, Cassandra and I wrote our individual reviews without the other seeing it - and they're posted below. And, once again, we may as well be using one brain. LOL!

Alex's Review
4 out of 5 stars

When Cassandra dropped “The Homemade Pantry” on my desk, my first instinct was to touch the book. The cover (front and back) is not only beautifully designed but it also has multiple textures. The top, where the photo is, is a high-gloss, super-smooth coating that makes the picture of the homemade poptarts BURST off the page. The bottom, where the title and words are, is done in a mat coating that has a grainy feel to it. Obviously, I’m a tactile person. I, literally, couldn’t keep my hands off the book.

This is a hefty book – and not just because it’s nearly 300 pages long. Every interior page is printed on very thick paper stock. Again, a beautiful design element and one that guarantees a longer life of being spilled on and lain in goo on the kitchen counter.

Once you get past the beauty of the book itself, the real winner is the content. The easy to navigate “chapters” cover how to make favorites (that you’re probably paying for already) like yogurt, toaster pastries, potato chips, apple sauce salad dressing, pasta, and LOTS more. The recipes are simple and easy to follow and, again, the layout and photos are lovely. Additionally, there are some really helpful sections in the book like a list of must-have kitchen gadgets and little “how-to” tips. It’s these little sidebar items that make the book’s content even more special.

There were a few chapters that are fairly useless to me because I already make the items included in those sections. They seemed very “beginner” but I suppose there are people out there who don’t make their lemonade, or mac & cheese, or lasagna from scratch. I don’t know these people but I’m sure they exist. (unicorns) Regardless, I think the book may be worth it’s price for the peanut butter cup recipe alone. I’m just saying.

My only true complaint was with the “concept” of the book. I ADORE the idea of making “store bought” items from scratch (and potentially making them better) however, every recipe is preceded by the author’s personal story of this particular food and each story is preciously titled in this format: “Yellow Cake -or- The Gift”, “Mustard -or- The Case of the Mysterious Bratwurst”, “Tortilla -or- The Only Problem With New England”. This is WAY too twee for me. And, frankly, I don’t give a rip about the author’s life or her personal relationship with food and family. On the other hand, she’s a blogger and I’m sure that these are the exact reasons she got a book deal to begin with – she has a fan base that loves HER and her passion for food and family. Who am I to judge?

So, just like with TV programming, if I don’t like what’s on, I can choose not to watch it. I’ll skip the pages of personal stories and simply enjoy the gorgeous design and fun recipes offered up in this unique book.

Cassandra's Review
4 out of 5 stars

The initial reason I ordered this book is because it had a simple mayonnaise recipe in it. Seriously. I’ve been wanting to make my own for some time now, and this book seemed like it contained useful information about whipping my eggs into something heavenly.

And then I got the book in my hands. Yowza. I love it. How can you not love a book that has a recipe for home-made pop tarts! Be still my heart.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child is like driving a Jaguar...this book has you tooling around in the family station wagon. And there ain't nothing wrong with the wagon. Basic recipes for everyday items. Ice cream, pickles, crackers, fish sticks, and more are presented so even the most timid chef could give them a whirl. All the directions are written simply and beautifully. And, when she suspects you may be alarmed by something like errant eggs sliding away from your flour volcano when making pasta dough on your counter, she eases you back to reality with her assurances. No freakouts needed.

What I actually found most intriguing was the section on canning. Alana holds your hand with a brilliant essay called Canning Isn’t Scary, and then goes on to walk you through the steps. I think she has given me a big girl pill about this subject. A canning kit is in my near future.

The design of the book is wonderful...large photos and just enough white space. The essays are well written and the author’s personality shines in those pages. She’s seriously likable and has really fun stories to tell.

Buy it, you won’t regret having this on your cookbook shelf.


  1. Oooh, that sounds like my kind of book! I've just ordered The Homemade Sweet Shop ;)

    1. Ooh! I would love to see your results from tackling some of those sweets recipes!!