The Great Pantry Sweep happens every year or two in our kitchen, well, because it’s so necessary. A well-stocked pantry is essential for people who like to cook, and a well-organized pantry is just as important. Could you proudly open the door to your pantry when dinner guests arrive? I couldn’t – until my dear friend, Amy, came over and held my hand through making it a showpiece of my kitchen.
Not everyone has an Amy in his or her life, but getting organized is doable with the right tools. Following certain professional organizers to the stars like The Home Edit on Instagram leaves me drooling, wowed and also completely puzzled as to why my life isn’t perfectly contained in beautiful Lucite with custom labels. It gives me something to strive for, I guess.
In full disclosure, one could not step into my pantry before Amy arrived. It was pure chaos. If your social media feed isn’t full of your friends Marie Kondo-ing their belongings lately, I’m not sure who your friends are. I’ve been gleefully watching people donate stuff they don’t use anymore. This whole premise of “Does it spark joy?” is a fantastic question to ask yourself as you purchase things. And I think it applies to food also. Perhaps the problem is all food sparks joy for me.
Pre-Great Pantry Sweep, the major problem was that there were too many things and nothing was streamlined. Even though there were plastic Lazy Susans for oils and a few containers for snacks, everything was over heaping and quite honestly overwhelming. You see, organization isn’t exactly a strong suit over here. It’s a goal, however, to make baby steps toward it with each passing month.
The incredible stock of organizational tools that arrived in large plastic bins with the magical Amy included two three-tiered spice racks, which were used for canned goods; large plastic basket-weave bins for snacks; smaller basket-weave bins for kiddo snacks (every good Auntie and Gigi has snacks for her little buddies); clear-lidded containers for nuts; air-tight clear-lidded containers of all sizes for eight kinds of rice and also for pasta; even an under-shelf contraption to hold potatoes and onions. I think one of the largest roadblocks in the past to this type of organization has been making the investment in the organizing tools. Amy shopped at both Target and Dollar Tree, which offer a nice range of lower and mid-priced items.
In hindsight, I should have had a batch of this week’s recipe baking in the oven as Amy arrived. I owe her a batch, or three. I have to admit, in the past, I’ve mostly made chocolate chip cookies, but there’s something about a Blondie. It’s chewier than its cookie cousin, which is always a win in my book. This Blondie recipe is from Carol Walter’s “Great Cookies” book. The Blondies or the book would make a nice gift for your sweetheart, galantine or little sweeties, too.
2½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, chopped and divided
5 ounces high quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, such as Lindt Bittersweet cut into ¼-inch dice
Position the shelf in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10½ x 15 ½ x 1 inch jelly roll pan well.
Strain together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm ½ cup (1 stick) of the butter over medium-low heat until it is almost melted but some solid pieces still remain. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, mixing well.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining ½ cup (1 stick) of butter on medium speed. Add the granulated sugar in a steady stream and mix until lightened in color. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the tepid melted butter and brown sugar. (If the mixture has solidified, warm briefly over low heat to melt.) Beat on medium speed until thick and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing only to combine. Remove the bowl from the machine and, using a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in ¾ cup of the chopped walnuts and all of the diced chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan, using the back of a large spoon to spread it evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining walnuts.
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let stand 1 hour, then cut into 1 ¾ x 2 ½ inch bars.