The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Building up our pantries. No 6. Introducing Helen!

Today I am handing the Pantry Challenge over to Helen. Everyone who reads Bluebirds has heard of Helen!  Helen and I used to write together about saving and making a happy and lovely home for very little. This was such a good thing as it led to us becoming friends and both going on to things we could never have dreamed of!
For those of you that don't know Helen she reminds me a lot of Laine. So you are going to be blessed by getting to know her!

Over to Helen!...

Pantry Comforts

Dear Friends and friends in the making, “hello”, my name is Helen. Annabel and I are dear friends from when we were dreaming our way through frugal indulgences that literally changed your life. Around us gathered a group of ladies that generously shared their tips, dreams and challenges.
Annabel has invited me to sit and share in the beautiful world of “The Bluebirds are Nesting”, amongst you all. I’m excited at what we will discover together! I’m a wife to my darling Glen, and a mother to our two adult sons Tom and Andrew. I love Jesus. He is my friend and Saviour.

Today I wanted to talk to you about Pantry Comforts. Pantry Comforts are the treasures that you find when you are in “heart” need. When the miseries strike and you’re down in the dumps, food transformed by love and memory becomes a warm blanket for our souls. This week deep in the winter snows in Japan, our son Tom opened a parcel from home and found tea and Walkers Shortbread. A childhood favourite. The message I got from him was....”best mum ever”. 

 My hands had reached across the miles and brought him the simple comfort of home. I have been joining you all on the Pantry challenge that Annabel has set before us, and while my mind has been fixed on such practicalities as tinned tomatoes and bags of pasta, there has been a niggling of my spirit that has said make sure I include those things that move us emotionally, that cause our hearts to light up with pleasure when we see them. And to that end, each week while I have been busy balancing budgets, I have also included some things like a favourite Chilli Relish, Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Fig and Balsamic dressing. 

 I love what Chef Sophie Gray has to share from her Destitute Gourmet Books, that the bulk of her frugal grocery order consists of basic pantry ingredients but she includes a couple of ingredients that move her meals from mundane to memorable. Some of the things that she buys are heavenly dark chocolate, gourmet berries, special cheeses. Each week I’m joining with you in building my pantry and considering not only the food that we need but what do we also relish with delight. For if I am to rely on this pantry due to sickness or unemployment or need of some kind, surely it’s my aim to not only feed my family but also to nourish their hearts with the appearance of favourite food at our table?
I’ll close with quote from a favourite author Sarah Ban Breathnach from Simple Abundance: “Comfort food is hearty. When hearts are heavy, they need gravitational and emotional equilibrium: meat loaf and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, creamy risotto. Food that resonates that we will survive. With such sustenance we can keep on going and going especially when we don’t want to take another step.”

 So dear friends, what are your Pantry Comforts?  Love Helen.


  1. Lovely to 'see' you here, Helen! What a good idea to include special treats in the pantry, ready to help your own heart, or to use as a gift for someone else's heart. How happy Tom must have felt when he opened your package, you are indeed the best mum xx Fiona

  2. Hi Annabel and so nice to meet you, Helen!

    Not necessarily in this order....
    ~dark and milk chocolate
    ~teas of all blends, especially English breakfast, Darjeeling, double spice chai, green
    ~ almond paste....and everyone said "Amen" :)
    ~my kid's favorite crackers and ingredients for their favorite cookies
    ~my husband's favorite hot sauce
    ~marinated artichoke hearts
    ~raw pecans and almonds
    ~almond butter, cashew butter, and peanut butter
    ~cheese cheese, and some more cheese please!

    Beautiful post Helen, I've added a few items to my next grocery list :)

  3. Hi Helen, nice to meet you. That is a very good point you make about needing to consider including comfort food in our pantry, in case we need to rely solely on what is on hand, for that is exactly the time we need to have comfort food to the ready. It would give one a sense of reassurance and continuity to be able to provide such solace to our family during difficult times. Now I will have to engage the little grey cells to consider what comfort food I can include in my pantry.

    I too enjoy the writings of Sarah Ban Breathnach and have a few of her books in my library.

  4. This is funny for me to be commenting here! Helen your post reminds me of old times and reading what you have to say is just lovely.
    On thinking about this I am adding to my list... good vanilla essence or beans or paste. A tin of old fashioned custard powder. Honey. (honey also has uses like soothing a sore throat etc) Sticky balsamic, drinking chocolate, sun dried tomatoes, golden syrup and condensed milk. I remembered Nan made amazing puddings etc that back then were the sweets they had, out of golden syrup. But I will be looking for ideas as Im sure many of you will have good ones. Im thinking of treats that keep. They would really be wonderful when things had gone wrong! Thank you Helen! xxx

  5. Ooh I'm so new at this. I have the sort of feeling that you do when you are starting at a new school.
    Fiona, hello, thank you for being the first to comment. Colette, you have got us all thinking, with your wonderful list.
    Sherri, it's so true what you say. At first I just thought food, but the more I read of what it was like for people going through their pantry, I realised the sheer comfort of seeing a treat or an old "friend" is hugely valuable.
    Annabel, my beloved friend and partner in all good things....vanilla essence, what a treasure that is.
    What I was thinking of is really a good collection of fragrant spices such as turmeric ,cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg etc.
    As well as saving food from being bland, often a sprinkle, seems to be a sprinkle of love over our food, giving it colour and flavour. Thanks so much everyone for encouraging Annabel and I with your comments. Love Helen xxx

  6. Dear Annabelle and Helen,
    What a lovely post!!! I have been reading your posts for a little while Annabelle, and enjoy them greatly.... Helen, what a beautiful post, and yes.. You are right ... We need a few little comforting items to warm our hearts amidst the pantry essentials. I make almost everything from scratch so I like to have a few little luxuries included. I have cranberries to use in homemade bikkies and muesli, Twinnings loose leaf English Breakfast tea that I keep in a smallish refillable red tin. Even though I may only have a pot infrequently, the tin sits in the Pantry promising lovely strong cups of tea. I also keep Saunders Malt and Manuka Honey. Oh yes, and a beautiful and far too expensive organic cocoa for baking and homemade hot chocolate.
    Kindest Regards

    1. Kathryn I am adding some nice teas and coffee essence, maybe thats not the right name... the liquid that you can use to make iced coffee. I find teas very restoring and calming. I love your ideas thank you.xx

  7. Dearest Helen, what a lovely post and so true! I think I will try the Jamie Oliver vinegar...yum
    We can learn so much of each other....looking forward to seeing more of you Helen x

  8. Hi Kathryn,
    Oh what a lovely comment you posted! I just finished a pot of Dilmah Rose with French Vanilla tea. It is loose leaf tea sold in organza pyramids and the fragrance of it is truly just right, especially if we are in need of some feminine time. I use it for when I do programmes for teen girls, and the gentle rose fragrance fills the air. As it's base is black tea, you can add sweeteners and milk as you wish. I realised that on a day by day basis, a good quality loose leaf black tea is always in the tea canister on my bench, but I have different teas for different moods.
    For instance, when it's cold weather, I enjoy Chai and Vanilla tea, on hot afternoons, I simply love Earl Grey and when I want to snuggle down for the night some camomile with honey in is just the thing. I don't drink these each day, but they are an important part of my "pantry comfort". Such lovely ideas everyone....thank you, Love Helen x

  9. I will have to think about this a little more. I do have a special bottle of coffee hidden away in the pantry for times when I might be feeling less than wonderful. They aren't pantry items but I have a collection of cups and coffee mugs which have been given to me by friends. Often when I am thinking of one of my friends or feeling a little lonely I will take out the cup they gave me and make a cuppa and that makes me feel better. I lost a friend to Ovarian cancer a couple of years ago and sometimes when I am missing her I have a cup of tea in one of her beautiful fine china cups. I thank God for the good friend I had and celebrate her life.

  10. Welcome Helen and what a lovely surprise.

    As soon as I saw the name of your "post" my mind went to Walkers shortbread. Shortbread and sponges are always memories of my Nanna.
    So in my cupboard that is rather well stocked I have
    many of those spices you mentioned,
    a box of Walkers shortbread
    a special blend of my favourite coffee
    ingredients to make my DD4's favourite cookies
    chocolate (Lindt but really in the fridge at the moment)
    and now a favourite thanks to Annabel along the way is Vanilla Essence
    Look forward to reading more from you both
    Aly x

  11. Hi Jacqui, Aly and Nana Chel, It's so lovely to hear from you all! Some of the "pantry comforts" that are a growing favourite in our home are the Beerenberg Family Farm Chutney's and Relish's.
    They are reasonably priced at under $5, and make a wonderful addition to the pantry.We have tried the Burger Relish, Caramelised Onion and the Tomato Chutney. For Australian readers you can purchase these online, as well as there being nearly a hundred recipes for mains and deserts.
    I popped a few different bottles of these in a hamper at Christmas for our 21 year old son. I keep being good they are!
    I especially think having something like this in the pantry is handy if you are making burgers such as chic pea burgers or from other legumes.
    A spoonful is lovely with Annabel's Crustless Quiche as well. Thanks for the wonderful ideas ladies.....Love Helen

  12. Helen, congratulations on such a beautiful first blogging post, and how very exciting to see you here! What you say goes to my very heart, as food for me, with my European upbringing, is another way of spelling 'love'. So much of our life revolves around food and eating, and life would be dull indeed if all we did was feed our bodies the nutrients of life, ignoring the pleasures. Comfort for us is Rice Noodle bolognaise with fresh herbs and curls of Parmesan, or delicately pink fillets of Salmon with Miso glaze on a bed of steamed rice, and a cup of Miso on the side (Miso is most addictive once you've acquired the taste), or buttery scrambled eggs with chopped chives fresh from the pot in the sunny spot on our back verandah. So yes, fresh herbs, salmon fillets, real butter, eggs, Miso, a block of parmesan...those are our comfort foods and always, always in our refrigerator and pantry. We adore relishes and chutney too but lean towards home made ones which are such a deliciously frugal treat that it's hard to believe how easy they are to make yourself. Looking forward to more of your lovely

  13. Hi Helen, do you have a blog I can read ?

  14. Dear Mimi,
    A few words from you always produces a flurry of activity from the rest of us. How can we resist? You share your love of cooking in such a gorgeous easy style that next thing, we find ourselves in the kitchen.
    Mimi, I remember you buying a orange infused oil.....I think from a deli and using it for various things. If you have time to share something around that with our group, it would be a treat for us. Love Helen xxx

  15. Hi Wendy,
    I don't have a blog. This is my first venture forth into blogging, and it's thanks to Annabel. Annabel and I wrote together on a forum for three years as well we contributed to a monthly newsletter. That time came to an end and Annabel followed a dream of blogging. It's wonderful to hear from you! I'm a avid follower of your blog, and television appearances.
    Here is Wendy's blog
    or you can click the link in the sidebar.
    I have been thinking about Pantry Comfort and one of the things that we LOVE for afternoon tea is scones.
    You can put different toppings on them but the favourites are jam and cream, or jam and butter. Some of you like them with honey, or golden syrup. I first learnt about having lemon butter or them from Laine.
    One of the " comforts" that I have in my pantry are jams made from fruits that aren't grown in our area.
    For example last week I bought Blueberry Conserve from Bonne Maman. Blueberries are very expensive here, so it wouldn't be profitable for me to make this. However in summer, I can often source strawberries at a very reasonable price.
    I think something baked like scones on a cold afternoon in front of the fire really is a wonderful thing to do that costs pennies. The lovely colour of the different jams really adds to the overall ambience of the tea table.
    I have a grocery list under construction thanks to this beautiful discussion, Love Helen x

    1. Helen, thankyou for your kind words.

      I just love scones and my all time favourite are pumpkin scones. In Winter it's my morning tea of choice. When pumpkin is cheap I buy lots of it, cook it and freeze it to make them all year round.

  16. Helen my Mum has been reading! She messaged me to say how much she liked what you wrote. Except she doenst know how to comment... so here are her comments!
    She says she always has eggs so her yummy comforting standbys are pancakes and savoury pikelets with grated vegies or tinned corn stirred into them and any meat if you have it. She can make an emergency meal out of those anytime.
    Mum has a very good pantry as she is a long way from any shops, on the farm. Next time Im there I will take photos of it. You would love her pantry! xx

  17. Hi Annabel and Annabel's Mum,
    What a lovely thought...pancakes and savoury pancakes. It's true just simple things like adding some grated vegetables, some chopped herbs or left over's like corn meat really does make it into a meal that fills hungry tummies.
    I remember that often at the end of the corn meat when we were growing up, mum would make fritters, with chopped onion and a tin of corn in them. They would be devoured as soon as they came out of the fry pan. Some lovely memories there, as well as fabulous ideas. Thanks ladies, Love Helen x

  18. Such a lovely post from you Helen, and it is so nice to be able to finally meet you.

    My comforts are few. I do have a couple of flavoured teas that my daughter made for me. I like to keep Spring Gully Chilli sauce on hand always. I use it in cooking, and it is great for dipping homemade chips in as well as a yummy sauce for cream cheese and crackers. Tucked away in a little corner I have a stash of chocolate, not much, and it is just for me, should my heart desire.

    My pantry contains a lot of basic everyday food. I preserve the produce that is gathered from my garden and this is kept in my old kitchen dresser cupboard. It is nice and dark and contains jams, relishes, pickles, onion marmalade, tomato sauces etc. We also have an abundance of eggs from our hens, so no need to ever go hungry. I made an impossible pizza slice yesterday using our eggs.

    Annabel, those savoury pikelets that your mum makes sound delicious!

    Wishing both you ladies a lovely day, and I am Iook forward to reading more from you both.

    Tania xo

  19. Helen how lovely to hear from you here (I wish you had a blog I think it would be wonderful to read). A big thank you to Annabel for inviting your input here.

    Having had to live out of my pantry for six months, just having a very small grocery budget last year I know how important it is to have some home comforts in there. For my two daughters still living at home it was cordial, Milo, sun dried tomatoes and semi dried capsicum. They also love crackers and I thought that I would be able to survive on pantry staples to make these but did not factor in that I would be too sick to cook much more than basics. So now I try to keep some of these little treats in store.

    Home made pancakes with lemon and sugar are a big treat here and fritters as well. So a good supply of flour and oils for cooking along with a few "treaties" such as chocolate chips do go a long way. Curry powder has a long shelf life so that is always a great taste additive and a good jar of jam cannot be beaten I do not think.

    My mother always got her "housekeeping" money on a Monday so come Sunday night the cupboard was usually very bare, keeping in mind that shops were closed from noon on Saturday and there was no fresh bread on the weekends. So Sunday night dinners were often salmon mornay (can salmon with a white sauce) Tuna Spaghetti (I hated this it was basically pasta with a large can of tuna cooked in a tomato based sauce) or pancakes, tuna patties (can tuna made into a patties with mashed potato and then fried, I still love this one but I add a little flavour of my own with some sweet chilli sauce and canned corn. In truth we as children became very adapt at making a meal from what we had. My mother always had can fish and potatoes, tinned tomatoes and red wine in stock, along with vinegars and other condiments. We had a huge old lemon tree growing in the back yard along with a Mulberry tree, and banana tree so we always had something to eat. Funny even now my girls love the old pancake with lemon and sugar, something I learnt to make from my mother who cooked it out of bare necessity trying to fill the tummys of six children. Now we view it as special treat and one much sought after.

  20. Hi Tania and Mel!, Thanks so much for the warm welcome. Tania you have a wonderful blog and you are a lovely knitter. Those boot toppers that you knitted for your daughter are really nice. Mel, you are so right about things like sun dried tomatoes and semi dried capsicum. Mmm those two things add colour and flavour to pizzas, crustless quiches, pasta dishes and are lovely on crackers as well.
    I make pancakes weekly usually on a Sunday morning for breakfast, but I haven't had them with lemon juice and sugar for years. I must indulge again!
    One of the "pantry comforts that I was thinking about was dried fruit.
    Dried Fruit can be used in so many ways apart from snacking and baking, it can also be reconstituted as a desert by bringing it to the boil with some water for a few minutes.
    My mum is a fabulous cook and she used dried Australian apricots to make the most beautiful jam!
    This is a wonderful way to store and keep fruit in our lives. Think figs, raisins, dried apricots, peaches, apples, bananas, mangos,cranberries, blueberries.
    Do any of you own a dehydrator? How have you found it to use? We would love to hear your experiences....Love Helen x

  21. Dear Helen, so lovely to read your first blog post here on Annabel's wonderful blog! Sorry I am late in replying, it has been a big first week with our little granddaughter! I like to keep marinated olives as well as sun dried and capsicum. I also keep some pine nuts and flaked almonds and cashews to add if I can stock them up at good prices! I keep them either in the fridge or frozen. I also freeze feta in small blocks and keep couscous in the pantry. I love couscous with marinated Mediterranean items in it served on a bed of salad greens. I add tuna, olives, herbs, tomatoes (fresh or sun dried) capsicum (fresh or marinated) celery to make a quick meal in summer. I also crumble feta over it. It can be mostly pantry food. Treats are nice teas as I like basic black loose tea for the everyday and other teas and various flavors of tea bags. My husband always drinks real coffee so we keep a minimum 2 kg at all times of that. I can only drink decaf coffee so I have a pack just for me (ground) I love jams, pickles, chutneys etc. Syrups are lovely to also have and add something to pancakes or other desserts or just coffee.

  22. Hi Kaye,
    What a lovely comment! I love cous cous as well! There is so much you can do with it, and it's so quick and simple to prepare. I really love roasting heaps of vegetables and putting a layer of cous cous on a platter, cover it with roast vegetables and drizzle over a a dressing . Like your salad suggestion, it's a super easy meal. I didn't know that feta could be frozen so I have learnt something today. Yes, it's a big change in your family with a new baby in the midst.
    I hope that each day gets easier. Love Helen xxx

  23. I am really enjoying these posts Helen, lovely words xx


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