Pantry Basics

“Cooking During Hard Times”

This is the name of my new cooking class and soon to be available cookbook.  In May 2011, Joplin, Mo experienced a F-5 tornado.  At that time I was unemployed and wondering what God had in store for my future.  I say that it took an F-5 tornado to put me in the place of my calling.  The Thursday after the tornado, I stopped by to see my friend, Pastor Daniel Wermuth II at Joplin Family Worship Center.  It was a crazy scene, people everywhere, trucks showing up with supplies, people showing up to volunteer, rescue efforts still in place, and emergency workers everywhere.  I asked pastor Dan, “How can I help you?”

That night we housed 15 volunteers for the night, and the next day I worked about 15 hours and then did it all over again daily for three years. I became the Community Liaison to attend all the community relief efforts and the Director of Operations of the Hope 4 Joplin relief center at Joplin Family Worship.

One of the blessings that the Lord allowed us to do was to establish a make shift grocery store.  We set all the supplies that had been donated in an orderly manner, like a store, and clients could shop for the items they needed.  One issue that we encountered in food distribution was the preference for ready to eat food.   I could not understand this, so I started asking questions.

We had many items that were donated that required cooking including beans, rice, lentils, fresh vegetables, and canned foods.  When these items came in and we set them out, as we walked the clients around we would offer so many of these items to them.  “NO!  I don’t want that.”  I asked why?  “I don’t know what to do with it.”  This was very perplexing to me.  I continued to ask questions and take notes.  I asked other agencies who do food distribution and found the same thing.

It became more clear when I had a conversation with Kathy Lewis Director of Crossline Churches of Joplin.  I told Kathy about this and asked if she had experienced a preference for ready made foods, too.  The answer was yes.  I asked her opinion of why.  She said that they had done survey’s of clients, and one of the things clients requested was cooking classes.  I found this very interesting.

I started thinking about this and doing a little research and realized that not everyone grows up in a household with cooks.  According to 30% of college students can’t boil and egg

This spoke to me that there was a need for basic cooking skills training.  I thought about my wife and I, and how we handled feeding a family of 6 when we had no income.  This was the birth of: Pantry Basics – Cooking During Hard Times.

Over 5 years in the making, I held my first cooking class at Crossline Churches of Joplin’s new facility.  This was a very special night to have this dream finally come true.

There were four people signed up for the class, and I had three in attendance.  The first thing I had the students do was to wash their hands, and then we made bread.

This is a loaf of my $.50 bread.  This has only 4 ingredients and is a no knead bread.  Very easy, and only 1.5 hours from start to finish.

The loaf pictured is the basic recipe with added Italian seasoning and fresh garlic cloves.  It was awesome.

Tuesday night was the first class of a 4 part series.

  1. Introduction to Pantry Basics and Bread
  2. Soups, Beans, and Eggs 101
  3. Chicken 101, Breakfast, and Vegetables
  4. Meats, Pasta, and Desserts

Each week we will cover the topic with hands on cooking, sharing recipes, and interactive discussions.

At the end of this class, the students will have established a fully stocked pantry, have basic cooking information, and be able to feed the family during hard times or on a tight budget.



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The man from MARS

I was going through some papers and found an old CD with some pictures that I thought were lost.


Lowell Lane – The man from M.A.R.S. ( Mobile Appearance Reconditioning Service)

In 2003 I decided it was time to go out on my own and start a business.  I had been working for a company for 10 years and that entrepreneurial spirit of mine was ready to GO FOR IT.

When I started looking into starting a business my wife and I prayed a lot, sought counsel, and did a lot of due diligence.  My first consideration was making a good living to support my family because I was sinking all our savings and everything we had was on the line.  Secondly, I wanted to have a business that my family could be involved in, learn from, and in the future take over if they wanted to. Thirdly, I looked at what I enjoyed doing and was passionate about.

The first opportunity I found was an existing restaurant in town that wanted to sell out.  I talked to the owner several times, went there during a lunch service and observed and talked to some of the customers, and thought it might be a good idea.  I then approached the owner about financial records…. RED FLAGS!!!!   We had a problem.  He was not willing to share the actual records and would only give me estimates of sales and expenses. Based on the sales, the price he was asking, and what I knew I would have to invest to get the place up to my standards, I walked away.

I couldn’t find any other opportunities at the time, so I decided to research some things online.  I found a website that talked about franchising opportunities and so I started looking into it.  I found this opportunity for Mobile Appearance Reconditioning Service (M.A.R.S) out of Texas.  I went through that whole process and it met all my criteria, so I dove in!!!

So what is M.A.R.S.? Mobile Appearance Reconditioning Service.

Mobile- I bought a 14 foot cargo trailer and traded in my car to purchase a 3/4 ton Chevy truck to pull it with.  A Mobile body shop.

What is reconditioning?  I was certified by the Franchiser in over 30 different services called reconditioning.  Think of this way.  All car dealers have a detail department.  They wash, vacuum, wash windows, and make the cars look good but they don’t usually fix things.  I fixed things to make used cars look as good as possible.  Here is a list of the things I did.

The model for this business was awesome.  Based in a metro area, the idea was to sign 5-7 major lots to do services and then have a day a week for each lot that I could spend all day at and work on 15-25 cars per day.  I quickly found this was not the case in the Pittsburg, Joplin, Carthage, Neosho, area.  I ended up driving within a 100 mile radius and there just wasn’t enough large dealers to support it.

After 2 years, it was time to stop.  I closed the business and sold all my assets.  This was a very tough time for us as a family, but we made it through and pressed forward only by the strength of the LORD and because my wife and my commitment to stick it out.

I made a lot of mistakes in starting this business and in another post soon, I will share this with you.



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Saladmaster Salad

I was a Saladmaster Chef for 15 years, but I will never forget a man who saw me making a salad with cabbage and he told me that he wouldn’t eat it!!  I told if he didn’t try my salad then he wouldn’t get to eat my fried chicken or chocolate cake for dessert.  He ate 3 bowls of this salad became his favorite.


#3 Cone

1/2 head of green cabbage

1/6 head of red cabbage

1 small zucchini

# 4 Cone

4 Radishes



1 carrot

If you want to make a great fresh taste without dressing,


#2 Cone

1 granny smith apple

#1 Cone

1 lemon    –  zest the outside and ten cut in half and squeeze over the apple

This has a great fresh summer taste without dressing, but feel free to add your favorite.

See recipe for our homemade coleslaw dressing, my favorite.

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1979 Cad Coupe Deville
I was telling my kids a story from when I was in high school. My dad owned an automotive collision, wrecker, mechanical, and radiator shop. We did everything related to fixing cars. Once in a while, the Sheriff’s department would have auctions to sell off old cars that had been impounded. One day my dad drove back to the shop with this old junky, rusty Cadillac that he bought for $100.00. I asked him what he was going to do with that old thing, and he said he was going to make it like NEW again. I said, GOOD LUCK! Guess what, I ended up helping to strip that car down and fix it!!!
I found this picture of a 1979 Cadillac Coupe Deville that looked just like the one my father fixed up. My father drove that car for about 2 years, and during that time my Grandma, his mother, stole it from my dad and drove it a lot.
One Saturday my dad told me to clean up the Cadillac because he had a hot date. I cleaned it up and got it all ready to go, then parked it in front of our shop. At 5:00 pm, as we were closing the shop, and this man walked in the door and said, “Whose Cadillac is that out front?” My dad said, “Mine Why?” The man said, “OOOH! I GOT TO HAVE THAT CAR!” My dad smarted off and said, “If you lay $5,000.00 cash on the table, you can have it!” You should have seen the look on my fathers face when he did. We never saw that man or the car again!!
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Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie

img_4373This is a easy and simple recipe for a Double Crusted Pot Pie.   Thank you to Sally’s Baking Addiction for the recipe.

Here is her recipe

Her recipe is for a 9 inch pie plate, but I wanted to make a bigger quantity so I doubled the recipe and made it in my big cast iron skillet.

img_4353By making it in this skillet, the bottom crust was awesome and nice and flaky.

The filling was very good and I used cooked chicken that we had put into the crock pot the night before.  After deboning, we had enough meat for this and another meal.

We used some vegetable we had on hand, and then added the frozen peas.

img_4373The next time we make it, there are 2 things we want to do different.

  1. We need to double the gravy.  It was great tasting but the filling was not quite moist enough.
  2. Use 1/2 the amount of Thyme.

This recipe has many options.  I can’t wait to make it after we make a pot roast and use the leftovers.




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BACON! How to prepare


After years of making bacon at home, I then found the best way to make it when I open a restaurant.  BAKE IT!

This is so easy and so much better than pan frying.

First step: Line a baking sheet with foil.  Set a cooling rack on top.


Place bacon on the pan.  Be sure not to let pieces touch, so they don’t stick together.


Put pan of bacon in a cold oven and then set oven for 350 degrees.


1 pound of bacon takes about 20 minutes.  Cook till preferred doneness.

img_4411When bacon is done, let it rest and let the excess grease drip off.


Clean up is so easy.  Save the bacon grease in a pint jar with lid.  Same for future recipes.

Lift the foil off, throw away, and clean your pan.

I will never cook bacon in a pan again.



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What’s for lunch?

Usually after we get done with breakfast and clean up it is not too long before I hear, “What’s for lunch?”

My daughter Amy said she wanted to make rice for lunch.  I asked here how she was going to fix it and she didn’t know.  “Can we just fix rice?”

We can’t do that… let’s get creative.



Photo by Amy Lane

Savory Rice & Vegetables 



1 onion finely chopped

1 stalk celery finely sliced

1-2 carrots finely sliced

1 green pepper

2 T olive oil

4 T butter

1/4 t Thyme

6 cups water

3 cups rice

1 dash salt

In large pan, I used a 6 qt roaster, add 6 cups water, 2 T butter, and 1 pinch of salt; bring to a boil.

In large skillet add 2 T olive oil and 2 T butter, melt till butter is bubbly.                             (adding olive oil and butter together keeps the butter from burning and gives a rich flavor)

Saute vegetable till onions are translucent.

Add 3 cups rice to the water mixture and stir well.

Add vegetables to the rice, stir well, and cover pan with lid for 15 minutes till water is absorbed and rice is tender.

savory-rice-vegt-1Serve with Soy sauce and salt and pepper.


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