Jen Chapin of Muscatine publishes first cookbook

Jen Chapin, a Muscatine Native, published her debut cookbook the “Essential Pantry Cookbook,” May 4.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–For Jen Chapin, cooking has always provided a hobby and an outlet. Chapin started learning how to cook as a kid and has kept up with it over the years, even as her life has grown busy with her fulltime job as a nurse and raising her two children.

In 2010, Chapin started her own YouTube Channel. Since founding it, Chapin regularly uploads videos featuring simple cooking demonstrations, meal preparation advice, and walkthroughs of how she grocery shops for her family. Her channel has proved very successful, and Chapin currently has 115 thousand subscribers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and restaurants closed for in person dining, people developed an even greater interest in cooking at home than ever before. Chapin realized this interest provided a perfect opportunity for her to publish her first cookbook.

Chapin identified 85 pantry staples she keeps in her home and uses as the basis for the recipes she makes for her family. These included everything from common spices, to baking supplies, to frozen and canned goods, to fresh proteins and produce.

She then created a series of easy recipes that incorporate these common items. She also included suggestions for how to vary recipes to keep them from getting boring and effective substitutions for times when you run out of an ingredient. “We tried to have a wide variety of recipes so there’s something for everyone,” Chapin stressed.

Because of the heightened demand for cookbooks brought on by the pandemic, Chapin put together her collection of recipes, titled the “Essential Pantry Cookbook,” in only four months. “This was a very sped up timeline compared to other authors,” she observed. “Because of current events, my publisher wanted to get it out quickly.” The “Essential Pantry Cookbook,” published by Rockridge Press, went on sale on Amazon beginning May 4. Though currently sold exclusively online, Chapin believes that if it sells well it may also get sold in bookstores as well in the future.

With this new cookbook now available for purchase, Chapin hopes that many aspiring cooks and those looking to improve their skills and expand their repertoire will find it helpful. “It’s really good for beginners and people just starting out,” Chapin emphasized. “It gives them a good idea of what they should keep in their pantries.”

Though Chapin has loved cooking for years and has taken pleasure in sharing her skills via YouTube, she never imagined she would have the chance to publish her very own cookbook. “It’s really a surreal experience,” she admitted. “It’s not something I thought I would ever do–I was born and raised in Muscatine, and I never thought I would have a cookbook selling internationally.”