I grew up on box cakes, brownies and cookie mixes. My mother was a single parent of three for seven years, so the majority of the time, we did things the quickest way possible. Even my grandmother tended toward the mixes, instead of from scratch. Its not that they never made things without mixes, but it was a rare occasion. Therefore, when I thought of baking, it always started with a box, featuring a picture of your chosen project on the front.
Lately, I've been trying everything from scratch. Its an adventure! The upside is, though, once you have the basics in your pantry, you can make most anything on a whim, rather than having to go buy the kit at the store. Every pantry, even the novice, should have vanilla extract, baking powder and soda, sugar, salt, flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, powdered sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil and you must have butter, eggs and milk in the fridge. Now, I'll warn you, there are many more traditional recipes, like pie crusts or breads that also call for shortening, so when you get really brave, you might invest in that, as well. These things are inexpensive and most of them have a long shelf life and you can keep them on hand for whatever projects you might want to try. Yesterday, I found this brownie recipe on the outside of my cocoa powder canister. Well, I didn't have a choice... I had to try it! Once I tasted the first brownie, I knew I could never go back. Here's the recipe, copied from verybestbaking.com, so I didn't have to type it again. This is a good reference site for lots of recipes. Hope you enjoy!
Chewy Cocoa Brownies