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The good news is that today's cooks have a number of good cookbooks to pick from. My newest in this area is Alana Chernila's The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making.
A couple of things in particular prompted me to buy this book. First, I was pleased to see that there were several recipes for crackers (see my Homemade Crackers post from earlier this year) because I'm always looking for new versions. Second, I was interested in the snack ideas because so many commercial products contain allergens (I'm mildly allergic to peanuts).
Let me start off by saying how much I love the design of this book. The chapters are called "aisles" and mimic sections of the grocery store: canned foods, frozen foods, snacks, breads and crackers, and so on. I also appreciate that the pages are not jam-packed so it's easy to see the ingredients list and read the directions. The sage green and burgundy color scheme fits the down-to-earth style of the cookbook.
Next, I want to assure you that Alana Chernila is no Martha Stewart. She is not a supermom with a staff of thousands. Instead she cooks in a home kitchen with kids running underfoot and mini disasters happening on the stove. Sound familiar? This is why Chernila doesn't make every single meal, every single day totally from scratch. She picks and chooses, depending on her mood and available time.
Thank goodness that Chernila is a self-proclaimed kitchen gadget lover, so we aren't asked to give up our mixer or food processor. The point behind The Homemade Pantry is making tasty, preservative-free foods, not reverting to the 19th century. In the introductory chapters, Chernila tells us what kind of equipment she uses and even mentions some brand names. She also gives us great advice on using the freezer (my preferred way of preserving food) and detailed directions for safe canning.
Throughout the cookbook, Chernila's fun personality comes out in her writing:
Okay, Let's have it out.And in fact, this is one of her arguments for making her own salsa. No dreaded cilantro. Well, for her . . . I love cilantro.
I hate cilantro.
I'm one of those people who think cilantro tastes like soap, and I'd happily eat your soap, if you gave me a choice between the two. (p. 107)
In addition, she truly wants us to succeed in the kitchen so, when necessary, she identifies what she calls "tense moments"; these are points in a recipe when it's easy to make a mistake. Isn't it great that Chernila has advice already waiting for when we need it?
So what about the recipes? You'll find everything from toaster pastries to pizza sauce, from marshmallows to chicken nuggets. One of my favorite chapters is Aisle 4, "Condiments, Spices, and Spreads," which has recipes for salsas, hot sauce, nut butters, and spice mixes, for example. Oh and I like the drinks chapter and the dairy chapter too. Besides common pantry items, you'll also find recipes for meals, such as veggie burgers, lasagna, pizza, macaroni and cheese, soups, and stews.
Chernila's directions are easy to follow, and besides the tense moments advice, each recipe includes storage directions. After all, the recipes in The Homemade Pantry are meant to stock your freezer and cupboards. Depending on the recipe, storage advice is for the freezer, cupboard, refrigerator, dehydrator, and/or canner.
One last point: Most of the recipes make reasonable quantities. For example, the lentil soup serves 6 to 8, the corn tortilla recipe makes 12, and the mayonnaise makes 1 cup.
I decided to try one of the granola bar recipes because most commercial bars come with a peanut warning. This one called for nut butter; I used Sunbutter, a peanut butter substitute. When I saw the honey and sugar and chocolate chips, I was worried that the bars would be too sweet for me, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that they are not too rich and are perfect for an afternoon snack. I absolutely plan on making these again, especially when I travel.
The introduction to this recipe notes that although there are a lot of ingredients, these bars take almost no work. In addition, the recipes for several of the ingredients (such as, nut butter and brown sugar) can be found in The Homemade Pantry, just in case you don't want to use store-bought.
The Nutty Granola Bar
Makes 16 bars
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup coconut oil or butter (I used butter)
- ¾ cup nut butter (I used Sunbutter)
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2½ cups old-fashioned oats
- 1½ cups raw sliced almonds
- ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- ¾ semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup oat bran (I used wheat germ)
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
In a large saucepan, combine the butter, oil, nut butter, sugar, vanilla, honey, and 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until you have a uniform syrup. Remove from heat. Add all the remaining ingredients except the salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, and press it as firmly into the pan as possible, first using your hands, then using a spatula or wooden spoon to flatten the top. Sprinkle the salt over the top.
Bake until the edges darken, 35 to 40 minutes. The mixture will be soft when you take it out of the oven but allow it to cool completely before taking out of the pan and cutting into 16 bars.
Storage Room temperature: covered container, 10 days. Freezer: cut and stored in a covered freezer-safe container with layers of parchment or waxed paper, 4 months (thaw at room temperature).
Buy The Homemade Pantry at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Random House / Clarkson Potter, 2012
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)