Make Peanut butter: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter Part II

Well, I hadn't planned on making the peanut butter today but when I got home from walking the dogs Dave was shelling peanuts!  While he shelled I got cleaned up and got some other stuff done and when he had 8 ounces of peanuts shelled I made a half a batch of homemade peanut butter.

Nothing could be easier, mix roasted unsalted peanuts, peanut oil and salt in a food processor and in no time you have peanut butter.  It starts out looking like chopped peanuts, then moves to a stage where it looks like really grainy peanut butter, then right before your eyes it's peanut butter.

I slathered some on a piece of that yummy homemade bread and asked Dave if it was worth the work to shell all the peanuts.  Yep!

We don't eat a lot of peanut butter in our house but I do use it in the dogs Kongs!  This is far cheaper than the stuff in a jar in the grocery store.  The kids might be getting fresh, homemade peanut butter from now on!

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

I know, I don't normally do book reviews here but I can't tell you how excited I am to share this book!  Last Friday I received an email from Tasting Table in which they did a little review of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese.  It sounded interesting so I downloaded it to my Kindle and started reading.

One page in I was hooked!  The premise of the book is to answer the age-old foodie question, do I make it or do I buy it?  For everything from bacon to Worchestershire sauce, Jennifer answers those questions.  She takes into account cost and hassle and does note that prices in her neighborhood, at the time she worked through the recipes may be different than what you or I find.    She also fully acknowledges the value of convenience.

I think all of my foodie friends would love this book!  Even if you're not a foodie, the stories are funny and you might just decide to make some kitchen staples, like peanut butter, rather than buy them.

Because I downloaded it to my Kindle I can't photocopy the recipes for my recipe stand in the kitchen.  Yes, I can just bring up the recipes on my Kindle but I don't really want to get slops and spatters all over it.  So, if there's someone out there looking to get me a wonderful gift I'd love a hard copy of this book!

It's a very quick read as there are lots and lots of recipes in the book.  Many I want to try sooner (every day bread is already in the oven) rather than later (hot dogs).  I have already re-acquainted myself with the King Arthur Flour Company (I think they missed me) and bought some bulk yeast!  I couldn't wait for that to arrive so I did hit the grocery store yesterday and picked up the ingredients (that I didn't already have in the house) for the Every Day Bread.  It was a snap to throw together and is baking as I type and smelling wonderful!  I also want to try the hot dog buns.  By her description they should be amazing.

Her cost comparison for bread crumbs got me putting our old bread in the freezer starting yesterday!  We often have an end or two of bread that gets harder than I like.  Typically the birds would get it.  Not anymore!  It will go directly into the freezer!  When I have the oven on for something else (which is daily in my house) I can throw the cubes of old bread on a cookie sheet, bake them, cool them, grind them and then keep them indefinitely in the freezer!
Make it or Buy it?  Make it.
Hassle:  None
Cost Comparison:  Homemade bread crumbs cost nothing if you make them from bread you would otherwise throw away.  Store-bought crumbs range from $2.50 to $6.00/pound which is more than ground beef and completely insane.

Who knew you could make your own lemon extract in just 10 days at just $0.53/ounce as compared to the grocery store at $6.29/ounce?

I can't wait to try her homemade Oreos either.  Dave requested I make them double-stuffed.

Jennifer goes "whole hog".  She bought chickens, ducks, goats and turkeys.  Some worked out well, others didn't.  Yes, she's butchered her own foul but in the end usually recommends you buy it.  She has a crawl space in which she's cured meats and made cheese.  She's even made homemade hot dogs and hot dog buns.  She admitted defeat with hamburger buns and suggests you just buy those.

I laughed out loud through the entire book and read many passages to Dave who also at least pretended to find them humorous.

She does do some bashing of foods made by my employer.  Some are true, some are old news (we've removed  trans fats from just about everything now).  Though she was surprised to find that Betty Crocker Potato Buds do actually taste like mashed potatoes!

I've never bookmarked a book so much!  Here are some quotes I found fun or interesting but the book is full of them.

She made her own prosciutto.  After 6 months of curing an entire pork haunch in her crawl space she but it down and laid it on the kitchen counter.  After unwrapping it she found what "might have once been meet, covered with  luxuriant chalk-green mold".  She cut off a chunk of the meat and took a bite.  According to Reese it tasted exactly like prosciutto.  She then writes "About a minute later, I began Googling "botulism homemade prosciutto" because no pink salt was used in the curing of this meat.  After a couple of days when it was clear she was not going to die from botulism she began Googling "trichinosis homemade prosciutto".  A few weeks after than when she had shown no signs of trichinosis, she served the prosciutto to friends and family.  Make it or buy it?  Buy it.

On making Canadian Bacon:
Make it or Buy it?  Make it.
Hassle:  It's a whale of a hassle when your house burns down, so heed warnings about smoking. 
She goes on to tell the story of her unwatched pot!

On making homemade hot dogs:
My favorite highlight from the making of hot dogs:  "I know that fennel seed makes Italian sausage taste like Italian sausage and sage makes breakfast sausage taste like breakfast sausage, but I have never paused to wonder what makes a hot dog taste like a hot dog.  Perhaps because I was afraid of what the answer would be."
Make it or buy it?  Buy it.

Every Day Bread: 
Make it or Buy It?  Make it.
Hassle:  Can you stir?  You can make this bread.
Cost Comparison:  Homemade:  Less than one dollar a loaf, including fuel to heat the oven.  A 1-pound loaf of levain bread made by Acme, a local artisanal bakery costs $5.50.  A loaf of Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat:  $4.39.

Neutral vegetable oil, for greasing (I used a spray, buy the book to find out Jennifer's opinion on that!)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 1/2 cups whey from making yogurt or water (I used water) at room temperature
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup flaxseeds (optional, I put them in)
4 teaspoons Kosher salt

Oil the inside of two 9 by 5-inch metal loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix the yeast, liquid, flours, seeds (if using) and salt.  Scrape the dough into the pans.  Drape with a clean, damp dish towel and let rise for about 2 hours until level with the tops of the pans.  Many recipes specify plastic wrap to cover rising bread; I (Jennifer Reese) don't use it because a) it's plastic and b) it never stays in place.  Occasionally this dough rises extra high and sticks to the towel; just pull it off the best you can.  If the prospect of this bothers you, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap instead.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Bake loaves for 30 minutes.

Remove the bread from the pans, return to the oven, and bake directly on the rack for 15 minutes more.  The bread is done when it is richly colored and sounds hollow when tapped.

Ordinarily, you should cool bread before slicing, but a hot, crispy heel of this bread is too delicious to forgo, especially with butter.  Store in a paper bag for up to a week.  For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze.

Per Serving (1/20th of a loaf): 87 Calories; 1g Fat (7.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 190mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fat.

I completely agree!  The bread is delicious warm with butter and even better toasted!  It will make great sandwiches and when we don't quite finish a loaf before "its time" it will make great bread crumbs!

Next, this bread with homemade peanut butter!

Meatball & Pecorino Soup

I am lucky enough to work at a food company!  One perk is the occasional cooking class that is offered.  I've tried to go to several but they are so popular they use a lottery system to determine who actually gets into the class and, well, I'm generally not that lucky.  I didn't win the lottery last week either, but found someone who wanted to part with a couple of tickets so I was able to go.

The class was "Small Bites:  Holiday Appetizers That Won't Expand Your Waistline."  The General Mills Cooking Club (of which I am now a member!) picked 8 or 10 recipes out of the Small Bites cookbook by Jennifer Joyce and divided the participants so we each made one.

I was at a station that had the terribly difficult recipe for dipping strawberries in chocolate!  They were then rolled in toasted hazelnuts.  Very yummy, but I hope you go the hint of sarcasm with the level of difficulty.

Other appetizers included Romesco Dip with Roasted Baby Potatoes, Meatball and Pecorino Soup, Three-tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Croutons, Rolled Zucchini Ribbons with Mint, Chili Pepper, and Goat Cheese, Gorgonzola Crostini with Seared Garlic Greens and Raisins and Crab and Gruyere Nachos with Charred Tomato Salsa.

My favorites from the night were the Gorgonzola Crostini and the Meatball and Pecorino Soup.  I liked the soup so much I made a batch yesterday for dinner.  In fact, I made a double batch!

The original recipe calls for lamb meatballs.  I'm not a big fan of lamb and in the class we used pork so I used pork.  You could use turkey or even beef and the recipe would still be great.

The recipe is a bit putzy but so worth it.  The soup has yummy kale and caramelized onions along with the cute little meatballs.

You start by caramelizing the onions.  I love how the kitchen smells when onions are cooking!

While the onions are cooking, the kale is blanched for about 4 minutes then tossed in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

Then the meatballs!  These are a pretty standard meatball recipe, starting with bread soaked in milk to make sure they stay moist!

The recipe calls for frying the meatballs.  Since I was making a double batch and had a lot of meatballs to cook, I did them in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  I just put them in a jelly roll pan with some stock and they come out of the oven delicious and, more importantly, all at the same time.

Once all the components are cooked you throw it all together in a pot to let the flavors meld.  Of course I used the pot in which I caramelized the onions to get all those yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan!

I served it with three different crostinis, caprese, shallot, ham and gruyere and apple with Maytag blue cheese.  Dave loved it too!

Here's the recipe!

Meatball and Pecorino Soup

NOTES : These tiny meatballs combine with the pungent greens, caramelized onion, and sharp pecorino cheese, creating a satisfying soup.  Veal can be used in place of the pork.
The onions can be caramelized 2 days in advance.  The soup may also be frozen for up to 4 weeks.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions -- thinly sliced
8  ounces kale -- chopped
3 cups low-fat chicken broth
2 ounces pecorino cheese -- shaved in slivers for garnish
1 slice white bread
2 tablespoons skim milk
8 ounces  pork -- ground
1/2 clove garlic -- finely chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese -- grated
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil -- for frying
Salt and pepper -- to taste

To make the soup, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepan.  Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and fry for about 10 minutes until the onions are golden-brown and caramelized.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the chopped kale and cook for about 4 minutes, making sure it is cooked but still firm.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.

To make the meatballs, place the bread in a medium-sized bowl, spoon the milk over to soften, and break up the bread with your fingers.  Add the remaining meatball ingredients and mix well.  Using floured  hands, roll the mixture into 1/2 inch balls.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan, add the meatballs, and fry.  Turn regularly, until browned and crisp.

Add the kale, stock and meatballs to the onions in the saucepan, and heat through.  Ladle into cups or bowls, and sprinkle with the pecorino.

  "8 cups"

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 310 Calories; 20g Fat (53.0% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 1081mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 3 Fat.

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