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Archive for the ‘Things you normally buy but could make’ Category

Dudes, this is just a short little post to say: I JUST MADE PEANUT BUTTER.

I am feeling pretty all-powerful right now. Like most things I discover are really easy to make, I’m totally amazed and am also asking myself “why haven’t I always been making my own nut butter?! That was sooo easy!” And it really was, so so so easy.

The thing is, it’s not like peanut butter or other nut butters are all that hard to come by. And with things like almond butter, I wonder whether it would be any cheaper to make it at home, because almonds can be pricy. But with peanut butter it felt so worth it, and I’ll tell you why. I am ALWAYS having a dilemma about what kind of peanut butter to buy. All the brands like Kraft, etc. are delicious and I love them, but I usually don’t actually want to eat peanut butter that is that sweet all the time. And I’m often thinking to myself how much bad stuff is added in to those peanut butters. But then I’ll go out and buy the straight up just-peanuts natural peanut butter and be kind of bummed that there’s NO salt and NO sweetener. I admit that I like a bit of salt and sweet with my nut butter! So then I’ll start looking at brands like this one, which is definitely delicious, but then I’m all like “6 bucks for a tiny jar?! That’s highway robbery!” and so on.

It’s a good idea to give your food processor some breaks now and then so you don’t burn out your motor.

But guess what? When you make your own peanut butter, you can put exactly what you want in it. Like this one, which has a bit of salt, is sweetened with a bit of maple syrup, and has a sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of homemade vanilla extract mixed in, for extra delicious-ness. Cinnamon-vanilla-maple peanut butter. IT IS SO GOOD.

And all I had to do was put a bunch of peanuts in my food processor and whirl them around until they were buttered. So easy.

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This here is a summer meal.

“But wait!” you say, “it’s only May!”.  Well obviously you didn’t spend last weekend in Toronto/Ontario/my sweltering apartment. So if May seems a little too early to be laying in front of a fan and spritzing water on yourself from the spray bottle normally reserved for punishing the cat, forgive me.  We’re waiting for the screens for our windows to arrive, and since my cat would likely launch herself out of our apartment in chase of birds if I opened the un-screened windows all the way, for now we sweat.

So yes, you may have heard that I moved again. Spare me the “you move a lot!” remarks if you please, because my past bunch of moves have been necessary and had you lived in two back-to-back (TWO!!!) cockroach-infested apartments with a host of other problems to boot, you’d move too. This is the first time in over a year that I’ve felt like I have a home I want to go home to, and it is an immense relief and such a burden lifted off of my emotional and mental health! I am also now embarking on the adventure that is cohabitation, so things are all new up in here.

The new kitchen.

But this is a food blog, not a blog about my life (or is it? are those things not kind of the same anyways?) I owe you a summery meal, and a summery meal you’ll get.

Well hello there, magnetic knife rack…

Last Friday I finally received my copy of Alana Chernila’s cookbook, entitled The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.  Very honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a beautiful cookbook. I sat down and basically read it cover to cover when I got home on Friday evening, and I rarely do that with cookbooks. I’m usually a page-flipper with new cookbooks. But time and time again, Alana’s blog has had these beautifully written pieces that say so much about food, so much that I wholeheartedly agree with.  I would be lying if I said that my eyes didn’t get a little welly-with-tears when I read certain pages of her book.  It’s wonderful, and on Friday night, I was inspired to start making more than just dinner. Saturday morning I bought rhubarb at the market, and will be making some more Rosemary-Rhubarb jam soon. But on Saturday, though none of the recipes came from her book, I made a summery feast.

Homemade veggie burgers, with homemade whole-wheat buns, maple-lemon fiddleheads (by Paul!) and homemade lemon ice cream. Nom.

Now, I won’t tell you about the burgers, because I’ve already written about them here. I’ll tell you about the ice cream and about the buns.

First, the buns. A confession: I’m a bread cheater, because I use a bread machine. I know that I could do it all without the machine, but the machine makes it SO EASY, and I have it, so I’ll continue to use it until I decide it is no longer fit for me. I adapted the bun recipe from here, primarily changing it to include more whole wheat flour and I used butter and some sunflower oil rather than shortening, because shortening is gross.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns for the Bread Machine

1 cup water

1 egg

1.5 cups all-purpose flour

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup softened butter (supplemented with a little bit of sunflower oil, because I didn’t have quite enough butter already softened, and I am now without a microwave and didn’t want to wait)

1/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons yeast

1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional)

I used the dough setting on my bread machine, and when it was done I punched it down on a floured cutting board and rolled into a kind of log. I cut it into 8 equal pieces, rolled those into balls, and flattened them slightly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. I covered them with a towel and let them rise a bit more, then brushed them with some egg white, popped them in the oven at 400, and baked them for less than 10 minutes. They were DELICIOUS. I wanted to eat a million of them, but we only had 8 and they were gone so quickly. Thank goodness I’m not gluten-intolerant.

Insert “nice buns” joke here.

Now, the ice cream. The lemon ice cream. If you didn’t already know, lemon desserts are my favourite. For awhile, an old roommate of mine was calling me Liz Lemoncake, after I expressed concern that people would start complaining behind my back that I always make lemon cake. Obviously, my roommate told me I was crazy, and that people would be happy that I was bringing cake at all.  This lemon ice cream is my mom’s recipe. I grew up having it very rarely (because we didn’t use the ice cream maker that much) but remember it fondly. I have often tried to find an ice cream elsewhere that lives up to it, but have never found one – it is truly a rarety to find a lemon ice cream – not lemon sorbet, not lemon frozen yogurt, lemon ICE CREAM. It is tart and yet oh-so-creamy at the same time, and it is divine. Here it is, verbatim from my mom’s recipe (hope this one wasn’t a secret, mom!)

I think this recipe came with my mom’s ice cream maker?

makes 1 1/2 quarts
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla
heat the milk to simmering point.  In the meantime, stir together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.  Stir the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and return to the saucepan.  Place over low heat and stir constantly until thickened into a light custard. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Cool the mixture before pouring into the ice cream freezer can.
Churn for approximately 20 minutes or until the consistency of whipped cream.  Transfer to containers and freeze until firm.
If you don’t have an ice cream machine, I can’t help you. Except that I can, if you are my friend and live in Toronto and want to come over for ice cream.

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I know what you’re thinking – “That Liz, any excuse to say the word ‘nips’!” but it isn’t like that, I swear. A little while back, I started buying goldfish crackers. This increased when the President’s Choice version came out not too long ago, which are shaped like penguins and just a little bit cheaper than the original.  I started buying these partly to try and break my Crispers habit, because while Crispers are certainly delicious, they are also full of all kinds of crap.  Surprisingly, goldfish/penguin crackers mostly are not.  I mean, they have some things in them that I wouldn’t use in my food at home, but not nearly as bad as the barrage of un-pronounceable things that many other crackers have in them.  And so a cheese-y cracker addiction began.  Sometimes I would opt for Cheese Nips (I swear, I’m not trying to advertise for any of these brands) if they were on sale.  But always, as I bought these, there was a voice in my head nagging me. It was saying “Stop buying these – save your money.  You know you can make these at home”.  This voice usually comes up in the cookie aisle, when I’m tempted to buy some crappy grocery store cookies and I talk myself out of it with images of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Not too long ago, I never would have dreamed of making crackers.  Even though I’ve seen roommates make them before with ease.  But those are usually healthy crackers, and I just want a salty snack.  All the homemade crackers I pictured in my head were covered in seeds and made with spelt and all that – completely delicious for many purposes, but generally not the kind of crackers I buy anyways.   But then, almost a year ago now, there was THIS.  I remember reading that post and having my mind blown.  It looked so easy.  So few ingredients! And yet, I didn’t have a goldfish-shaped cookie cutter.  So I put off making them.  And oh yeah, I didn’t really have a good food processor either.  Always excuses, and I kept buying the cheesey store crackers.

Today, I came home from the grocery store to do my homework.  And I did homework, for a little while.  And then I remembered that every day last week I brought penguin-cheese crackers with me to school in my lunch, and I didn’t have any more for this week.  I remembered that I just bought 2 blocks of cheese on sale (300g block for 2 bucks! Pretty good deal!).  Without hesitation, I got up, and started grating cheese.  I knew if I started, it would come together in no time, and it did.  The only part of this recipe that takes any time is the actual baking, and that’s not really active time.  So make these for yourself, because holy crap, they are sooo easy and more delicious than any store version, and cheaper, and they only have SIX ingredients. Two of them are flour, and none of them are weird.  And really, truly, you don’t need a goldfish cookie cutter to make them.

Cheese Crackers a la Goldfish (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The Lee Bros.)

– 1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (really pack it in those cups, the more cheese the better. If you want to weigh it, its supposed to be 6 ounces of grated cheese)

-4 TBSP of butter (I cut mine into little cubes, and softened a bit in the microwave)

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

-1/4 cup regular flour

-1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional – you can barely taste it, but I think it adds character)

-1/4 tsp. salt (you can put less – these are not as salty as the store-bought kind, but they are still salty.  I’m a salt fiend, so if you want less, go for it)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and let blend until it forms a ball of dough. This should take about 2 minutes.  THIS was the craziest thing ever! When I turned on my food processor, it just looked like bread crumbs, and I thought there was no way it would come together into a ball of dough.  Did I miss something? Am I supposed to add some water? I checked the recipe again and read through the comments.  Nope, no water. I resisted the urge to add some right away and decided to (gasp!) follow the directions. It was nuts, I’ve never seen this before.  A mix of totally dry and crumbly bits started to get more clumpy, and more clumpy, until suddenly it was one big ball of dough and my food processor was working hard to push it around in circles.  Crazy! So, have faith in this dough.

Roll it out (on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin) until it is 1/8 inch thick.  I never know how thick my dough is, so just try and get it fairly thin, yet thick enough that you are still actually able to pick it up off your rolling surface. Since I don’t have any cookie cutters, I just cut my crackers into squares, placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, pricked them a few times with a fork (to let the steam escape) and misted them with water.  In my insanely-fast-super-hot oven, these only took about 5-6 minutes per batch, but the recipe said 12-15.  So keep an eye on them.  Take them out when they are starting to be golden at the edges, but before they burn (duh).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.  Sometimes things like this go soggy when they are in containers, I will let you know if that happens.

I ate about a million of them while I baked, and still ended up with about 80 1-inch square crackers, so pretty good.  They cost me about $1 worth of cheese to make, and the rest of the ingredients I always have and so I count that cost as pretty much negligible. So all in all, a great deal. Even if “I love homemade-cheesey-square-crackers cuz they’re so delicious!” doesn’t quite flow off the tongue in the same way. Enjoy!

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