30 October, 2008

10 Fantastic Foods and Drinks You've Always Put Off Making

All we hear in the news, these days, is that the world's economy is faltering. But we don't need news reports to drive it home that property values are stagnating, fuel prices aren't matching up with the decline of oil cost, and food prices are higher than ever.

Take heart! In our home, this financial necessity has birthed some lovely invention, especially in the kitchen. I've spent a good deal of time researching what, exactly, I can avoid buying at the grocer's and begin making for myself.

Added bonus? You get the emotional satisfaction of these hand-crafted treats, made to your perfect preference. Sure, it's a lot of work at times, but in the end it's more than worth it.

Here are ten family favorites you can make all on your own.

1. Bread: The most obvious of this week's list, and still so few actually put hand-to-dough. It may take a bit of trial-and-error to get the flow right, but do give it the old college try. A basic wheat bread couldn't be easier, but why stop there? Spice it up with some cinnamon, sweeten with raisins or jam, or, if you're feeding a strapping Aussie like I am, paint the unformed bread with Vegemite, tomato paste, and sprinkle a bit of cheese for an amazing breakfast and snack bread.

2. Goat Cheese: Ohhhh, nothing will set the City Mouse drooling quite like a tangy, creamy chevre. I'm not sure if it's the farm-fresh in me or the food-snob, but whatever it is, this homemade treat tops my personal list for foods to make in the new year. Find a local goat and as her kindly for a pint or two, or visit your nearest market for some milk-to-go. Roll those chevre logs in your own blend of homegrown herbs and serve it up with the next delectable snack on the list.

3. Wheat Thins: These delicious darlings will be spreading their toasty aroma through our kitchen, tomorrow. What wonderful sensory therapy! Costing next to nothing in materials, and with only minimal effort, you can have these crispy warm crackers anytime you want, sans the $3-$4 price tag. If you're watching your fat intake, like I am, substitute margarine for butter, and use light milk.

4. Cordial: Better than soda, cheaper than juice, this UK and Aussie staple may be unfamiliar to North Americans. Raid the nearest berry bush and simmer yourself up bottle after bottle of this flavor-maker. My favorite use? A dash of cordial into an icy glass of soda water. Instant Italian Soda, right in your kitchen, without the trip to Starbucks.

5. Yogurt: And Yoghurt too. Say it however you like, but what breakfast can't be improved with a creamy little dish of this honeyed, fruited or vanilla-flavored dream? We have a small bit every day. Unflavored, it is the ideal starter for tzatziki sauce, labneh, and other tempting Mediterranean accouterments.

6. Salad Sprouts: Nothing spruces up a hummus sandwich like a handful of refreshing alfalfa or broccoli sprouts. And what Pad Thai is complete without healthy helping of crunchy little sprouted beans? When store-bought, these crispy additions can often be soggy and slimy before they even hit the plate. Home-sprouted, they can be grown in amounts small enough for the occasional muncher.

7. Tea: Why rely on a shelf-weary tea bags for your cuppa when you can have your own satisfying assortment of home-mixed brews? With homegrown berries, chamomile, mints, roses, dried tree fruits, and your own aromatic camellia sinensis (basic tea) plant, you can craft any number of soothing blends of black, green, and oolong tea. Want to give the trendy White Tea a go? Just pick the baby tea leaves as you would for green or oolong, and skip the roasting and fermentation stages, heading straight for a fast, early dry.

8. Soda Pop: If, like my husband, you go through one or two canned sodas each day, you can rapidly find yourself spending $50 in fizzy drinks each month! How great would it be to bottle up an array of your own, personalized root beers and sarsaparillas, cream and grape sodas, and ginger beer and ales? Not only could you keep cool all summer, but a basket of your home brewed, hand-labeled bottles would make a beautiful gift for loved ones. We're definitely giving these recipes a try at the Holidays!

9. Beer and Ale: Kiddie-pops not working for you? With some experimentation you can cook up some adult beverages, microbrewed to your specifications. Don't try it for a quick fix, as proper beer takes weeks to ferment and fizz properly, but a swig of your home brew on a hot day just can't be beat.

10. Toffee and Taffy: Few among us are without memories of wax-wrapped toffees in our grandma's candy dish, or dime store sweet treats bought with a week's allowance. I know I have heady childhood thoughts of the clean, warm scent of salt water taffies made on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. Relive it in your kitchen, and have a great project to work on with your kids, twisting toffees and having a real old fashioned taffy pull!

Whether in the Northern Hemisphere or South, times are nearing when we spend more time indoors to avoid the elements, be they snow or sun, and these are great days for finally getting around to that "I'll try it, someday," project you've considered year-long.

Enjoy these ten things on my procrastination list and make sure to share the fruits of your labors!


RazorFamilyFarms.com said...

I have to tell you that I was really surprised (and pleased) when I read the list and realized that we make each one of those items!

We even made wine and vinegar this year.

We had so much fun doing so and I couldn't believe how easy it was -- I felt really silly for having been so intimated by winemaking all this time.

As for the soda pop -- we only broke one bottle. That's a record for us. Usually, at least three burst.

We made ginger ale and ginger beer this year, too. We grew our ginger and I was really pumped to make ginger beer. I remember not being allowed to drink ginger beer as a child and decided that it was a must-have now.

I love that you and I have so much in common now. Who would have thought?


Maggie ~:) said...

I have made a very similar version of those Wheat Thins from a Spark People recipe. Oh my goodness they were good! I keep telling myself I'll make bread, but I never can just Sit Down and Do it. I need to, though. There's so much Crap in bread it's hard to get any that's clean.

Kelly the City Mouse said...

Lacy: Yay! I'm going to have to monkey with the wheat thins recipe a bit. Our oven is so unreliable that it cranked out two huge batches of cement.

I know we're planning to make beer, soon, but not likely any wine as we're in the best wine region in the country. Too easy to get really good vintage here.

Maggie: Can you post the recipe in your community? The one I used didn't quite work out. And definitely give bread-making a try! I make two loves each week and it's enough for our breakfast toast and two sandwiches a day for Ryan. And it's very therapeutic!

RazorFamilyFarms.com said...

You know, I only just realized that you linked to my wheat bread -- thank you!! You rock!


Kelly the City Mouse said...

No prob. It's a really tasty recipe :)