Saturday, February 22, 2014

DIY Food Links

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan poses the question that strikes fear into every mother's (or any responsible adult's) heart: "What's for dinner?" Crap. Fast food is so easy, but we all know how bad it is for us. Every year, multiple new sites, like this one for TIME's list of 2013's worst fast food meals, demonstrate over and over that many fast food meals have enough sodium, calories, and saturated fat for an adult's entire day (or more) rather than for one meal. Sigh. I love Taco Bell as much as the next girl. I also find it a great tragedy in life that two taquitos from Whataburger come in at around 1,000 calories, which is almost 2/3 of the allotted calories for a petite adult woman. And, as we've discovered in recent years, processed food from the supermarket is not a whole lot better for us.
Walnut pancakes with Orange-Saffron syrup.
My mom once said something that has stayed with me for years. She said, "You should only shop around the perimeter of the grocery store. Don't shop in the middle." The advice there is to stick to the produce, meat/dairy, and bakery but to avoid the processed, boxed foods in the center aisles of the store. I think there's a lot of merit to that advice. However, most of us really like a lot of that "middle aisle" stuff. So what are we to do? DO IT OURSELVES. That way, we know what we're eating and what we're feeding the other members of our households is within our control. Are you anti corn products like corn syrup? You can replace that with raw sugar or Truvia or local honey or whatever you're into. Have high blood pressure or other conditions affected by sodium intake? Then you can slash the amount by making items like chips and salsa to your own specifications.

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know that I'm really into buying local, organic, sustainable meat, dairy, and produce. But I get that not everyone has the same food philosophies, and my goal is just to write about whatever has captured my fancy at the moment, not necessarily to have a soap box. So I thought I'd put together a list of links that show how to make some of the household favorites from the "middle aisles" for ourselves.
Pickled carrots and onions. 

  • Homemade canned tuna. This is Angelo Sosa's recipe for "chicken of the sea", complete with a video. His cookbook, Flavor Exposed, has a lot of interesting recipes, categorized into groups of salty, sweet, bitter, and smoky.
  • DIY pancake syrup from Beverly's Front Porch. This is a cool recipe because you have options for various sweeteners, and you could easily infuse the syrup with blueberry, strawberry, vanilla, or even rosemary or thyme if you wish. 
  • Sriracha. Or, if you prefer, Hipster Ketchup. I love it, and there are a whole bunch of ways to make your own. Here are a variety of recipes from Serious Eats. The Huffington Post collected several DIY sriracha recipes. When I go to make my own, I'll probably start with this recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I find their recipes are generally fool-proof, and they've been tested on audiences over and over again. 
  • Buzzfeed Foods has a great article on 30 DIY foods, including mayo, Nutella, chips, hummus, whipped cream, etc....This is a great place to start, as many of the recipes are quite simple. 
  • I've mentioned this book before, but Alana Chernila's book, The Homemade Pantry has 101 recipes for various food staples. She has a particularly good section on how to make your own yogurt and cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta. Yum!
  • Granola Bars from Good Eats.
  • As you know, canning is my area of interest right now. There is nothing as satisfying (to me) as opening a jar of my own canned chicken broth, orange marmalade, jalapenos, or pickles to feed folks. If you're new to canning, pickles (and you can pickle pretty much any veggie) or jalapenos are a good place to start because you can put them right into the fridge (these are referred to as refrigerator pickles) without needing any special tools at all except a glass jar. You can also make jam or jelly and put it right in the fridge. Try it! Here's a recipe for Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles. I'm not a huge fan of dill, and I like sweet-spicy, so I make my brine with no salt or dill, some sugar, mustard seeds, and cayenne and crushed red pepper. There's nothing like a crispy, sour pickle or piece of carrot to jazz up a sandwich. If you like this, you can move on to water-bath canning so you don't have to keep everything in the fridge. If you're canning something with a high acid level (4.6 or lower, which is most pickles, jams, and jellies), you can put it in a pot of boiling water to safely preserve it and store it in your pantry. See Canning 101 from Food in Jars for more details. If you're like me, you'll find this kind of addictive and run out to get a pressure canner for items not acidic enough to water-bath can. 

What are you going to try first? What's an item from the "middle aisles" you just can't live without?

Up next: Playing with the fermentation pot I got for Valentine's Day!