Wednesday, June 13, 2012

{Book Review} The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making

By Alana Chernila
Clarkson Potter Publishers
ISBN 978-0-307-88726-9

I love this book! The recipes are pretty simple foods yet wonderful, delicious, and things that most people eat in their everyday lives. The recipes range from pantry basics to foods that I never would have thought about making homemade (such as cream filled snack cakes, marshmallows, or peanut butter cups). And after making many of the recipes, my family has determined that they like the Homemade Pantry version better. And not a single recipe has failed me; everyone has turned out wonderful and delicious.  This book is great for beginners due to the easy to follow instructions and tips but also good for people that are experienced at cooking like me. I already make most of my family’s food from scratch, but this book added more grocery store alternative products to our kitchen.

My family loves the recipes for the sandwich cookie (almost like an Oreo only better and healthier), hamburger buns, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, pesto, vanilla ice cream, vanilla extract, pudding, stock, salsa, roasted tomatoes (a great way to preserve any leftover tomatoes that are going ripe too fast), all three car snacks recipes, toaster pastries, granola, instant oatmeal, maple popcorn, homemade butter, and more. This summer (after I order the cultures), I want to make the mozzarella cheese, crème fraiche, and ricotta; and we can’t wait to try hot sauce, cucumber pickles, and ketchup once our garden is ripe this fall!

I love that the recipes are so much healthier than store purchased alternatives; no artificial flavors/colors or preservatives here and every ingredient is one that I can pronounce and that I know what is. There are also recipes that cover almost every aspect of the pantry from dairy products, soups, condiments, snacks, candy and sweets, to pasta and everything in between. Alana has even included a recipe for cream filled snack cakes (similar to Twinkies, only healthier).

I love the tips that Alana provides, especially on where to find some ingredients and what brands she feels works the best (for example, she recommends New England Cheese Making Supply for yogurt, cheese, buttermilk, and crème fraiche starters and Lyle’s Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup). Alana also includes great tips on things that could possibly go wrong which she terms “tense moments”. These tips help a lot.

I love that instead of saying “buy xxx packaged food” or “xxx mix” as many recipe books do Alana made sure to add the ingredient recipes. So instead of just saying use graham crackers, pie crust, buttermilk, or cream cheese, etc she tells you how to make your own; but at the same time if you don’t want to make your own cream cheese or graham crackers, you can always purchase them at the store and the recipes will still turn out great.

I appreciate that each recipe includes storage tips including the length of time it should be stored for and how it should be stored (air tight container, in fridge, at room temperature, etc), and if the recipe is suited to be frozen or canned. This makes it so I do not have to guess that hot sauce shouldn’t be canned or that yellow cake can be frozen; which saves me from making mistakes.

The stories she adds to go with the recipes are fun and makes Alana Chernila feel like a friend. The stories also made me realize that these are recipes that she actually feeds her family. Although there is not a picture to go with every recipe, the pictures that are included are wonderfully done and give a great representation of what the food should look like when finished. I also love the pictures of her family that she has included. The stories and the pictures help give the book character and a fun side.

I highly recommend The Homemade Pantry for anyone, both experienced cooks and beginners.

I received a complementary book for review purposes. However in no way did this affect my opinions of this book. This review is my 100% honest opinion.

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