Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Make the Bread, Buy the Butter"

Mom was a stay at home Mom back in the 1950's and honestly, I can never remember a time when I'd get home from school that she wasn't in the kitchen cooking something. It was a given, I never had to go searching for her. She cooked from scratch, she canned, she even made bread. No wonder she was always in the kitchen! She wasn't Super Mom, she was just another 1950's housewife who was making things like her Mom did and pinching pennies.

When I got married in 1970, I knew nothing about preparing a meal. The previous 19 years Mom had shooed me from the kitchen so that she could get dinner ready. I remember peeling potatoes ONCE and I did know how to wash dishes, but the rest of kitchen duties were a mystery to me. I received one lone cookbook as wedding gift so I was sorely prepared for my first year of marriage. We ate tuna casserole, jello salad and spaghetti. That was it, that was all I could make that was remotely edible. About a month into it, I went to the library and checked out some cookbooks, Betty Crocker saved my marriage before it was ever seriously in trouble. Thank you Betty! That was the beginning of a love affair with cookbooks. After all, cooking with love= cooking from scratch, right? Wrong. You can make a meal that's totally from your heart without ever breaking a sweat. It's taken me 40+ years to learn the secrets, but now there's a book written for all of you newlyweds out there that need to cut to chase!

Last week on Good Morning America I saw a great new cookbook Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. She spent a year of her life testing out her theory that some homemade recipes can save you big bucks, other ones not so much. She did the work for us, testing and compiling homemade versus storebought, figuring in flavor as well. Her blog The Tipsy Baker  is simply a vehicle to cook her way through her huge collection of cookbooks. It's all here... recipes, family, goats, and finances!
<a href='' target='_new' title='Cook with Jennifer Reese, author of MAKE THE BREAD, BUY THE BUTTER'>Video: Cook with Jennifer Reese, author of MAKE THE BREAD, BUY THE BUTTER</a>
I always say I can't buy anymore cookbooks, I've really run out of room. But this one will save us money so it's on my Christmas Wish List...

Order from Amazon here.
"I baked two pies, identical except for the source of the pumpkin. Pie number one contained the flesh of a sugar pie pumpkin that I roasted for an hour, peeled, seeded, de-stringed, and forced through the food mill. Pie number two contained the flesh of a pumpkin that Libby’s had processed in a plant and I scooped out of the can. Results: The canned pumpkin was (obviously) more convenient, and I did not have to wait for it to roast. It was also slightly more expensive—about $0.50 more than the whole pumpkin. But those were fifty cents well spent, because it made a superior pie—the flavor was bigger, rounder, more pumpkin-y. I have no idea how you get more pumpkin-y than an actual pumpkin. According to the label, Libby’s canned pumpkin contains nothing but pumpkin. Did I just have a dud pumpkin? Confusing. My advice: When you’re standing at the supermarket the day before Thanksgiving pondering your pumpkin options, grab the can and get in the checkout line before it grows any longer. You’re not being squeamish, you’re being sensible. However, you should absolutely bake your own pie."
Cost comparison: Homemade: $3.68. Sara Lee frozen: $5.99. Safeway in-house bakery: $8.79

Pumpkin Pie
1¼ cups canned pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
⅓ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
 ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup half-and-half
One 9-inch pie crust (page 153), partially baked
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, eggs, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and half-and-half and beat until smooth. Pour into the crust.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes. This is incredible served warm out of the oven, and almost as good cold.

"People are unnecessarily intimidated by pie crusts. Your first ten crusts may look like kindergarten art projects, but so long as the edges are presentable—so long as there are edges—no one who eats the pie will know or care. Many recipes are very specific about what type of fat to use. Cooks swear by all-butter crusts, Crisco crusts, lard crusts, even vegetable oil crusts. My favorite is this butter-lard crust, which has the most flavor and shatters when you bite into it. But use whatever fat you want; the crust will be better than anything you can buy. Homemade crust tasted against Safeway’s frozen shell was delicate and rich, as opposed to brittle and bland. Likewise, it outperformed Pillsbury roll-out dough, which is oversalted and contains suspected carcinogens BHA and BHT. Not that a trace amount will give you cancer. It’s the principle. Make it or buy it? Make it."

Cost comparison: Homemade: just under a dollar. A Safeway-brand frozen pie crust: $1.70

Pie Crust
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
½ teaspoon kosher salt
 2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold butter, cut into bits
4 tablespoons cold lard (recipe follows), cut into bits (if you have time, freeze the lard bits)
¼ cup ice water
  1. Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a large bowl or a food processor.
  2. Add butter and lard, a few bits at a time, blending with your fingers or pulsing in the processor, until the mixture forms a coarse meal.
  3. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time (you probably won’t need all of it and should use as little as you can get away with), and mix just until the dough begins to form a ball. Shape it into a disk, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours.
  4. Flour the work surface and roll the dough into a rough circle, ¼ inch thick or less. The circle doesn’t have to be perfectly round—ragged edges are fine. This recipe makes a little extra dough in case of mistakes. Lift the dough and place it in a 9-inch pie plate. (If you fold the dough in half and then in half again, it’s easier to place in the pan.) Don’t stretch the dough. You should have a lot of overhang. Tuck the edges over and pinch decoratively. I like to squeeze the dough between the side of my middle finger and my thumb to create a tall, fluted crust, like a garland. It will collapse during baking, but the ruins of its beauty endure. You can also crimp the pie crust by pressing it against the rim of the pie plate with the tines of a fork. That’s easier, if not as pretty.
  5. To prebake pie crust: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a piece of foil in the shell and pour in enough rice, dried beans, or pie weights to keep it from puffing.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil and return the dough to the oven. Bake 5 minutes more. Cool before filling. If you’re not using the crust immediately, cover and store at room temperature for up to a day.
Makes one 9-inch crust
Excerpted from MAKE THE BREAD, BUY THE BUTTER: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch—Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese. Copyright 2011 by Jennifer Reese. Published by Free Press


  1. Looks like a great book!... I'm not quite the savvy shopper/baker that she is, that's for sure. I go for the can every time. :-)

  2. What a fresh idea she has had...think it would be a good book.

  3. Betty was my go to for a very long time. I still enjoy reading and collecting cook books.

  4. This post made my mouth water. Thanks for the tip. I'll go over and visit her blog. I think sometimes things aren't worth the effort. I would never cook down pumpkin to make a pie. I made tomato juice ONE time. It was a million degrees in my kitchen and I had tomatoes hanging from the ceiling. After that, I just bought the canned.
    xo, Cheryl

  5. Joycee,
    I love the rain, too. I'm glad I no longer live in crazy-town or ride the bus to crazy-town. I like where I am longer have those hormonal surges and am more logical, reasonable and even-keeled than ever before. I bet the rest of the people around me are happy about that, too! xo, Cheryl

  6. Thanks for this great post...I hardly ever buy a cook book any more because you can find anything on the internet but this does look good! :D

  7. Let's not forget that time is money too. My time is very valuable and convenience of course will have a I am willing to pay.
    The cost of running an oven for an hour should also be factored in.
    As for the pie crusts...mine look just fine but the taste is terrible and I have tried "everyones" recipes.

  8. All things old, are new again! I could have written that cook book 50 years ago! Some stuff you just don't buy and some stuff is stupid to make!

    Good post!

  9. My son, Rich remarried after his wife died of cancer..His new wife, Lisa is such a wonderful girl but she doesn't know how to cook.. So I ordered this book for her for a Christmas present. Can hardly wait to get it and read what this gal has to say.
    Thanks for the idea..
    Have a tiggeriffic day~ ta ta for now from Iowa:)

  10. Added to my Christmas list! Thanks for sharing! K

  11. I'm not much of a cook, so I use all the shortcuts available. The quicker I can get out of the kitchen, the better. Eating out, with someone else doing the cooking, even better. Strange that my kids LOVE to cook. They didn't inherit that from me.

  12. This looks like a great cookbook and something I would be interested in. Thanks!


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