Cookbooks: My Pantry, Brew Better Beer, Homemade Vegan Pantry

three book stack - Food in Jars

I have been gazing at this particular stack of three books for at least a month now. I set them on the edge of my desk sometime in early October, thinking that they made a nice little collection, and then got lost in a hurry and busy of life. Read nothing into my delay, all three of these books are worthy contenders for your eyeballs and wish lists.

cover of My Pantry by Alice Waters

Alice Waters is a woman who needs no introduction. As the founder of Chez Panisse and the author of many, many cookbooks, her influence on our culture’s understanding of food has been vast.

My Pantry is her newest volume and is relatively slim in comparison to some of her earlier works. However, as someone who takes great pleasure from making my own pantry staples, I am entirely charmed by this book. It is a trip through Alice’s favorite homemade condiments, simple soups, preserved meats, sweet preserves, and simple cheeses. It’s like a peek into her fridge and cupboards, and there’s much here that I’ve bookmarked for future days of making.

cover of Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen

I’ve never brewed beer. There are a couple things that have stopped me from trying my hand at it. First is the issue of storage (I’m already at capacity with my preserving habit). Second is the fact that my body hates it when I drink more than a few sips and tortures me with headaches if I venture beyond my paltry tolerance.

And yet, despite all that, thanks to Emma Christensen’s Brew Better Beer, I still want to give it a shot someday (I’ll just have to give most of it away, which should make me very popular with my neighbors). Her instructions are clear, the flavor combinations are hugely appealing, and I so appreciate the fact that the recipes are scaled so that you can brew your batches in either 1 or 5 gallons. If you have a burgeoning home brew enthusiast on your list this holiday season, you should get them this book.

cover of Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner

In a sea of books devoted to making pantry staples from scratch, Miyoko Schinner’s Homemade Vegan Pantry, is unique for its plant-based approach. I know several vegans who have already come to depend on this volume for the nut-based cheeses.

However, don’t think you should skip this book if you take a more omnivorous approach to your diet. There is still plenty here for you. The soup concentrates (tomato! mushroom! cream of broccoli!) alone earn this book a spot on my shelf. The crackers are pretty special as well. And I’m really curious about the flax seed meringues!

Are there any cookbooks that you guys have been enjoying lately?

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Giveaway: Wüsthof Classic 7-Piece Traveler Set

Wusthof traveler set

The holidays are coming, and often during this season of celebration, I find myself cooking in unfamiliar kitchens. Over the years, I’ve strategically planted good knives in the kitchens of my sister and parents to make food prep easier when I visit. However, when life takes me to other kitchens (particularly if we’ve rented a vacation house for our gathering), I’ve been known to bring a sharp knife along with me to ease meal prep.

pieces in the traveler set

This holiday season, instead of employing my “chef knife in the luggage” trick, I’ll be tucking a Wüsthof Classic Traveler Set into my bag*. This seven piece kit includes a six inch Cook’s Knife, a five inch Serrated Utility Knife, a three and a half inch Paring Knife, a pair of Kitchen Shears, a Waiter’s Corkscrew, and a handy little sharpener.

It also comes with a handy little carrying case that I’m a little bit obsessed with (I’ve got it tucked into the crook of my arm as I write this post).

inside the traveler set

My friends at Wüsthof want to help more people discover their Traveler’s Set and so have offered one up for a giveaway. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about something that you’re making for Thanksgiving this year.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, November 7, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

*If you’re flying, make sure that you keep all your sharp implements in your checked luggage. There’s no faster way to lose a good knife than to try to get it through security).

Disclosure: Wüsthof sent me one of their Traveler’s Sets for photography and review purposes and are providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions remain my own. 

 

Links: Green Tomatoes, Chocolate, and Winners

apples and a pawpaw

My apologies for these very tardy links and winners. I felt a little off on Friday and woke up early Saturday morning with the stomach flu. I’m no longer feeling like death is mere moments away, but I’m not quite back to my chipper, food-focused self. Here are the few links I could gather up for you.

glass dharma end labels

The winners of the $25 gift cards from Glass Dharma are #63/Carissa, #88/Nikki Howser, and #144/Madeleine. If you didn’t win, but liked the idea of the glass straws, make sure to follow Glass Dharma on Facebook. They sponsor a lot of giveaways and always share them on their page.

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Honey Sweetened Plum Pear Jam

finished pear plum jam

As the weather cools and each day comes bearing less light, I find that my almost-compulsive urge to make jam is starting to go quiet (I’m not worried. It will return with the strawberries in May). The kitchen still pulls me, but once standing at the stove, I make vast pots of soup, warm grain salads, long simmered beans, and oven-roasted compotes of apples and raisins.

plums and pears

I find this time of year to be the very most satiating, both when it comes to food and to general living. My body loves the cooler weather and the bounty of winter squash and cruciferous vegetables, and my mind so appreciates the earlier bedtimes and the reintroduction of pleasure reading that happens when I’m not trying to work through all the waking hours.

pouring honey

I plan on sharing more of these homey soups, salads, and roasted fruit compotes with you in the coming weeks. However, I do have a preserve that is itching to be written up before it is forgotten forever. It’s a honey sweetened jam made from plums and pears that bridges the season in a very appealing way. I realize that in most places, plums are but a distant memory. If that’s the case for you, bookmark or pin it for next year, as it is worth making.

cox honey bottle

This one started as so much of my preserving does, with an assessment of what produce was most urgently on the verge. On the particular afternoon I made this jam, the answer to that question was a quart of plums from my Philly Foodworks CSA share and the last two very ripe pears that remained from a six pound bag we’d bought at Costco ten days earlier.

fruit and honey

I chopped the fruit, cutting away any unseemly bits (the pears teetering on their very last leg) and plunked it all into the pot. I added 2/3 a cup of honey (the ratio of fruit to sweetener was about four to one), the juice of half a lemon, and a heaping half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and cooked it for about 20 minutes, until it was thick.

pear plum jam close

The finished yield was just four half pints. There was a bit leftover in the pan that I swirled into yogurt while it was still warm (so good). I do so love the satisfaction of transforming things that would otherwise get tossed into good, usable food.

Disclosure: The Cox Honey that’s pictured above was part of the shipment of honey that I detailed in this post. The plums were part of my October share from Philly Foodworks.

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CSA Cooking: Butternut Squash Croutons

butternut squash cubes

Since a very young age, I’ve been a fiend for croutons. They weren’t something my mother kept in the house, but my maternal grandmother often had a box tucked into her kitchen cabinets. When we visited, my sister would head straight for the stash of chocolate mints in the bar, while I would quietly abscond with the croutons. I’d tuck myself into a corner with a book and my box of oily bread cubes and be perfectly content until discovered with the empty box.

In my early twenties, my favorite potluck trick was to bring a salad with homemade croutons. The salad could be entirely ordinary because no one was looking at the greens. They were focused on those craggy, garlicky cubes of deeply toasted bread.

roasted butternut cubes

My love for croutons remains, but in recent years I’ve found that I feel better when I don’t eat a lot of bready things. I know that there are many others of you who are in this same boat. Instead of giving up croutons entirely, I’ve taken to giving other food the crouton treatment.

A favorite for crouton transformation this time of year is the butternut squash. I peel, deseed, and chop the squash into cubes the size of regular six-sided dice. They are tossed with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper, laid out in a single layer and roasted until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

While they don’t have the shattering crunch of a bread-based crouton, they are quite delicious in a salad of baby arugula, slivered red onion, and feta cheese.

Do you give anything other than bread the crouton treatment?

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Giveaway: Glass Dharma Gift Cards

glass dharma end labels

For this week’s giveaway, let’s talk glass straws. They are useful, durable, and entirely non-toxic. I’ve got an assortment of Glass Dharma straws in my kitchen that are in regular rotation and I use them all the time (love the 12mm size for spinach and banana smoothies).

bent glass dharma straw

Thanks to the nice folks at Glass Dharma, I have three $25 gift cards to give away so that a few of you can try these handy glass straws for yourself.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share something you’ve been sipping lately.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, October 31, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, November 1, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Glass Dharma is providing the three gift codes at no cost to me. No additional compensation was provided.