16 January 2013

No need to buy when you can DIY! (Part 1)

Hello friends! My, oh my. It has been quite some time since our last post! I won't bore you with the details of the crazy goings on the past 6 months, but it's good to be back in the start of a fresh, new year and I look forward to providing you a crazy good lot of information, recipes, new exciting ingredients and ways to brighten up your menus, your health, and your keen kitchens!

You've seen mentions of WinCo in previous posts, and I would like to focus on WinCo and other grocery stores like it, which make it possible for all of us to take charge of what we feed our loved ones by offering amazing selections of bulk items that we can turn into condiments, sauces, breakfast meals, we would normally purchase ready made.

What comes to mind when you think of "Buying in Bulk?" What is considered "bulk" shopping? Most of us think Costco, Sam's Club and other warehouse or big box stores. However, if you were fortunate enough to grow up near a WinCo (formerly known in many areas as Waremart) you have experienced the bounty of a true bulk-purchasing department that doesn't require a yearly membership, or the strength of ten men to unload your shopping cart at the end of your trip. To buy in bulk, for many, means purchasing large quantities of merchandise for (hopefully) lower prices. WinCo, a 100% employee-owned company, has mastered the art and ideals of the bulk-buying patron, without putting a vibe of "bigger is better" out there. It's not about buying the most of something. It's about only buying what you need in quantities individualized for you and the needs of those for whom you are cooking and baking.

When you walk into a store like WinCo, you will notice a few things right off the bat. First of all, you WILL want to grab a cart. Next, you'll enter what they call "The Wall of Values" which is a huge floor to giant ceiling aisle of specially priced goods that are priced at extra savings above and beyond the everyday price. Then, depending on the layout of your local store, you will discover along the way a wonderfully stocked produce department, though they are usually lacking in organics, as well as many aisles of canned and dry goods, snacks, a fully stocked deli, meat and seafood department, dairy and freezer departments, a lovely bakery which produces fabulous doughnuts and pastries. The crown jewel of these stores, though, normally sits in a back quarter of the store on one side or the other and as you approach you'll notice bins of candies, wrapped treats, a honey dispenser and peanut butter/almond butter grinder and you'll know you've arrived in Bulk Foods. As you walk through the 2, 3 or 4 small aisles of bulk foods with big bins at waist level and many more above, you'll find everything from nuts to chocolates to every kind of bean, lentil or grain you can dream of and then you get to the dry goods. Whether you are gluten-free, sugar-free, all about whole-wheat or just looking for traditional bread flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips or rainbow sprinkles, you needn't look any further. Does your family go through cereal as if it were air? Guess what? You will now come to cereal in a number of varieties, granolas as far as the eye can see. Is there a spice you've been curious about, but aren't quite ready to hit your local specialty shop yet? WinCo has your back. They make it possible to make, create, combine, experiment, blend, challenge, taste, explore not only with our handed down cookbooks and favorite recipe websites, but our own palettes and tastebuds. And we can do this in a way that won't destroy to grocery budget or make it so we're stuck with a load of something that isn't very enjoyable, or something that our family just isn't loving.

Now that you have a glimpse of why I so enjoy, and discuss, WinCo and all its glorious savings and selections, it's time to put some of those wonderful ingredients and discoveries to use!

There are a few things we eat almost every day, or at least every week in our home. We do a lot of nut butter, and almost every Sunday we have homemade waffles with warm syrup. Peanut butter is something, like syrup, that we as american shoppers tend to purchase quite often, especially with kids in the house, or if we're on a ramen and pb&j budget for whatever reason. We grab the cheapest jar, we toss that bottle of corn syrup laden "maple" goo into the basket, and that pancake and waffle mix is just so handy, we can't resist grabbing the box or bag there, also. With the recipes I'm going to share with you today for these items, recipes that can be enhanced in a number of ways, not only will you potentially save a little coin, you will know exactly what is in your food, and can feel wonderful about sharing these homemade, simple delights with your loved ones who deserve the very best. One of the greatest things about these recipes is that they take very little time, which is so important because the less time we have to spend preparing healthful, tasty foods, the more time we have to share them with the people we enjoy the most! Here goes...

Peanut Butter

In the bowl of a food processor (at least 7 cup, fitted with standard chopping blade):
4 cups unsalted roasted peanuts 
(OR any combination of peanuts, almonds, cashews making sure they're unsalted, preferably roasted)
1/2 cup shelled and salted sunflower seeds (yep, salted is okay here)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
** Amended this recipe since the past few times I've made this, I have not added oil. I just let the food processor run longer and the smooth texture is achieved with very little fussing! 

Start processing the nuts and salt, slowly drizzling in the oil through the lid while running. (Every processor is different so mine has the hole where the pusher piece sits in the tube. Yours might be different.) You will have to stop and scrape the sides and blade every couple of minutes, and this is a loud process for sure, just to be prepared. 

Once you've finished processing you have the option to customize your nut butter! You can, to the whole batch, stir in some melted chocolate, some cinnamon, or honey. Or you can split the batch and play with a few different things! Once your butters are finished, put them in airtight containers and keep in the fridge. Not sure how long they last since we go through about a pound a week in our house, but they should last quite a while. Now, my favorite thing aside from the awesome taste and texture of this nut butter is that unlike other natural peanut butters, there is no separation of oil! You ill not need to stir before spreading because the processor emulsifies the oil so it won't be drawn out letting the nuts settle. It's great!

Sunday Breakfast Syrup

In a medium sauce pan on medium heat:
1 packed cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
Dash of sea salt

That's it! Just whisk and simmer this mixture until it's reached your desired consistency, and if you like it a bit thinner, just add a touch more water at a time until it's just right for you. Now, obviously there's no maple in the recipe and that's because I'm not a maple fan at all, but again, you can customize! I've given you the base, but I also add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and a 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to my own. So what else can you add? Play around! Try maple flavoring if you are a fan, or go for hazelnut, almond, chocolate, or even try orange oil or something a little more fresh and light. All you need to remember when adding these extracts is that a little goes a very long way, so start with just a couple of drops (yes, drops) and go from there. 

Store this syrup in a glass jar in your fridge and when it's time for breakfast, just put the jar in a bowl of hot water to warm it up (don't microwave!) and it's ready for waffles, pancakes, bacon or sausage dipping, or for anything where you'd normally use a store bought maple syrup.

Weekender Waffles 
(I make these in a classic round waffle iron (makes 6), this recipe wouldn't work for belgians, but can be used for pancakes!)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together:
2 cups all purpose flour (whole wheat pastry or regular unbleached)
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt 

Add to the whisked dry mixture:
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Fold the wet ingredients in, careful not to over-mix. Just fold and stir until wet and dry are incorporated.

And now we play! This is the point where you make the recipe your own again! You can add your choice of flavor extracts, crumbled bacon, a handful of blueberries, a teaspoon or two of lemon or orange zest, some ground cinnamon, mini chocolate chips, etc. You can even try mixing a little nut butter into your batter! I did this last weekend and it was fantastic, and the idea of my nearly 6 year-old!

To make your waffles, just follow the instructions on your waffle iron, or make pancakes with this batter, then top with a little homemade nut butter and some warm syrup for a wonderful weekend fueled by homemade goodness! To keep warm and toasty while your waffles are being made, place finished ones directly on the rack of a warm oven. I heat mine to 170ยบ while I'm prepping. Also, if you have any leftover waffles, just store them layered with wax paper in a Tupperware round container, or freezer bag, and heat in the toaster for a quick breakfast during the week! (Amendment! Do not put vintage Tupperware in your freezer! Sadly, this container cracked in half and the lid into a few pieces, when I was closing it after getting out a waffle. I think it just became too rigid in the cold of the freezer.) 

Now, you have the tools to explore your local bulk foods department, find your closest WinCo and give your family a few staples that are made with love, the family's favorite flavors and created in your very own keen kitchen!

Be on the lookout for the next post which will focus on homemade condiments! No need to buy ketchup and mayo, when you can DIY!

1 comment:

Gwendolyn Price said...

What fabulous suggestions. I cannot wait to make the syrup. For someone who does not cook often you inspire me to do more or at least crash one of your waffle breakfasts.
Love your sister who is domestically challenged:-)