Make It At Home Monday - Kitchen Basics

As most everyone knows, I make a lot of things by hand that most people just go out and buy. I have a few different reasons for this: sometimes it's to save money, sometimes because I want to avoid the chemicals or additives or unfair labor practices found in store bought products. Sometimes it's just plain fun.

I thought it would be nice to start sharing with my readers some of the products I make at home. Most of this can be found elsewhere on the internet, but right here I'll collect my favorite recipes and tutorials. I plan to do this series on Mondays, until I run out of things to show you!

Today I'll go through some of my food basics. I need to bulk up on some things anyway, so it's a perfect time to take some pictures.

1. Bread.  Homemade bread is the best. It's dirt cheap to make, and pretty easy. I used to make bread by hand, but now I have a bread machine, so that does all my mixing, kneading, and rising for me.  In a pinch, I will bake in the machine, but I prefer the look of a true loaf right out of the loaf pan. My basic bread recipe (courtesy of Mama Joan) is this: 3 cups solids (flour + whatever additives you like - oats, nuts, etc),  1 tsp yeast, a bit of salt and sugar (I prefer a salty bread, so I use more than a bit), a TBSP of olive oil or butter, about 1 cup warm water. Each loaf has a mind of its own, so I might add extra flour to one and extra water to the next. I've started freezing a loaf of bread to bake midweek, which has worked out great.

2. Brown sugar. Thank you, Pinterest. I made my first batch of brown sugar (with my mom's awesome stirring abilities) over the holidays. It tastes better (less sweet) than store bought, and I'm pretty sure it's cheaper. I also like that you can control how dark or light it is. Recipe? A cup of granulated sugar to 1 TBSP molasses. Mix with a fork.

3. Pancake, cornbread, cookie, and brownie mixes. I've gathered these recipes from various places, and I really like making the dry ingredient packs ahead of time. It cuts down on prep time, and just makes my life easier. I also pre-make cookies and toss them in the freezer (more on that here). It's so easy to pop a few on the cookie sheet and have fresh baked cookies in about 15 minutes!

4. Popcorn. I know most people already know how to make popcorn on the stove top, but I'd never tried it until a few months ago. I grew up in a microwave popcorn household, and continued that tradition in my own house. Now we've switched, and we'll never go back! A fresh batch of popcorn popped in coconut oil and sprinkled with nutritional yeast is one of Eamon's favorite snacks. It's a whole lot cheaper that way too, especially if you buy it from the bulk bin at your favorite co-op.

5. Spreadable butter. I've been making my own spreadable butter mostly because I hate throwing out the containers from store bought butter (they are a #5 recyclable). I don't think it's any cheaper to make my own, but I do love seeing my butter sitting on my countertop in a lovely glass container. To make my whipped butter, I toss two room temperature sticks of butter in the mixer, then add a few tablespoons of olive oil.


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