Monday, August 2, 2010

Cookbook Review: The Homesteader's Kitchen

When I was growing up, I loved reading books about life on the frontier and wondering what it must have been like to churn your own butter or go mushroom picking in the woods. There was something that always fascinated me about this do-it-yourself, homegrown spirit. Perhaps it was because all I the hunting and gathering I experienced took place in grocery-store aisles.

Which is why when I first got my hands on a review copy of The Homesteader's Kitchen by Robin Burnside, I felt that nostalgia from girlhood come back. This is the cookbook for me: A refreshing cookbook filled with more than 100 recipes that get back to the basics of cooking and baking and making foods from scratch. 

And I don't just mean homemade pizzas or pies. That's one of the things I like best about The Homesteader's Kitchen. While those kinds of entrees and recipes are included, Burnside digs deeper and provides recipes for making even the simplest of ingredients and pantry items from scratch, down to the gravy for your turkey, breads for your sandwiches, dressings for your salads or cheese for your pasta dishes. There are recipes for making your own mayonnaise, chai tea, tortillas, vegetable stock, crackers, sushi rolls, teriyaki sauce, as well as complete meals (vegetarian, meat and fish options) and desserts. Many of these simple recipes also offer a tasty twist on a familiar favorite, like a Kiwi Vinaigarette, Thai Cilantro Pesto or Hot Carob Cocoa.

And the recipes themselves are stocked with real and fresh ingredients. I didn't see one recipe that called for canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones, for instance. The cookbook is intended to be used as a resource for making use of your garden-grown fruits and veggies. She even includes guides for edible flowers or growing your own salad sprouts! Even though we aren't able to grow our own food just yet, I love that that's the premise of the cookbook, and one that I hope to make baby steps toward in our future.

The only drawback I do have about The Homesteader's Kitchen is that, more often than not, there aren't photos of the finished recipes, which is usually a priority for me in cookbook buying. But, the whole-food aspect and down-to-earth recipes more than makes up for that. (And, from a publishing point of view, I can only imagine how costly it can get to photograph every recipe.)

I love being able to have this sort of variety of recipes for making everyday foods from scratch compiled into one go-to resource, and I find the idea of cooking from scratch to be freeing. I love being able to turn to my pantry and, in just a couple of hours, make my own daily bread, rather than have to run up to the grocery store. And baked into that little loaf is a labor of love and a sense of satisfaction at what my hands hath wrought. It's like stepping back in time and delivering some of those culinary basics and how-tos from generations past to the dinner table tonight.

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