The Prairie Homestead Cookbook, a cookbook review

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I received a review copy of The Prairie Homestead Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Heritage Cooking in Any Kitchen by Jill Winger.  By name alone, I was expecting a lot of comfort food recipes just because that’s what I tend to think of when I think of stereotypical American cooking. And while there are comfort food recipe in the book, I feel like the soul of this book is more about cooking building blocks, and taking the DIY route in the kitchen.

The book is divided into these chapters:

  • Country Breakfasts
  • Hearty Mains
  • Farm-Style Sides
  • Home Bakery
  • Old-Fashioned Sweets
  • Homestead Sips
  • Prairie Pantry Staples
  • Herbs and Veggies
  • Eggs, Milk, and Meat
  • Stocking the Larder

 

Here are some recipes that you can look forward to:

  • Baked Eggs with Cream and Chives
  • Homemade Bacon
  • Homemade Chorizo
  • Old-Fashioned Sausage Gravy
  • Wyoming Burger
  • Cheddar and Herb Meatloaf
  • Saucy Spiced Beef and Onions
  • Old Homestead Pie
  • Chicken Poblano Chowder
  • Parmesan Roasted Cabbage Steaks
  • Herbed Crescent Rolls
  • Sourdough Crackers
  • Old-Fashioned Gingerbread with Caramel Sauce

 

The Herbs and Veggies, and the Eggs, Milk, and Meat chapters of the cookbook are the homesteading chapters, chapters which I wasn’t expecting at all.  Herbs and Veggies are pretty much what you might expect. It’s an introduction to gardening outdoors, more with a focus on raised beds. I basically live in a city with very little land space so I don’t have much use for information that isn’t about container gardening.  The chapter finishes up with a vegetable growing guide, covering the most conventional vegetables that you’d find consumed in North America.

The only information in the Herbs and Veggies chapter that I personally found worthwhile is the homemade organic garden spray recipe.  It makes me willing to try growing kale again (which is pretty easy… until it’s infested with bugs which also happens pretty easily).

The Eggs, Milk, and Meat chapter is about raising chickens, cows, and goats.  While I could technically raise chickens where I live, I’m really not about to.  (Let’s be honest. I don’t even own house pets because I’m cheap and lazy that way.)  Nevermind cows and goats for a city girl like me. Since I have zero experience with raising livestock, I will be fair and refrain from making any comments or critiques. I don’t know how useful the provided information is, and I probably never will.

It was the homesteading chapters that I saw first when I first flipped through this book.  I doubted how much this book would be useful to me. But the recipes? Now that I’ve had time to ruminate over the rest of the book, I think the recipes themselves are useful to have.

I made the creamy tomato garlic soup recipe as my inaugural recipe.  As the warm weather eases into New England, I am suddenly hankering for soups and all things slow cooked.  I want to enjoy all of it as much as I can before it gets too hot to cook much of anything.

I was really happy with my results.  It’s a very rich tomato soup. The ingredients are: butter, onion, garlic, all purpose flour, a bit of sugar, dried basil, sea salt, black pepper, chicken stock, fresh/home-canned/commercial canned tomatoes, heavy cream, and cheese for garnish.  Swap the heavy cream with evaporated milk, and you have a very pantry friendly recipe. It’s almost too rich for me, so I’m thinking about swapping some of the butter for olive oil too. But the flavor and texture is good and comforting.

I thought I’d put the book down once I was done with my recipe test and move onto my ever-growing backlog of “to try” recipes.  But there’s something to be said about a cookbook with a lot of basic recipes, because I write this review, I have her simple roast chicken (using the slow cooker option) cooking now.

While everything in the book sounds reasonably tasty, it’s Winger’s more basic recipe that I’m more drawn to.  In addition to the roast chicken I’ve got going, I want to try the roast beef, the slow cooker pulled pork (which I almost made but ultimately decided to carry home a whole chicken than a pork shoulder), the cast iron skillet bread, and the cream of wheat (key ingredient?  Actual whole wheat berries).

All in all, I’m happy to recommend this cookbook.  It might not be for everyone, but it’s handy to have.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Flatiron Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

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One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, a cookbook review

I have a weird fascination with faux cheeses.  In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I mean products made with nuts and nutritional yeast, and label themselves as cheese for people who are vegan or dairy free.  It might be because, while I like cheese, I am not obsessed with it. I have friends who can eat nothing but cheese for days and they’d be happy.  Me? Not so much. I like mozzarella and queso fresco, but I’m not interested in feta and really dislike goat cheese.

To be fair though, it’s less of an obsession and more of a “how close does this taste like the real thing?” curiosity.  Or maybe even, “could I like this better than the real thing?”  (I would love a goat cheese replacement that I liked.)

I’ve made faux cream cheese and faux grated parmesan, both of which were really tasty and I plan to make again.  But this time around, I thought I’d try a Claudia Lucero recipe.

First of all, Lucero is a cheese maker of the traditional kind.  I didn’t realize until I had a copy of her new book in my hands, One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, that she’s also the author of One Hour Cheese, a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of (and has been sitting on my Amazon wish list for over a year now).    I won’t lie, her background makes me want to experiment with her faux cheese recipes even more! In my head, I think if a cheese maker can make a faux cheese that she’s proud enough to put into print, then surely the recipe has some merit.

Here’s a quick rundown of the book.  The chapters are divided between:

  • Chapter 1 – The Basics: Equipment, Ingredients, and More
  • Chapter 2 – Wheels, Blocks, and Rounds
  • Chapter 3 – Melts and Dips
  • Chapter 4 – Schmears and Spreads
  • Chapter 5 – Shakes and Grates
  • Chapter 6 – Inst-Cheeses
  • Chapter 7 – Just for Fun
  • Chapter 8 – Make It Yours
  • Chapter 9 – Basic Fermentation
  • Chapter 10 – Bonus Cultured and Aged Cheeses
  • Chapter 11 – Cheese Platter Pairings

One of my favorite features of the book is that every recipe seems to include substitutions, variations, and follow-up recipes.  For example, the ingredients for the Lemon Garlic Feta are listed as blanched almond flour, water or dairy free yogurt, sauerkraut, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tapioca starch, red wine vinegar, sea salt, garlic, oregano, white pepper, lemon zest, and agar agar.  Don’t have almond flour? Lucero offers ideas for using almond slivers, cashews, macadamia, or sunflowers instead. No sauerkraut? Fake it with onion and lactic acid. No nutritional yeast? Still not a problem, because you can use garlic, tahini, or miso. Then, the recipe variations included are rosemary feta, and kalamata peppercorn feta.  Once the feta is made, you can use it in her recipe for Spicy Beet Salad.

For recipe testing though, I went with the simplest recipe in the book which was the One Bowl Ricotta.  It only has four ingredients and a fifth optional ingredient. I used blanched almond flour, sea salt, lemon juice, water, and miso for my batch.

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Faux cheese on cracker

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In some respects, while the easiest, this recipe could be the worst to start with.  I think for someone who has experimented with faux cheese before, this one might seem almost boring.  I tasted it straight, and I tasted it on a cracker. The flavor was quite mild. It probably would have tasted better with lactic acid and dairy free yogurt, but I didn’t have those on hand.  (And again, I was purposefully going as easy as possible.)  But for someone who hasn’t experimented with faux cheese before, it’s a fantastic beginner’s recipe.

While I don’t think it’s the best faux cheese I’ve made, it’ll probably be the one I’ll end up making the most.  It’s just so easy that I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up, especially if I’m making something for my vegan or lactose sensitive friends.  It’s also given me momentum to experiment more with faux cheeses, and given me the inspiration to work with less familiar ingredients to make a more convincing product.  I am not saying this lightly.  I even ordered some lactic acid online this week just to make more faux cheese.

So, yeah, I highly recommend this book.  I’m not sure which recipe to test out next though as they all sound good.  (Oooh, maybe I’ll make the Margherita Pizza Melt once my lactic acid arrives at my house.)  If there’s a recipe in particular that you’d like to see me make, just drop me a line with your suggestion!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.urbancheesecraft.com/collections/cheesemaking-books/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

https://www.workman.com/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

Disclaimer – I received this book from Workman Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.