Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make It -vs- Buy It

If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then the way to this woman's heart is through a cookbook! And boy did Jason hit the mark this Christmas. His one present to me (okay, besides a massive remodel of our faux "master" bathroom) was Jennifer Reese's (a.k.a. The Tipsy Baker's) new book "Make the Break, Buy the Butter."  He'd heard about it on NPR and knew I'd love it!

He was right. From page one, Jennifer has me hooked.  She talks about discovering frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich (a.k.a. Smucker's Uncrustables).

"I felt briefly smug in the certainty that I was not so lazy or compromised that I would ever buy mass-produced peanut better and jelly sandwiches. Then I though, People probably once said that about peanut butter. And bread. And jelly."
That got Jennifer thinking about all the arbitrary lines we all draw on a regular basis.
"The most irksome decisions I faced as an adult and working mother seemed to be made at the supermarkets.  Fundamentally trivial, they were nonetheless maddeningly fraught, involving questions of time, quality, money, First World guilt, maternal guilt, gender, meaning and health."
 Do you recognize this maddening thought-train?

"Owen needs cupcakes for school and look, here they are, ready to go, packed in clamshells. Nutritionally irredeemable - but made. Sixteen dollars for twenty-four supermarket trans-fat packed cupcakes? Good grief. I'll bake. That means I need eggs and the eggs here sure are cheap. But I can't buy them here because these eggs are laid by debeaked chickens living in cages the size of Tic Tac boxes. If only I'd gone to the farmers' market on Sunday and bought eggs there.... But how do I know that guy treats his chickens well just because the eggs are blue? And honestly, do I even really care about chickens? I can't believe I'm spending three dollars per pound for these crunchy tomatoes. I should grow them, just like Barbara Kingsolver. How does she find the time to make her own cheese and breed her own heritage turkeys and write books? I need to work harder, sleep less, never watch TV again. Wait, there's high-fructose corn syrup in Campbell's vegetable soup? Isn't that supposed to be a deal breaker?"
 JENNIFER! How did you get inside my head??

We tried one of her recipes last night: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • one onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (if you're using jarred garlic, that's 4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes (we used one with basil)
  1. In large saucepan, heat oil on low. Add onions, garlic and red pepper and saute until onions are softened.
  2. Add tomatoes and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
  3. Season with salt, if necessary (we skipped this step)
How easy is that? And Jennifer says it's cheaper than storebought (depends, though, on whether you're buying store bought on sale and with coupons like these coupon queens).

How does it taste?

Chef Tanya - This is so good we may never buy jarred sauce again (okay, we probably will if it's a BOGO deal). But seriously, this is so easy that if you can boil noodles you can make this sauce. I will cut the red pepper flakes down a bit next time. It was just a touch too spicy for my taste.

Jason - Agreed!

Olivia - I really like this a lot. It was a little too spicy. I can't feel my lips. But other than that it's really good.

Hannah (who, it should be noted, has always refused to eat spaghetti sauce. She agreed to try this when she saw it included her favorite spice - red pepper) - I give it 4.5 stars. I thought it was really good. I don't think it was too spicy. But you know I like things hot.

Miranda - (Didn't try the sauce. She's still a hold-out, but that's okay. I spent my entire childhood eating large mounds of dry noodles with processed parmesan cheese on it.  Sometimes it takes a while to come around to good food.)


  1. I'll have to read that book! It sounds like my own inner monologue. And "I can't feel my lips. But other than that it's really good" will have me laughing all day!

  2. Why can't I hit like? I want to hit like.

  3. Audrey - if you don't pick up the book for yourself you're more than welcome to borrow mine!

    Kristi - Thanks ;-) Do you make your own? What's your go to recipe?