Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tomato Soup

It was a cool, rainy weekend in the coastal Carolina area and I was craving some warm, creamy soup.  I was about to heat up a can of tomato when I thought, what the hey, I have lots of canned tomatoes from last summer, let's make some from scratch!

The store brand:  Campbell's Tomato Soup

My Recipe:
1 28 oz can whole plum or diced tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup half and half

Easy to make - saute your onions and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes until translucent. 

Add your tomato paste and flour and then slowly add some water from the tomatoes while stirring to get out the lumps.  Once you get a smooth consistency add all the tomatoes.  Simmer 20-30 minutes.

Puree with a hand blender or blend it in a blender/food processor.  Add the half and half and enjoy. 

Optional: Garnish with fresh basil and croutons.  I used some homemade croutons!

I can't even begin to explain how much better the homemade soup was.  My husband said in comparison the Campbell's tasted like ketchup, but bad.  I made mine with half skim milk and half water.  The homemade was just so much more tomato-y and had some texture to it.

The price didn't come out much different.  My recipe made more soup - you could easily half this if you are making it for yourself and use a small can of diced tomatoes.  It costs a little more to make your own, but TOTALLY worth it in my opinion.

Campbell's Tomato Soup21.5 oz $       1.12  $            0.42
Homemade32 oz $       1.92  $            0.48

Overall, the homemade tomato soup took about 40 minutes from start to finish, but only about 10 minutes of hands-on work.  I have to say it was really, really easy.

Bake or Buy?  BAKE!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Italian Salad Dressing

I've been making some interesting salad dressings lately - I have a miso mustard one that is my new favorite.  But if I'm going to blog about it, let's figure out what the best option is - we'll start simple with Italian.

The store brand: Ken's Italian Dressing and Marinade

My recipe (adapted from allrecipes.com):
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsely
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 cup vinegar (white, red wine, or balsamic)
2/3 cup olive oil

The rest is simple - combine everything and shake it up.  It's best to let it sit and soften all those dried herbs (or you could always use fresh to make it extra delicious).  I keep this out on the counter because the olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator, and then it's a pain.

So the comparison?  The storebought Italian that I purchased was just terrible.  It had NO herbs or seasonings, and tasted like oil, vinegar, and salt.  I have had lots of great bottled Italian dressings, but this is just not one of them.  Usually I think bottled Italian dressing is pretty good (although salty), but this time, mine was just better.

So the cost here really surprised me.  It cost more to make homemade dressing than to buy the bottle.  The biggest discrepency was the olive oil - the bottled version used vegetable oil, which would have cut my price considerably (The olive oil in my recipe was $1.49 of the total $1.99).
Ken's Italian Dressing and Marinade16 oz$3.55          $0.22
Homemade8 oz$1.99          $0.25

So although it is nice to make a fancy dressing youself, or to get the rich olive oil and herb taste, I just don't know if it's worth the effort.  There are lots of bottled dressings out there that are delicious, and when I buy them on sale, they cost much less than making it yourself.

Bake or Buy?  BUY!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Somersaults Giveaway!

I've been on vacation in Nicaragua for the past week, so I'm back with a great giveaway.

This is my new favorite healthy snack.  I am seriously in love.  I just happened to pick up a pack of these Somersaults (Salty Pepper flavor) on sale at the local health food store.  Ohhhh golly.  They are little crunchy nuggets with sunflower seeds in them.  They have tons of protein and fiber - great for a vegetarian.

I went on their website to check it out and sent the company an email saying how much I love them.  They offered to send me a variety pack - apparently they have many flavors.  You can purchase them online or check out local health food stores.

So, the pack they sent me was amazing.  Sample of every type they make - and you can have the same pack sent your way!

Alright, onto the giveaway.  It's simple - do the things on this list and leave a SEPARATE comment for each one you do.
- Check out http://shop.somersaultsnackco.com/ and leave a comment saying what flavor you'd most like to try.
- Like Bake or Buy on facebook (or leave a comment that you already do).
- Share this giveaway on facebook or twitter: say something like "Win some delicious snacks in a giveaway at http://bakeorbuy.blogspot.com/2012/02/somersaults-giveaway.html".

And that's all there is to it!  I will draw a random winner on Wednesday, March 7th.

I love EVERY flavor, but I think my favorites are Spicy Pepper and Santa Fe Salsa.  Cinnamon crunch is pretty fantastic too!  Now get to it getting your entries.  One comment for each thing you do to enter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Portobello Burger Recipe

No, this isn't a Bake or Buy comparison.  But it's my blog, and I can do what I want!  I've been getting a little burnt out on the bake or buy concept, so I figured I would start to post some personal recipes in between Bake or Buy's to keep the content flowing.

So, I made this for dinner the other night and I thought I'd share the recipe(s) with you.  I didn't plan to do it, so there aren't many photos of my process, but next time I'll do better.

Marinated Portobellos:
2 medium portobellos (portabellas?... whatever.)
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon siracha (this was pretty spicy)
salt and pepper

Combine the marinade ingredients and let sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes.  I flipped and basted ever so often while I worked on the HOMEMADE BUNS (!).

So obviously you could pick up hamburger buns, but I'm obsessed with my new breadmaker, so here we go.  You can make these by hand, but I put the dough in my breadmaker.  Recipe from http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/kaiser-rolls-recipe (there are handmade directions there)

3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup water

In my breadmaker, you add the wet, add the dry, and poke a hole and put the yeast in.  I let it go through the first knead, rise, second knead, then took it out.  From there I split it into 6 pieces, tied them in a knot and tucked the ends (no kaiser cutter), and let them rise again.  About 45 minutes later i brushed the tops with milk and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  Bake at 425 for 15 mins.

I also made these super easy steak fries, that were actually crunchy and delicious.
3 medium russet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper

Cut your potatoes into wedges and toss with oil and spices.  Bake at 425 for about 40 minutes, flipping half way.

For the portobello burgers, I grilled the portos on each side for ~5 minutes over high heat.  I leave the gills in, but if they offend you, scrape them before marinating.  Top your burgers as you wish!  We used avocado, baby spinach, tomato, hummus, and cheese.

Enjoy and think about how healthy and delicious this is compared to fast food!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wheat Bread

Yes, I have been a little absent lately, but when I show you the photos for our newly remodeled bathroom, you will totally understand!  Remodeling is hard work, and I'm hungry, so time for some fresh bread!  I'm going to attempt my first honey wheat bread recipe.

The Store Brand: La Brea 9 Grain Wheat Bread

My Recipe (adapted from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/simple-whole-wheat-bread/):
1 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast (just about 1 packet)
2 tablespoons honey
1-1/2 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and honey. Add white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

Mix in melted butter and salt. Stir in 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour (continue to add in to avoid sticking). Knead in sunflower seeds as you go.  This may take up to 1 additional cup of whole wheat flour.

Place in a greased bowl and cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Punch down and place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Both breads were delicious.  I think my version was a better sandwich type bread.  It didn't have the nice hard crust that I prefer, but it was very moist and tasty.  The store bread is obviously much smaller, but that's just because I bought a petite loaf so I would be on bread overload this week (I used full size for the cost comparison).

Mine on left, storebought on right.
The cost difference is amazing!  It costs 4x as much to buy the store brand.  And before anyone says, WHO PAYS $5 FOR A LOAF OF BREAD??: I really don't like the preservative laden packaged breads, so I always buy the grocery store baked kind.  It is pricey, but it's SO much better.  And even if you are buying the $1.99 sliced wheat bread, it STILL costs less to make it - and it is wayyyy tastier than that type.

La Brea 9 Grain Wheat Bread18 oz $      4.99  $            0.28
Homemade18 oz $      1.21  $            0.07

So yeah, I had to knead bread for TEN minutes.  But it was totally worth it.  It was SO good.  I think next time I will look for a "crustier" recipe, but I will definitely be baking this again.

Bake or Buy?  BAKE!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chocolate Syrup

CHOCOLATE MILK??!?  Yes, please.  I love me some chocolate milk.  I have never used anything but Hershey's, but I figured, what the h.e.double.hockey.sticks., let's go to town with some homemade.

The store brand: Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

My Recipe (from http://www.52kitchenadventures.com/2011/03/08/homemade-chocolate-syrup/):
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 C water
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 t vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cocoa powder. Add water and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes, until thickened, continuing to stir frequently. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes, then add vanilla extract.

Store in air tight container in the fridge.

I made a half batch and it made just about 1 cup of finished syrup.  It was super fast - like 5 minutes from start to finish.

So, the comparison?  Well Hershey's is just high fructose corn syrup with cocoa and preservatives.  I'd take real sugar over HFCS any day.  Taste wise, the homemade version just tasted more chocolatey.  Very deep chocolate flavor - I also needed a little less to make my chocolate milk.  I was worried it would be too thin and watery, but it was thick and great!

The cost to make your own is just about the same.  I used the cost of my homemade vanilla, which saves a little money.

Hershey's Chocolate Syrup24 oz- 2.25 cup $      2.35  $          1.04
Homemade2 cups $      1.96  $          0.98

So overall, it costs about the same to make your own, but it tastes so much richer and more chocolatey.

Bake or Buy?  BAKE!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cookie Giveaway Winner!

Thanks for the entries!!  I used the random number generator and drew a winner - JENNY J!  Congrat Jenny.  I've sampled these cookies and you will LOVE every one.  I've emailed you for your address.

New post coming tomorrow.  Just a hint... I'm feeling like chocolate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cookie Giveaway!

Alright.  So I had a great snack this afternoon.  I had lunch at the natural food store/deli and I picked up this vegan cookie to take with me.  I know, vegan baked goods?  Ick.  NO WAY.  This cookie was freaking fantastic.  I went with Luscious Lemon Poppyseed.

The company is called Alternative Baking Company out of Sacramento, California.  When I wrote them to tell them how amazing their cookies are, they gracefully offered to send me some to try (!!!!).  I am going to pass some of this amazing gift onto you.

You will receive a sampling of cookies to include:

Cranberry Orange Muffin
Cranberry Orange MuffinCookie
Phenomenal Pumpkin Spice
Phenomenal Pumpkin Spice

Double Chocolate Decadence
Amazing Almond MuffinCookie

How to enter (THREE possible entries - leave separate comments):
1.) Like the Bake or Buy facebook page and leave a comment below.
2.) Like the Alternative Baking Company facebook page and leave a comment below.
3.) Sign up for Bake or Buy emails (on the right of page - must confirm subscription to be counted).

Fans of Alternative Baking Company's facebook page are also entered to win cookies each month, so bam, entering two contests with one click!

I will draw the winner on Wednesday, January 25th and send your cookies out ASAP.  If you don't win, you can always order cookies on their website or check your local health food stores!  Good luck :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Whipped Cream

I love whipped cream.  On my pie, ice cream, hot chocolate, fresh fruit, and the list goes on.  When I'm making something creamy, I must admit I use cool whip, but there are some scary sounding ingredients in that stuff.  Reddi Whip from the can is so fun and easy to squirt straight to your mouth when you just NEED it.  Real whipped cream is super tasty, and you can control the sweetness.

Who will take the cake?  Muahaha - pun intended.

The store brands: Cool Whip (tub from the freezer section)
Reddi Wip (yep, from the can)

The recipe (from http://www.allrecipes.com/):
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectionary sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill the bowl and beats in the freeze for at least 5 mins before starting.  Combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla and beat about 2-3 minutes until peaks form.  Don't beat too long or you will end up with butter (not such a bad thing)!

So cool whip always comes from the freezer section, which means it takes at least a little planning.  I've tried to make the creamy jello while it's still too frozen - don't do it.  Reddi Wip from the can tends to "melt" down really fast.  Homemade will fall as well, and you need to handle it fragilly so you don't let too much of the air out.

As far as taste goes, the Reddi Wip was out right away.  It's the lightest, but it has a chemically taste - it's just not right.  The Cool Whip was far sweeter than my whipped cream, but the homemade was just so much creamier.  If you want it sweeter, you can always just up the amount of confectionerary sugar.

Left is Reddi Wip, middle is Cool Whip, and right is homemade.
Well the cost works about about the same for cool whip and homemade.  Reddi Wip comes at a premium, but it is convenient to use it when you need it.  My mom always used to keep a can in the fridge.

      Amount    Cost    Cost/oz
Cool Whip8 oz $     1.65  $          0.21
Reddi Wip6.5 oz $     2.79  $          0.43
Homemade8.5 oz $     2.03  $          0.24

So Bake or Buy?  BAKE!

Cool Whip will do fine if you need to fold it into a recipe, but if you are topping off some fresh strawberries or a warm pie, buck up and make your own!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


We almost always have store-bought hummus in the fridge.  I'm not a mayonaise fan, so I use it on sandwiches, dip carrots or crackers in it, and even in place of sauce on a veggie pizza.  I have made hummus before, but it's definitely not something I do on the reg.

The store brand: Harris Teeter Traditional Hummus

My recipe (adapted from simplyrecipes.com/recipes/hummus):
1 garlic clove, mashed and then minced
1 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1/3 cup of tahini (roasted)
2 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (one juicy lemon)
1/4 cup water
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt

In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt to taste.

I will say that I think tahini is really difficult to work with - it separates and is impossible to stir.  Even worse than natural peanut butter!  But when you are making it in the food processor, you don't need to get it mixed up much before adding it in.  This is fast to make and I do love being able to make custom flavors (think feta and sundried tomato, roasted red pepper and garlic...).

So side by side they look almost identical.  Taste-wise they are a little different.  The store bought was smoother and tasted a little different - saltier and more lemoney.  I felt that mine was a little heavy on the tahini and I'll use a little less next time.  They were both tasty and I think I'd rate them just about the same taste-wise.
Store bought on left, homemade on right.

And the cost?

Harris Teeter Traditional 10 oz $      4.49  $          0.45
Homemade12 oz $      3.12  $          0.31

I tend to keep tahini on hand, just for the sake of making hummus.  I will also say that my grocery store almost always has one brand of hummus on sale, which makes it about the same price as homemade...

Bake or Buy?  BUY!

It is easy to make, but I'd just as soon stock up on fun flavors while they are on sale (they last a long time in the fridge).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


No, I'm not about to get out my butter churner. I've read you can make it by shaking, using an electric mixer, or even the food processor.

The store brand: Land O' Lakes Unsalted Butter

My Recipe (adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/homemade-butter-recipe/index.html):

1 pint heavy cream, very cold
Pinch salt, optional
- Refrigerate the bowl/beaters/jar or whatever you are going to use ahead of time to get everything very cold.  The food network recipe says to shake the cream in a jar for 15 to 30 minutes, but I just put it in my food processor.

This whole process took about 8 minutes.

 - Pour into a strainer set over a bowl. The chunks in the strainer are butter, and the liquid in the bowl is buttermilk.

- Pour the buttermilk into a clean container, cover, refrigerate, and reserve for another use.
- Turn the butter into a clean bowl and cover with very cold water. Pour into a strainer, discarding the liquid. Continue rinsing the butter with very cold water until the water runs clear. (The cloudy water is buttermilk which will make the butter turn sour.)

- When the butter is clean, work with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press out any remaining liquid. Discard this liquid. If desired, add salt to the butter. (Salted butter will keep longer.)
- Transfer the butter to a clean container for keeping and refrigerate until ready to use.

So that's it - you've got butter!  It tasted unremarkably like butter - for some reason I thought it would taste like magically delicious butter, but no, just butter.  It was a really neat thing to see though, I'd recommend everyone tries to make butter.

The cost?  You aren't going to save money making your own butter.  But I didn't account for the cup or so of buttermilk you will also get during the butter making process, so that's a bonus for your pancakes or bisquits or whatever.  That buttermilk is not the cultured kind you would get from the store, and I haven't used mine yet, so I'm not sure what I'll do with it. 

I usually just buy our store brand butter, which costs about a dollar less than Land O' Lakes, so store bought definitely wins the price category.

      Amount     Cost Cost/pound
Land O' Lakes Unsalted Butter1 lb $     4.49  $          4.49
Homemade3/4 lb $     5.00  $          6.67

So overall, you get a butter that tastes a lot like the store bought version, that takes a little bit of work, but costs more...
Bake or Buy?  BUY!