New Year's Resolutions invariably include diet goals. Eat less meat, eat more vegetables, cook more meals at home, yada, yada, yada. Those are all well and good, but what derails most healthy eating plans (including my own) is junk food. Those middle aisles at the grocery store--filled with bags and cans of salty, fatty, craveable snacks--are where resolutions go to die. But what if you resolved to give up "store-bought" snacks and instead only indulged on snacks you made at home? With Lara Ferroni's latest book Real Snacks, you can do just that. Whether it's Twinkies, Goldfish crackers, potato chips, Girl Scout Thin Mints, Tater Tots, or Pop-Tarts, Ferroni has created a recipe you can make at-home.
That is not to say that this is a health food cookbook. Or a diet cookbook. Ferroni uses butter in her Ritz-style cracker recipe, heavy cream in ice cream and deep fries potato chips. It is some kind of goal to consider though: "In 2013 I resolve to only eat potato chips I made myself." It's both a cooking goal AND a healthy eating goal! Because honestly, how often are you going to make potato chips at home? You won't eat four cups of potato chips if you have to stand over a fryer for an hour making them...
Ferroni, who lives in Portland, is a triple-threat. She's a writer, recipe developer, and photographer. The recipes in her latest book are also multi-dimensional: They can be made vegan or gluten-free. In the book's introduction are pantry items and recommendations for use in the recipes. You'll have to go to a specialty store for many of the ingredients, such as rapadura, chestnut flour, graham flour, chia seed meal. Others are pretty easy to find at PCC or online through King Arthur Flour or Bob's Red Mill. Kitchen tools needed include a stand-mixer, food processor and food dehydrator. If you have mad knife skills and an oven that keeps a steady low temperature, you don't need the last two. The power of a stand mixer however, is pretty hard to replicate with a hand mixer.
Consider yourself warned. No one said giving up junk food was going to be easy. Replicating your favorite packaged snacks will take time and skill, but Pop-Tarts made with 12 ingredients instead of 38 (of which includes HFCS and red dye #40) may well be worth it--especially if you don't annihilate a half dozen of them in one morning. Junk foods are convenience foods by design, and many of them are packed with refined sugar, white flour and high fructose corn syrup. Stocking your pantry to make Ferroni's real snacks isn't going to save you much, if any, money, but you're worth it. There is even a recipe for crunchy, Cheetos-style cheese puffs. The 10+ hour recipe involves mixing, steaming, drying, and frying the dough, but homemade Cheetos are a pretty lofty goal, which is something you can't say about opening a bag of chips.