Monday, May 31, 2010

That "Bang for Your Buck" Thing

It may not seem like it some times, but I'm a pretty frugal person. You might even be right to call me a bit of a miser sometimes. I shop the discount racks (at discount stores!) for clothing, wait for Christmas or my birthday to ask for a coveted item and cross my fingers that I get it, and will keep mending and re-mending the same thin fabric shopping bags instead of shelling out the 99 cents for a new one - unless they're running a promo at the store where they give you a free one. That pantry of mine? You know, the one with the gazillion flours? Stocked pretty much exclusively via sales at Bulk Barn. There's a reason why I fared so well on my co-op placement... when you have very little, you figure out how to
use what you DO have!

It's not as if I'm scraping-the-dirt poor or anything. I mean, yes, I'm a student, and I do have a small amount of debt, but I don't have credit cards out the ying-yang with balances up to my chin. I don't want a credit card, to be honest with you - I'm too afraid of what I'd do with it! I think I'm stuck in the "shock" mentality I recieved shortly after being given my first debit card as a 11-year-old. Within two weeks of it being in my hot little hands, my friends (in similar situations) and I let ourselves loose in the mall. Needless to say that barely $100 bank balance that seemed so big and unspendable on paper quickly became $10, which was glaringly communicated to me via a failed transaction. Embarassment ensued, and since then I have been in a sense paranoid about money ever since. Even on my last vacation, when I had a fairly high daily spending limit for souveniers, it was the 11th hour before my sister finally convinced me to spend the last $50.

I'm not cheap with my spending, however. There are a few things that I don't mind spending an extra buck or two on: When I shop for makeup (which is rare, since I hardly wear it), I spring for the organic, weird-chemical free skincare products (except lip balm, which I buy conventionally because the organic stuff has the evil coconut oil in it). In the kitchen, I prefer the taste and performance of Liberte organic yogurt and Philly cream cheese - nothing comes close. I also will shell out for high-quality "luxury" items like real, imported saffron and paprika from Spain and real vanilla extract. In a perfect world, of course, I'd have a bucketful of plump, fresh vanilla beans (or my own orchid) at my beck and call. But I don't, and I can't afford to stock even a bottle of Nielsen-Massey's superb vanilla in my cupboard as much as I adore cooking with it. But I do buy the real stuff. And while it may not be brand name (and anyways, lots of No Name stuff ROCKS), there is still a world of difference from the vanilla-scented water and chemical compounds you can buy for a buck.

In the spirit of embracing the flavour that is vanilla (and the featured Daily Special on FoodBuzz this Thursday), I wanted to make something that shouted vanilla. But not cake or cookies, since I was still catering to the slight post-vacation guilt that was hovering over the house's "eaters". Instead, I whipped up a quick batch of what I like to call "breakfast buns" - essentially a type of soda bread, slightly sweet, very vanilla and studded with poppy seeds, with just a touch of almond extract to play off the added nuttiness.

Vanilla-Almond Poppyseed Buns
Makes 10
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbsp (yes, tablespoons!) pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour + extra for kneading
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp poppy seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 400F, line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, vanilla, almond extract, sugar and salt together.
  3. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda and poppyseeds and beat with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes.
  4. Let rest 5 minutes, then divide into 10 balls and place on the sheets.
  5. Bake 30 minutes, then cool oh the sheets 5 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 287.2
Total Fat: 6.3 g
Cholesterol: 13.5 mg
Sodium: 68.9 mg
Total Carbs: 49.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.3 g
Protein: 8.7 g
 
What do you do with vanilla? Do you shell out for the pure extract? Buy whole beans? Or do you not use it enough to make it worth the extra money (especially in the current climate)?

2 comments :

David T. Macknet said...

2 helpful hints, on the vanilla front: buy pods in bulk from SF Herb, and make your own extract!

We bought pods from SF Herb, something like 40 of them, and whenever I scrape one I throw the pod into a bottle of vodka (not the cheap stuff, but not something top-shelf, either - Smirnoff, in this case). After six or eight pods go in, you have extract, pretty well. And it only gets stronger.

It won't be as strongly colored as the commercial stuff, but it's certainly as strongly flavored, which is what it's about!

Jamie Walker said...

what a great tip -- I'm so going to try that -- making your own vanilla extract! :) Those biscuits look delicious...