Ivy Manning is a Portland, Oregon-based
food and travel writer, food stylist, and cookbook author. Her work
has been featured in magazines such as Cooking Light,
Sunset Magazine, Fine Cooking, and Bon
Appétit. Although her home base is in Oregon, Manning travels
the globe studying the cuisines of diverse
countries including Thailand, Italy, France, and Mexico. The
author of last year's book on homemade crackers is back with a new
book featuring recipes that you may be able to use on
those crackers. Better from Scratch
(Williams-Sonoma) includes dozens of do-it-yourself
recipes inspired by everyday food products that most of us
purchase instead of making. The cookbook also includes advice
on storing foods and tips on making food gifts, trendy sodas
and cocktails, and completely homemade snack platters. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win one of
three copies of the book.) We asked Ivy about the inspiration
for the book and which recipes are her favorites:
How did you come up with the idea for this book? What
was the light bulb moment?
I started making crackers while working in catering and was
amazed at how easy and delicious they were. Later, I wrote a book
called Crackers and Dips. Since then, I've been
looking at how to make everything from scratch, especially things
that we would never thing of. It's great fun to reverse-engineer
packaged foods, take out all the junk, and make them better just by
doing it yourself.
What is the "from scratch" recipe that you think will
surprise readers? The one that they might never have
considered making themselves?
Bacon! It's takes a few minutes to put together, and then a few
weeks of curing, and smoking on a gas grill is so easy! And the
results? Let's just say I have a lot of new friends that "drop by"
whenever I mention I'm making bacon.
any products that you tried making from scratch and decided it just
wasn't worth the effort?
Miso. I love the stuff, but messing with koji (the mold used to
ferment the soybeans), stirring, and storing the stuff for months
in the fridge proved a little too technical. Plus, there's an
artisan miso maker in my city, so I'm set.
And any that you tried and decided the store-bought product
really couldn't be improved on?
That depends on your subjective taste. I love the chipotle
ketchup and classic ketchup recipes in my book, but my friend's
little kids wanted the sweeter, saltier stuff in the squeeze bottle
because that's all they've ever known. I blame it on "happy
What are the top three reasons that you think make
homemade products better than store-bought?
First, homemade just tastes better! The ingredients are fresher
and better quality because when you're making small batch from
scratch foods you're not worried about your bottom line and
shareholders. Second, you don't need to use scary preservatives,
anti-caking agents, and food coloring when make homemade foods. If
you're at all concerned about what you're putting into your body
(and you should be), it's better to control as many of your own
food sources as possible. Third, it's fun! Homemade Cracker Jacks,
good quality chocolate Ande's candies, scratch sriracha, Better From Scratch is full of fun little
projects that are perfect for folks who love to putter around in
the kitchen. That said, I was shocked at how easy it is to make so
many of these things. Time and again I said, "Why haven't I made
this before? It's not hard and it's so much better!"
What is your current favorite homemade food/drink to give as
It's berry season, so I've been making homemade nutella and
bringing it with pints of ripe berries to dinner parties as a
hostess gift. The homemade margarita mix has been a big hit at
The cocktail trend is huge right now and it is very
expensive to stock a bar with all the cordials and liqueurs you
might need. What homemade bar items do you use?
I make my own tonic syrup and it makes all the difference in my
gin and tonics. I also make my own limoncello and clementinecello
and serve it chilled as a digestif. Oh, and my spiced
cranberry-pomegranate syrup makes the best cosmos in the world.
This is your fourth cookbook. What do you
have coming up next?
I just finished up another book for Williams-Sonoma called
Weeknight Vegetarian that comes out in January. It's a
book on how to make really satisfying meals quickly on meatless
Monday, or any other day of the week, for that