Monday, July 16, 2012

Three Foods I Always Make Myself (and You Should Too!)

I used to buy jam in jars at the grocery store. I nearly always used off-the-shelf frosting, and it never occurred to me to make my own salad dressing. Why should I, when so many varieties are available in bottles at the grocery store?

What I have discovered is that these foods can all be made easily in my own kitchen. In addition to being able to control ingredients and ensure no cross-contamination with food allergens, I can save money. Even better, there is no question that they taste better when I make them at home.

I’m not sure when it became the norm to buy all of our foods ready-made. I grew up in the TV dinner era when everything was about convenience. I’m quite sure jam available at the grocery store was viewed as a very positive thing by my parents. And, having been brought up on convenience foods, the skills to make it at home were never passed down. The knowledge transfer stopped with my grandparents, or perhaps even before that.

Once I learned how to make these three foods, I’ve sworn off the off-the-shelf versions:

Frosting – When I read the ingredients for most off-the-shelf frostings, I cringe. Why does frosting need a list of a dozen or more ingredients? I make my own with confectioner’s sugar, shortening, and either water or non-dairy milk. It’s simple, healthy (well, healthier), and nearly impossible to mess up.

Salad dressing
– A simple concoction of light olive oil (3 parts), vinegar (brown rice, balsamic, or apple cider) (2 parts), and a tiny bit of sweetener (usually I choose agave nectar) makes a fabulous dressing. From there, you can make dozens of variations. Try using honey instead of agave and adding mustard for a honey mustard dressing.

Jam – I am obsessed with making homemade jam. Again, there is almost no way to mess this up – there is an enormous amount of flexibility in the ingredients, and you can control how much sugar you add. If you plan to eat it right away (or within a week), then you can go very low on sugar. I like to use about ½ cup of sugar for every cup of crushed fruit – that is enough to both sweeten and keep the bacteria from growing if you are preserving. And you don’t need anything else, but you might want to add some lemon juice, spices, or extracts, like I did with this Blueberry Jam recipe.

Do you have a favorite food that you used to buy at the store and now you make it yourself at home?


Anonymous said...

I make my own salad dressing. It was hard to wean myself off Ranch Dressing (I don't like low fat versions) but now I love a fresh homemade oil and vinegar style of dressing.

Colette said...

Rogene, I've never tried making ranch dressing. That might have to be next.

Kathryn @ Mamacado said...

Making our own frosting is a must in our food-allergy friendly house, and I try to make my own salad dressing (although many times I make it semi-homemade with the Good Seasoning packing, oil and vinegar!).

I've never tried to make jam, but it sounds easy and delicious!

Colette said...

Kathryn, I think once you try making your own jam you may never look back. Go for it!