Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Simplicity In The Kitchen

A long time ago I came across a website that featured from-scratch cooking recipes.  Considering my distinct lack of kitchen skills back in those days, I ate the website up (no pun intended).  I wrote down a ton of recipes and started making them.  Thus began my from-scratch cooking journey.

My from-scratch cooking was further stretched out of necessity to include from-scratch baking when David was diagnosed with allergies to eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.  Suddenly almost all boxed mixes and baked products were off limits.  I had to learn how to make egg-free cake, chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, bread, muffins, etc.  I was later forced to cut out dairy when Joy was diagnosed with a milk allergy which she thankfully outgrew before she was three.

I was making my favorite recipe yesterday, yellow rice (thought I amend the recipe and use white basmati rice and none of the pepper ingredients), and got to thinking about all the things I regularly make for my family from scratch.  How I rarely buy prepackaged, premade things.  Boxed rice?  No way.  Pastayuckaroni?  Not in this house.  The only regular concession I make when it comes to prepackaged food is macaroni and cheese.  I don't make that from scratch and my kids thank me.  David was served homemade mac-n-cheese at camp last week.  I asked if he liked it and he said no, that mine is a lot better (thank you Kraft for making me look good).

I took the kids to the lake house back in February and my mom and mom-in-law came, too.  My mom brought a boxed Chicken Piccata dinner.  I really liked it and wanted to make it myself, so I looked up the recipe on my favorite recipe site,, and found the recipe which I amended to not include eggs due to David's allergy.

I learned how to make seasoning mixes from scratch so I no longer have to buy taco seasoning mixes or stir fry seasoning mixes.  These I learned from Hubby.  I used to have him season a lot of our meals after I finished cooking them until he started forcing me to stand there and watch him so I could learn how to do it for myself.  Now I rarely have to ask him for seasoning help unless I just can't get something right.

I learned about the ingenious method of cooking dry beans in the crock pot and now I make all our beans that way.  I even went so far as to buy a 25 pound bag of dry red beans last month through a co-op because we like them so much better than the canned variety.

I admit that there are a few things I still buy regularly that are premade--meatballs (but they are egg free which I haven't mastered on my own yet), chicken strips, and tater tots.  But for the most part you will find only single ingredients in my home.  I even conquered making hamburgers from scratch this summer instead of buying them preformed or making Hubby do it (my first attempt was last summer and I believe the words "hockey puck" might have been mentioned).  The last time I made them Hubby said I have finally perfected getting them to the right thickness so they cook right.

Now I love it when I find a great cookbook that includes recipes made from scratch.  My absolute favorite cookbook is Family Feasts For $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn.  Good recipes, all from scratch, and mostly all food I would actually eat.  I also found another good cookbook Make Your Own Groceries by Daphne Metaxas Hartwig that is full of great ideas but unfortunately is out of print (I bought it used a long time ago).

From-scratch cooking started out as a lark to see if I could do it, was expanded by necessity, and now it is something I prefer to both save money and because I like knowing what ingredients I am putting into my family's bodies.

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