Since I starting cooking nearly 5 years ago, I’ve been slowly decreasing my dependence on convenience foods. While I do this for the obvious health reasons, what really motivates me is taste. The food that I make myself simply tastes better than many of the pre-made versions.
But like a lot of parents, I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen so everything needs to be simple to prepare. With that in mind, here are 7 items that have recently been added to my “make myself” list.
1. Hummus: When I first tried to make hummus I gave up because my homemade version was missing that kick found in my favorite Trader Joe’s product. After trying this winning recipe from Janet at Nutrition Unplugged, I realized that adding extra garlic and peeling the skin off the chickpeas is key (makes it smoother). To remove the outer skin layer, place the beans in a colander and rub the skins off while rinsing.
With its protein content, healthy fats and superb taste and nutrition (rich in iron, folate, thiamin, zinc, magnesium and phytonutrients), hummus makes the perfect veggie dip or addition to any meal. I usually halve this recipe.
-4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
-2 16-oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-2/3 cup tahini, well stirred
-Juice of 2 lemons
-1/4 cup olive oil
-water (as needed)
1 teaspoon salt
Optional garnish: whole chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley, paprika, cumin or sumac
Combine all of the ingredients except the water and garnish in a food processor and process until smooth. Add water to thin hummus to the desired consistency (about 1/2 cup). Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with additional olive oil to keep the hummus from crusting, and add garnish. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with pita chips.
2. Pizza Dough: In one of my weekly meal plans I mentioned my failures making pizza dough. A few readers chimed in with how easy it is and that motivated me to continue trying. I found Fleishman’s Rapid Rise yeast at the grocery store and it was super simple. This is definitely Big A’s favorite meal to make.
For the recipe and even a video on how to make the dough, click here.
3. Salad dressing: I don’t remember the last time I bought bottled salad dressing. I always have trouble finding one that I really like and that contains the type of vegetable oils I prefer (olive oil). Once I found out how simple and tasty it is to make vinaigrettes, I’ve never gone back.
Right now my dressing of choice is a balsamic vinaigrette. In an old, cleaned out jelly jar, I add 4 parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar, a pinch of brown sugar and a crushed garlic clove. I recently tried this ranch dressing which is nice for dipping veggies.
4. Salsa: This recipe from the Pioneer Women is excellent and always gets rave reviews. I’ve tried making fresher salsas but this one tastes the best — and is great for adding to other recipes and for spicing up dishes like guacamole and taco meat.
-1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
-2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies — one mild one regular)
-1/4 cup Chopped Onion
-1 clove Garlic, Minced
-1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin
-1/4 teaspoon Sugar
-1/4 teaspoon Salt
-1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
-1/2 cup Cilantro (more To Taste!)
-1/2 whole Lime Juice
This is a large batch for the food processor you will need to use a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl. I used a blender.
Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed. Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips or cheese nachos.
5. Popsicles:It’s that time of the year that kids love something to keep cool. The easiest way to make popsicles is to freeze their favorite 100% juice in popsicles molds. You can do the same thing with a favorite fruit smoothie. So easy!
6. Oat Pancakes: I would go back and forth between making pancakes from scratch and using boxed versions. This recipe from All Recipes is now a family favorite and I think that buttermilk and quick cooking oats are the secret ingredients. I sometimes make this high-protein version for snack time sent in from Charlotte.
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
-1/2 cup quick cooking oats
-1 tablespoon white sugar
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup buttermilk (low/reduced fat optional)
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth or just mix yourself (I did the latter).
Spray a griddle or frying pan with cooking spray and turn to medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot or freeze for later use.
7. Taco seasoning mix: I used to use those little packets to season meat for tacos and burritos but this recipe from the Meal Makeover Moms changed all that that. They suggest using garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and salsa instead. I use these same seasonings for bean burritos.
So tell me, what are some items you used to buy premade but now make yourself?