I grew up on a home cooked meal almost every night. Thanks to my mom, I learned that dinner should be made from ingredients--not a box. That's not to say we never ate food from a box, but it tended to be on only extra busy nights. We'd occasionally have fish sticks before Wednesday night church or a frozen pizza if we were left home alone, but all of the rest of the days, we sat down to a meal made from real food.
I didn't always appreciate it at as a kid...my mom loved to try new recipes and some of them were not considered favorites by my pre-teen pallet. However, I realized, when I reached adulthood and found myself cooking for one in my small downtown studio, that the idea of making food from anything other than real ingredients wasn't really an option for me. When I first started grocery shopping, I often found myself looking at the ingredients on the box and the unit price for what I was paying for. I was sometimes amazed that I could put in just a little extra time, make the "same" thing from scratch, and save a ton of money! Not to mention, the end product usually tasted much better and was better for me! Pizza crust, pie dough, bread, soup, macaroni & cheese, alfredo sauce, all of these things I found were really simple to make at home and they didn't really take that much time to make. When I compared the cost and the taste, for me, it was an obvious choice to fill my shopping cart with a few staple ingredients and to leave the pre-made foods at the store.
This rule, for me, holds true today and has grown into a complete lifestyle. As we've learned more and more about the things the food industry sneaks into our food and the loss of nutritional value that happens during processing, our desire to put real, whole foods into our bodies has intensified. I've found that over the past few years, the foods that fill our kitchen shelves and cupboards have even simplified. Where there used to be several different boxes of cereal, there now sits a jar of oatmeal and a canister of homemade granola. A shelf which once held cans of chicken broth, is now filled with a few different types of grains, nuts, and dried beans, while frozen jars of homemade broth fill my freezer. The simplicity of what's needed to run my kitchen, has carried over into my shopping as well. Instead of making a huge list once a month of all the different ingredients I need for this recipe and that, I'm finding that I now have most of those ingredients in my house. More on that to come...but for now...
...back to whole foods. While for some, I know the idea of making food from scratch can seem overwhelming, I also know that for others it may just be something that you may not have thought about. For me, I've found that I've tended to buy things that I'm comfortable with. My husband recently asked me why we had cocktail sauce in the fridge (and for how long we'd had it...). I, of course, said it was for fish/seafood, but then found myself wondering what all goes into cocktail sauce...and is it really something that I need to keep in my fridge, or could I just whip it up if the need for it suddenly arose?? The answer was, yes! It's super easy to make! Just mix a little ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and horseradish...voilà! For me, its been those little realizations over the past few years that have really propelled me down this trail of whole foods. The ideas for the prepared foods we now buy, had to have started in a kitchen with real ingredients at some point, right?? (Well, maybe not Fruit Loops...but that's another story...)
So, I thought I share with you a few of the things that I make from scratch instead of buying--not for you to feel overwhelmed or like you're not doing enough, but rather to inspire and invite you to join me on this journey of whole foods. It's amazing the things you can easily make in your kitchen with just a bit of effort! And trust me, the results--both in taste and nutrition--far outweigh the convenience of the boxed versions. I've included links for a few of the recipes that I use, and I'll also be sharing some of my own recipe versions over the weeks and months to come, so stay tuned.
- Grains and Doughs
- Meats & Beans
- chicken bone broth (recipe to come)
- whole chicken (meaning I only buy whole chickens, not breasts, not thighs, just whole uncut birds)
- cooked beans (I buy mostly dried beans, cook them, and freeze them)
- soups (any and all...soups are the easiest thing to make from scratch)
- pie fillings
- whipped cream (yup...leave the Reddi-wip and the Cool Whip at the store...)
- shredded cheese (meaning we only buy blocks of cheese)
- Condiments & Sauces
- alfredo sauce for fettuccini
- apple butter
- cheese sauce for macaroni
- salad dressing
- Spices, Seasonings, & Extracts
If you're looking for an easy place to start with real, home cooking, get yourself a good, basic cookbook. I recommend this big 'ole Betty Crocker version. Most of the recipes use whole, real ingredients and it's full of pictures and how-to's to really educate you on all things related to homemade food. I use mine on a weekly basis.
If you're looking for some good information on topics such as whole foods, processed foods, traditional foods, here are some resources that I've found super helpful/interesting.
- In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen
- Traditional Foods in a Nutshell, the Nourished Kitchen
- Weston A. Price Foundation
- Food, Inc., a documentary
- Food Forward, a PBS series
Changing the way you eat/cook can, and probably should, be something that you do over a period of time. If it's something you're interested in doing, then pick one new thing to start making. Once that one thing has become a part of your life, add another. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by it. And when life gets really busy, order a pizza, relax, and get back to cooking tomorrow. That's what I do, anyway.