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5 surprisingly simple foods to cook from scratch

by Karen on April 21, 2010

Convenience foods have become a way of life for many families. You can purchase most things ready-made — even whole meals. Cooking from scratch may not always save a lot of money, but it’s a great way to eat healthier and cut out artificial ingredients. I think you’d also be surprised at how simple and rewarding cooking from scratch can be.

Here are the recipes we use for five common convenience foods. Even if you can’t cook them from scratch every time, consider trying out these recipes on a weekend to cut down on artificial ingredients and increase flavor.

Chicken stock

Buying ready-made chicken stock is incredibly pricey compared to the cost of cooking it from scratch, and huge amounts of sodium and preservatives make boxed chicken stock less than healthy. Cooking chicken stock from scratch is time consuming, but we make it in bulk and freeze one-quart portions so we’re only making it once every few months. Next time you roast a whole chicken, don’t throw the bones away. Freeze them, and use them on this chicken stock recipe when you have the time.

Pizza dough

Homemade pizza is a great frugal treat for the weekends, but store-bought pizza crust can cut back on your savings. Pizza dough is surprisingly easy to make, especially if you have a stand mixer on hand. Start with this recipe, but you’ll likely end up adapting it to suit your own tastes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can always mix and knead your dough the old fashioned way — by hand.

Marinara sauce

If you’re trying to cut artificial ingredients and preservatives out of your diet, there’s no reason not to make your own marinara sauce. It is simple, almost as fast as pouring the ready-made stuff out of the can, and much more delicious. My husband just sautes a little onion and garlic in olive oil and then mixes a large can of organic crushed tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt and pepper, and adds basil, oregano and parsley and a pinch of red pepper flakes to taste. It takes about 15 minutes.

Bread

It took us some time to get the hang of homemade bread, but it is so worth the trouble. The big secret? Bread flour. Really, that’s all there is to it. Any other flour makes the bread too dense and the crust too stiff. We got this recipe from a bag of Pillsbury bread flour, and it turns out perfect every time. Just store it in a plastic zip bag or freeze it for later.

Ice Cream

Homemade ice cream is one of our favorite treats for summer. We were lucky enough to be given a KitchenAid stand mixer with an ice cream maker attachment for our wedding, and this chocolate ice cream recipe is our favorite. But there are tons of simple ice cream recipes out there that don’t require special equipment, such as this ice cream in a bag recipe. Gourmet ingredients can add up, but if you save this treat for special occasions, it’s worth every penny.

What are your favorite recipes to cook from scratch?

Photo by anjuli_ayer

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