One of the most seductive myths of food product advertising is that the products being promoted will make our lives easier and better. Advertisers imply and sometimes shamelessly promise to give us more time, make us more attractive, promote family closeness, and create beautiful memories. In short advertisers promise to make us happy! All we have to do is go to the store. The shelves are neatly lined with thousands of attractive packages for our selection. Remember these packages are designed by people who make a living by their ability to lure us to purchase.
|My favorite store offers the best deal in town on pancake mixes and other convenience food items, but I can still save a substantial amount of money making them at home.|
It is so easy to get in the habit of relying on convenience foods, after all they are convenient. Open a box, bag or jar, add water or eggs or another can of something, stir, heat, and voila! dinner is served. The truth is most of the convenience food items you currently buy at the grocery store can be made easily at home in just a few minutes and for very little money. Added benefits: ability to cater to specific dietary needs or allergies. You’ll never miss the preservatives, additives, dyes, and chemicals you won’t be ingesting. And you may notice a reduction in the amount of kitchen waste going to the landfill because you aren’t bringing home so much packaging and can re-purpose food safe containers like glass jars.
I am happy to share a batch of my favorite DIY convenience foods with you from breakfast to dessert. We’ll start with items to make and freeze and then learn the basics of crafting dry mixes. I made waffles a few days ago and there were several leftover. I could have fed them to the chickens, and I sometimes do, but instead I froze them in a zipper-top freezer bag with small squares of parchment paper between. You can individually wrap them in plastic, but parchment paper is compost-able and renewable, and plastic wrap is not. On busy mornings a frozen waffle can be popped in the toaster for a super-quick yummy homemade breakfast. The same can be done with leftover pancakes and French Toast.
A little later I will show you how I turned my favorite pancake recipe into a mix.
Let’s move on to dinner. The freezer case at your local grocery store is brimming with quick skillet or stir-fry type meal ideas. Stock your freezer inexpensively with Skillet Meals that are tailored to your family’s taste. This recipe is easy to prepare in quantity and such a godsend when you’ve had a busy day and need to get dinner on the table NOW. Recipe is taken from PNW 296 Freezing Convenience Foods, a great little booklet available through OSU Extension at extension.oregonstate.edu. Use it as a template to create your own freezer meals. Gluten-free pasta or cooked brown rice can be substituted for spiral pasta to make a gluten-free dinner.
|Cooked beans – a great time-saver!|
Canned beans are infinitely useful. They are also inexpensive and easy to prepare from scratch in quantity. I love having a variety of ready-to-use cooked beans in my freezer for recipes and you will, too. Related recipes: Mexican-style Pinto Beans, Un-refried Beans, Cuban-style Black Beans. Tip: Use your water bath canner to cook 4 pounds of beans at one time.
|Cookie dough – shaped & ready to freeze|
Thrifty Stock is a method of up-cycling veggie trimmings that might otherwise go to the compost pile, along with meat bones and dried herbs that perhaps you’ve grown yourself, into stock, the foundation for delicious soup.
I’ll give you tips on how to package pesto in ways that match up with your recipes. And Monster Cookies! Everything about these cookies is over-the-top. They are big and bursting with goodies. The dough can be formed into cookie discs, frozen in an unbaked state for up to a month, and baked a few at a time as desired for oven-fresh cookies on demand.
I turned my favorite pancake recipe into a time-saving mix and discovered it makes great waffles, too! Pancake & Waffle Mix. The basic principles of creating dry mixes from your own recipes are simple: measure out the dry ingredients for one batch of (you fill in the blank) , whisk them together, and measure the resulting volume or weight. This lets you know how much mix is needed to combine with the remaining ingredients to make one batch of a finished recipe. My favorite pancake recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups flour. I make half of that whole wheat pastry flour and quadrupled the recipe.
Following the same principles I just outlined you can create mixes for some of the most popular convenience foods. Ranch Plus Dressing Mix, actually my sister Marti’s recipe, can be used to make Ranch Dressing, Ranch Dip, Thousand Island Dressing, and Cucumber Dressing ~ all delicious. Layered Bean Soup Mix comes from my friend Margaret. Taco & Fajita Seasoning Mix made from bulk dried herbs. Secret Fudge Brownie Mix only requires 3 stir-in ingredients. Whole grain Gingerbread comes together quickly with this mix. Real Hot Cocoa Mix – you won’t believe how simple and delicious this recipe is.
Exercise your creativity in how you package your mixes. A little fabric and ribbon or raffia along with a creative label makes it prettier than anything on the shelf at the store, and it goes without saying mixes make welcome gifts. Investing a little time on a week-end or evening or just a few minutes here and there can pay meaningful dividends on busy days. You will have a freezer or cupboard stocked with your own homemade mixes for foods your family likes to eat. Thank you for joining me in the kitchen today as we stirred,cooked, and crafted to create our own convenience foods. Please come back next week for more Kitchen Wisdom. See you then!