Easy, Medium and Hard Homemade

I have come a long way towards eating Real Food, but there are some bridges I haven’t crossed yet. Raising chickens or growing tomatoes may be easy for other people, but I’m not there yet. Nevertheless, I am coming to believe that some things are not as hard as they seem. In the past month, I have been making my own yogurt, bread and granola, and yes, I can do it! In fact, just like doing the laundry, you can do other things at the same time! Who knew?

A few months ago, I browsed through some books of make-ahead meals and mixes, but decided not to go that route. If I have leftovers, great, but I really don’t need homemade pancake mix. I am a new empty-nester, and although my spouse and I both work full-time, we both like cooking and we can tolerate waiting 90 minutes for dinner in the evenings. I never thought I would say that! OK, now that I’ve alienated ¾ of my readers who have young children…

Since our kid has left home, we no longer buy any of the stuff that Link used to make for quick lunches or weekday suppers: breaded chicken nuggets or chicken strips, breaded fish, prepared fish cakes, frozen French fries, Hamburger Helper, Kraft Dinner, rice mixes, or hot dogs. We don’t buy Link’s formerly favourite snacks either: banana chips, granola bars, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, Ritz crackers, white flour and chocolate chips (for baking brownies), or fruit juice.

Starting in September, we decided to stop buying anything with high-fructose corn syrup (glucose/fructose), hydrogenated oils or trans fats in them. We thought we had been doing well until we started reading every label: there is now only one brand of commercial bread we can buy, no in-store bakery products, and no frozen pizzas or frozen meals at all. I was mortified to find out that a personal pepperoni pizza from M & M Meat Shop has 3.5 grams of trans fats! One of our biggest steps was to give up all processed luncheon (deli) meats. I was impressed that America’s Cheapest Family roasted real meats and sliced them up at home instead of buying deli meat, so we took the plunge and started doing that too!

My interest and ability in doing everything homemade waxes and wanes, but here is my current list:

EASY:

  • Grind fresh coffee from whole beans
  • Make coffee by the cup in a French press or espresso maker
  • Cook oatmeal on the stovetop (better than microwave)
  • Cook scrambled eggs or make homemade “McMuffins”
  • Chop vegetables every day or two instead of buying pre-cut or packaged vegetables
  • Buy heads of lettuce (romaine, etc.) to wash and store, instead of buying pre-washed baby greens
  • Bake muffins, loaves, biscuits and cookies

MEDIUM I:

These are all easy but time-consuming, and require a medium amount of clean-up. I have committed to doing them:

  • Make granola (in the oven)
  • Make yogurt (need to pay attention to temperature)
  • Bake bread (need to be home all day for the risings)
  • Make omelettes, popovers and frittatas (fun to learn)
  • Roast meats and carve for sandwiches, divide up into servings for fridge or freezer
  • Make soup (lots of chopping vegetables and deciding if stock is seasoned properly)
  • Make meals from scratch that were easy to buy frozen – meat balls, shepherd’s pie, macaroni and cheese, pan-fried fish instead of breaded

MEDIUM II:

These are not-too-hard things I’ve done once or twice before, but it will take effort to add them to my routine:

  • Cook beans from dried
  • Make meat pies and samosas
  • Make hummus and falafel
  • Make stir-fry sauces

HARD I:

Hard but doable: I have made a soufflé and a risotto, so they built my confidence!

HARD II:

These are things I haven’t done yet and will need to psych myself up for:

  • Canning and preserving – jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, chutneys, tomatoes
  • Pizza crust – don’t know how to make it stretchy enough and then actually stretch it
  • Pie crust – my mom’s is impossible to live up to, but I can’t let myself be intimidated forever!
  • Make own pasta
  • Learn to make steamed puddings, custard and lemon curd – my spouse is from the UK and is used to having these things out of a tin
  • Make vanilla extract – maybe not hard but takes several months

HARD III:

These are things I do not plan to undertake on my own, unless someone is very persuasive:

  • Raise chickens or any other meat animals
  • Grow tomatoes, greens and herbs (I will support my farmers’ market!)
  • Make cheese

HARD IV:

And finally, these are the hard things that I am thankful to have relatives doing:

  • Make maple syrup
  • Make wine

I’m so lucky that way!

What is your Easy List? Hard List?

6 comments

  1. I tried to make falafel once and it was a disaster, so that would go in the Hard category for me.
    On the other hand, I find that canning and preserving are not that hard. It takes a while to get the hang of it and you have to have the right equipment to do it right, but I think it’s really worth the effort. 🙂

  2. Just found your site after you posted on Simply Being Mum 🙂

    Firstly, I need your hummus recipe! I’ve tried dozens and can’t find the best combo to get it where it tastes like restaurant hummus or my fave store bought hummus (Trader Joe’s Mediterranean). Secondly, pie crust is SO easy! I thought it would be challenging too, but my MIL gave me a simple recipe that I use mostly as a crust for quiche. But I totally understand where you are coming. I’ve tried certain things. Some worked to simplify. Others not so much. It’s hard too because there’s always much more I could be doing. All with time, I suppose! It sounds like you are doing great 🙂

  3. Marie, I made marmelade twice – once it turned out great, and the other it didn’t! My mom has always made pickles and chow, so I will be observing this year. Thank you for the encouragement!
    Minimalist – when I started making hummus, I had never tasted it before, so I thought mine was fine 🙂 I don’t think I could copy a store brand, though. I haven’t made pie crust for years, but I bake a lot more than I used to, so I am more confident making recipes “by feel” now. I am guessing I’ll know when it’s right. Glad you visited!

  4. Pingback: Real Food = Time Well Spent « An Exacting Life

  5. Annie

    Canning is really very simple. Start with a jam or two. Maybe chutney if you like chutneys (it turned out I like them very much, which I never knew until I had a huge mass of apples I had to use somehow). After a couple of seasons you’ll find that it gets to be quite easy. Putting Food By is the book I would recommend as it has good safety information that some canning books neglect.

    For Pizza crust, I make the “no-knead artisan” dough and roll it. It turns out just fine. You can mix up the dough in the a.m. literally while your coffee drips and either leave it out all day or put it in the fridge with some plastic over it. (1.5 c. water, 2.5 tsp. salt, 2.5 tsp. yeast, 3 cups flour, stir well to combine and cover). If it’s in the fridge, let it warm up for half an hour before using. Roll it, top, and put it a very hot oven. If you really want to get fancy you could buy the Italian flour from King Arthur and use a real recipe, but I don’t anymore. The main thing is to buy a wooden peel and a pizza stone, which is a good investment anyway. I just leave my pizza stone in the oven pretty much all the time.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, and I will find the book! I had no idea you could make pizza crust with the no-knead artisan bread dough – I have made that bread before! Does 1 batch of the dough make 1 pizza crust? Luckily I have a pizza stone (which I had been using for my store-bought pizza crusts) but I had to look up what a peel was. I look forward to trying this out!

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