Happy one year of Excerpts of Awkwardness! Time sure has flown by!
Today I’m doing a roundup of my favorite foods to make from scratch (I’m resisting the urge to say the best foods to make from scratch, since I realize some people’s priorities might be different than mine).
I love trying out making foods from scratch because it fascinates me to learn more food science and how it works. But while I’ll try most things at least once, I have a pretty high standards for what it takes to start making something from scratch consistently.
I’m looking at price, taste, and effort. I only really need two out of three of those – either more inexpensive, better tasting, or pretty easy – but if it only has one I don’t generally go for it.
For example, these are the things I’ve tried making myself but once was enough:
Mozzarella (more expensive, tastes the same, time intensive)
Crackers (taste the same, kind of a pain to make)
Pasta (cheaper, but a much different taste – not bad, just different – and a huge pain without dedicated equipment)
So what do I recommend making from scratch?
Quick Breads/Basic Baked Goods
Banana bread, muffins, zucchini bread, cakes, cookies, pies, macaroons; these are all easy and pretty difficult to mess up. I don’t have many of these in my repertoire now since I’m trying to cut down on my sweets, but these are a great introduction to baking. The great thing about these is that once you learn one or two, it’s easy to generalize those skills to other quick baked goods.
I realize this sounds scary because of the yeast and the assumption that it takes ages to do, but once you’ve got a foundation in quick breads, it’s not too hard to do yeast breads.
If you’re feeling intimidated, I can’t recommend The Frugal Girl’s yeast recipes highly enough. These are what I started baking with, and I love all of the pictures. I’ve made the sandwich bread and honey glazed rolls more times than I can count and never had any duds (I even made four loaves of sandwich bread a week for an entire summer, and each one was delicious!).
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, I also love Budget Bytes’ bread recipes. Naan and stromboli (pizza rolls) are on my regular rotation, and I’m also a fan of her focaccia rolls (how could you not love them, you don’t have to knead them). You can even make your own pizza for waaaaaay less than Round Table and much more taste than the crappy takeout place down the street.
Basically, don’t stress out about trying to do something with an 18 hour rising time or that requires a starter. Those can be fun to try on occasion, but if you’re new to bread baking you’ll need some practice first.
Whipped Cream, Frostings, and Condiments
I realize that’s kind of a weird combo, but hear me out. These are things that are easy to pick up at the store but are generally packed with a lot of preservatives and other nonsense. These will obviously have a shorter shelf life than their processed counterparts, so I generally only make the ones that I use very often (peanut butter, ketchup, vanilla extract and tastes-like-but-doesn’t-require-sundried-tomato sauce).
I can hear you already: “But I don’t have an ice cream maker!” Do you have a hand mixer, or willingness to put in some elbow grease? Then that’s enough. Seriously, you don’t need an ice cream maker. Homemade ice cream is soooooo good, and I also like that it doesn’t make a ton; you won’t be left with a quart of rich, delicious, impossible to resist ice cream in your freezer, but instead enough for a couple of servings.
I know, I know, it’s not great on the cost front, but with the great taste and tons of flavors you can make, it’s totally worth it to me.
This is a repeat from my list of great homemade Christmas presents, but it’s worth pointing out again. If you already have oil anyway, grab a nice looking bottle and toss in some herbs/spices/fruit of your choice and BAM, infused oil.
Admittedly, I don’t know how to make many liqueurs, but between kahlua and Bailey’s I’m pretty much set. I’m sure you could find some others around the internet as well, but I feel like that’s a rabbit hole I’m not quite ready to fall into yet.
Basic Pasta Dishes
This usually works in reverse for me (as in, if I’m out to eat and see chicken alfredo, stuffed shells or spaghetti on the menu, I scoff and say “I didn’t come out to eat to pay way more for something I can make at home!”) but that’s because these are just so simple. Not necessarily super healthy, but easy and cheap.
Curry is also turning into one of these things since I found some curry paste; why bother with the bamboo shoots I hate and trying to find a good massama curry nearby when I can just make my own? I’m also trying out a pad thai recipe next week, so that may go on this list soon too :P
So now that I’ve made my giant list, I want to know what do you make at home, food or otherwise?