5 Tips and Tricks on Cooking from Scratch

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People have been talking so much about cooking from scratch, but to you it seems so daunting.  What do they mean, scratch?  Home made pasta?  Milling your own wheat?  You have three kids, soccer practice, ballet, lunches to pack, and sometimes you don’t even get to shower!  Are they insane?

When you really think of it though, you are a little tired of the boxed food.  Scratch might be nice, in moderation-and with a little thinking ahead, you can absolutely do it. Try some of these quick tips and recipes, and before you know it, you’ll have scratch in a flash.

1. Salad dressings are just a shake away

Bottled salad dressings are convenient, but they also contain MSG, preservatives, and loads of sodium.  Making you own is so easy and delicious that once you try, you’ll never go back!  Simply get a jar that has a lid, and try some of these recipes.  They are so easy that my teenager regularly makes the balsamic vinaigrette for all of us.  Home made salad dressings don’t last as long as bottled, so only make what you’ll need over a few days.

2. Convenience foods aren’t all bad

Those pre-washed salad mixes?  Time saver.  Canned beans, tuna, hummus, tortillas?  Awesome.  Buy your chicken breasts boneless and skinless, and then freeze them right in some marinade.  Need some pasta sauce?  Just sauté up a little onion and garlic, throw in some herbs and spices, add a can of tomatoes, and then simmer.  Voila! Spaghetti sauce!(more detailed recipe here).  Need refried beans for a burrito recipe?  Just puree a can of kidney beans along with a handful of cilantro, a clove of garlic, bit of chili powder and cumin, add a bit of water to loosen it, and there you go!  Cous cous and quinoa cook in minutes for side dishes or salads.  Pre-shredded cheese can save time, or if you like buy a large block, shred your own, and freeze.  As long as you have a well stocked pantry, you’ll never go hungry or need to resort to take out or boxed food.

3.  Pudding and Cake Mixes are a snap

I was brainwashed, really.  For the longest time I always thought that I needed to make both of those items from a box, when the reality is the home made versions are much cheaper, just as easy, and so easy to make!  To save on time, try measuring out the dry ingredients ahead of time and stash in a sealed container in your cupboard.  Tape the recipe directions right to the container, so when you pull it out you can read what other ingredients you need to add (eggs, butter, vanilla), how to prepare it, bake, and you’re good to go.   This works well with muffin, pancake, cookie, and cupcake recipes. Prep a bunch for the month, then seal and stash away so they are at your fingertips when you need them.

4. Make use of your appliances

Your freezer isn’t just for storing bread in, it’s your friend.  Lots of things can be easily made ahead and frozen in small portions, like soups, stews, chili, burritos, and hamburger patties.  Then if you have an evening with little time, just pull something out of the freezer to heat up.  This works especially well if you have some picky eaters in the family, because then everyone can have what they want without you going through too much fuss at all.

5.  Plan ahead

It’s always a good idea to have 15 recipes that are quick, easy, go to ones that you’ve mastered and can lean on when you need dinner on the table in a flash.  I love to plan ahead by making enough salad to last two nights, chopping extra veggies, or tucking an extra portion in the oven for the next day’s lunches.  Little time investments always add up to big rewards come dinner time!

With a little planning, you can lose those boxed meals-and instead, incorporate a lot of deliciously healthy food into your family’s diet!  Scratch doesn’t mean you are chained to the kitchen all day, and once you find that the ingredients for what you want to make is actually in your cupboard, it’s pretty freeing.  Don’t be a slave to the box!

Reclaim your kitchen.  You deserve it!


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