There are many reasons to attempt swapping some store-bought food items for homemade. Not only is making food from scratch a fun kitchen task, but it can easily be a healthier and cleaner option. You can omit ingredients you dislike or can’t eat (like if you have food allergies) and add in what you want. While I still hugely appreciate ready to use food, the negatives of added ingredients and lacking nutrition sadly outweigh the convenience (most of the time).
This is something I always have in my pantry and comes in handy for many things, like my overnight yogurt oatmeal (which I will talk about below), as an ice cream topper, or mixed with nuts for a quick snack. Although granola is versatile and adds a nice crunch to already delicious food, it can be expensive to buy in-store and comes in small packages, so a homemade option gets you more bang for your buck. Another great thing about making granola is you can personalize it how you want ( adding chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc). I like to use this recipe and add in extras. There have been times I omitted the brown sugar and just used cane sugar, which turned out fine, although quite a bit of sugar ended up at the bottom of the jar. Baking at a low temperature is also important, baking at too high a temperature can leave the granola lacking in a crunch or with a burnt aftertaste. One of my favorite ways to enjoy granola is an overnight yogurt. I have attempted making overnight oats a few times and it never goes well, but this method is easy since the granola is already sweetened and has your favorite add-ins. I mix a good amount of granola in a bowl with plain greek yogurt, cover, and leave overnight (or for a couple of hours). The results are extra thick and creamy.
Whipped Cream (this is the recipe I use)
I haven’t purchased whipped cream from a store in a long time because of the added ingredients they contain. Homemade is so much tastier than store-bought anyway, so I don’t miss it. I love using whipped cream to top a bowl of fruit, but here are other ways to enjoy this fluffy treat. Be careful not to over whip, I did this once and the texture was not as nice (closer to butter). I use a whisk, which usually takes a few minutes, but you can use an electric mixer to get faster results. I keep my whipped cream in the fridge and it keeps for several days (although it usually doesn’t last that long).
1c heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
In a bowl, add sugar to heavy cream and whip until light and fluffy.
Pasta Sauce (this video has great information on different tomatoes and cooking times)
Homemade pasta sauce always seemed a daunting task but it surprised me how simple it is. The taste is much fresher than a jarred product and it doesn’t take much time. You can also make large batches to freeze, so you can thaw some out whenever you have a hankering for a nice bowl of pasta. I have unsuccessfully attempted making a sauce in the past and I think the main reasons for failure were under seasoning and using a more watery tomato variety. When I tried it with Roma tomatoes and added a bit of sugar, it changed the flavor profile completely and resulted in a mouthwatering, versatile sauce!
- 6-8 tomatoes: I use Roma tomatoes, but whole canned ones will work as well. San Marzano is a great canned choice.
- Olive oil
- 1-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole: Can also finely chop. I like to leave the cloves whole and take them out before serving.
- 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped (can leave out if you prefer)
- A small handful of chopped fresh basil (can also use some dried basil)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1tbsp cane sugar (more or less to taste)
- Grated parmesan (optional)
Rinse and cut tomatoes into big chunks and set aside (no need to spend much time chopping, it will all be blended anyway). Add olive oil to the saucepan, enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Saute garlic and onion in olive oil, then add tomatoes. Once tomatoes come to a simmer and start to produce liquid, add basil and seasonings. Begin using a potato masher or large fork to get to the consistency you want, you can leave chunky or use an immersion blender to get it smoother. Cover and let simmer on low heat for about 12 minutes, then take off the heat. Finish with freshly grated parmesan.
- Pasta sauce
- Al dente spaghetti noodles
- 1-2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Pasta water: start with 1 tbsp then add more as needed
- Freshly grated parmesan to taste
- Fresh basil to garnish (optional)
Cook spaghetti noodles until al dente, save a cup of pasta water (be sure to salt the water before boiling pasta). Strain and run cold water over the pasta to stop cooking, lightly coat with olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside. In a pan, melt butter and olive oil, add sauce (start with a small amount, you can always add more). Bring to a simmer, then add noodles, pasta water, and cheese. Once noodles are fully cooked and sauce has thickened, turn off heat.
*If you want to make your own noodles, this is a simple recipe
Mom’s Cream Sauce
This is a great thing to make with the leftover heavy cream you have. My mom whipped this up about a month ago and was kind enough to make it again and share the recipe. A slightly amplified alfredo sauce.
- 1c heavy cream
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1c freshly grated parmesan
- 2-3 tbsp cream cheese
- 1-2 tbsp milk (optional, only needed if you want to thin the sauce)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Other spices to taste (oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, chili flakes, etc)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter over low heat, then add heavy cream and parmesan. Cover and stir occasionally until cheese has melted. Mix in cream cheese and seasonings, use milk if the sauce is too thick, and simmer until everything is incorporated.
Pasta dish with cream sauce!
Directions: Cook your favorite pasta until al dente (save some pasta water). When the cream sauce is done, add in the pasta and cook until done, use pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. We made bison meatballs as well, but the dish is just as great without them.
This wasn’t something I ever thought I would make, but after a half-empty bottle of tequila sat lonely in my fridge for a while, I decided to give it a go. Vanilla beans can be pricey (I spent $6 per bean), so if you’re looking to save money on this, keep in mind what kind and how many you want to use. Although this is a straightforward task, it does not yield quick results and can take several weeks or months before your vanilla extract will be ready to use, but I’ve found it fun watching the progress over the past few weeks. I’m hoping for a more flavorful, aromatic extract than a store-bought one offers. I also want to transfer it to a jar with a smaller opening, making it easier to pour once I do start cooking and baking with it. I skimmed several recipes and the most commonly used alcohol was vodka, but I also saw rum, bourbon, and brandy mentioned as well. Just be sure what you’re using is 80 proof.
- Alcohol (I used 1 cup)
- 2-5 vanilla beans (I only used 2 at first, but decided to add a 3rd)
Pour alcohol, leaving some room at the top, then add vanilla beans and close the lid tightly. Store in a dark place, taking it out to shake every once in a while.
Ice cream in any form is a classic summer treat. I devoured my fair share of ice cream sandwiches when I was younger, usually after a long day of swimming or being outside in the heat. As I’ve gotten older my taste for them has slightly faded, but this homemade version is a delectable exception.
- Freshly baked cookies (the recipe I used worked really well. The cookies are firm enough not to crumble but are still soft)
- A pint of your favorite ice cream: If you do choose to make homemade ice cream I have no doubt the result would be that much more delicious, but I opted for my favorite store-bought vanilla.
- Topping: chocolate chips, caramel, sprinkles, peanut butter, crushed nuts, cereal, etc.
Microwave unopened ice cream for 10 seconds and put cookies on a plate. Over a bowl, hold the tub of ice cream upside down, warming the sides with your hands until it slides out. Take a sharp knife and slice the ice cream into a round shape and place it onto one half of the cookie. Make sure the cookies are completely cooled, I put mine in the fridge until they were cold to the touch. Top the ice cream with your second cookie and while it is still soft roll toppings around the sides, then wrap with cling film and put in the freezer right away. Let set up overnight or at least a few hours before serving. Another way to handle the ice cream is to simply scoop out onto a cookie from the tub. The slicing method will create a more even circle, but if you’re making more than a few sandwiches, I would suggest just scooping the ice cream out to avoid too much melting.