As I discussed previously, making your own food at home is healthier, tastier and far less expensive than purchasing premade items. There are a lot of basic foods that can be easily prepared at home to make your meals more flavourful and satisfying. Here are a few more of my favourites.
A well prepared broth or “stock” is the foundation of many recipes. When used in soups, stews, braising or sauces, a good homemade stock far out performs a store bought pre-packaged one. Store bought broths can be expensive and unless you buy the low or no sodium varieties, very salty. The basic recipe involves putting bones (for meat broth), vegetables like carrots, celery and onions, and seasonings in a large pot and just barely covering them with water. Let it simmer, uncovered, for at least an hour, strain and cool. Skim off the fat then store broth in airtight containers in the freezer and use in your favourite recipes. For richer-tasting stock, roast the bones or vegetables in a 350F oven for about 25 minutes before simmering on the stove. I will typically have both homemade chicken and beef stock in my freezer at all times.
This is really a very simple preparation which when made properly adds better flavour than your typical store bought BBQ sauce. I make my own at home and store them for up to a month in the fridge. Additionally by making my own I can season the barbeque sauce in various styles such as sauces with an Asian (ginger, soy and hoisin), Canadian (maple and strong beer), or American (ketchup, chili and molasses) flair, to name a few.
Here is my go-to BBQ sauce recipe which can be easily modified to suit your tastes:
1.5 oz maple syrup
4.5 tsp paprika
4.5 tsp chili powder
4.5 tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cayenne chili powder
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
6 oz cider vinegar
24 oz ketchup
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper to taste if required. The sauce is now ready to use.
Forget the store-bought, pre-baked, flavourless shells – try making your own dough at home. Pizza dough is as simple as combining and kneading specific quantities of five ingredients; water, yeast, flour, salt and olive oil. There are lots of recipes for basic dough on the internet; why not experiment by adding your own signature touch like incorporating mince fresh rosemary, or finely grated Romano cheese, or chopped Kalamata olives into your dough. Here are a couple of tips before you begin:
A stand mixer will make a pizza dough in about 5 minutes, doing by hand will take 20. So while hand kneaded dough will do wonders for your forearm and bicep toning you may opt to purchase a stand mixer if you don’t already have one – you won’t regret it.
Give yourself a minimum or 2 hours to prep, knead and proof your dough. Pizza dough requires an hour of proving to allow the dough to rise, develop flavour, and develop the gluten.
I recommend using quick rising yeast. It has never failed me.
Muffins, pancakes and cookies
Why buy a pre-prepared mix when, most likely, you have all the ingredients in your cupboard? Yes, buying premade is easier but once you get into the habit of making your own (especially because you went out and treated yourself to a new stand mixer, as mentioned above) you’ll find the taste, texture and nutritive value of homemade baking far superior to store bought. Once you get started you will realize how easy, rewarding and enjoyable baking at home can be.
Here is a foolproof pancake recipe that will yield beautiful fluffy pancakes every time.
1 cup all-purpose white flower
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup of milk mixed with 1 tbsp of vinegar)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg (well beaten)
1 tbsp oil (I use virgin canola oil)
Mix Flour, salt, baking powder together. Mix buttermilk, oil, egg together and add to dry. Mix until ingredients are combined but do not overwork the batter. A few lumps are ok. Pan fry in a little melted butter over medium heat. Recipe yields 6 x 4” fluffy, delicious pancakes.
With a little time and practice you’ll find you spend less time (and money) at the grocery store and more time at home enjoying your newfound talents.