Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scratch Cooking to support Organic Living

Thanks, Red, for posting your salsa recipe. I also totally agree with your comment from the Organic Living post that we can save a lot of money and also improve nutrition by cooking alot from scratch.

I make my own salad dressings, I was raised on simple viniagrettes and so I tend to be shocked when I see the huge salad dressing aisle, I wonder who is buying all of this dressing!

I use a store bought cruet and I just use the oil and vinegar lines on it. I use either safflower or olive oil with either balsamic or Braggs apple cider vinegar, a spoonful of dijon mustard, some dried herbs and a little bit of honey or sugar. I make a big bottle about once a week and eat it all week. I have also recently started washing a whole head of lettuce at a time and keeping it in the salad spinner in the fridge -- I am more likely to have salad at lunch if the lettuce is ready to go.

I have learned from my husband to keep salads interesting by putting in lots of random stuff, so we often have nuts or seeds, fruit (apple, grapes, craisins or raisins), a mix of vegetables (red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc) and or cheese on our salad. I don't really love expensive mesclun mixes, so I use either red or green leaf lettuce. You can theme it up, go Italian with roasted red peppers and mozzarella in your salad, add crumbled bleu cheese, walnuts, diced apples and raisins to feel like you are at a restaurant, etc.

Do you have simple things, like salad dressing or salsa, that you could buy but make yourself instead? We buy a whole wheat pancake mix, but I am thinking that I could just mix up bags of my own and keep them in the freezer, we do this with the dry ingredients for our bread already, so the kids can make the bread without having to measure (and spill) the flour.


Jenny said...

Would you mind giving a more specific recipe for your salad dressing? I'm one that struggles to follow "a little of this and a little of that" type recipes!

Mary Alice said...

3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp honey or sugar

that is the base. You can then add : a grind of salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of herbs -- I use a dried Italian mix, or just oregano, also garlic, either one clove fresh minced or 1 tsp garlic powder.

Shake it up (an old screw lid jar is great for this) and then dip in a lettuce leaf to taste. Vinegars and mustards vary alot in taste, so you might have to tweak a little bit

Ellie Raduns said...

I have various homemade salad dressings in my family on-line cookbook. Click on my ID and then use the cookbook link on the Homepage.

Mary Alice, I have on there various other homemade goodies like pancakes/scones/biscuts all from scratch.

Disclaimer: The cookbook is a work in progress. So contiue to check back for updates. As our family's food convictions change so do some of the recipies. Feel free to ask me any questions.

Gail said...

On a whim I made homemade flour tortillas for the first time yesterday. They were simple and delicious, and it felt good to be making something from scratch rather than feeding my family preservatives.

Maria said...

I started making homemade pancakes about a year ago and never looked back. It was mainly a taste issue for me, but it probably is cheaper and healthier.

We enjoy making homemade pizzas as well. In the summer, you can just put your pizza stone on the grill and bake them outside. Great pizza without warming up the house.

Mary Alice said...

Everyone, I love Ellie's cookbook website, it has built in menu planners and can even make a grocery list for you! Go check it out, and let's all join!

Mary Alice said...

Does anyone know alot about preserving? I have made my own peach and blueberry jams when I am staying at my family's farm upstate and those fruits are in season, but I would love to get into more, especially to figure out how to preserve tomatoes in the form of sauce and salsa -- the cans that are used for food have some nasty additive on them, so canning in glass jars also helps to avoid this. Any good websites?

Ellie Raduns said...

Hey Mary Alice,

A website that will tell you all the particulars about canning:

Also, for preserving salsa, check back at my cookbook in a few days, I have a lacto-fermented salsa recipe, as well as some lacto-fermented jams.

For someone who grew up in the sub-burbs and transplanted to a more rural area, canning is still not an art that I have mastered. If you haven't tried it yet, it is definitley time consuming and requires some equipment, and patience. I haven't given up on it, but I find I like freezing better.
You can freeze cooked sauce, stocks, beans, vegetables, and fruit. It is less complicated in my mind, but you do need to allow for thawing time. Either way you can kiss commercialy canned anything good-bye.
I hate to be a broken record, but the Nourishing traditions cookbook is a great place to start for alot of this info.

Mary Alice said...

Yes, now that we have an extra freezer in our garage, I think that freezing is the way to go for sauces, etc, and I guess to blanch veggies and freeze them works really well. I have always frozen pumpkin to save for pies as the winter drags on, and I would like to freeze more winter squash for soups, etc.

I really liked doing the fruit preserves, I made this peach jam ( which was super yummy and I ate it over ricotta cheese on wheat crackers for a treat, or over cream cheese on a bagel. It also made a good sauce for chicken dishes.

I also made very simple blueberry preserves, a sugar free version that uses apple juice (came from the bell canning jar package), and throughout the year I mixed it with a bit of maple syrup and heated to make a great blueberry syrup for pancakes. I pick those berries upstate, so I can't freeze them to bring home, and when the kids go to town picking berries you have way more than you could eat or bake in a week or two, but hopefully this year I will also pick some here and freeze them, I hear frozen blueberries are great for pancake/waffle making, if they are the smaller wild ones you can add them in without defrosting.

Upstate, many of our berries come from bushes in our own yard, it is amazing, the bushes have been there for years and no one tends to them at all, so it is essentially free food!

B-Mama said...

Oh my goodness, all this organic food talk is so intimidating! Boxed, artificial buttermilk pancakes with chemical syrup and butter anyone? Tell me where to start...!!

Ellie Raduns said...

Why option for butter, when you could do a "butter spread" one that tastes just like butter, but with undigestable trans-fats...yummy

Juris Mater said...

Homemade granola or other homemade cereal is another great from-scratch, money-saving, additive-reducing idea.

I like granola because the oat base is so cheap and goes a long way, and because of the baking aspect--easy to add healthy oil, ground flaxseed and/or wheat germ, other nutritious bonuses.

Also, it's fun to get creative and pretty hard to mess up, and I love the smell of baking granola.

Red has a very great, flexible granola recipe, which I'd post here but I don't have on hand.

I also like using the bread machine's pizza dough function, with whole wheat flour and honey. I haven't perfected it yet--still too intensely wheaty--and would love a recipe suggestion for this. The kids like helping make the pizza totally from scratch. Does anyone know how to do pizza sauce from scratch? Is it really hard? I'm pretty bad with complicated cooking.

Courtney said...

Red, can you post your granola recipe, if possible? I know you mentioned it in another blog on this site. Thanks!

Darren said...

Homemade pancakes have become a post-Mass fixture for my 3 yr old son and I for at least a year -- my wife doesn't like pancakes (don't ask).

Here's the recipe we use:

1 c w.w. flour
1 c white flour
1 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 7/8 c milk
2 eggs

Mix dry ingredients. Warm up milk on stove or in microwave; combine eggs and milk. Add the wet to the dry. Ladle into heated frying pan.

You can add 1 c frozen or fresh blueberries to the batter OR slices of ripe banana to the batter once its been ladled into the pan. We often use peanut butter and jam instead of syrup.

texas mommy said...

Has anyone ever tried to make cheese? Ellie?

Anonymous said...

2 book suggestions... 1. for the hard core do it yourselfer is Stocking Up by Carol Hupping. It tells you how to freeze, dry or can anything (and how to build a food drier and how to build a root cellar) with very explicit details and how to tell if you did it wrong. It also tells how to make cheese and yogurt and butcher your own meat :-) Plus it has recipes for using all the sundry things you just managed to preserve for further use. It even tells you good vegetable and fruit varieties and the seed companies to purchase them from if you are planning a garden.
2. for the less adventurous there is always the good old standby of More With Less by the mennonites. A cookbook that is big on "from Scratch" recipes. It has a good homemade all purpose baking mix.

Ellie Raduns said...

Texas Mommy,
I have given cheese a go, I run into ripping room issues. In order for it to harden and not just be curds, it needs to be aged according to the bacteria used. Needless to say, I don't have a good place to rippen. I tend to stick with cheese that needs no rippening like cream cheese. It is oh so delicious, and I don't even like commercial cream cheese. If you want the cream cheese recipe check out my cookbook on my blog, other "harder" cheese recipes I can post if you are interested.