Saturday, August 29, 2015

Makin' it from scratch…

HALLIE EPHRON: Recently there was a piece in the New York Times with recipes for things you should make not buy.

Here’s the list. Take the test: how many do you make not buy?

1.    Marinara sauce
2.    Chocolate chip cookies
3.    Salad dressing
4.    Cupcakes
5.    Mac and cheese
6.    Ice cream
7.    Brownies
8.    Ketchup
9.    Pickles
10. Chocolate pudding
11. Pizza
12. Pancakes
13. Biscuits
14. Chocolate sauce
15. Mayonnaise
16. Layer cake
17. Pad thai
18. Mustard
19. Bread
20. Corn muffins
21. Hummus
22. Chocolate truffles
23. Granola
24. Jam
25. English muffins

Now I consider myself a fussy cook and I like to think that I cook healthy, thriftily, and mostly from scratch. But from scratch I make only 8 of the things on this list. Seven since I tried my Stop ‘n’ Shop’s upscale store brand “Nature’s Promise” marinara sauce.(The ingredients list has nothing I can't pronounce and it tastes really as good as mine, if not better.) 

I used to make my own hummus, too. And have never made a from-scratch cake that tasted as good as Duncan Hines Devils Food. I do make my own cake icing. It's easy and store-bought is gross. And I make my own pie crust, same reason.

But ketchup or mayo or mustard? I am devoted to Caine's and Heinz and Grey Poupon. But here are a few of the easy things I make as from as "scratch" as I get.

Tartar sauce
Mix together mayo and your favorite pickle relish.
That's it.

Russian dressing
Mix together that tartar sauce you just made with ketchup.
That's it.

And a quick Hollandaise sauce that really is from scratch.
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
Juice of half a lemon
STEPS (there are a few):
Melt the butter in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat.
Whisk the egg with the lemon juice and add to the melted butter.
Whisk over low/medium heat (WATCH IT! Or you'll end up with scrambled eggs) until it thickens. 
Add cayenne to taste.
Delicious over salmon, asparagus, or broccoli; or add some chopped fresh tarragon (a little goes a long way) and it’s great on a grilled steak or lamb chops. 

And THE best from scratch granola, can't match it anywhere is Lucy's Good for Anything Granola.

What do you make from scratch and what are you content with getting packaged? 


  1. This is really interesting . . . on your list, the things I make from scratch include:
    spaghetti sauce, chocolate chip cookies, cake and cupcakes, macaroni and cheese, brownies, chocolate pudding, pancakes, bread, biscuits, and corn muffins.

    I’ve made English muffins, pickles and jam, but usually the store-bought ones are just as good as are most of the other things on your list.

    I never considered making my own mustard, ketchup [we almost never eat this], or even mayonnaise . . . I mean, when there’s Miracle Whip around, why would I? And I never, ever make boxed macaroni and cheese.

  2. Joan, you are good. I confess, I cannot contemplate life without ketchup. Sometimes it's essential. On French fries. Hamburgers. Pork chops. Calves liver (really). None of which do I have often these days.

  3. Yes, interesting question, because my answer is: it depends. I have made all of those from scratch at one time or another except English muffins. What I regularly make from scratch now also depends, like on the weather. I make my own sourdough bread all year long except in summer - and just discovered my starter going bad yesterday because I've ignored it for three months. I would never NOT make granola, biscuits, muffins, or pancakes from scratch, and rarely use cake mixes. I'll use a good marinara in a jar if I'm out of homemade, same for pickles. Don't make jam any more, and rarely make humus, ice cream, or pudding (although I wouldn't eat pudding from a box). Pizza we make homemade at least once a month. Fun post, Hallie!

  4. If I am going to eat cookies (I try not to), I make them from scratch. Three kinds: gingerbread (in winter), oatmeal raisin, and my grandmother's "logs" which are somewhat like biscotti, but flatter. I have modified all the recipes, and use oil instead of butter or shortening. I like to keep the cookie jar full, but since it is just me living here, I don't have to fill it that often. I make brownies once or twice a year, usually from a mix, but like chocolate chip cookies, they really shouldn't be allowed in my house, because I will eat them. And then eat more of them.

    I always make my own salad dressings, basically vinegar-and-oil or caesar, and I make my own vinegar-and-oil cole slaw, but I don't make the creamy kind, so I sometimes buy it in the deli when it's on sale.

    I gave myself a pass from making marinara sauce; usually I buy it. IF I feel inclined, I'll make my own tomato sauce for pasta, but I don't know that it is marinara or bolognese or what. I just start throwing tomatoes and spices (and sometimes veggies or turkey Italian sausage) into the pot until it tastes like something I would eat. Sometimes I make white clam sauce from scratch instead of red sauce.

    And on the few occasions when I get a craving for mac-and-cheese, I always make it from scratch.

    I only buy Hellman's/Best mayo, and don't use much of that, so it would go bad if I made it myself. Storebought keeps longer.

    And I don't make anything that requires yeast. As one friend who would not have plants in her house and once told me that it was "because they are always growing behind your back," I feel the same way about yeast. Besides, if I had more sourdough bread in the house more often, I would eat it, and that would not be a good thing.

  5. I agree with almost everything, except ketchup! I have made it several times, and even my foodie friends and family prefer Heinz! There is something to be said for the tastes one grew up with!

  6. Once I discovered Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix, home-made brownies were history. And Trader Joe's organic marinara sauce. I do more intensive cooking in the winter, most of it from scratch.

    I'm devouring a homemade blueberry muffin with my coffee.

  7. Ellen, such a funny comment about the plants and yeast!

    I will not waste calories on store-bought baked goods. Yes, I'm a snob on that count--they don't taste good to me and they are loaded with ingredients I don't want to eat. (Though I have never tried to make English muffins.)

    My bread and butter pickles are much better than what you can get in the store too, she said modestly.

    this reminds me of a wonderful cookbook called MAKE THE BREAD, BUY THE BUTTER. Jennifer Reese tries a lot of things out and declares which are worth making from scratch, and then gives recipes. I have a lot of them marked, including mustard--which I intend to try!

  8. I've also made a bunch of the things on the list, but now make, if I need them, nine of them.

    But... I also think soup should never be bought in a can, and I'll start making bread again as soon as it warms up. That's our winter staple diet: good, hearty soup and warm bread, with a glass of wine. And while I don't make ketchup, I do use the storebought stuff to make my own shrimp cocktail sauce, from a recipe in Joy of Cooking. It's so easy, and doesn't make a ton. The bottled stuff always ends up hanging around in the fridge for years. I do grow horseradish, and have made my own horseradish sauce, but it's extremely fiddly, and doesn't last as long as the processed horseradish. Yummy, though.

    I make my own coleslaw and potato salad, too. Wouldn't dream of serving a plastic container from the deli.

    A farmers market vendor who has become a friend makes incredible mustards, including a hot one make with shagbark hickory syrup that is to DIE for. I can't stop eating it, but she makes it better than I ever could.

    As for brownies, I have the best microwave brownie recipe. It's vastly easier than going to the store to buy a mix, and takes 15 minutes, from opening the cupboard door to pulling out the finished product. They are always a huge hit, especially at book club. Anyone want the recipe?

  9. Forgot to mention, I've been making my own hummus for decades-- a cousin married an Israeli who gave me the recipe, and the only difficulty is finding tahini (I keep it in the fridge all the time) to add to it. Some brands are better than others, and I draw the line at processing sesame seeds.

    And I make soup all winter. When they have a sale on boneless skinless chicken breasts, my store sells packages of the chicken ribs (with quite a bit of meat on them) for very little. I freeze it and if I want to make soup, just throw it into the pot without defrosting it (It's going to boil for an hour or two anyway, isn't it?)

  10. Make ketchup??? Kidding me. I love it, totally, but would never consider making it.

    From scratch? Ah. Cookies. Salad dressing. Hollandaise, which is egg yolks and lemon juice in a blender, add paprika , start to whirr with the top open, then drizzle in hot butter, little by little, just until it's blended. It works PERFECTLY.

    Karen inOhio-YES! I want the recipe!

  11. Well, it's just someone's list, like those 100 books You Must Read (93 by men and 7 by women)

    I mean, BUY Mac & Cheese?? I didn't even know you could.

    What I make best...
    4-ingredient Caesar Salad:
    Romaine lettuce
    croutons (toasted up from store-bought bread, olive oil and garlic)
    parmesan cheese (grated on the spot)
    Renee's Mighty Caesar Dressing. (okay, okay, but really, I couldn't make it)

    4 ingredient yorkshire pudding (which cannot possibly be bought, no matter what strange package you might see in the freezer at the grocery store)
    Oil to bake in
    (Deborah, I think I got that recipe here from you)

    And ever since the Winter of the Giant Kidney Stones, I've been reading the sodium content on ALL packaging. I'm making a LOT more things than I used to.

  12. Hallie....marinara sauce?!?!?! 😮

  13. Hmm, we have made:

    marinara sauce (but not this summer)
    cookies (always)
    brownies (frequently)
    mac n cheese (but the boxed stuff is one of my girl's comfort foods so we do that, too)
    salad dressing
    tartar sauce
    cocktail sauce (for shrimp)

    I'm forgetting something I know. Oh well.

    I buy Heinz ketchup, always. Never made mayonnaise. I do buy bread in the summer because we don't eat it fast enough - the homemade stuff gets moldy. My daughter loves to bake, thus all the homemade baked goods (and yes, her brownies were just as good as the boxed ones). We both make and buy marinara sauce - make it in the summer when we have fresh tomatoes and buy it in the winter when the produce isn't as good. I didn't do pickles this year. And I will admit to doing boxed mac'n cheese or instant mashed potatoes for weeknight dinners when I simply don't have the time to do it from scratch.

    It's all a balance.

  14. A very interesting list, indeed. I only use/buy ten of those items and of those, I only make three. Seriously, I am not going to make my own mustard. I have made ketchup and it is delicious homemade, but the effort for a few tablespoons seems ridiculous. If I have that much time on my hands, I'd better get writing a whole lot more.

    I am reminded that it is better to stick to the outer four walls of the grocery store and skip the middle! And I must admit, that recipe for Yorkshire Pudding is calling, but then don't I have to buy prime rib to serve with it?


  15. This is a fun post, Hallie.

    Make my own ketchup? pfft.

    There are a lot of things sold pre-packaged (including sandwiches - prepackaged sandwiches! Why?!) that I steer very clear of, but I could eat my way from one end to the other of our little local Stick Boy Bakery - They have a schedule of what they'll have on their shelves and it varies day to day. One day a week, if you get there early enough, you can get a still warm from the oven baguette baked with a few white chocolate chips inside - Glorious!

  16. Oh, my. You're all obviously going to outlive me. The only thing on the list that I always make is pancakes, and I actually think the Bisquik ones are better than my homemade. My husband makes bread sometimes, but mostly we buy bakery bread, rolls, and bagels, although none of them are as good as the ones I grew up with from a little bakery in the Borscht Belt. Does grating extra cheddar into Kraft Mac and Cheese count? I'm 67 and still eat like a teenager. But, hey, it's my only vice. Honest!


  17. Interesting list - I thought I'd have more, but I only got 10.

    I always bake our own bread, biscuits, muffins (not English, but corn, etc.). And I'm with Karen from Ohio (me, too!): soup is always best homemade.

  18. Oh pancakes! Kathy Emerson, I'm with you. I've done them from scratch and I think Bisquick tastes better. Same with waffles.

  19. I want the recipe too, Karen!

    When I was a farmer and had tons of organic tomatoes plus ketchup-loving little boys, I made my own. Took pounds and pounds of tomatoes to make one little pint, and they wouldn't eat it. First and last time.

    [I just flunked three different cabbage Captcha screens. Sheesh. Waffles? Yeah, I identify those...]

  20. Make ketchup? Who has time to make ketchup? Or English muffins?
    John makes crepes on weekend mornings. I've always made Yorkshire pudding.
    We really don't eat cookies any more and if we eat bread it's a bakery loaf, usually French.
    I do make my own pie crust dough if we have guests, and always our own soups.

    I think I would always weigh effort v. Reward for any of these things.

  21. My list is small, even though I consider myself a pretty good cook. Baked goods, yes. But condiments--I do buy. That said, maybe I will give some of these a shot. I wonder if homemade ketchup is that much better?

  22. Crepes, yorkshire pudding, pie crust - YES!
    YAY BISQUICK! Just bought a huge package to take up to Maine with us... hoping for some Maine Blueberries to cook into the pancakes.
    Pesto! Has to be homemade.
    Guacamole and salsa, too. Much better if you make them yourself.

  23. Can I just say a word for freezer jams here? So easy and like opening summer at the table all winter long! As for the rest of the list, depends on pantry, mood, time. Heinz always, though, and no home-made mayo or mustard. Store-bought bread--I'm with Ellen, I've done homemade and my hips were the living proof!

  24. I bet a lot of people could answer, "Sometimes I make, sometimes I buy."Depends on time, energy, diet. (Diet salad dressing are not that great...but they ehlp me live my good intentions.) About half of that list, I do both. But I don't think I can make ketchup better than Heinz, yet I have always made "from scratch" tartar sauce, since right after I got married and we didnt' have any on hand. Dead easy and tastes great.

    And some would say, "A bought chocolate chip cookie made by Nabisco is not the same as one from that cute pastry shop." I would say that myself. So, you know? A batch of home made for the grandchild...and a bought one for me on the day I am doing exhausting, annoying errands. Completely from scratch pie for a holiday...and maybe a slice from the pie specialty bakery once in a while.

    My mom made home-made pasta sauce ( she was not Italian) because you couldn't buy any, then, that was wroth eating. Not so now

  25. My mother made mayonnaise from scratch for her made-from-scratch pimento cheese, and I don't expect to ever eat pimento cheese that is more delicious. I also remember her sloppy joes she'd fix for my siblings and me for lunch on weekends or on weekdays if it was summer.

    I don't make much from scratch these days. However, I do prefer my spaghetti sauce when making baked spaghetti. I make my own icing for cakes, as I'm not a fan of the pre-made. I have a heavenly chocolate icing recipe that I got from a friend's mother. I used to make a chocolate steam cake and icing from scratch, but I haven't made it for years. It's funny that I used to make that cake for my husband's birthday every year because his mother had told me it was his favorite. After about 7 or 8 years of making it for hubby, I found out it wasn't his favorite. Oh well, I thought it melted in one's mouth. In the winter I make vegetable soup from scratch and chili from scratch. Some people I know use canned vegetables for their vegetable soup, but I require fresh veggies.

    Can't see myself ever making my own ketchup. Oh, and Karen, count me in as wanting the brownie recipe.

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  27. I have all the food intolerances one can have so I make 15 of the listed items from scratch and have eggs and chocolate not at all. Honestly, most of that stuff is idiot proof; it just means a dirty kitchen. And when I say I don't eat chocolate, that doesn't include when someone plops a lovely chocolate tea cup with chocolate mousse in front of me because the eating of that chocolate was divinely ordained and who am I to argue?

  28. Oh, yes, Hallie, guacamole! It's only really good if it's fresh and has freshly chopped cilantro in it, as far as I'm concerned.

    All righty, here's the brownie recipe. Don't blame me for any needed changes in wardrobe from sudden hip spread. This is the best, although not if you want a firm brownie. Let it sit for awhile before cutting, to let it firm up. I never can, though.

    Microwave Brownies

    2 squares or envelopes unsweetened chocolate (1 square = 1 ounce)
    1/3 cup butter or margarine (I prefer to use butter)
    1 cup sugar (I have used coconut sugar, for a lower glycemic value, and it works great)
    2 eggs
    1 cup unsifted flour (I use whole wheat, or you can also use gluten-free flour)
    ¼ teaspoon baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon vanilla
    ½ cup chopped nuts or 1 cup chocolate chips

    1. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium glass bowl.
    2. Microwave on 50% power for 1 ½ to 2 minutes or until melted. Stir in sugar; beat in eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients (I prefer to sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the batter in the pan). Spread batter in lightly oiled (I use Pam cooking spray) 2-quart (8" X 8"—9" X 9" works just as well) glass baking dish.
    3. Microwave at 40% power for 7 minutes.
    4. Microwave at 100% power for 3 to 4 minutes, or until puffed and dry on top. Cool until set; cut into bars.

    Makes 24 bars, unless you like bigger pieces!

  29. Diane Hale here: There are few things I make from scratch, but cornbread/corn muffins are better if homemade. I do make hollandaise, but use a blender--egg yolk & lemon buzzed in the blender, then melted butter drizzled in. Takes little time & even less effort. If I want Bearnaise, I add a bit of tarragon from my herb garden. Used to make my own biscuits, bread, etc, now I take the easy way out.

  30. I make everything on that from-scratch list except Ketchup, Chocolate Sauce, Mayo, Mustard, Hummus, English Muffins, and Pad Thai, but only because I haven’t tried yet. I also make homemade BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, tartar sauce, and several salad dressings. Plus I have several granola recipes. Nothing beats homemade granola! Sea salt chocolate cherry, anyone?

    Generations of Italian women would rise from their graves to haunt me if I dared use any sauce but the family recipe! :D

  31. I forgot: I make pie crust and granola, too (well, The Girl makes the granola).

  32. I have made about nine of those from scratch at some point in my life, but wouldn't allow anyone to "should" me into always making them. One reason is quantity. If I buy one brownie at my favorite bakery, I will eat ONE. If I make some, I will want to have an event to take them to, and even then, I'll nibble more than one. Kudos to all you who do more. <3

  33. I count 8 things I always make, 8 I sometimes make and sometimes buy, depending on time, how much I want, and whether it's for a special recipe, and 8 I don't eat. (Not a cake fan, and ketchup is against my religion.) And apparently I can't count, since that's only 24.

    If we're sharing recipes, here's a fabulous, easy chocolate sauce:
    8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (or half semi, half bittersweet) (I use Scharffen Berger)
    1 cup whipping cream
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1-2 tablespoons Cabernet (You could skip the wine if you don't have any on hand, but I view the recipe as a good reason to pop open a bottle.)

    Put the ingredients in a small heavy pan, except the wine. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted. Pour in the wine. Eat it. Oh, well, maybe you want to pour it over ice cream (we've been loving it on Tillamook's Oregon Hazelnut and Salted Caramel Ice Cream), or pound cake, or cheese cake, or ... Makes about a pint; keeps well, covered, in the fridge. (A pint canning jar is the perfect container.)

  34. I am so bad that the only thing I make myself is tartar sauce and exactly as you do, lol

  35. I am the only person I know who makes croutons from scratch.... in the microwave! I get lots of compliments on them! I take stale bread, chop it into inch squares or so... put into a microwavable dish, pour enough oil to get them all wet - don't saturate them, but put more on than you think you'd need... and then I put on the seasonings: onion pepper, garlic pepper, oregano, etc... be generous with the seasonings, otherwise they just sort of taste like little squares of toast. Put in the micro on high for 3 minutes, then take out and stir, then back in for 2 more minutes. They do get brown and very crisp (and hot!) but you have to babysit them so they don't burn. Sometimes they are still a tiny bit soggy when I take them out, but they always crisp up.

  36. I don't often cook from scratch, but when I do these are my favorites:
    Chicken noodle soup
    Fried clams.
    Crepes with lemon butter honey sauce.
    Boston baked beans.
    Corn muffins and cornbread.
    Anadama bread.
    Chocolate cherry brownies.
    Maple walnut fudge.
    Peanut butter pie.
    Giant biscuits (made with the biscuit cutter Steve made his mother when he was a little boy) and sausage gravy.
    Corn and cheese chowder.
    Lamb stew.
    Blueberry pie.
    My step-mother's egg rolls.