Today is part 3 of “A Handmade Life”. Again we begin in the kitchen, this time with cooking from scratch and using those potholders and aprons made in part 2 of this series.
Cooking from scratch really isn’t that hard, and it’s pretty rewarding. Think about it–throwing together a nice meal and having your family/friends/guests gushing over it all..and not having to hide the boxes! <wink> There’s benefits of cooking using the scratch ingredients vs a box mix or opening up a can. You get the freshness of the item you made, without the preservatives. It won’t sit and look the same on day 5 as it did on day 1. You also get the choice of what is used in your recipe–you choose what, if any, fats, sugars, type of flours, meats, veggies, etc, without having to rely on someone to make that decision for you. If you or someone in your family have food allergies, you totally understand!
I personally enjoy cooking from scratch. It saves us a lot of money in our budget, and I get to practice on recipes new and old. As in the picture at the top, that is made from scratch cobbler filling with freshly cut apples and spices and a few other ingredients. I enjoy pulling together ingredients from the pantry, the fridge, freezer, etc to make a dish, a full meal, snack, you name it. The kids, well, they’re not as thrilled, but they’ll survive.
For my kitchen, I keep basic things in supply as much as I can. I purchase spices in bulk when possible. I like to shop at a Mennonite shop in Missouri, which has containers of spices in all sorts, from just a wee bit to pounds. I’ve purchased many packages of basil, Spanish paprika, cinnamon by the pound, star anise, nutmeg, and so much more for a fraction of the price I’d pay at the local grocery store. I also purchase a year’s supply of yeast at a time and keep it in the freezer. I’ve also been known to buy a 50 pound bag of stone ground wheat flour and store it in the freezer as well. Baking sodas and powders are a main stay in the kitchen as well, and I buy multiple containers at a time and pour into a larger covered bowl or cannister instead of tracking down which box or can is open at the time. I’ve found that recycling those little cottage cheese, butter, and other plastic containers with lids work excellent for this. Simply use a sharpie and mark what’s inside and keep the lid on.
I’ve also found that keeping milk powder is a good idea. It’s as expensive as liquid milk, but it lasts so much longer, and can be stored in the fridge or freezer to keep freshness. A teaspoon or so of milk powder blended into a recipe can make a nice taste difference! A $14 dollar box (at Walmart) lasts us around 6 months to a year, and is used in biscuits, bread, and other items, with a quarter cup or less of the powder used at a time.
Flour is a huge huge item in my kitchen. I purchase the cheapest white flour I can find–white flour is a base for just about every baking project, gravy, sauce, that we use. I purchase either at Aldi’s or our local grocery store (with a 10 cent difference, I’m not overly worried about travelling across town to save that 10 cents if it’s going to cost more than that in gas and then time). Honestly I prefer the smaller 5 pound bags, which fit great into the freezer, but also I’ve purchased 25 pound bags, froze them for 4 days (to kill any possible travellers that may have snuck in from factory to home–I do this with all grains), and used a flip top container to hold it all. Now I simply use a recycled coffee can and refill as needed. I keep white and wheat on hand, sometimes rye, and corn meal. With those basics, one can make many loaves of fresh bread, biscuits, rolls, cakes, muffins, tortillas, and use as a base for sauces and gravy as well. There’s tons of tried and true recipes for all of those! 🙂
For scratch cooking, I keep a few (yes a few) sets of measuring cups, spoons, mixing wooden spoons, cookie cutters, and other utensils. Hubby and I put up a board with tons of holes (I can’t think of the name right now, but the kind that you put hooks on and hang things, like in a mechanic’s shop or garage), and I have lots of hooks and hangers on it to hold my most used utensils and cups. Oh, and the aprons. With easy access to what I need/want to use, it makes cooking a lot easier. I use an old blender top with handle as a means to hold utensils at the stove as well. It holds up and I can fit a lot of spoons and spatulas in there!
Pots and pans are an essential as well. I’ve been blessed in this area! I have multiple stock pots, frying pans, and soup pots of all sizes, as well as 2 or 3 roasters, many bread pans, pie pans, bread bowl pans, muffin tins, crock pots, and other items to cook in. Ok, so I do have too many, but I’d rather have too many of these than not enough to cook a good meal. Anyhoo, it’s very hard to cook without these–how are you going to bake a loaf of bread or a pot of soup or the like without the proper pan or pot? Pick what style you like, teflon, cast iron, etc, and take good care of them. They are your best friends in the kitchen!
Next you need recipes. All cooking is is simply reading instructions in a recipe and doing what the recipe says. Seriously!! Whether it’s one your great grandma used and handed down from her great great great grandma, or one you found in Paula Deen’s cookbook, it’s still a set of instructions of how to put ingredients together in what order and what to do with them. If you can read, you can cook. I really like the Betty Crocker cook books, the ones with the red covers. I’ve got 3 different ones of the Betty Crocker series, and they are my lifesavers. I’ve learned how to make the best bread, sauces, cinnamon rolls, and other dishes from the Betty Crocker books. I truly recommend the Betty Crocker books!
Using the basic ingredients, the cookbooks, and your pots and pans, you can whip together a nutritious and hearty meal for your family, with little to no preservatives involved! During the growing season, you can bring in fresh produce from the garden (or farmer’s market) and quickly make soups, casseroles, salads, side dishes, main courses, and not have the processed canned food in use. As your experience in cooking grows, you can make your own pastas, tortillas, flat breads, grind your own flours, etc! Your meals become all that more flavorful and nutritious the closer it is to the original source!