There is just nothing better than making something homemade! Aside from your dish being absolutely delicious you also have the added benefit of using the freshest ingredients and you know EXACTLY what is going into the food you eat. If you ever take the time to read through the list of 457,000 ingredients that are used for a simple, basic store bought chocolate chip cookie you will appreciate REALLY quickly just how much better it is to make something from scratch.
Now I get it, cooking from scratch can be a big time commitment and it’s not always easy to get in the kitchen and whip up something homemade however, the more you do it the more you’ll realize that it’s not as overwhelming and complicated as you think. I recommend starting with something super simple such as cookie dough. There is nothing easier to pull together than a delicious, warm, home baked cookie. Plus, cookie dough is a GREAT make-ahead recipe because it’s freezes (and keeps in the fridge) really well! Here is where a vacuum sealer really comes in handy because it will help to extend the life of your cookie dough whether it’s in the fridge or freezer. That being said, if you don’t have a vacuum sealer just roll up your cookie dough tightly in plastic wrap, put in a labeled Ziploc bag, and it should keep in the freezer for up to 3-4 months. I like to write down the cooking instructions right on the Ziploc so that I am not scrambling around looking for the recipe down the road when I want to bake them off. Spend an afternoon making a few different batches of cookie dough and you’ll always have a fresh, warm, homemade treat on hand.
Cookie doughs are just the tip of the iceberg, you can make virtually anything from scratch and yield results that are as good, if not WAY better, than the processed store bought version. Some of my favorite things to make are homemade vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, baking mixes, lemonade, ice cream, BBQ sauce, jams and jellies, dressings, and spice rubs. Some of these things take just minutes to pull together using ingredients that you likely have on hand and they are better than anything you can buy in the store.
I’ve made my own vanilla extract countless times and it’s absolutely delicious. Split a few vanilla beans, cover with either vodka or bourbon, seal and store in a dark place, and within 8-12 weeks you have homemade vanilla extract. The longer you let it sit, the more concentrated the flavor will become. You can see below the difference in color after just a few weeks and let me tell you, it’s absolutely incredible extract!
Another fun thing to make from scratch, especially with the kids, is ice cream. Making ice cream bases is so simple and once it’s chilled and ready you just pour it into the ice cream maker and let it do all of the work. My kids and I made this delicious batch of vanilla chocolate chip ice cream and the flavor was so clean and natural. Plus, I knew exactly what was in it so there were no weird chemicals or ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. Just eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla, and chocolate chips!
Love jams but you’re not quite sure how to can your own? Try your hand at freezer jams, they are super simple and don’t require a ton of prep. Or just make your favorite jam, pour it into a mason jar, and store it in the fridge. There is no need to can it if you’re planning on using it right away. I happen to LOVE cranberries and I usually end up overbuying bags of them at the holidays so instead of letting them go to waste I make a super easy cranberry jam. Because I like to have plenty on hand, I’ll double the recipe so I can preserve and can a few batches for down the road.
One of my most favorite things to make is lemonade, especially on a hot summer afternoon. I promise you, once you have fresh squeezed lemonade you will absolutely NEVER want to drink the powdered or store bought version again. This lemonade has such a light, fresh, perfectly balanced flavor that it’s easy to drink ALL day long! This lemonade takes me no more than 15 or so minutes to pull together and it’s absolutely head and shoulders above any other lemonade I’ve ever had. Just a few simple, fresh ingredients and you have yourself the perfect glass of cold, refreshing lemonade.
As you can see, there really is no limit to what you can cook up in your own kitchen, it just takes a little planning and a dose of patience and before you know you can create a pantry, fridge, and freezer full of your own from scratch food! Don’t be afraid to try your hand at different recipes, the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t turn out great but then you learn from that, go back and tweak what you did, and try again. Learning to cook and bake is a process but if you are willing to put in the time to learn you’ll be so pleased with the results. There is simply nothing like homemade goodness!!!