The French woman is busy, but sensible. She loves convenience as much as the next person, but she wouldn’t sacrifice flavor for convenience or substitute chemistry for food.
Here are a few things you may be buying that just aren’t worth it, when making it yourself is just as easy and so much better.
Not only is this stuff approximately double the price per ounce, but it is processed with stabilizers to keep the crumbles separated.
Are stabilizers bad? I don’t know – I just know they’re not feta.
Cake and Quick Bread Mixes
The stuff in the box is basically just the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, etc. – along with processing aids, preservatives, and a myriad of unpronounceable ingredients. You still have to add your own eggs, milk, oil, butter, or what have you.
It’s not that difficult to measure your own dry ingredients, and you’ll wind up with food made from … food.
Slice your bread of choice (sourdough, whole wheat, or that leftover baguette that’s destined to turn into a baseball bat). Place it in a 250 degree oven for about half an hour or to desired toastiness (set a timer and fuggetaboutit). When cool, put it in the food processor and give it a whirl, or place toasted bread in a ziplock bag and go at it with a rolling pin.
Saute some onion and garlic in a little olive oil, add some good crushed tomatoes and Italian seasonings (oregano, thyme, bay leaf) and salt to taste. Simmer and viola – marinara sauce.
It doesn’t get much easier and you control the seasoning without all the added sugar and junk.
I just can’t bring myself to buy the bottled stuff – it has so many stabilizers and emulsifiers and other –fiers, and it’s so easy to make.
My every-day go-to salad dressing is simply a mixture of lemon, olive oil, garlic (finely minced or squished with a garlic press), and salt. If you’re really in a hurry, leave out the garlic and it’s still pretty darn good. Or get creative with some fresh or dried herbs, a little Dijon mustard (which makes a great emulsifier for the oil and lemon), a little honey, whatever you want to try.
A little tip for the salad – I make my fresh salads upside down from how most people make salads. I put the “stuff” – cucumber, red bell pepper, tomato, Kalamata olives, avocado, red onion, feta, etc., in the bowl first, season that with some salt and pepper, and then add the greens and toss with dressing. You’ll wind up with a much better ratio of “stuff” to greens.
Fruit flavored yogurt
This stuff is just wrong. Yogurt is a wonderful healthy food and a staple of the French woman’s diet. But yogurt is made of two things – whole milk and active cultures. Compare that to the fruit-y, low-fat, fat-free stuff and you’ll be amazed (not in a good way).
If you like fruity yogurt, buy the real deal; natural, plain, whole milk yogurt, and add some fresh seasonal fruit (or frozen and thawed), or a spoon of Bonne Maman or other natural preserves. Drizzle with a little honey if you want it a bit sweeter. And throw in some chopped nuts or seeds for a crunchy bonus.
I know, the stuff in the jar is convenient. But I don’t use mayo often and I don’t trust things that can live in your fridge for months on end. Once you make it yourself and see how easy it is, you may agree with me that it’s better to make your own.
The really chef-y way is to whisk it by hand, but it turns out the blender works just as well (don’t tell anyone I said that).
You probably have the ingredients in your kitchen already:
- An egg yolk
- 2 t lemon juice
- ¼ t mustard
- ½ t salt
- ¾ c neutral oil (canola or grape seed)
Simply put the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard and salt in the blender. Whip it up until it’s light yellow and the egg yolk is thoroughly blended, about a minute or less.
Now for the mayo magic. With the blender running, take that little top-notch thingy off the lid and start drizzling in the oil (canola or grape seed oil). Let the blender run to desired consistency (may take about 4 or 5 minutes). It will become thick and light in color.
For aioli, simply add minced garlic to the egg yolk mixture, and use olive oil. Try adding other fresh herbs or spices too.
Plan on using it up in a few days (3 or 4), which will be easy to do because it’s yummy.
Let me know which of these you try, or share some of your own easy homemade ideas in the comments!