When I was growing up, my mom made almost everything from scratch, but there were a few things that were always store-bought, whether out of unfamiliarity or convenience.
Therefore, it was many years into my own personal cooking journey when I realized that some foods like salad dressing didn't always have to come out of a bottle, and I could easily create a tastier, fresher version from scratch with regular ingredients that I always kept in my fridge and pantry.
Sometimes cooking from scratch can be intimidating, especially if the recipes include ingredients you don’t normally use, or require multiple stages to complete. However, there are some foods that are so much easier, healthier, and fresher tasting when made from scratch, it’s so hard to go back to the processed version once you try it!
Here are some kitchen staples that are super easy to make from scratch with basic ingredients that you might already have at home:
Dips and Salad Dressing
Store-bought dips and salad dressings bring tons of flavor to raw veggies, but because they need to have a long shelf to make it from the manufacturer to the grocery store to your home, they are often high in salt and sugar and contain additional preservatives.
Meanwhile, homemade versions always taste fresher and contain zero preservatives.
Homemade salad dressings can also be easily customized to the flavor and consistency to your liking by adjusting the amount of vinegar, oil, and seasonings.
You can also use heart-healthy oils like olive oil, which is rare to find in store-bought dressings, which often use cheap, refined oils that are way less healthy for you.
The one thing I love about making dips or salad dressing, is that they require nothing more than a bowl and whisk to stir everything together in just a few minutes.
Easy dip and salad dressing recipes to master:
Here is my favorite 2-minute ranch dip recipe.
I have a love affair with salsa - growing up I loved to load each chip with as much salsa as it could structurally bear. The ingredient list on most store-bought salsas are usually pretty clean, but their main culprit is too much salt, which is responsible for the high sodium content in each jar.
Homemade salsa doesn’t require any special technique or equipment other than a knife and some chopping practice and can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes. The bonus is that you can control how much salt goes in and your ingredients are always fresh, giving you a much brighter and crisp salsa that will also save your blood pressure readings.
Here is a super fresh pico de gallo recipe.
Quick Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles
Two summers ago, I was eating so many pickles that I was starting to feel guilty about all the glass jars I was accumulating in my fridge. It seemed a waste to be going through this packaging so quickly all because I was devouring these pickles at any chance I could.
When I spotted a giant bag of pickling cucumbers at the farmers’ market, I knew that I should try to reuse all those jars by filling them with my own homemade pickles. I had no canning experience, but I had read that I could make “Quick Pickles”, or “Refrigerator Pickles”, which are pickles that would be ready to eat in just one day and didn't require any boiling, special skills, or equipment. And since I was eating them so quickly, I didn’t need to be overwhelmed with canning mountains of pickles to last for the whole year ahead.
My favorite benefits of making my own pickles is being able to customize the spices, flavors, and salt level, as well as reducing the amount of packaging that I was going through.
I rely on this quick pickle recipe to get my pickle fix all summer long. Bonus tip: I always substitute the sugar with raw honey!
A Simple Way to Incorporate More Natural Foods
With busy families, work, and on-the-go lifestyles, it isn't always realistic or convenient to make all our meals from scratch or even cook at home every day. However, with these recipes, you can easily incorporate a bit of fresh, made-from-scratch foods into your weekly menus that allow you to eat better and more naturally!
Do you have favorite, simple food ideas you love to make at home? Comment below to share with folks like us who want to eat more naturally!