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Convenience foods not so convenient

By on June 19, 2008

photo by Arlette
recipe box

Cooking existed long before boxed and canned convenience goods. While some prepackaged products provide tasty shortcuts, it’s good to know how to make things yourself. You want your family to enjoy more than just add-water, heat-and-eat meals. Many from-scratch recipes are simple and don’t take a long time to make. In a recent study based on 64 weeknight dinner routines of 32 families, Margaret Beck, a researcher at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF), concluded that families that relied heavily on convenience foods saved an average of 10 to 12 minutes over families that used them less frequently.

If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, try the following recipes. Let me know what you think.

Homemade “Bisquick” Mix

8 cups flour
1-1/4 cups nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups shortening

Combine flour, milk, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening. Store in a tightly closed container in a cool place.

“Thin Mint” Cookies

6 ounces chocolate candy coating (see Cook’s note)
15 drops peppermint-oil flavoring
1 sleeve buttery round crackers

Cook’s note: You can substitute 6 ounces melted chocolate and 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening.

Melt chocolate candy coating in double boiler. Add peppermint oil to taste. Dip crackers in chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden. Makes about 36. — submitted by Denise, Illinois

No-Bake Granola Bars

2-1/2 cups crisp-rice cereal (or chocolate crisp cereal)
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk-chocolate morsels

Combine cereal, oats and raisins in a large bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan, add brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until well combined. Pour peanut-butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until fully coated; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in chocolate morsels. Press mixture firmly into a 13-by-9-inch pan; cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. — submitted by DJ, Missouri

Homemade Cream-Soup Mix

2 cups powdered nonfat milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken instant powdered bouillon
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon celery flakes
1 teaspoon basil leaves
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup mashed-potato flakes

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Store in airtight container until ready to use.
To substitute for 1 can of soup, combine 1/3 cup dry mix with 1-1/4 cups cold water and 1/2 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Use as you would canned soups. Makes the equivalent of nine cans of soup. — submitted by Angela, New York

vegetable — add 1 cup cooked mixed vegetables
mushroom — add 1/2 cup sauteed chopped mushrooms
celery — add 1/2 cup sauteed, minced celery
potato — add 1 cup diced, cooked potatoes
broccoli — add 1 cup chopped, cooked broccoli
asparagus — add 1 cup chopped, cooked asparagus
chicken — add 1/2 cup finely diced cooked chicken
roasted garlic — add 1 or 2 roasted garlic cloves
onion — add 1/4 cup sauteed, chopped onions

You can combine ingredients such as chicken and broccoli or mushroom and garlic for added flavor.

One Comment

  1. Chris

    7/8/2008 at 6:25 pm

    I love these recipes; especially the creamed soup! With soaring food prices this is so helpful! I am buying fewer and fewer processed foods for health and budget reasons. Sadly, we have forgotten that there was a time when all foods were made from scratch and we’ve been made to think that the convenience foods are the end all . . .when in fact, with a little pre-planning and usually what you already have in your pantry you can produce most anything the convenience foods offer you. Thanks again, great site!
    Chris 🙂

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