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Thread: Cooking Fresh Food - breaking the jar/can/bottle habit...

  1. #1

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    Default Cooking Fresh Food - breaking the jar/can/bottle habit...

    This thread is a bit of a spin off from the "How often do you cook the same meal" thread.

    If you regularly buy prepared/processed cans, jars or bottles of food at the supermarket then I'd like to see if we can suggest ways of achieving the same or similar result using fresh ingredients without any complex cooking skills.



    My view is that most of these products are inferior and more expensive than the original recipes that are trying to replace, bizarrely some of them also seem to be more labour intensive - they also limit the range of your menu, a raw product can be used in thousands of different ways, but something prepared is going to give a much more limited range of results.

    So, if you regularly buy sauces, salad dressings, packet mixes, etc and would like to give this a try then join the thread - Post the details of the product you buy, rough idea of cost and what you usually do with it (do you follow the instructions, or do you make something else with it?) and what you like about the result (why you chose this product/recipe)

    Index:-

    Open Requests:-
    Little Miss Sunshine - Stagg Chilli
    Briggsy's Girl - Tomato Sauce - anything to do with capsicum, chilli, tomato, corn, pumpkin, huge zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, peas, beans, leek, apples, peaches, cauliflower or broccoli
    Laranna - Lamb or beef casserole
    Netix - continental pasta mix, pasta sauces, simmer sauces
    Tali - Devilled Sausages, Taco Mix, creamy country chicken, chicken cacciatore, chicken tonight, rogan josh, butter chicken, korma, hollandaise sauce
    Sangie - Black Bean Sauce
    Sasha28 - what do I do with wholemeal s/r flour and wheatgerm
    Sloane - Pepper Sauce for Steak


    Recipes posted so far:-

    Salad Dressings
    Mayonnaise - Lucy
    Basic Salad dressings, honey and mustard dressing, creamy french dressing, citrus salad dressing, mayonnaise - Bear

    White Sauces
    Bechamel, Basic Cheese Sauce, 4 cheese sauce - Bear

    Indian Curries
    Cheap Chicken Curry - Tish


    Mexican
    Refried Beans - Mexican Mince - Christy

    Quick Pasta Sauces
    Spaghetti Carbonara - Bear
    Pasta Bake - Christy
    Pasta Bake - ll80

    Sauces for Meat
    Gravy...
    by Dachlostar
    by Bear
    by Briggsy's Girl


    Slow Cooking Sauces
    Basic Tomato - Neopolitana - Christy
    Basic Tomato Sauce - Hoobley
    Bolognese Sauce - ll80

    Stews
    Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Stew

    Side Dishes
    Raita - Hoobley
    Scalloped Potatoes
    Last edited by TheBear; August 13th, 2008 at 05:53 PM.

  2. #2

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    Great fantastic idea Bear! I know you will be of great use to us here

    I don't use packets, but I do get lazy with somethings like refried beans... I know how to make them & I have them frozen in the freezer, but every once in a while its easier to open a can.

  3. #3

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    I don't use packets either, but I love the idea of this thread to broaden my horizons I do see some jars and think 'I wish I could make that from scratch'. Looking forward to more of your of recipes Bear!

  4. #4

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    How about salad dressings? I would like to have a honey mustard dressing to make from scratch. I always buy Paul Newmans because I can't be bothered making it.

    I love a good vinagrette, but I get tired of the same ol same ol... balsamic vinegar and olive oil...

  5. #5

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    OOOOooooo great thread!!!

    Stagg Chilli in cans I think they are somewhere btween $2.50-$3.50 for a 425g can

    I like it as an alternative to spaghetti sauce and I use it because it only takes a few minutes to heat up...

  6. #6

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    i'm at the other end of the spectrum in that we are starting to grow our own vegies, and struggling to come up with reasonably simple recipes to make the ultimate use of them!

    would love to get a good recipe for tomato sauce (as in pie and sauce) that isn't time and labour intensive (i love my slow cooker hint hint!!). also a tomato base for spag bol and stuff. we add a tonne of fresh veg to everything, so i just need a base sauce...

    ummmm, what else? hehehe

    at the moment we don't have any veg in, but given another couple of weeks we'll replant. last year we grew:

    capsicum
    chilli
    tomato
    corn
    pumpkin
    zucchini
    cucumber
    lettuce
    peas
    beans
    leek


    a lot of our cooking is done in moisture rich dishes (casseroles etc) as DH lives in a truck and has a small cooker that he can reheat food in a small tray only...

  7. #7

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    I use the packet recipe mix to make lamb or beef casserole....would be great to actually know what herbs and spices to use from scratch to make it tasty

  8. #8

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    Tomato bases for spag bol, basic neopolatana sauce:

    6-8 tomatoes peeled
    1 onion chopped
    2 tbsp tomato puree
    2 cloves garlic
    1 celery stick
    2 carrots
    salt and pepper
    1 tbsp olive oil
    2-3 handfuls of fresh herbs, italian parsley, basil, oregano.... I prefer a mix but I do take whatever is on hand in my garden
    1/2 cup red wine (optional)

    Chop onion and saute in olive oil until the onion goes clear turn heat down as low as you can go. Pop tomatoes in and pour 1/4 cup of water into pan. Cover and let sit. Meanwhile you can chop your carrots and celery or you could grate it finely if you like. Add to the pot with the garlic, red wine, salt and pepper. I squash the tomatoes as they soften and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes or you could put the whole thing in the s/c and let it go for 4 hours or so on low. Add the tomato paste after a while. If its too dry a sauce, I add a tin of tomatoes in.... but generally I don't.

    When you are nearing the end, add the fresh herbs for the last 10-15 minutes. If you like, you can blend the mix to make it less chunky, but it looses some colour sometimes.

  9. #9

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    We always had homemade mayonaise grwoing up, but for some reason I always bought it in the jar. Tomy whole egg mayonaise. It is exy....about $5 a jar.

    So recently I have gone back to making it:

    6 egg yolks
    Dry mustard powder
    White wine vinegar
    Pinch of salt
    Olive oil (about 400ml)

    ~ WIzz the yolks, vinegar and salt in a blender
    ~ Gradually add the olive oil in a very slow stream with the blender going full pelt
    ~ You will see/hear/feel when it thickens (takes about 5 minutes)
    ~ Store in a jar

    You can add all sorts of herbs to add other flavours.......

  10. #10

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    Hi, my name is Netix, and I use packets and jars.

    But I wish I didn't! I never cared much of what I ate before the lady bug came along (in fact we often had take away easily 5 or 6 nights a week, or would cook packet stuff, mainly the continental pasta mix things. We have oodles of jars of pasta sauce in our pantry, as well as quite a supply of other 'simmer sauce' type jars. But, since she has arrived, I would desperately like to get away from packets and jars and make my own things from scratch.

    There is no reason why I couldn't. Storage isn't an issue, we have a big pantry, and three fridge/freezers to be utilized. (Why three, I'll never know!)

  11. #11

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    Netix - give me a bit more information on which types of sauces you are using and I'll put a few things together for you.

    Ok - I'll start with the salad dressings because that's an easy one to deal with - I'll start with a little theory that is common to most salad dressings.

    Most salad dressings share a common base, which is nothing more complicated that a mixture of oil and acid (usually vinegar) - all you need for a basic salad dressing is to mix them together in the right ratio which is around 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.

    The simplest dressings rely on putting the oil and acid in a jar and shaking the life out of it in order to mix the two together to form an emulsion.
    However oil and water don't mix well and the acid is mostly water, so if you want to make a more stable and longer lasting dressing then you need to use some sort of emulsifying agent to help them mix. If you read the ingredients on the commercial recipes they all have some sort of emulsifier amongst the additives.

    Mustard is a great emulsifying agent, and can make a really stable base salad dressing, you will need:-

    A small mixing bowl
    A whisk
    Oil - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or a salad oil
    Dijon Mustard
    White Wine Vinegar
    Salt and Pepper

    Put a teaspoon of mustard into the bottom of the mixing bowl, then slowly (drop by drop) use the whisk to beat the oil into the mustard. It's important to start slowly when you add the oil, but you should find that you can add the oil a little faster after the first tablespoon or so. You should be able to add 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil to the mustard without any visible signs of it 'splitting' - as soon as it looks like your beating isn't managing to get the oil absorbed into the mixture then stop adding it. The mixture should look smooth and creamy, now add the vinegar - roughly about a third of the quantity of oil and mix it together, season with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper and the dressing is ready - taste it to check.
    A dressing made like this is stable enough to keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and if you want to make larger quantities then it works well in a food processor.

    Once you have mastered this basic recipe then you can adapt it to make many other dressings;-

    try adding a dash of single cream after the vinegar to make a french-style creamy dressing

    Honey Mustard - Start with wholegrain mustard, and finish with a teaspoon of liquid honey

    You can also use different acids to alter the taste, there are a range of vinegars with a huge variety of flavours and prices....but I think that it's nice to use citrus juice as the acid, it's much cheaper and adds a real punch.

    Lemon Juice is classic, Blood Oranges work really well, Grapefruit, Navel Oranges, Passionfruit or any other sharply acidic fruit juice or pulp can be used - you may need to vary the 3:1 ratio depending on the strength of the acid - make it to your own personal taste.

    Even the fuller bodied dressings are made in the same way, to make a mayonnaise style dressing we just add a couple of egg yolks to the mustard as a further emulsifier, then add the oil as before - it's best to use a lighter oil like sunflower, or a light olive oil as you can 200ml of oil to your starting teaspoon of mustard - you will find that the more oil you add, the thicker the dressing becomes. Then add your choice of flavouring - lemon juice, herbs, saffron, garlic.

    A few salad ideas:-

    Warm Red Onion and Halloumi Salad - gently fry chopped red onion and slivers of halloumi cheese until the onion has sweetened and the halloumi is soft, then toss through salad leaves with a dressing made with wholegrain mustard

    Fennel and Orange Salad - Finely shred Fennel, Peel an Orange with a knife to remove all the Pith, and then cut out each segment by running a knife between the membranes. Make the salad dressing using wholegrain mustard and the juice of an orange instead of vinegar - toss the fennel and orange pieces with salad leaves and the dressing. This goes wonderfully with fatty meat like grilled duck breast and also with fish.

  12. #12

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    Thank you Bear! My salad dressings are usually olive oil and vinegar of some description, or lemon juice. Occasionally I go out on a limb and add some mustard to the mix I am pleased to say that I never buy salad dressings, but how fantastic to have your simple instructions, it's like Cooking Well 101 I can't wait to expand my repertoire!

  13. #13

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    I am one for "from scratch" we make dressings, marinades, mayo you name it, we also make bread and ice cream, I often make my own mince from good cuts of meat. I don't use packet mixes. But some things from jars are good. Tomatoes and canned chickpeas are fine. I prefer frozen peas unless they are from the market as supermarket fresh peas suck! I use bascillio sauce mixed with garlic as a pizza topping. I do have some convenience foods like mushroom stock etc I think if you get too fussy it can be not only expensive but also difficult especially with a hoard to feed. But meal bases can be made from scratch just as quickly as packet bases and taste 100 times better! I guess I'm a bit of nigella mentality you can still cut some corners and come out with good tasty recipes.

  14. #14

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    Oh yeah Cai, having said I hate jars and packets, I couldn't live without tinned tomatoes LOL!

  15. #15
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    For me jars are usually too expensive. I have what i call my "emergency jars" in the cupboard - tinned spag bol (of the kind one might eat on toast) and tinned soups - they get used when i'm too tired or ill to cook for us. I generally use about 1 tin from the emergency a month.

    I have 40 (literally, i took a delivery of 36 last week) tins of tomatoes (16 whole plum, 24 chopped plum) in my cupboard along with 2X butterbeans, 2X chickpeas and 6X kidney beans. I have the dried versions too, but unless i'm planning well ahead or using the pressure cooker (which needs no pre-soaking for small grains) i am notoriously bad at managing to pre-soak. So i can't claim i don't use tins! LOL. But i never buy a pasta sauce for example, i always make my own.

    My basic sauce takes about 15mins BG, more if you're using fress toms, but i'll detail that too.

    For fresh toms, begin by plunging into boiling water and removing the skins, then dice roughly into 2cm cubes.

    To make a lot to freeze i generally use 3-4 cans of tomatoes (about 12-20 toms, depending on size) 2 onions, 4 garlic cloves, a big handful of basil and a generous pinch of herbes de provence, some olice oil, some tomato paste.

    Finely chop or grate (faster but makes me cry more) the onions. Fry them gently in olive oil while you chop and add the garlic (if you crush it it's stronger and you'll need less) and the dried herbs. Let it all fry until the onions are softened then add your tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir together, simmer for 10 mins then boil hard (to reduce) for 5. Remove from heat, add chopped basil/herbs (if using fresh).

    To this you can add later on:
    chillis (for arabiata base)
    meat or soya mince (for bolognese, tom part of lasagne sauce etc.)
    chilli, meat (or soya mince), kidney beans, grated carrot (chilli con carne)
    chopped grilled bacon, milk and flour (thickened tomato pasta bake sauce)
    grated, boiled carrots and coriander and a dollop of creme fraiche (for tomato, carrot and coriander soup)
    aubergine, zuchini, peppers (all roasted and then simmered in the sauce) for a ratatoui type thing
    fish (i like mackarel or anchovies) and raisins (for a lovely fresh pasta sauce)
    mint, peas, chopped roast lamb, paprika and spices (cinnamon etc.) (for a greekish dish that goes yum with potatoes)

    I could go on, it's pretty versatile It's a great alternative to the "tin of soup" so many slow cooker recipes call for too.

    My favourite salad dressings:
    olive oil, balsamic, mustard
    toasted sesame oil, lime juice, wasabi (great marinade for sashimi recipes too!)
    groundnut oil, cider vinegar, smooth peanut butter (great with indian or thai food salads)

    Raita recipe (for the cucumber) - 1 cucumber, 500ml unsweetened natural yogurt, 2 big handfuls fresh mint, 1 tablespoon mint sauce (from a jar! eek), little squeeze of lemon juice.
    Grate the cucumber, squeeze some of the water out of it (i dump it in a clean tea towel and wring - if you dice it you don't need to do this bit) and set aside. Chop the mint. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste (i use none, depends on the yogurt i find, some has a saltiness to it already). It's a great accompaniment to hot hot hot curries and DD often begs for a spoonful of it whenever i open the fridge

    Pumpkin and sweet potato stew-
    Flesh of 1 small pumpkin
    2-3 sweet potatoes
    some of my tomato base (above)
    beef or lamb (lamb works best, particularly the "bad" cuts like neck/breast as the fat adds a lot of flavour)
    paprika, cinnamon, a little nutmeg, pepper, salt

    Peel the potatoes and dice them up, dice up the pumpkin, i get my butcher to bone out and dice my meat for me, but you could stick it in whole and take the bones out at the end because it goes all melty anyway. Some people fry off the meat to brown it first, i do if i can be bothered but i often can't. Stick it all in the crock pot, add enough tomato base to almost cover it all. I cook on medium for about 9 hours but it depends on how fast/hot your cooker is and how hot the kitchen is... I have also had to add seasoning (spices as well as salt and pepper) at the end too, depending on how well i managed to do it in the first place.

    Serve it up with a tomato salad made of chopped raw tomato, spring or red onion, red pepper (capsicum), chopped mint and some cider vinegar/olive oil dressing.

    I'm looking for thai, japanese or chinese type recipes of any kind

    Bx

  16. #16

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    I should probably clarify something - I'm not suggesting that just because something is in a can or jar then it is bad - canning is an excellent way of preserving some types of fresh produce, tomato, beans and pulses are great examples of that.

    The products I'm targetting are the processed foods, where the supplier is charging a premium for bulking the product out with other ingredients.

  17. #17

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    Not to mention that many of them contain preservitives that are carcenogens(sp?) icky stuff. Hence my veggie garden going in this next week or 2 and the fact that I also make most of my bread. I like the idea of knowing what is in my food.

    I have tracked down some funky retro 50's style recipie cards and I have printed out hundreds so keep these recipes coming

  18. #18

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    ok Bear you asked for here is what I " cook " here is the list of JAR / Pkt I use....

    Please excuse the spelling but I cant spell and havent done my food shop yet so have no Jars as refence...

    Devilled Sausages
    Taco mix
    Spag bol
    creamy country chicken
    chicken cattachtorrie
    almost all the chicken tonight jars....
    rogan josh
    butter chicken
    karma ( i think thats what it called)
    Hollandaise sauce BHL loves this stuff but havent found it in a jar yet that tastes the same as when he goes out...

    I think that might be it I am a really borning cook as I said in the other thread I just dont find food exciting so cant be bothered cooking to much....

    Please try to keep in simple as I am a mother to 3 winkies who's BHL is away more than he is home so will be doing this without back up to keep them out of the way....

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