08 July 2013

No need to buy when you can DIY (Part 2)

Well, it's taken forever, and I still haven't gotten around to making my own ketchup, but I do have a few wonderful things to share with my few, but mighty, followers!

After doing a little research on the whole DIY ketchup experience, I honestly decided hold off because A) We don't use a lot of ketchup in our house so my Simply Heinz made with no HFCS lasts quite some time, and B) A lot of the recipes I checked out noted that the homemade ketchup may not last very long in the fridge, which makes sense as it's usually full of fresh ingredients and not riddled with preservatives. Same goes for the mayo, though we use a lot more mayo than ketchup in our household. I will still be giving that one a go very soon.

So what am I posting now then? Well, today is about the comfort food DIY goodies I've been trying to focus on lately. I was walking the condiment aisle in the grocery store grabbing things like Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, and grabbed a packet of the country's favorite ranch dressing powder mix. I was about to toss it into my cart, but I looked down and saw the other groceries I was picking up, like buttermilk, smoked paprika, onions, and greek yogurt. Now, I had made my own ranch dressing before and it was very well received by both husband and son, but it's another one of those little convenience things that we don't pick up too often, but when we do, we go the package route a lot of the time. There is zero reason for this! It's not only easier and less messy to make your own my way, but you can customize it, you control the salt content and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Again, there is no reason to skip making your own wonderfully creamy, flavorful ranch dressing to go on salads, sandwiches, burgers, used as veggie and chip dip or mixed with sour cream to go on a bagel!

In addition to the dressing recipe, and there will be more of those to come as I explore vinaigrettes, I am going to share my new favorite discovery: The one-pot pasta dish! I found my first, one done with chicken, mushrooms, chard, etc. on Pinterest and decided to see what I could come up with for my own take. Similar to what we often do in a slow cooker, these types of complete meals can be done and on the table in 20-30 minutes.

There are very few people in the country who have never eaten Hamburger Helper. Am I right? Well, I never had until I was about 19, about the same time I first tasted Velveeta. Yikes. While it did have a strange appeal among the flavors that first bite, because it was oddly sweet and tasted like something that could survive an atomic explosion, after reading the label, I immediately understood why it was something we never ate in my childhood. But there again was that convenience factor, and whispering "I'm so darn easy, and I'm yummy once in a while, right? Come on. You know you want to take me home..." Sure, it is incredibly tempting to grab some box-o-meals walking those aisles, and that there is another reason to stick to shopping the perimeter of your grocery store and mostly stay out of the evil, creamy, sodium, processed food center. The worst thing about so many of the boxed meals is not just the extreme sodium level, it is the fact that so many of them are full of hidden sugars!

Yes, there are days in all our shopping and cooking lives when we just need something we can make quickly on the stove top, that is hearty and comforting and won't make the kitchen look like the aforementioned atomic explosion did in fact happen. So now, I give you my interpretation of the classic boxed meal, which is great served with a salad of fresh greens, tomato, cucumber, carrot, radish, any other veg you like and topped with what will be your new favorite creamy buttermilk ranch dressing!

One Pot Super Supper!

In a large sauce pan or stock pot, brown:
1 pound lean or extra lean ground turkey, seasoning with a few dashes of worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper

Once turkey is browned, do not drain. Add in:
1 pound pkg. short noodles of your choice (I used tri-color rotini, or spaghetti noodles broken in half
2 cans diced tomatoes with the liquid
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/2 a medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock (have another 1-2 cups on hand to add in case you need more liquid to finish the pasta to al dente)
1 tablespoon dry italian herb seasoning (or your favorite combination of rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley) 
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Bring everything to a boil and cover for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more liquid as needed to ensure properly cooked pasta.

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, you're done! That's it! And the best part is you can really customize this. Add a cup of diced cremini mushrooms, a couple handfuls of spinach or any of your family's favorite veggies! Add some fresh parmesan just before serving, and enjoy! Makes 4-6 servings. 

(Could also be a great camping meal!)

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

In a large mason jar, one that has a tight-fitting lid, combine:

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup light mayonnaise
2 dashes worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 level teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 level teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, dill
2-4 dashes of white wine vinegar, start with 2 and add more to taste

Put the lid on the jar, make sure it's tight, and shake what your mama gave you! 
For an extra fresh touch, take out the onion and garlic powders, and replace with one large clove of garlic, smashed, and a tablespoon of finely chopped scallions. Taste, and add salt or pepper as needed, and if you want a little spice, throw in a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce! 

For super ease, put all the dry ingredients together in small snack bags and all to milk, mayo and worcestershire when you're ready to make the dressing, or triple the dry ingredients, mix well in a small jar, and use about 2 tablespoons of the mix per batch. 

If you find your mix is a little too thick for dressing, you can add a bit of regular low-fat milk to thin for desired consistency. 

As always, I hope the loved ones you take time to feed enjoy these homemade classics as much as we do around my house! Back soon with some summer favorites, and my adventures in baking for those living gluten-free!