There is a big push right now towards using whole foods, and I’m sold on the idea too. I love to make things from scratch and genuinely think food is better and healthier when it doesn’t come from a mix or the freezer section of the grocery store. I haven’t bought pancake mix, for example, in years. Of course there’s a limit to how much time we all have, and I think most people would agree that things like hand-rolled noodles, homemade tortillas, and fresh-made ice cream are mostly for special occasions.
In Chile, we have to get creative as well. Even if I wanted to use mixes, they are less common, often not very good, and always more expensive here. You should see what they charge for an icky frozen dinner. So I cook even more from scratch than I did before. Good for me.
Sometimes I make something from scratch (marshmallows?) and think it wasn’t worth the effort, but more often, I find that the scratch product is so easy. Why do we ever buy the processed version? Here are two examples.
Homemade Hot Chocolate.
I can find Hot Cocoa powder here for maybe twice the price it would be back home, but one morning I flipped open my trusty red and white cookbook and read their Hot Chocolate instructions. Why, why, why do we buy the powder? Unless maybe we’re camping or something. Here’s how you make hot chocolate. Start with a quart of milk. Put a small amount of the milk in a saucepan with either 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, or 1/3 c. of chopped dark chocolate (chocolate chips are fine), add sugar to taste (1/4 c. more or less) and cook over medium heat until everything is melted. Stir in the rest of the milk and heat to desired temperature. That’s it. Doesn’t take any longer than heating the water for the fakey powder stuff!
Homemade Enchilada Sauce.
I’ve always bought enchilada sauce in a can before and am not sure why I hadn’t thought to try making it, but now I have to as I’ve never seen a can of the stuff here in Chile. There are some crazy-complicated recipes out there, and I’m sure they’re delicious and smell like your Mexican grandmother’s kitchen (ooh, or maybe the kitchen of the Red Iguana in Salt Lake — yum). Yesterday I had a hankering for enchiladas and found this totally fast, easy recipe, and maybe I’m not very fussy (since I’ve been fine with the canned kind all this time) but I thought it was delicious. Also cheaper than the can and without random chemicals. Done and done.
My next thing to try is homemade goldfish crackers, a snack item we kind of miss around here. The homemade ones are healthier, too, though I think they may end up falling more into the category of the marshmallows — delicious but a lot of trouble. We’ll let you know.