Making and Using Homemade Food Mixes
Today’s busy lifestyle can mean that many people want or need to opt for food that is quick and easy to prepare. In many families both parents are working long hours five or even six days a week and there is no longer the time to dedicate to making home cooked meals from scratch every day. Often children will have clubs and other commitments that can leave even less time and also make it difficult to plan a time that will be suitable for everybody to sit down to eat.
Supermarkets are full of products such as ready meals, tinned soups and meals or packaged noodles and these can appear to be ideal in helping to take the stress and strain out of cooking. However many of these products contain high levels of sugar, salt and fats. They may also contain artificial ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup that are potentially unhealthy especially when eaten on a regular basis.
An alternative to these shop bought products and even more convenient and time efficient are take-away deliveries and fast food restaurants. These save on cooking time and any time spent on washing and putting away crockery and the pots and pans used in cooking. Another advantage to fast food and take-aways is that they can be ordered and picked up on the way home from work or bought and eaten quickly on the move.There is now a wide range of options when it comes to take away foods and restaurants but like ready-made shop products these are often high in fat, sugar and salt and contain undesirable ingredients. They are also a very expensive option and are greatly dearer than buying fresh ingredients and cooking at home.
By planning advance it is possible to save time and money and still have healthy home cooked foods. Homemade mixes are one way to achieve this as they allow you to create your own convenience foods but because they are homemade you can control what ingredients go into them and also customise recipes to suit you or your family’s tastes. There are many websites and books dedicated to homemade mixes and the variety is almost endless but includes:
- Breakfast cereals and baked items such as muffins
- Baking mixes
- Casseroles and stews
- Rice, noodles and spaghetti
Many homemade mixes are also suitable to be given as gifts. Simply make the mix and add to a jar or other container and then include a label with cooking directions for the recipient. Jars can be decorated or you could purchase one of the wide varieties of decorative containers now available. Cookie and cake mixes would be prefect gifts for someone with a sweet tooth and bean soup or pasta mixes could be ideal for someone who only needs to cook for one or has difficulty cooking from scratch due to age or disability. Mixes can also be great for quick baking with children or for making last minute treats.
Homemade mixes take only a short time to prepare, most only require measuring and combining ingredients which are then stored in a suitable container. Stored correctly mixes can last for weeks and even months and will always be on hand ready to use when you are short on time. Even if you can only spend an hour a month preparing mixes it will help and many can be made in large amounts easily so will keep you going for some time.
If you are able to spend a few hours on a weekend preparing mixes you will be able to save yourself lots of time and stress in the following weeks while being able to eat healthier foods conveniently. By making a few mixes a week you can build up a store cupboard ready to use at any time or if there is a particular meal that is a problem: for example never having time in the morning for breakfast, you could focus on mixes suited to solving that.The mixes you make could be rotated so you make a few different ones each week and not only slowly build up a larger selection but also do not run out of the mixes you use regularly.
There is a wide array of plastic tubs and other containers that are available to buy now that would be suitable for storing homemade mixes. Containers can also be recycled from bought foods, such as glass jam jars or you can even prepare serving sized packages saving you even more time on the day. Ziplock and similar sealing food bags are very useful for this and can be handy to keep powdered mixes in if you want that convenience but are short on storage space or only have one larger suitable container or lunchbox. Making mixes requires very little equipment and the vast majority of which can be found in most kitchens. The size of container you use will be effected by the quantity of mix you wish to make in one go as well as the space you have available for storage but all containers should a well-fitting and preferably airtight lid to prevent spills and keep the contents fresh.
Makes approx. 5 cups (500g) of granola mix
½ cup flaked almonds
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup of dried fruit, such as raisins or cranberries. Use either one fruit or a mixture.
½ cup honey
¾ cup butter or margarine
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup seeds, such as pumpkin or sunflower
1 tsp. cinnamon
1) Preheat the oven to 325f/163C. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
2) Mix the oats, coconut, almonds and seeds in a bowl.
3) Melt the butter and honey over a low heat and then stir in the cinnamon.
4) In a large bowl combine the butter and honey mixture with the oats, coconut, almonds and seeds and stir well.
5) Spread the granola over the baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
6) Once cooked remove the trays from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely.
7) Break the granola into pieces and add the dried fruit to the mix. Store in an airtight container.
Homemade Taco Spice Mix
¼ tsp. chilli powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. dried onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. paprika
Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
Makes approx. 3 cups
1 cup brown sauce
1 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp. salt
5 tbsp. tomato sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
3 tsp. cornflour mixed with water to create a smooth paste
1) Mix all ingredients except the cornflower paste in a saucepan and heat over a low heat. Do not boil.
2) Stir in the cornflour paste and stir until the mix thickens slightly.
3) Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cool store in a suitable container in the fridge.
The sauce should last for 2-3 weeks.
Herby Rice Mix
3 cups uncooked rice
¼ cup dried parsley
2 tbsp. vegetable bouillon
1 tbsp. onion powder
½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
To cook mix 1 cup of the mix with 2 cups of water and cook until the water has been absorbed.
You can also add some dried vegetables to the rice mix if desired.
© 2013 Claire