Honestly, the healthy aspect is what really got me into cooking from scratch because there are so few processed foods out there that don't have bad stuff in them. I found the only way I could make some things healthy was simply to make it myself. After doing some experimenting and getting my confidence up, I began to realize it wasn't as hard as it seemed.
Most processed foods are full of things that aren't good for you such as additives, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, dyes, refined sugars and refined flours are a few of these "bad boys". Also, processed food is "dead" because most of it has been super heated to kill any bacteria or germs. However, when you eat things that are raw, the enzymes are still intact. Enzymes help tremendously with digestion. That is why many people who've been diagnosed as lactose intolerant are able to drink raw milk and eat raw cheese and other raw dairy products. Raw milk isn't heated, thereby it isn't killing precious enzymes need to aid in digestion. I've also gotten away from canning and even blanching my vegetables and fruits before freezing to ensure the enzymes aren't killed. It also saves me a lot of time! My jams are all no-cook freezer jams sweetened with raw honey. I use an all-natural pectin called, Pamona's Pectin to thicken it. I know some of you are going to freak out when I say I don't blanch before I freeze, but truly, I've been doing it for years and we've never gotten sick from it.
When cooking from scratch, it is easy to tweak recipes to make them healthier. At first I thought I would have to throw away all those wonderful recipes I've accumulated over the years. But I decided, I wasn't willing to do that. Instead, I started experimenting and I decided to give those recipes a healthy makeover. We get to eat many of our favorite dishes, only now they are good for us!
I think one of the greatest advantages of cooking from scratch are that our kids will likely make healthier eating decisions. I've found that the less snacks you have around the house, the better because a piece of fruit or a carrot start to look really attractive when they don't have other sugary snacks around to tempt them.
I need to make it clear that we eat this way in our own home. When we go out to eat or we are at friends' or families' houses, we eat whatever is put in front of us. I figure that we are at home most of the time eating what I consider to be healthy, so it won't kill us to go somewhere and have an unhealthy meal every now and then. I even have a few "emergency rations" from Schwans or Costco in the freezer (Shh! Smile). The key is to only use them in emergencies. I used to eat that stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I now keep my pantry stocked with only healthy ingredients so that it isn't even a temptation for me to make something with the "bad stuff".
Here is a list of some of the healthy items I keep in my pantry at all times:
whole wheat pastry flour
hard red winter whole wheat flour
regular whole wheat flour
whole grain corn meal
steel cut oats (great in hot cereals and healthier than rolled)
rolled oats (not quick cooking!)
pearled barley (great in soups)
olive oil -first cold pressed (I use for anything that would call for vegetable oil, even my desserts)
coconut oil - unrefined and expeller-presssed (great substitute for butter or shortening; has a high cooking point so wonderful for popping corn)
sucanat - unrefined sugar (substitute for brown sugar, or sometimes white)
raw honey (substitute for sugar)
tapioca flour (instead of corn starch)
organic chicken and beef bouillon
variety of whole wheat pastas, beans, whole-grained rice and raw nuts
aluminum-free baking powder
Celtic sea salt
There are more, but these are the basics. When you use up of the stuff that you already have you could slowly replace it with these ingredients. You'll be off to a great start!
Stay tuned for my next "Cooking from Scratch" post because it will be all about how to to save you money. Thanks for dropping by!