By Elsie, Contributing Writer and Site Editor
I get that making an entire Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner from scratch is a big job.
But I’m okay with that!
Making a feast for your family is a wonderful way to bless them. There’s also something therapeutic about rolling up your sleeves, tying on an apron, and plunging yourself into the creativity and artistry of a home-cooked meal.
For the best results in flavor, start with the best ingredients. There are a lot of ingredients that don’t take much extra work to make from scratch, yet transform your meal into something special.
Here’s a list of 12 ingredients that you may come across in one of your holiday recipes.
If you look at the pre-made versions of these ingredients in the store, you’ll notice a lot of food additives that simply aren’t necessary. (Here are the top 10 you might want to avoid.) Plus, if the grocery store runs out of one of these in-demand seasonal ingredients, you’ll still be able to press on with your recipe!
For a punch of fresh flavor, nothing beats a homemade spice mix! Use apple pie spice to season a pork roast or baked fruit desserts.
2. Bread crumbs
Bread crumbs are an essential for holiday classics like cheesy green bean casserole. But if you look at a canister of bread crumbs in the store? You might see MSG, soybean oil, and mysterious “anti-caking agents”! Why pay for that junk when it is way too easy to make tasty breadcrumbs in your own kitchen?
Chicken stock takes several hours to make. But the hands-on time? Minimal! Get the bones and water going in a stock pot or the crock pot and let them simmer while you go about your day. Be sure to save the bones from your Thanksgiving turkey–they make great stock, too!
If you come across a holiday casserole recipe that calls for any kind of creamed soup, use this! You can vary the recipe to make whatever kind of creamed soup you need–chicken, celery, mushroom, etc.
Almost every brand of store-bought eggnog contains high fructose corn syrup, carageenan, and sometimes even food dyes! As an alternative, make this custard-based, rich and naturally-sweetened eggnog. Use it in place of milk for French toast, pour some in your morning coffee, or use it in festive baking and treats!
It baffles me that after cooking a big, beautiful turkey with luscious pan drippings, people will whip up gravy from an aluminum sauce packet! Please do not let those beautiful pan drippings go to waste! To make your own gravy, simply heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, then thoroughly whisk in a couple of tablespoons of flour. Add hot pan drippings to the saucepan, stirring well. Let the mixture simmer and thicken for a few minutes before transferring to a small pitcher or gravy boat. Pretty easy, right?
8. Pie crust
I completely understand that it’s so easy to just grab a pre-made pie crust from the store and call it done. But once again, this is an ingredient that is so easy, frugal, and tasty that it’s a no-brainer to make it at home! Plus, store-bought pie crusts are made with hydrogenated oil, which is bad for your heart and nervous system.
You can make a big batch of DIY pumpkin pie spice and store in an airtight Mason jar, or just mix up a small amount on an as-needed basis.
Image by Live Simply
10. Pumpkin puree
You can get a lot of pumpkin puree out of one good-sized pumpkin! We like to avoid canned goods when possible, so we freeze pumpkin puree in zipper bags and stack them in the freezer to use throughout the year. Try your pumpkin puree in these muffins or one of the delicious pumpkin recipes here on Erin’s blog!
Here’s a savory, flavorful stuffing that you can make in your crock pot! It will fill the house with delicious aromas while you prep the rest of your holiday menu.
12. Whipped cream
You can taste the difference between Cool Whip and the real deal! Grab some heavy cream and a natural sweetener–plus a sturdy whisk, electric beaters, or even a Blendtec–and in no time you’ll have mounds of fresh whipped cream to pile onto pumpkin pie or a hot cafe mocha.