Cut Back on Processed Foods by Making Your Own

Homemade Peanut Butter, Fudge Pops and Ranch Dressing

Here’s a big high-five to all you moms and dads who have cut the processed foods out of your kids’ diets.

I’ll be honest, I love the concept, but I’ve done nothing more than entertain the idea. It pretty regularly goes like this: I read the “100 Days of Real Food” blog, I feel inspired, make an enormous grocery list for Whole Foods and then lose the list – or lose interest – somewhere between watching Sesame Street and making lunches.

We use processed foods on a daily basis, though that doesn’t mean we’re eating Hamburger Helper. You’ll find mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, grape juice, canned biscuits and, occasionally, Lunchables, in our refrigerator. If you asked my kids how to make ketchup, they might tell you it grows on grocery store shelves. I’ve never made my own ketchup, and I doubt I ever will.

But still, I love from-scratch cooking, free of artificial dyes or flavorings produced by a chemist.

My kids love to make homemade lemonade. I make the simple syrup, which takes all of three minutes, and they squeeze the lemons. It’s so much better than the disintegrated stuff in a packet. In late summer, we live on fresh tomato sauce, another unprocessed favorite. When I have time, I make the dressing for our salad, but when I don’t have even a spare five minutes, I don’t feel bad about using our stash of Newman’s.

If you’re feeling the pull to try more unprocessed foods, think about making some of your kids’ favorites, like peanut butter. It takes just about 10 minutes to make, and the kids will love watching the roasted peanuts whirl around the food processor until they become that ubiquitous spread.

Chicken nuggets are also easy to make from scratch, and they taste so much better than the frozen, breaded ones. I started making homemade chicken nuggets for my kids, but my husband and I like them just as much. A light breading, including lemon zest and fresh thyme, makes them delicious. Homemade ranch dipping sauce would be great, but I’m OK with using Hidden Valley.

And, before summer ends, I want to make homemade fudge pops. Made with milk, cocoa powder, yogurt and maple syrup, it sounds like something that would be fun to make – and eat. But if I don’t get around to making them, I’m not going to beat myself up for buying a box of Fudgesicles.

You can find roasted peanuts at Whole Foods and, in season, at Conrad Farms in Bixby.

Homemade Peanut Butter

  • 2 cups roasted (shelled and skinned) peanuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

In a food processor, blend the peanuts, salt and honey for 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then slowly add the oil, blending for 2 minutes.

Store in the refrigerator, stirring before each use.

This recipe comes from Lisa Leake of the “100 Days of Real Food” blog.

Homemade Fudge Pops

  • •2/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk

In a medium bowl, whisk together the syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla until thoroughly combined and there are almost no clumps left. Slowly whisk in both the yogurt and milk.

Pour into popsicle molds, add a popsicle stick, and freeze. When you are ready to dig in, run a little bit of warm water on the outside of the molds to loosen them up so the popsicles come out easily.

We really like this homemade ranch recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (as needed for desired consistency)

Mince the garlic with a knife and then sprinkle on the salt and mash it into a paste with a fork.

In a bowl, combine the garlic paste, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, dill, chives, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, vinegar, paprika, cayenne and hot sauce. Add the buttermilk to desired consistency and mix to combine, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before serving, thinning with more buttermilk if needed.

Categories: Food