Back in the old days, people made nearly every food they consumed from scratch. The grocery stores were very different back then, before snack bars, TV dinners, and pancake mixes lined the aisles.
If you are inspired by the idea of rolling up your sleeves in the kitchen and making some delicious foods, try some of the simple recipes below for foods to DIY easily. It’s a great way to reduce packaging waste, save money, use more locally sourced ingredients, and have a closer connection to your food.
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This is an easy condiment to make and it can save a lot of money. Making your own salad dressings also gives you greater freedom to use healthy oils, such as extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, and omit synthetic preservatives. Most dressings can be stored in your refrigerator for a week or longer.
Simple Oil and Vinegar Dressing
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove of peeled garlic, whole
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Put all the ingredients in a jar and stir well.
Delicious nut milks are so easy to make that you won’t want to go back to the store-bought kind. You also have full control of the ingredients when you make your own, as some major brands of nut milks contain additives, preservatives, and tons of sweetener. I use raw nuts, such as walnuts or hazelnuts, or raw seeds like pumpkin or hemp seeds. I soak them for 12 to 24 hours and then rinse them, so it is good to do a little prep work before blending the ingredients.
If you have a nut milk bag, that is an ideal way to strain the milk. If not, using a cheesecloth with a strainer should work well, too. After straining the milk, you will be left with the pulp. Don’t throw it out; nut or seed pulp has many uses. For example, you can put it in your next batch of granola or sprinkle it raw on cereal.
- 1 cup soaked almonds
- 4 cups water
- A bit of sweetener (maple syrup, honey, stevia, etc.)
- A few drops of vanilla extract (optional)
Place the almonds and water into the blender and mix on high for several minutes. If you have a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, 2 minutes should be plenty.
Place the nut milk bag in a large bowl. Pour the blended mixture into the bag slowly. Squeeze the bag so the liquid comes out into the bowl.
Rinse the blender and lid, then put the strained liquid into the blender. Now add your sweetener and vanilla extract and blend it again.
It is great to have convenient snack foods prepared and ready when you’re on the go. Although the vast majority of snacks are store-bought, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many different approaches to making energy and snack bars, some of which involve no baking.
No-Bake Energy Balls
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate or dried fruit
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
- 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Dash of sea salt (optional)
Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. Form small balls using your hands and put the balls on a casserole dish or rimmed baking sheet. Place the tray in the freezer for 1 hour until the balls set.
Homemade hummus is delicious, and it’s a lot of fun to make. Try experimenting with different flavors by adding red peppers, olive, roasted garlic, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes or additional spices. You can either used canned beans or cook your own by soaking the beans overnight in water, rinsing, and cooking for 90 minutes.
- A 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans (rinsed) or 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (roughly 1 large lemon)
- 1/4 cup tahini paste
- 1 small clove of garlic, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin powder
- A few dashes of salt (or perhaps forgo if you used salted canned beans)
- 2-3 tbsp of water
Add the garlic, cumin, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the food processor. Process for 1 minute, then scrape the sides of the processor with a spatula and process again for half the time.
Add half the garbanzo beans and process for 1 minute. Now add the other half of the beans and process until the mixture is smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water and blend again.
Have fun experimenting a bit and don’t be concerned about deviating from the recipes. Try adding cinnamon, vanilla extract, zest of orange, and different kinds of dried fruit.
One great thing about making your own granola is that you can adjust the level of sweetness by reducing or increasing the quantities of honey or maple syrup. If you want it to have fewer grams of sugar, you can also reduce the honey or maple syrup and add a pinch of stevia powder.
Traditional Maple Pecan Granola
- 4 cups rolled oats (not instant)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 2/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup small dried fruit (optional)
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- A dash or two of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add the dried ingredients (except for the salt) to a mixing bowl and stir. Put the liquid ingredients (along with the salt) in a separate bowl and stir. Then pour the liquid ingredients over the dried ones and stir until the oats and nuts are evenly coated.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (optional) and spread the oats on it, forming a thin layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir the mixture. Continue baking for another 20 minutes or so until the granola turns light brown. Then put the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
If you are looking for a high-protein paleo version of granola, give this recipe a try.
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2/3 cup dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, cherries, or blueberries
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- A couple of dashes of salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easier cleanup.
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until the mixture is completely coated. The coconut oil and honey may need to be heated slightly to turn them into liquid form for easier mixing.
Put the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it to form a thin layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Looking for more foods to DIY? Make your own kombucha with this step-by-step guide.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Originally published on October 17, 2016, this article was updated in January 2021.