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"Made my own" Success Stories

When I have a good "putter around in the kitchen" day, I have this thing for trying to make my own versions of foods you can buy already made, just to see if I can do it. I'm getting pretty good at the basics like stock and pasta. This week, I tried making one of those edible fruit arrangements (cookie cutters for flower shapes, etc, skewered into a watermelon base), mostly because the ones for order online are so pricey. Recently, I didn't have any French's onions called for in a savory bread recipe once, so I tried to make my own (my cooking friends think I'm crazy to try stuff like this instead of drive 2 miles to the store). I'm probably going to tackle cheese or tortillas next.

What are your "tried my own version of" triumphs?

PS: As a newer CH, I apologize in advance if this thread has been done again and again.

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  1. lard, tortillas, marshmallows, dulce de leche, bread crumbs, crackers, hamburger buns, caramel, ricotta cheese, yogurt, sausage, ground beef, dried peaches....

    If it can be made instead of bought, I want to try it!

    10 Replies
    1. re: Becca Porter

      Same here! You reminded me that I did try marshmallows with wondeful success, and have tried bread crumbs and dried fruit... but I am intrigued by hamburger buns and and crackers...

      1. re: Becca Porter

        "If it can be made instead of bought, I want to try it!"

        My philosophy exactly! I don't always repeat the experience but I want to have it once at least.

        Things I regularly do:
        créme fraîche
        garlic purée
        jams -- whatever fruit I've got

        Things I have done or occasionally do:
        goats milk cheese
        baking mix aka Bisquick
        pomegranate molasses
        bread and butter pickles
        vanilla extract & extract of vanilla bean + coffee beans

        I also do spice blends but all that is is mixing various spices.

        1. re: rainey

          Rainey, I love your list! I want the baking mix recipe. We buy Bisquick (hubster loves it) and it pains me to do so!

          I've tried the vanilla recently and was very pleased. Also liked my applesauce results when I was given fresh apples from "Grandpa's" tree. (Though it was better for recipes than for eating straight).

          Would also be interested in making vinegar. Did a little research on it a while back but haven't been brave enough (yet).

          So excited to find like-minded home cooks. Kicking myself for not becoming a CH long ago.

          1. re: CapreseStacy

            I make my applesauce because it's so much better than commercial and you don't get a kitchen with that heavenly aroma from opening a can. Besides, it tastes like apple pie without the trouble or fat calories of making pastry.

            I use a variety of apples so I get a variety of textures from the ones that cook down to liquid to the ones that hold almost all of their shape. And I cut the apples into generous sized chunks and DON'T mash them in the end.

            Vinegar couldn't be easier. There's a ton of info on the web -- most of it contradictory. But if you've got a mother, some leftover wine and some patience you will end up with vinegar.

            Here's the baking mix. Don't remember where I originally got it. I usually keep my references and try to be diligent about crediting the right people but this is just one I've had a long time and don't have any information.

            Homemade Baking Mix
            Yield: about 6 cups

            • 6 cups all-purpose flour
            • 3 tablespoons baking powder
            • 1 tablespoons baking soda
            • 1 tablespoons salt
            • 1 cup vegetable shortening

            Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

            Add shortening by spoonfuls and cut in with a pastry blender until it is thoroughly incorporated and the resulting mix has a uniform consistency that resembles Bisquick.

            Store it in a container with an airtight lid (to discourage weevils) on the shelf.

            1. re: CapreseStacy

              Welcome to Chowhound, Stacy.

              Give the vinegar a try. It literally makes itself, and people have been doing it as long as they have been making wine.

              1. re: FoodFuser

                LOL, sometimes it's hard to avoid making it...

                1. re: chowser

                  Unfortunately (or not), wine never has a chance to sit around on a countertop in my house. I'd have to make such a concerted effort to let it sit...

          2. re: Becca Porter

            Could you give a recipe for the hamburger buns? I would like to try that.

            1. re: Siobhan


              Here's one. The one I use is also from King Arthur but it is enriched with butter and eggs. This one looks tasty though.

              1. re: Becca Porter

                Thanks! I am going to givce this a go.

          3. Oh, yes! I've gone through a phase in the last few years, trying to make anything I possibly could. Not too many flops and a few surprising successes!

            I haven't bought plain whole wheat bread in years, so that's a success. Nor bread crumbs. I never buy shortening or lard -- I use "cleaned" bacon grease. Yogurt is one I avoid buying as well. Crackers, stock, hummus, jams/jellies/marmalade, mustard, pickles, whenever the urge strikes. I've done english muffins, granola, baking mix, pita bread, and naan, but not regularly.

            1. I have a great book called "Better than Store-Bought" that has recipes for many things we might ordinarily buy ready-made. Haven't had it out in ages, time for a look. I remember making a dark chocolate sauce but can't recall any others.


              4 Replies
              1. re: bon oeuf

                "Better than Store-Bought" is one of my favorite cookbooks. From it I have made:
                Chinese Duck Sauce
                Chili Sauce
                Hot Fudge Sauce
                Butterscotch Sauce
                Breakfast Sausages
                Lemon Curd
                Corn Relish
                Dilly Beans

                It wouldn't be Christmas without the candied fruit rinds, almond buttercrunch and caramel corn from that book.

                I also make my own stock, demiglace, ice creams, cookies, jams & jellies, marinara sauce, spaghetti sauce, applesauce, raspberry chipolte bbq sauce, tomato bbq sauce and rib sauce etc.

                1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                  I'm going to get the book out for my bedtime reading. I always like to cook more during Fall so the timing is perfect.

                  Such a good book!

                  1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                    I'm going to see if I can find that book.

                2. I was thrilled in my 20s to make homemade marshmallows and Graham crackers-still makes me happy :).

                  My latest favorite is French onion dip. Husband has been brewing beer and just this week tried making his own cream soda-it'll be ready in a few days and I'm very curious about how it will turn out.

                  Fruit leather is fabulous and we make that all the time.

                  Infused alcohols and flavored syrups for drinks.


                  Mozarella-easy and pretty good.

                  1. I've made some of the staples, e.g. lard, ketchup, marshmallow, bread, yogurt, etc., but my greatest accomplishment to date is my homemade .... Twinkie.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      You must give more info on the Twinkie :-) Any photos?

                      1. re: Siobhan

                        This would thrill my daughter! I tasted Twinkies for the first time in 20 years or so and was absolutely disgusted. I couldn't eat more than one bite. I didn't know I had evolved into that much of a food snob.

                        1. re: Siobhan

                          Sorry, but no photos.

                          I followed this recipe http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2008/...

                          But tweaked it bit by trying to make my own banana creme.

                          Also the color of the twinkie wasn't yellow enough; probably a food coloring issue.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Will they last 5 years like the Hostess brand does?

                            1. re: FoodFuser

                              I think the Hostess ones have a half-life as long as uranium.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  The Fly Lady Web site (devoted to helping people declutter and streamline their homes) had a write-in topic a couple of years ago about "What is the oddest thing you ever threw away?" There were some pretty strange items, like grandpa's prosthetic leg found several years after grandpa himself passed away. But the best entry was from a woman who decided when her youngest son went away to college it was time to really clean out his room. In the back of a closet she found his school lunchbox, which he stopped using in the sixth grade. Apparently he hadn't eaten his lunch that last day, nor had he emptied it out. She found several completely unidentifiable heaps of mold but sitting proudly and only a tiny bit collapsed were two Twinkies.

                        2. Rolled fondant icing.

                          Puff pastry. Have to tackle chocolate puff pastry next.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: souschef

                            Yes, I forgot puff pastry and strudel dough! Also, croissants. Most kinds of bread /pastry in fact.

                          2. I make a lot of bread type things frequently, whole wheat from fresh ground wheat, pizza dough, english muffins, bannock. I also can quite a few things: refried beans, baked beans, salsa, jelly, chow chow, chicken stock, various meat. I've made potstickers, egg rolls, kaiser rolls, sour dough, salad dressings, mayo, ice cream, sour cream, corn tortillas. I also make most of my seasoning mixes, taco, dry rubs, jerky, rib rubs, creole, olive oil dip. I'd love to try making cheese and vinegar too. I think a lot of the fun is researching how to make the thing, trying to recreate it.

                            1. Well, my most recent was "Raincoast Crisp" from a copy cat recipe. And this week, I am going to tackle prepping several dozen peaches for freezing.
                              Like many Hounds, I also like to grind my own spices.

                              I regularly make:
                              Salad dressings
                              tartar sauce
                              BBQ sauce
                              Spice rubs
                              Creme fraiche
                              compound butters
                              Pestos & herb or spice oils
                              Spiced nuts
                              Lemon curd
                              Preserved lemons
                              Flavored simple syrups (currently basil, mint, ginger, lemon grass)
                              Flavored salts
                              ground meats
                              pickled red onions

                              I occasionally make:
                              fresh pasta
                              ice cream
                              dulce de leche
                              vanilla sugar
                              marmalade and jams
                              nutty caramel corn (for gifts)
                              pickled veggies--cauliflower, carrots

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                Oh, how did the Raincoast Crisp knockoffs turn out? I used to love those for triple cream cheeses. Now I'm gluten free, I am back to the drawing board. I'd love to work on a GF conversion for your recipe, if you think it's a worthy platform!

                                1. re: Vetter

                                  Here's the link to a thread on them, w/both Maplesugar's link to the recipe and my report on them.
                                  Definitely worth trying. I don't know much about GF conversions, but my sense is that rice flour might work in these.

                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                    Thank you! I can definitely work with those. I bet the ground flax is helping to bind them. It's do-able!

                              2. I love making my own things. Some of the things I have done in the past and continue to make:
                                breads, rolls, and buns
                                pizza dough
                                fresh pasta
                                marinara sauce
                                salad dressings
                                compound butters
                                pomegranate molasses
                                fruit syrups
                                vanilla extract
                                preserved lemons
                                lemon curd
                                limoncello, blackberry liqueur, cherry bounce
                                sun-dried tomatoes, both plain and packed in oil with basil
                                spiced nuts
                                apple butter
                                various jams, preserves and marmalades - depending on what fruits and herbs are available
                                pickles of all sorts - cucumbers, relishes, mixed veggies, green beans, okra, carrots, etc. I love Euell Gibbons Dill Crock.
                                fresh pickled onions and/or turnips
                                stocks and broths
                                tartar sauce
                                cocktail sauce
                                bbq sauce
                                chili sauce
                                fruit leather
                                dried fruits (apples, pears, peaches)
                                smoked turkey
                                Have made bagels, sausages and corned beef in the past, but not in many years.

                                Next up on my list is Creole Cream Cheese. I'd also like to try some of the soft cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, etc) and those Raincoast Crisps.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: decolady

                                  I'm steeping some limocello and nocino right now. ;>

                                  1. re: rainey

                                    Ooooh, nice!

                                    I haven't done my own nocino as I haven't been able to get green walnuts. But I've got a lead on them for next year. :-) Oh, and last year I made vin de pamplemousse for the first time. I'm also wondering about making elderberry liqueur. We have lots of those growing wild. I normally use the berries in things like muffins, in place of blueberries, but the other day started thinking that a liqueur might work.

                                    I just bottled up blackberry liqueur a week or so ago and have some cherry bounce steeping now. We have a plethora of peaches and as I've already done a lot of peach preserves, etc, I'm thinking of doing some brandied or pickled peaches today.

                                    1. re: decolady

                                      What irony! I don't care very much for alcohol (none of it). I only make nocino (and I've got past year's nocino piled up) because I have a walnut tree and don't know what else to do with the walnuts that the squirrels clean the tree of by the time they're ripe. =o

                                      I basically make it and give it away. If you're in Los Angeles you're welcome to some!

                                      The limoncello I bake with and a little of it over shaved ice can be nice in the summer.

                                      1. re: rainey

                                        Sadly I am not near you or I would take you up on that! I currently reside in AL. We have black walnut trees here. I've been trying to research to see if those are safe to use for nocino. At least one source seems to believe so, but I haven't found anything definitive.

                                        The alcoholic drinks make wonderful gifts, I've found.

                                        My grandfather always drank cherry bounce on ice during hot Louisiana summers. I tried the blackberry liqueur that way and it was pretty tasty. Pretty colour, too.

                                        1. re: rainey

                                          looking for property in Prescot Az, my husband and I landed on 21 acres of lovliness with oodles of black walnut trees on the property.
                                          I'd buy it for that alone and all the while we walked the property, I was eating off the ground these lusious gems.

                                  2. I attempted to make homemade Grape-Nuts once, I even had a recipe. It was ok until you poured milk on it and then it turned to mush. That sort of defeats the purpose of homemade cereal though (not being able to eat it with milk).

                                    1. Like others, I make breadcrumbs, salad dressings, fish stock, tartar sauce, pickled onions, marinara sauce and hummus always instead of buying. I make sun-dried tomatoes, pate and chicken stock often although not always. My proudest accomplishment to date is a copy-cat version of Campbell's bean and bacon soup (a great childhood favorite) entiely from scratch with organic ingredients and far less sodium than the original.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: GretchenS

                                        I would LOVE that recipe if you've got it, Gretchen! I confess to buying that sodium-and-God-knows-what-else-ridden soup on occasion as a guilty pleasure/comfort food indulgence!


                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                          Oooh, a fellow bean and bacon lover! I'm telling you, this is amazing, right down to that odd characteristic color. One of the reviews said it didn't taste like Campbell's B&B but I added a good pinch of salt to one spoonful and it was absolutely indistinguishable, LOL.

                                          My notes:
                                          2 cups beans = 1 lb.
                                          Add bacon back in at very end
                                          Use 2 qts water to simmer ham hocks for 2 hours then use that as the liquid instead of the water and ham stock called for -- it's the right amount even though it's more
                                          Use bacon grease to saute the onion and garlic before adding,
                                          Add veggies about 1 1/2 hours into cooking beans and add 1 tsp kosher salt at the same time.
                                          What with the ham hock and good smoky bacon, I skip the Liquid Smoke.

                                          You won't regret making this, I promise!

                                        2. re: GretchenS

                                          I keep making attempts at a replication of hubster's favorite soup, the Progresso Italian Wedding. Got the meatballs nailed flavor-wise, but don't have the patience to make them so dang TINY! Working on the right broth consistency. But even if I never get it to taste "just like" the canned version, he has enjoyed all of my attempts. At this point, I think he's okay if I just keep making "my" Wedding Soup and stop trying to match the can.

                                          1. re: CapreseStacy

                                            For quick and dirty tiny meatballs, put your meatball mixture into the corner of a ziploc. Snip the corner to a hole of your desired diameter, and pipe the balls onto plastic parchment or waxed paper, using a tableknife to continually cut the extrusion to the right size.

                                            They won't quite be round, but they'll be good.

                                        3. i routinely do chicken stock, flavored oils, hummus (although, i'd love to figure out how to replicate trader joe's mediterranean hummus topped with pine nuts). but my very best effort came when upton teas discontinued the "royal fruit" that had been my regular tea for years.

                                          took me two tries, but i got it perfectly. because it involves 6 flavors, i have to make two pounds at a time, which sounds like a lot. but in the summer i use it for iced tea ( 3 tablespoons to 1/2 gallon of cold water. 4 days in the fridge) and go through a lot. drinking a glass as i type.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: wonderwoman

                                            WW wrote: "hummus (although, i'd love to figure out how to replicate trader joe's mediterranean hummus topped with pine nuts"...

                                            I'll settle for how you make yours..........
                                            mine not so good...........as stated on the hummus thread, mine isn't too swift

                                            1. re: wonderwoman

                                              Drinking my way through a jar of my little sister's homemade tea. She is an herbalist, so I got a "special blend" made just for me with my, um, "issues" in mind. Hey, she's looking out for me, right? And the tea is delish both hot and cold... some of the ingredients she used are dandelion, gotu kola, nettles, meadow sweet and mint.

                                            2. I make my own deep dish Chicago-style pizza (and sauce). I live out near the northern Rockies, and the pizzaerias here are aweful.

                                              And another goodie I make is my own fruit roll ups. Super easy using canned applesauce, hazelnuts and spices on a food dehydrator.

                                              Would love a good recipe for protein bars. All the ones I've tried to make come out tasting horrible.

                                              1. My crazy Dentist, and I do mean crazy, used to give out with the pots of coffee, tins of Famous Amos cookies. Seriously, and we, the patients, would eat 'em up. Is that job security or what? Anyway, one day, I was done with my apt. and went to grab a cookie for later on in the day when my mouth was back to working. The tin was empty though so I went up to the receptionist and gave her the empty round can. Dr. DF came out just then. So I took it back from her not tight grip and gave it to Dr. D. He asked if I wanted the tin. I said, ''Um ok." Then from the back of the office he came out with a new tin of the cookies and set them out. Eating the one later, I decided to copy that recipe as best I could. Having every nut under the sun in the freezer helped and since I load up on odd flavors and different kinds of chocolate chips, that helps too. I read the ingredients and tempted fate. They were by far the best chocolate chip cookies I'd ever eaten, far better than WA's > FA, sorry but true. I've never been able to duplicate them again. Moral of the story, always write down what you put in things, like IG does, she's one smart cookie.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  When we first lived in Hollywood, we lived about 5 miles from the original Famous Amos store. It was a wonderful thing and they were fabulous cookies.

                                                  I would say they were just exactly like home baked cookies (probably the same recipe as the Nestles Toll House cookies) and they were coming out of the kitchen every 15 minutes or so so you could get them warm. It was GREAT when you could get fresh baked faster than you could make them yourself.

                                                  It made me sick that when whatever corporate behemoth bought him out they wouldn't let him use his own name.

                                                2. I wanted to make baba ganoush one day and didn't feel like leaving my house for tahini. I found a couple of recipes online and ended up using my already toasted sesame seeds. This yielded a much more nutty flavor and darker color than the normal tahini you find in the grocery stores. Worked great in my baba ganoush too!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: soypower

                                                    I made my own tahini in my vitamix about a month ago for hummus. It worked great.

                                                    1. re: soypower

                                                      oh I'm totally going to try the tahini. It might go bad before I could use all of a store-bought container, but I always have ajonjoli (sesame seeds in the little 99-cent packets from my local markets) on hand, so I could make up some as-needed batches! Thank you for the idea!

                                                      1. re: CapreseStacy

                                                        One more vote for using sesame seeds to make tahini. I regularly make hummus at home, and learned a lot from the CH thread a while ago:

                                                        But instead of buying tahini separately, I just keep sesame seeds in the pantry. I can use them for other recipes, and when making hummus, I just toast a few tablespoons and then grind them up in my little spice mill and throw them in. Works really really well.

                                                        I also make at home: sambar and rasam powders, salsas of various kinds, basic chutneys (tamarind and cilantro/mint), some basic pasta sauces and basic pesto.

                                                        Things I would like to make at home: Indian pickles, a greater variety of chutneys, baklava, really good cookies and cupcakes, (but then I remember DH and I need to lose weight), ginger ale, - the list is just too long ......

                                                    2. These are some IMPRESSIVE lists! I attempted some pickled watermelon rind last weekend, just 'cause. I'm going to let it brine for a while longer before I taste test. Some of my motivation is based on not wanting to waste anything. I have a fresh infusion of CSA box produce to play with this long weekend. I have been wanting to make kale chips, but haven't found the nutritional yeast I'm seeking that gives them a cheesy flavor.

                                                      1. Let's see...hot sauce was one, and I still make my own. Vinegar, which "bloomed" for me and was rendered unusable. The majority of spice mixes, rubs and marinades that I use I combine myself, using a reg. spice grinder. Freezable cookie-mix bases that you just add egg to; leaf lard;won-ton skins;dried fruits and vegetables;frozen ditto.Ricotta, frequently. Sheet pasta. Manti, which are a meat-filled dumpling that when made correctly are supposed to be 40/soupspoon, but I never hit anything close to that ratio. (They were good, though, served with yogurt and cucumber and mint and cilantro raita.)

                                                        1. Natto... make my own.
                                                          Make my own saltless sauerkraut and 'kraut juice
                                                          Make my beans from dried. Rarely buy a can
                                                          Bread ... not often though