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Where do you draw the line ? Things you let slide or things that you can only let be fresh?

I bought fresh water chestnuts today; Mind you I am *totally* happy with canned water chestnuts. Maybe that is so because I never had fresh ones before. But those little things sure look hard to peel and for me hard to get (closest place to get fresh is 60 miles of driving one way) plus I use canned alot, so like the stuff.

But makes me think, I can live, like and maybe love canned water chestnuts. What other somewhat processed foods do I like and use, over obtaining making and using fresh?
Canned tuna
dried pasta
rice
olives
Milk
cheese
bread
I'd say peanut butter but I hate the stuff

You get the idea. And what do you say?

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  1. What can I say, Barney Butter is ridiculously smooth and the roasted flavor is absolutely perfect. No way I could make almond butter that good with my food processor.

    1 Reply
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Seconded. Unless a recipe needs fresh tomatoes, I'll happily use canned. Cheaper and the quality is better most of the year.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Wow, I seldom use tomatoes so if I can't get good fresh, I get another idea for the meal.
          I wholeheartedly use canned pasta sauce. So my mileage varies alot! :-)

          1. re: Quine

            There are times, many in fact, where I actually prefer canned to fresh (even if the fresh tomatoes are from my garden).

            1. re: ipsedixit

              In winter, best-quality canned can even be used in an interesting and quite tasty BLT, sliced and drained of course.
              And whenever I make salsa with fresh tomatoes, I have to add a can of chopped tomatoes (usually the sort with onion, garlic and jalapenos) to the mix to make it taste "just right."

            2. re: Quine

              Tomatoes -my first thought. I would much rather use a canned ripe tomato than a gassed winter one. My husband drove a produce truck at one time, from L.A. to wherever. The tomatoes and other veggies were picked green and then they were gassed.. Made them red on the outside but certainly not ripe. And the lingering smell of that gas sickens me.

              We grow our tomatoes, I can pasta sauce, salsa ,tomatoes. At the end of the season,before a hard frost or freeze, we strip the vines, wrap each tomato in newspaper or whatever paper available, and store them in a cool place. Each week,sometimes more often, go through the tomatoes and pick out the ripest ones. We managed to have tomatoes until the end of February.They aren't as good as the ones that ripen on the vine but better than anything else available at that time.

              1. re: MellieMag

                MellieMag! So good to see you post, I know you are new to ChowHound!

                Yes, I seldom buy nor use fresh tomatoes during winter, and since I live in New Jersey, I have a high standard for fresh tomatoes.

                Fortunately I also am not a huge tomato user. I pretty much only use them fresh.

                1. re: Quine

                  I have to admit that I've been unhappy with tomatoes in recent years. The hybrids are too mild and it's hard to find a real tomato. As my niece says, I want to salt and eat a tomato that will burn the corners of my mouth. We like old fashioned high acid tomatoes. Rutgers are pretty good,but we like the Jetstars best. The Beefsteaks, all those are too mild. I really hate it when I look in the seed catalogs and they describe tomatoes, onions or garlic as sweet and mild. They are not intended to be sweet and mild. I use a lot of tomatoes, fresh or not. Where we live,we all try to have the first tomato by the 4th of July.

                  1. re: MellieMag

                    Jetstars are my absolute favorite too! Last year, I experimented with half a dozen or so "heirloom" varieties, and while each was fine, not one of them could compare with my beloved jetstar. :)

                    And what I wouldn't give to have tomatoes by the 4th of July - I'm lucky if I get them by the 1st of August. Fortunately, we have a local farmer who has greenhouse tomatoes year-round - they're not sun-ripened, but they're not supermarket tomatoes, either. Maybe once or twice a year, I'll succumb and pick up a basket. Better than nothing.

                    1. re: Krislady

                      Yep, tinned tomatoes for me usually. I buy a particular type of fresh baby plum tomato for salads, which are always really tasty, but otherwise for cooking I buy tinned and/or passata. Usually imported Italian brands, which are easy to get hold of in the UK.

                      On the other hand, I'd never buy an actual pre-made pasta sauce like Ragu or Dolmio.

                      1. re: Isobel_A

                        I *usually* make my own sauce...but I tend to keep a jar of Barilla in the pantry because when it's late and everyone is starving, it's a race to get something on the table before they start in on the table.

                        Barilla is really good...I still prefer homemade, but the Barilla is certainly acceptable.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Ditto here; with kids and work, I can't always...no, I seldom have the time to make spaghetti sauce from scratch, so I have the stuff in the jar ( I like Prego) and tweak it by quicky sauteeing lots of chopped garlic and some chopped onion in olive oil for 30 seconds, add any ground meat, cook a bit, throw in any fresh tomatoes and/or bell peppers (diced) and/or mushrooms that need to be used (sliced) , Dump in the jar of spaghetti sauce with a handful of dried oregano and Italian seasoning, and simmer. It sounds like a lot, but it's a non-measuring, relatively mindless way to make a dish that everyone likes.

                          But back to the original post....what I will also use canned/boxed are:
                          tuna
                          pasta
                          beans
                          tomatoes (for sauces & stews)
                          cheeses
                          nut butters
                          jams (in fact, most condiments)
                          sausages and deli meats
                          tortillas
                          pineapple (but I sometimes buy fresh ones, too)

                          What I use or make FRESH ONLY:
                          mac & cheese
                          salads including cole slaw
                          rice
                          coffee
                          cookies, cakes, pies
                          potatoes
                          fruit
                          pancakes and french toast
                          chicken, and beef
                          hummus
                          oatmeal
                          lemon & lime juices (got a tree of each!)

                          Here's what I make when I can, and buy premade/canned when I don't::

                          yogurt
                          bread(s) except cornbread
                          ice cream
                          granola
                          soups and stock

                          Maybe in the future, when I have someone who'll clean up after me like Martha Stewart does, I'll get into making my own cheeses, sausages, soap, and candles, but I don't see that happening soon.

                          1. re: Michelly

                            After a couple of years of making my own bulk sausage, I bought a 'tube' of Jimmy Dean cause it was dirt cheap. Had one breakfast of it and fed the rest to the dogs. I rarely feel that strongly about any food. My $50 grinder attachment has paid for itself many times over in both $$$ and qualilty.

                            1. re: Michelly

                              Here's where I guiltily admit that whilst I wouldn't buy a pre-made pasta sauce, my double standards do allow me to buy pre-made biscuits and cakes! I don't have enough of a sweet tooth to get interested in baking (apart from pies, I like making pies and crumbles).

                              1. re: Isobel_A

                                no need for guilt - baking isn't for everyone...and scratch biscuits require a bit more patience and practice than a simple tomato sauce ;)

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  I have no patience for baking at all. Can spend four hours cooking a bolognese, but that's just simmering away for most of it making the house smell nice while I get on with something else!

                            2. re: sunshine842

                              I make pasta sauce in the summer when we have our own tomatoes and herbs,sometimes garlic as well, can it and then I can put a pasta meal together quickly and easily in the winter months.
                              My oregano is greening up.! Bless its little plant heart, it's been with me for a lot of years when other herbs have forsaken me and kicked the bucket.

              2. canned tuna and salmon absolutely have their place in my pantry, but i don't view them as substitutes for fresh fish by any means.

                but i'll gladly - and unapologetically - use canned or frozen beans/legumes when i don't have the time or patience to cook dried ones.

                4 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Yepper yepper, canned beans, for sure.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Definitely canned beans. I can never plan meals ahead (unless I'm cooking for others) because I am so fickle about what I want to eat on an given day. If I want a meal with beans or chickpeas I have to defer to the canned kind for convenience. And I'm quite happy doing so.

                    1. re: TheHuntress

                      I can go either way on that one. I usually have some beans, all cooked up and in the freezer in two cup portions. I can thaw them just enough in the MW to dump them into a saucepan and heat/thaw the rest of the way. VERY quick. But I often just grab the can of black beans out of the pantry. Like them both.

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Absolutely canned beans! A couple weeks ago, a snooty wine-shop owner snarked me for using canned beans when I asked him what wine he'd serve with the Tuscan beans and kale I was making for dinner, and I just rolled my eyes and said that it'd hardly be a 20-minute meal if I used dried.

                      I make hummus only with dried chickpeas, though. The flavor is totally unbeatable, IMO, and I don't find it as much of an inconvenience since it's not for a meal.

                    3. HAS TO BE FRESH -- Peanut Butter. The jarred stuff just tastes like goop to me, whereas the fresh-ground pb (available in the deli/prepared-foods section of my grocery) tastes like PEANUTS.

                      I never make mashed potatoes from flakes, only fresh, but I do use the flakes to thicken dishes or to bread something.

                      I do use canned beans. Much more convenient than soaking dried beans overnight then putting them on the range all day to stew.

                      1. in recipes, I prefer canned tomatoes.

                        Beans as others have mentioned.

                        Broccoli, brussels sprouts, lima beans -- HAVE to be fresh or I'm not going to eat them. Not even frozen -- FRESH.

                        For salads, sandwiches, and ratatouille, if I can't buy fresh, I leave it out or (for ratatouille) just don't make it -- with fresh tomatoes it's bright and tangy and delicious. With canned tomatoes it's just glorified spaghetti sauce.

                        Fruit? Has to fresh. I'll eat canned or frozen fruit if I have to, but I'd never choose it. (only exception is frozen fruit in the wintertime, but I make jam out of THAT, so it's still not for eating as is)

                        Bread? Prefer fresh if there's any way.

                        Krispy Kreme? If the light ain't on and they're not hot enough to melt the icing, I'm out.