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Poll -- What foods/food items do you prefer commercially made?

freia Nov 26, 2011 10:35 AM

Like the title says:
What foods or food items do you prefer as a commercially available item?
I was thinking this with respect to the pumpkin pie thread. Some prefer to buy the Asian pumpkins, roast them, and prepare their own filling. Others prefer to buy pureed pumpkin and spice it up. Others love love love the Costco pie.
What foods do you actually prefer to purchase commercially made, and why?

  1. c
    chefathome Dec 11, 2011 06:49 PM

    Most of our condiments are homemade by myself except I would rather purchase soy, Worcestershire and Sriracha (homemade is good but so is commercial). I would never attempt making Umami Taste #5!!

    1. drongo Dec 11, 2011 06:27 AM

      How about olives? The other day I saw fresh (uncured) olives for sale, and I was wondering what people do with them. To make them edible, commercially-prepared olives are treated with lye, brined, and fermented (though American canned olives don't go through the fermentation process). It would be interesting to try the lye, brine, fermentation steps at home... but I have no idea how to do it, so I'll stay with the olive bar at Wegman's.

      1 Reply
      1. re: drongo
        teezeetoo Dec 11, 2011 06:32 AM

        pho, papaya salad (I made it at home and it was so much work!!), great baguettes (we're lucky to have an excellent bakery nearby) and bagels and, my weakness, hellman's mayo (yes I've made homemade and darn it I like Hellman's better)

      2. Firegoat Nov 28, 2011 01:40 AM

        Puff Pastry dough
        Phyllo dough
        Corn dogs
        French fries
        Pumpkin pie canned puree
        Rhodes frozen rolls

        2 Replies
        1. re: Firegoat
          mcel215 Nov 28, 2011 02:23 AM

          The only reason that I like restaurant french fries is that I no longer make them. I can't see wasting all of that oil for something I eat only once or twice a year for. :)

          1. re: mcel215
            Firegoat Nov 28, 2011 02:43 AM

            Same way here. Pretty much could add any fried food to that list. Just not worth the time and effort and the oil waste/storage.

        2. r
          RosePearl Nov 28, 2011 01:23 AM

          Mayo. Best Foods,or Dukes. They last. Though I can make my own, it has a shelf life even shorter than my attention span. And, let's face it: when I want a tunafish sandwich, I'm not ready to whap oil into an egg for five or ten minutes.

          1. s
            sweetpotater Nov 28, 2011 12:02 AM

            Gefilte fish

            All of these in retrospect were a waste of effort: The commercial product in each case is just about perfect, IMHO.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sweetpotater
              LisaPA Dec 10, 2011 07:33 PM

              I have to disagree about marshmallows. I found homemade vastly superior in taste and texture, not to mention you can make all kinds of flavors not available in stores. And they're super easy to make.

              1. re: LisaPA
                chefathome Dec 11, 2011 06:40 PM

                I'm with you on the fish but respectfully disagree on the marshmallows and ketchup. I really enjoy making both and feel they are vastly superior in flavour to commercial. But for me part of it is the cooking process.

            2. t
              tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 27, 2011 11:41 PM

              Some things because it's too difficult to make at home - udon and ramen noodles, puff or phyllo pastry and croissants, cheese except paneer, etc.

              I generally prefer prepared mustards to home-made, but homemade ketchup to store bought. Hot sauce is a toss up - I can't do fermented ones easily at home, but my vinegar based chili-lime-vodka sauce is a standby.

              For cooking I generally prefer canned tomatoes to fresh, for quality considerations unless it's the peak of tomato season, and for price considerations in general. I also find that frozen or canned corn is better than fresh unless it's the peak of the season and you buy from the farmer or pick it yourself. Same for green peas.

              Where I live now, I prefer the pre-made Thai curry pastes to homemade. I can't get fresh kaffir lime leaves or lemon grass, and the brand I can buy locally is from Thailand, with an ingredient list reads like a recipe (no preservatives, unpronounceable chemicals, or artificial flavours). Same for the Tom Yum soup paste. Indian, though, I always make from scratch.

              I find good pizza and crusty bread aren't easily done in a home oven. Deep fried food I usually prefer to eat out - it's messy, hot and hard work to make, and at a restaurant I can relax and eat it, while at home I don't get to eat until the end of the meal, by which point I'm greasy and tired.

              As far as soups, I'll eat pho, Chinese hot and sour and beef noodle soup out, because I can easily get it home-made and really good. Same with dishes like bibimbap (particularly the stone bowl version). Meals like burgers and fries I rarely make at home.

              I have a lingering fondness from child-hood for Campbells cream of mushroom soup, and their chicken noodle when I'm sick. Macaroni and cheese I tend to think of as two different foods, with KD and homemade completely unrelated to each other. I detest pre-made spaghetti sauce, but on occasion rather like those tins of Zoodles or Alphagetti, which were a special treat as a child.

              1. a
                amazinc Nov 27, 2011 09:20 AM

                sorry. Bad typing/editing. meant to say Stouffer's.

                1. a
                  amazinc Nov 27, 2011 09:20 AM

                  Sttouffer's Macaroni and Cheese. Such an easy dish...except MINE is always too dry, too hard
                  and too bad. Gimme' the orange and yellow box (frozen) every time. Sigh.

                  1. Michelly Nov 26, 2011 11:00 PM

                    +1 on peas and canned beans

                    Add on yogurt, and most condiments like mayo, ketchups, and mustards.

                    A lot depends on how much time one has. I would make my pasta from scratch if I had nothing else to do, but as it is, the packaged stuff, while not as nummy, will do; I do make the sauce from scratch when I can, which is not that often.

                    1. p
                      PotatoPuff Nov 26, 2011 07:22 PM

                      Yogurt and pasta

                      1. JerryMe Nov 26, 2011 06:46 PM

                        Pickles and relishes

                        1. w
                          wyogal Nov 26, 2011 06:41 PM

                          Yes on the jarred sauce, ice cream, frozen peas, phyllo.
                          and I love shrimpburgers. Yep, those frozen patties that are deep fried at diners in the northern plains and midwest. seriously.

                          1. e
                            escondido123 Nov 26, 2011 05:07 PM

                            Trader Joe's Tahini sauce.
                            Trader Joe's 0% Greek yogurt
                            Trader Joe's Pizza dough
                            Most condiments

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: escondido123
                              MplsM ary Nov 26, 2011 05:48 PM

                              Ooh condiments!

                              Also ice cream. I've tried making my own but I prefer Haagen Dazs.

                              1. re: MplsM ary
                                wyogal Nov 26, 2011 06:37 PM

                                Bryers here... one can pronounce all the ingredients!

                            2. s
                              smartie Nov 26, 2011 04:19 PM

                              canned beans, ready when you want them and don't need soaking and boiling then cooling if you want them in a salad.

                              1. Karl S Nov 26, 2011 04:08 PM

                                +1 to frozen petite peas.

                                Also peeled frozen pearl onions.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Karl S
                                  drongo Nov 27, 2011 09:34 AM

                                  I don't recall ever getting peeled frozen onions. But after spending an hour+ peeling pearl onions for Thanksgiving, the pre-peeled frozen ones are sounding very appealing!

                                  1. re: drongo
                                    monavano Nov 27, 2011 12:15 PM

                                    Frozen pearl onions was a tip I got for Barefoot Contessa when she made Beef Bourguignon.

                                    1. re: monavano
                                      drongo Nov 27, 2011 12:44 PM

                                      After my ordeal peeling the pearl onions this year, I did find the following tip in a piece entitled "Pearls of Wisdom" by Liz Pearson in Saveur, Jan(?) 2008: “we prefer the easier method that James Peterson advocates in Essentials of Cooking (Artisan, 1999). Place the onions in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover them. Set them aside for a minute, then drain the onions and rinse them in cold water. Trim the root ends. Starting from the onions' tops, simply peel away their skins with your fingers."

                                2. MplsM ary Nov 26, 2011 12:48 PM

                                  Frozen peas beat fresh shelled peas 99% of the time. Even when I was a CSA member the peas had lost their sweetness in the few hours they sat at room temperature.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: MplsM ary
                                    monavano Nov 26, 2011 12:51 PM

                                    +1 frozen peas.

                                    I'll also add french fries. DH and I love Zesties. They're so tasty and so easy.

                                    1. re: MplsM ary
                                      magiesmom Nov 26, 2011 07:18 PM

                                      oh, but if you pick them when the water is boiling they are heaven.

                                    2. s
                                      sueatmo Nov 26, 2011 12:34 PM

                                      Jarred spaghetti sauce. It isn't worth it to me to make it.

                                      Rolls for a special meal. I'll buy hard rolls or soft ones. I am not a reliable yeast baker.

                                      Bread--see above. And I rely on low carb breads for day to day use.

                                      Cranberry salad for the holiday table. For some reason I don't want to fool with making it, so I buy it already made from the local grocer.

                                      I also use some canned items for the extremely few pies I bake in a year's time: canned pumpkin, canned cherries, for instance. (I would use fresh apples or peaches in a pie. I don't make these very often though.)

                                      I rely on Musselman's unsweetened applesauce, if I want applesauce. That is also something I don't eat much of anymore because I try to eat low carb.

                                      Commercially canned tomatoes.

                                      S & W chickpeas for making hummus. I have never had good luck cooking chick peas, so I buy the best canned product I can find

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: sueatmo
                                        linguafood Nov 26, 2011 12:37 PM

                                        Can I ask why spaghetti sauce is not worth it for you to make?

                                        1. re: linguafood
                                          sueatmo Nov 26, 2011 12:53 PM

                                          Sure. I gave up trying to produce it when I had 3 little kids to feed. I didn't think my product was any better than the better stuff in jars, and it was more economical to buy it premade. I never proceeded to learn a foolproof recipe. Now, since I am low carb, I look for sauce that has fewer carbs per serving. But mostly Mr. Sueatmo gets his pasta fix at restaurants now. When I do fix it, I have to severely limit my own eating. I do use whole grain spaghetti. Even when I cook with canned tomatoes, I am very careful not to add too much out of the can to a recipe.

                                          Even when I was making spaghetti often though, I added fresh veggies to the sauce. I also liked a shot of red wine in it. And garlic.

                                          1. re: sueatmo
                                            linguafood Nov 26, 2011 01:02 PM

                                            I didn't know canned tomatoes were so high in carbs! I thought the problem with the majority of commercial brand tomato sauces was the addition of sugar and/or HFCS.

                                            My tomato sauce takes about 10 min. to make, tops. Canned tomatoes, garlic, onion, oregano, s&p. Maybe a dab of butter in the end & maybe fresh basil. And no added sugar.

                                            But I don't have 3 little kids to feed, just one grown man '-)

                                            1. re: linguafood
                                              sueatmo Nov 26, 2011 02:19 PM

                                              If you cook the tomatoes down, this concentrates the sugars in the tomatoes, I think.

                                              You know, if I had known about a 10 min sauce to make back in the 1980s, it would have helped. Your sauce sounds very good.

                                              Yes, sugar can be added to spaghetti sauce. When I first started checking the labels, it was just after Mr. Sueatmo's heart surgery--and then I searched for fat. Then I began noting sodium levels. And recently, I've begun searching for a lower carb version, and that basically means a sauce with no sweeteners.

                                              Maybe I should rethink this! I imagine I could do better with a simple sauce I make myself. I do make a simple "puttanesca" with cherry tomatoes from time to time. How hard could it be to make a simple tomato sauce?

                                              1. re: sueatmo
                                                linguafood Nov 26, 2011 02:45 PM

                                                Really not that hard '-)

                                                But I didn't want to be one of those "OMG you use store-bought sauce, etc. etc." people, especially given the OP's title.

                                                FWIW -- I usually sauté an onion & some garlic in olive oil til translucent, add some crushed pepper flakes, then a sploosh of red wine. In go whatever canned tomatoes I have around (if they're whole, I generally blend them right in the can), s&p, lots of oregano. Some fresh basil in the end, tho it's certainly not necessary.

                                                Finish the pasta in the sauce. Really, this sauce is so fast, you can make it almost in the time it takes for the pasta to cook. And no ingredients other than the ones YOU choose to put in, which is a big bonus in my book.

                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                  sueatmo Nov 26, 2011 06:34 PM

                                                  I agree about choosing one's own ingredients. Mr. Sueatmo hates change though. Actually I'd just as soon not make spaghetti anymore. This is a guilty confession because the guy loves it so. But I really should not be eating it.

                                          2. re: linguafood
                                            elfcook Nov 26, 2011 04:54 PM

                                            jumping in to give another reason: I also buy jarred sauce for my family. I used to make my own & it was pretty good. I married a wonderful man who loves my cooking. However, he grew up with a particular jarred sauce. He liked mine, but likes the jar better because it is "how it is supposed to taste". I can't eat any red sauce any more, so I see no reason to put the time & effort in for our few pasta & red sauce meals when he prefers his jar. He & the kids like the jar and the effort is minimal, so I can put my time into making something else we all like and save the pasta/red sauce for quick meals on busy nights.

                                            1. re: elfcook
                                              sueatmo Nov 26, 2011 06:34 PM

                                              There you go!

                                        2. l
                                          LaureltQ Nov 26, 2011 12:11 PM

                                          Pho. Just not worth the effort when I can drive 1 minute and have a huge hot bowl for $6 and no cleanup!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: LaureltQ
                                            jmcarthur8 Nov 26, 2011 03:43 PM

                                            +1 on pho.

                                            1. re: jmcarthur8
                                              mcel215 Nov 26, 2011 05:06 PM

                                              ditto on pho.

                                              Also, Trader Joe's croissants, phyllo and puff pastry.

                                            2. re: LaureltQ
                                              CanadaGirl Nov 26, 2011 06:51 PM

                                              I also agree on the pho. It's a lot of work for something that just isn't as good as what I an buy.

                                              1. re: CanadaGirl
                                                freia Nov 26, 2011 06:58 PM

                                                Word to the pho...I made it once, so not worth it. That and fresh salad rolls. If I'm picking up one, Im going to pick up the other! Like I did tonight, for dinner, but I digress...

                                            3. s
                                              small h Nov 26, 2011 11:59 AM

                                              Very similar discussion here:


                                              1. r
                                                ratgirlagogo Nov 26, 2011 11:05 AM

                                                Pizza. (I enjoy baking biscuit "pizza" in a cast-iron frypan but that's a whole different dish.) No way my home oven can get hot enough and too many great pizzerias in NYC.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: ratgirlagogo
                                                  scott123 Nov 28, 2011 02:49 AM

                                                  High temperatures for pizza certainly help, but they aren't essential. With the right stone, better than pizzeria quality NY style pizza can be made at home. Now if you're going to Keste... that's a different story. Neapolitan pizza is a lot harder for the home chef.

                                                  1. re: scott123
                                                    ratgirlagogo Dec 11, 2011 10:36 AM

                                                    I don't doubt someone can do it at home with the right stone, etc. - but that someone isn't going to be me, with half a dozen decent (and one great one - Rizzo's) pizzerias within blocks of my apt. It's not worth the effort for me, personally. As opposed to something like, oh, roast chicken or steak that is usually going to be better and always going to be cheaper than a restaurant. And dead easy as well.

                                                2. monavano Nov 26, 2011 11:00 AM

                                                  Pumpkin pie, for sure.
                                                  Hot and sour soup-- couldn't even begin to make it for what I pay for it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: monavano
                                                    marymac Dec 11, 2011 12:22 PM

                                                    Ditto on the pumpkin pie and hot and sour soup. Have had many soup recipes and they don't quite hit the mark. I find canned pumpkin superior to making from fresh.

                                                  2. drongo Nov 26, 2011 10:44 AM

                                                    Phyllo dough. It's possible to make from scratch with no equipment other than a rolling pin... but I think this is something where the industrial equipment has an advantage.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: drongo
                                                      Jasz Nov 26, 2011 11:15 PM

                                                      Store-bought phyllo and the one that my mom/aunts/etc. make at home seem like two entirely different entities to me; both the taste and textures are completely different. We usually use the homemade phyllo for full-size pitas (not the bread, the pies) and store-bought for the individual sized ones. I actually can't image HOW to make the paper-thin store-bought phyllo at home.

                                                      1. re: Jasz
                                                        sandylc Nov 27, 2011 07:55 PM

                                                        I envision it to be similar to making strudel dough, which you can occasionally see being made on television. It is stretched carefully over a tablecloth-covered table until you can see through it. I am not that patient.

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