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

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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?

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  1. 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

      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

        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.

    2. 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

        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. 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

          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

            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.

          1. 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: jmcarthur8

                ditto on pho.

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

              2. re: LaureltQ

                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

                  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. 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

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

                  1. re: linguafood

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                      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.

                  2. 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

                      +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

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

                      2. +1 to frozen petite peas.

                        Also peeled frozen pearl onions.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Karl S

                          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

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

                            1. re: monavano

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

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

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: escondido123

                              Ooh condiments!

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

                              1. re: MplsM ary

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

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

                                        1. 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. 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

                                              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

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

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Firegoat

                                                  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

                                                    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. 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

                                                    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. 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!!