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What foods have you made and then decided store bought was good enough, thank you, based upon cost, time, and taste?

For me:
1) beef jerky
2) cranberry sauce

Riffing off this thread on only-had-from-a-can:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/979517

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  1. I've been known to buy a rotisserie chicken. And Oreos. And mayonnaise. All things I can make, with varying degrees of success (she says, defensively).

    7 Replies
    1. re: monfrancisco

      I dont think store bough rotisserie and home roasted are in the same category... home roasted is vastly better imo

      1. re: kpaxonite

        I usually think of GC* rotisserie as an ingredient.

        * older daughter used to think we said "the Go See Store." Which morphed into " the GC" for our entire extended family.

        1. re: kpaxonite

          We live in the land of Publix supermarkets & their chicken makes it easy for you to forego the time & mess of making it yourself.

        2. re: monfrancisco

          I made mayonnaise once, and it tasted exactly like, well, mayonnaise. That was the end of that.

          1. re: plasticanimal

            My mayonnaise never tastes like Hellman's/Best Foods – eggier and richer, and then I usually drop a peeled clove or two of garlic into the running Cuisinart at the beginning, too. But for everyday use or in coleslaw/macaroni salad dressing, it's the jar for me.

            I definitely agree on rotisserie chicken as an ingredient. After a little experimentation, buying one or two is the first step to my making a batch of chicken enchiladas.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Absolutely concur, Will. If your freshly made mayo tastes anything like what comes from the jar, there's something seriously wrong with your recipe (or the ingredients).

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Will Owen

                Hellman's/Best Foods has sugar in it. Totally unnecessary. I buy Duke's or Kraft Home style(Brown lid on the jar) no sugar in either.

          2. - Agreed on the cranberry sauce.
            - Homemade jam/preserves. Unless you grow your own fruit or get a special deal, it's expensive to make. I'd also make special ingredient/spice combos, but never again a simple preserve like raspberry. TJ's is better than mine.
            Applesauce is cheaper storebought, too, but I make it because I think the flavor of homemade is worth it.
            - Pumpkin pie. Costco's is 12" diameter, $6, and tasty. Plus, to quote Garrison Keillor, "The best pumpkin pie you have ever tasted isn't all that different from the worst."

            9 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              Yes to costco's pumpkin pie! And most of their pie's, in fact.

              No to saying no to homemade jams. I make my own, buying fruit on sale and without pectin and they are way better and way cheaper than store bought.

              I make strawberry, nectarine, apricot and strawberry jams. Also apple, apricot or fig butter.

              However for raspberries? Yes, I too buy TJ's.

              1. re: greygarious

                Yes, pumpkin pie. It's not a favourite but I do enjoy it once a year at the usual time. For a while I played around with trying/tweaking different recipes, but I don't make my own pie crust anyway, and eventually realized that I am totally happy with standard recipe grocery store pumpkin pie.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I add butter to my home made applesauce, which definitely elevates it above store-bought. (Ingredients are apples, a little butter, a little apple juice). However, I only make it on special occasions, and rely most often on store bought. I almost never make jams or preserves and we don't eat that much of them. However, I really should make plum jam this year given my once again overly prolific back yard plum tree ....

                  I more or less agree with the quote about the taste of pumpkin pie, but unless we are discussing cooking the pumpkin from scratch, they really aren't much trouble to make.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    DH would love some of those plums, remember.....he is a plum guy!

                    Disagree on the pie, sorry. I like pumpkin pie that I've made myself. Our mom actually taught me a cooking secret about the pie that works and that I've remembered (I know, hard to believe). She claimed that the standard recipe on the Libby's can has too much liquid (evaporated milk) and to cut it by almost half. I do so and I think she's right...it makes for a little denser pie, but I like denser. And of course I always add more cinnamon and cloves than called for....

                    1. re: janetofreno

                      I also much prefer a homemade pumpkin pie. And I add more ground ginger (and cloves) to the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe.

                  2. re: greygarious

                    TOTALLY Agree on the pumpkin pie, I've tried many of them and they all taste pretty much the same to me!

                    1. re: greygarious

                      I'm going to have to disagree with old Gary. I have a cousin who brought his homemade pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. It was calfshit yellow, and against me better judgement, I tasted it. It looked better than it tasted.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        I buy a regionally made freezer jam called Freezerves that pretty much tastes exactly like my homemade jam. Saves me the mess and cleanup and it's available year-round.

                        1. re: gmm

                          not to mention the fruit fly mess and hot kitchen

                      2. Pie
                        Ice Cream
                        Gelato
                        Tortillas
                        Cookies
                        All condiments except salad dressing.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: emglow101

                          I always think that ice cream is very easy to make and gives you much better results than store bought. Just today we made raspberry mint sorbet which was much better (smooth consistency nearly like gelato with very small crystals, great flavor) than any commercial product like the raspberry sorbet from Haagen-Dasz

                          1. re: honkman

                            I made Orange Curd ice cream a week ago and it was subtle and lovely. I got the idea from making Nathalie Dupree's Lemon Curd ice cream. That was heavenly stuff.

                          1. re: magiesmom

                            I couldn't disagree more on ricotta. It's incredibly easy to make, tastes 10000x better than store-bought, and it's pretty darn cheap if you get your milk at Costco. I can make about two pounds for around $4 - it would cost me at least twice that to buy it.

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              what recipe/culture do you use? I keep wanting to try it, but haven't quite convinced myself I can pull it off...I don't exactly live in a cheese-friendly environment.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                I just acidify hot milk with vinegar (white or ACV) - about 1/4-1/2 cup per gallon of milk. I add the smaller amount of vinegar as the milk is reaching 180, then allow it to come up to around 183. If I haven't gotten a "clean break" at that point (i.e., the whey is greenish and translucent, no longer milky), I add a little more vinegar and allow it to heat a little more (a degree or two) until I get a good break. Then I turn off the heat and let it sit a few minutes, then drain. I've recently started doing this with my sous vide circulator in plastic bags, which makes it super easy (no more scorched milk to scrub off the bottom of the pan!).

                                However, I think the real magic of ricotta happens after it's drained. I drain it for about 20-30 minutes, until it's fairly dry and crumbly, and then I add salt and heavy cream to taste - the crumbly curds absorb the cream beautifully and you have total control over the final texture this way, while adding lots of rich creamy flavor. I've even added half and half in a pinch and it's good. I use whole milk to make the curds but I don't like to add cream at that point - the extra fat makes the curds pasty. Better to add it at the end so you can decide exactly how thick/stiff/soft/runny you want it.

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  thanks -- I'll have to keep this until I get my courage screwed up enough to try it..!

                          2. Aged cheeses.
                            Distilled alcohol.
                            Canned chipotles in adobo.
                            Canned tomatoes (Going to break into pressure canning this year, though with the amount that gets used in this household, storage may be an issue.)
                            Cured meats.
                            Ketchup.

                            1. Cranberry sauce was the first thing to pop into my mind, too; it's exactly the same - except homemade doesn't look like the inside of a can. Also ranch dressing and baked beans.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: souixzea

                                My cranberry sauce never comes out like canned. I must not be cooking it long enough or something.

                                1. re: ennuisans

                                  Mine either. I've always blamed it on the booze.

                                  In the sauce, people. The booze in the sauce!

                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                    I don't even use booze, just what the package says: water, sugar (1 cup each I think it is), simmer the berries until they pop. It never gels like the canned stuff at all, and is much more tart.

                                    1. re: ennuisans

                                      I used to make the package recipe, but one holiday I had some brandy from another recipe sitting on the counter and I thought "hmm... that would totally work in here." And it did. Since then I've added Cointreau ('natch), bourbon, vodka and even tequila. Wild Turkey is a favorite add-in, because of the humor.

                                      Tequila takes a special crowd to appreciate it.

                                      1. re: ennuisans

                                        We always add orange juice and orange zest.

                                2. Baked apples - Stouffer's does a darn good job for $2.00. Butter and ricotta come to mind also. Ice cream is just too expensive to make.

                                    1. re: grampart

                                      My grandma taught me to make excellent pie crust.

                                      I used roll-out dough for an office potluck when I was out of time and everybody raved about how great the crust was.

                                      I still make the crust if the pie is really special -- but if I keep a couple of crusts in the fridge, things like quiches, tarts, and pot pies become fast enough to feed a hungry family on a week night.

                                      1. re: grampart

                                        I have the opposite experience. Used to make my own pie crust but in late years have been buying Pillsbury for quiche, which I make a lot of. Last week, instead, made pate' brisee and noticed an interesting difference---pre-baking the crust, the bought tends much more to puff up and get misshapen---the homemade stayed put, so that, pouring in the quiche mixture, it was less likely to run behind the crust and make a mess. Am now re-converted to homemade. In the Cuisinart it took no time.

                                      2. Almond butter
                                        Tofu
                                        Soy milk
                                        Graham crackers

                                        1. Tortillas, both flour and corn.
                                          Sheets of philo dough.
                                          Nacho cheese sauce.
                                          Candy.
                                          Ice cream.
                                          Bread sticks and pretzels.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                            You've MADE phyllo? Wow.
                                            How many hours did that take!?

                                            1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                              It was a natural progression from making strudel dough. While it worked in Europe, a sticky failure in high humidity Florida.

                                              This was during my "everything from scratch" phase of culinary exploration.

                                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                yeahh....strudel dough only works in Florida if you have a dry day.

                                                Even the A/C isn't much help.

                                            2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                              My Armenian neighbor was kind enough to let me help her make phyllo with her when I was in junior high school. Even as I was doing it I was kind of thinking that I didn't like baklava enough to go through all that work. I've changed my mind about a lot of things since then, but not that - I still think it's too much work for the end result, for me.

                                              Now cranberry sauce which several people have mentioned is something we always make fresh. Mr Rat makes an awesome cranberry-orange dressing and it's way, way better than anything from a can.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  I like cranberry sauce. Any other ideas of what to do with it other than serve it along side turkey at Thanksgiving.

                                                  1. re: emglow101

                                                    I make it to put it on turkey sandwiches afterward.

                                                    Fold it into a basic quick bread batter to make cranberry bread.

                                                    Stir it into plain yogurt, or use it as a sauce for a custard pie, over ice cream, or over a pecan pie.

                                                    Put it in a shaker with vodka and ice for a nifty drink.

                                                    Spoon it over Brie, wrap the whole thing in pastry and have a gorgeous brie en croute.

                                                    Spoon it over cream cheese and serve on crackers.

                                                    Sorry, that's all I've got off the top of my head! :)

                                                    1. re: emglow101

                                                      With hot meatloaf, and a favorite cold sandwich is meat loaf with cream cheese and cranberry sauce on potato bread.

                                                      Costco's turkey roller wrap is spread with cream cheese mixed with cranberry sauce - it MAKES the wrap.

                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        Wow g, that meatloaf sandwich sounds awesome!

                                                        We love those wraps but the package is just too big and we end up throwing some away.

                                                      2. re: emglow101

                                                        Sometimes we have cranberry sauce as a substitute for lingonberry sauce to accompany Swedish meatballs.

                                                        1. re: emglow101

                                                          Mix it with BBQ sauce, heat, add Li'l Smokies, and serve for a once-a-year offering on Superbowl Sunday. I live, obviously, in a Magic House.

                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                          Me three. To me it's the direct opposite of what's being asked: it is really easy to make and tastes infinitely better than what you buy.

                                                          Tomato soup - it'll use up several plants worth of tomatoes to boot.

                                                        3. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                          Years ago I asked a Greek friend's mother how to make phyllo dough...Mrs. M was a wonderful, wonderful, cook, and I was all about the spanikopita. She said, "Here is how you make phyllo dough. Buy phyllo dough at store. Is better."

                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                            Me too. It really is a no brainer. If you do make your own try substituting zinfandel for water. Really good.

                                                        4. Interesting answers. When I could buy the cranberry sauce/salad from my local grocer, I'd do that. Now that I live elsewhere, I've made the very easy cranberry orange relish in JOC, and I prefer that to any thing else, cranberry wise.

                                                          I decided many years ago that grease spattered counters and lengthy cleanup was not worth me frying a chicken. I've not done this in decades. I do buy fried chicken from time to time.

                                                          Also, many years ago, I decided that jarred spaghetti sauce, if I bought the good brand, would suffice. I really don't make spaghetti sauce. (I don't use tomato sauce of any stripe very often now because I restrict my carb intake.)

                                                          I don't eat potatoes very often any more. Mr. Sueatmo loves mashed potatoes, and you can see where this is going. I buy potato flakes in the pouch for him, and I taste them every time I make them. They don't taste like real mashed potatoes, but they taste pretty good, IMO.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                            I think the pre-made mashed potatoes, usually found in the meat dept. are pretty good. I live in OH, and can get Bob Evans brand in the grocery store, I have no problem with them

                                                                1. re: happybaker

                                                                  I have told this story on CH before: but a number of years ago at a Sedar I served two types of gefilte fish: from the jar, and some freshly house made that I spent a small fortune for at my local high end fishmonger. The group was split completely along cultural and religious lines: those of us who came from Jewish households and grew up eating the stuff from the jar, ranked it as much better (and it is a LOT cheaper when purchased on sale). However, every person who was tasting gefilte fish for the first time, definitely preferred the 'homemade' version.

                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                    When I was a teenager 45 years ago, I had an annual task to drive to the Bronx and bring my maternal grandmother and her batch of homemade gefilte fish to my parents' home in Connecticut for Passover.
                                                                    We loved having grandma for the holidays, but everyone hated the fish. This is one recipe we are all glad died with grandma in 1991.

                                                                    That said, I do make gefilte fish from scratch for the holidays and do not eat or like jarred commercial, BUT Mrs. B grew up eating jarred fish and does eat it as a quick lunch a couple of time each month.

                                                                  1. butter
                                                                    ice cream/sorbet
                                                                    yogurt
                                                                    most condiments, except for salad dressings
                                                                    bread (I don't eat bread, but DH does, and I typically don't have much wheat flour on hand)
                                                                    fried chicken
                                                                    rotisserie chicken as an ingredient for chicken salad
                                                                    tomato sauce
                                                                    puff pastry

                                                                    1. The first thing that came to mind was split chickpeas (chana dal). Never again. You use a ton of water to rinse them and then endless energy to cook them for hours.

                                                                      I'll probably never make chicken wings again. Mine are great, but if I'm going to take in those kind of calories, I have to admit to myself that oven-baked wings don't really give you that Buffalo wing satisfaction, and I'm never going to deep fry in my home, for safety reasons.

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: plasticanimal

                                                                        You should try the AB method for oven wings some time. Super-crispy, and really not that much work.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            I honestly could not believe how crispy the skin got, and how close it was to being fried. Plus you can create your own hot sauce :-)

                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                              all of the above -- we made them for a backyard party, and one of the French guests who'd never had wings before proclaimed "Wow -- these would be great with beer!" We enthusiastically agreed with him...we didn't dare let on that yeah, us Yanks had figured that out....

                                                                              An enormous batch of wings vanished in minutes -- the Buffalo spicing is almost always a favorite with Europeans.

                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                              AB's wing recipe - process, really - results in better wings than I've ever had in Buffalo: tender, moist, and with less fat. Until you add the butter/Tabasco/hotsauce sauce, that is.

                                                                                1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                  Yes -- they still have fat, but they're not slimy or greasy.

                                                                                  Also works great for parties, because you can leave some uncoated for kids and those who don't like/want the sauce, and they're still really tasty.

                                                                          2. I'm surprised to see people not wanting to make cranberry sauce at home since it takes about two minutes. 1) Bring a cup of water and a cup of sugar to a boil, dump in a bag of cranberries, and simmer briefly. 2) In Cuisinart put a bag of cranberries, a cup of sugar, and 1 orange cut up. Process. How hard is any of this? The bought stuff just doesn't have the flavor.

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                                              publix sells that fresh cranberry salsa at holiday time. my mom always had to get some. it is so refreshing and a perfect tart-sweet foil for roast poultry.

                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                Agreed. Plus, I find the canned stuff to be too sweet. We prefer it a bit more tart in my family (and without any orange, please and thank you!)

                                                                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                  This is my reasoning as well - canned cranberry sauce is so sweet to me it sets my teeth on edge. Homemade, I can tinker with how much sugar and I also add some fresh lemon juice. I also prefer the more opaque/chunky look and feel compared with the jello-like look and consistency of canned. Sort of like the difference between homemade flan and jello flan (which I cannot stomach).

                                                                                2. re: Querencia

                                                                                  I don't put them in the Cuisinart -- I simmer til they all pop - we prefer the rougher texture.

                                                                                  I also use a large apple in place of some of the sugar -- sweetness and a little pectin to help hold it all together.

                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    We are also in the natural texture camp, but I never thought of the apple. That is a great idea, will have to try.

                                                                                  2. re: Querencia

                                                                                    I don't like whole berry or chunky styles.
                                                                                    And I don't want added orange flavour.
                                                                                    So the ridged can style is best for me!

                                                                                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                      You and my mother. We always buy her a can of the gel stuff. She's the only one who eats it, but she loves it that one time of year.

                                                                                      1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                        My in-laws provided a can for me one T-day, because they knew I liked it. BUT they mushed it up in a bowl so it didn't look like a can. Ruined the whole experience. I like the homemade stuff just fine, but the can is the best.

                                                                                        1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                          i love homemade and the can. gee, now i've gotta make a turkey and dressing sandwich -- with cranberry sauce. some company used to make a cranberry mustard which was really nice. i haven't seen it in years.

                                                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                            Hi NonnieMuss,

                                                                                            Mom's just the same. She prefers it sliced. :-)

                                                                                            Duffy

                                                                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                              yeah, mashed up is just heresy!!!!

                                                                                              ~~~~~~~
                                                                                              one year we were invited to t-day dinner and they had NO CRANBERRY sauce of any kind. THAT was a drag.

                                                                                      2. Empanada dough. When I was a girl living in South America, one day our neighbor undertook to teach me how to make it. She had her maid carry the marble-topped table outdoors under the grape arbor and laboriously worked hand-chopped suet and egg yolk into the flour, etc, then rolled and rolled and rolled. Years later I did it her way exactly once. It took ALL day. Now I buy frozen empanada dough pre-rolled out and pre- cut into discs. Is it as good? No. But, lacking marble-topped table, grape arbor, and willing maid, I make do with it.

                                                                                        1. Made puf pastry once. Not at all difficult, but VERY time comsuming. Was very tasty, but P-farm stuff works for me.

                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                            I enjoy making puff pastry. I have it down to about 20 minutes work.

                                                                                            1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                              I don't think I could EVER get regular puff pastry down to 20 minutes!

                                                                                              But Nick Malgieri has a fast version that does take just 15 minutes, and it's tasty.

                                                                                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/qu...

                                                                                              Still, those pre-frozen sheets are handy...

                                                                                              1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                I worked as a baker for a few years in college and for a few years after so I have more than the usual experience. Mixing the dough takes about 10 minutes and then the folding procedures can a be accomplished in the other 10 minutes.

                                                                                                We made 20 lbs a night, every night. I have a lot of experience.

                                                                                                I hate to deep fry anything at home because of the cleanup that is required.

                                                                                                1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                  20 pounds a night. Every night. Yow do you have experience!!!!

                                                                                                  After that, I can see how making a pound of it would be "just" a pound, easy peasy : )

                                                                                                  Do you do it all by hand, or do you use a food processor or mixer as well?

                                                                                                  1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                    I make the dough up with my kitchen-aid. I beat the butter into submission with a rolling pin and start folding.

                                                                                                    We used a sheeter to thin the butter to proper thickness out but I don't have that luxury at home.

                                                                                                    We had to make 5 different kinds of doughs for sweets, plus bread and various cookie doughs. Then there were the cake and muffin batters. It all had to be either finished or baking by 8am.

                                                                                                    We were very busy, especially if someone called in sick.

                                                                                                    1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                      Wow. And my friends think I'm brave because I make my own pie crust versus buying, and make my own jam as well. You put me to shame!

                                                                                                      What time did you have to begin to get all that done?

                                                                                                      1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                        We started between 10-11pm on most nights. The morning rush started later on the weekends so it was a bit slower and more relaxed. Im still very much a night person and there are some days at work that I miss baking.

                                                                                                        I don't have a sweet tooth any more because after you've worked with sweets for that long your taste for sugar just gets burnt out.

                                                                                                        I love to see the reaction on someone's face when they enjoy what I made but its not something that I enjoy eating myself.

                                                                                                        I like to make pie crust but its the filling the gives me fits.

                                                                                                        Ive never tried to make my own jam.

                                                                                                        1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                          Kelli -

                                                                                                          Your post on the timing is why I buy my croissants, not make them! And you've proven the "Time to make the donuts" commercials true!

                                                                                                          Pies too make me shake a bit in fear - unless it's a pumpkin pie or, a crostada. Somehow when it's a "flat" pie I feel less fear.

                                                                                                          Jam making is easy, just a bit of time for a jam that would cost 3 to 4 times more at least and wouldn't be as good. Then again, I live by a grocery with great produce and great sales. I might not be so wiling if it wasn't for that!

                                                                                            2. re: kseiverd

                                                                                              heads-up to those of you who await the yearly arrival of puff pastry at trader joe's...if you have a wegmans near you, they have a store brand of puff pastry that is made with butter and under $6 for a one pound package and is available year-round.

                                                                                              http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/sto...

                                                                                              1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                                I tried making puff pastry once. There was an extraordinary amount of mess and swearing involved. The results were a disappointment--dense and soggy and not very puffy.

                                                                                                Maybe I could get good at it if I invested the time and effort, but I'll never know, because that one try convinced me that to me, it's not worth it. There's a good local bakery that sells it frozen--that's what I use now.

                                                                                                Now, pie crust...that's different. If I ever bought that, my mother would come back and haunt me. Can't have that. I've put a lot of time and effort into getting as good at it as she was. My pie crust is damn good now, but I'll probably never be totally satisfied--it can always be better.

                                                                                                We each have our own culinary quests, I guess!

                                                                                                1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                  Yes, puff pastry is one of those things that really does require practice and some skill.

                                                                                                  While my puff pastry is certainly better than anything I can buy, even the very nicest all butter brands, it's very much something I only do on special occasions (notably, Easter). Buying is easier, faster, and avoids the catastrophic effort and incredible kitchen mess (think flour everywhere) for results that are acceptable in view of what's wanted. I'll make my own if I want the *ultimate* quality, but that's rare compared to everyday needs.

                                                                                              2. Roast beets. I'm perfectly happy to use the canned ones -- unless i need them slightly underdone, of course.

                                                                                                1. Pierogies. You can spend 3 hours making them, or buy the exact same thing in the Mrs. T's box.

                                                                                                  +1 on pie crust (not that Pet-Ritz is the best possible pie crust, but it sure beats my terrible pie crusts that also require 45 minutes of cleaning the kitchen after making them).

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: travelmad478

                                                                                                    Totally agree on the pie crust, but not so much on the pierogies. The fresh made, to me, are WAY better than Mrs.T's. If you would have said Millie's, I would agree.
                                                                                                    http://www.milliespierogi.com/

                                                                                                    1. re: travelmad478

                                                                                                      Making pierogies are only worthwhile if you are making 3-4 dozen. I buy Mrs Ts or get them at the Westside Market in Cleveland.

                                                                                                      1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                        mrs ts doesn't make meat-filled pierogies. i make them every couple of years so that i can have the fillings that i like and can't buy. i'm fortunate to live near russian and polish delis/groceries and churches. they have multiple varieties of pierogies- from machine stamped to home-made dough and fillings. not, cheap, the homemade ones, but darn tasty.

                                                                                                    2. Fried chicken and donuts. I'm sure glad I acquired a used deep fryer free rather than buying a new one ;)

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                        a new take on chicken 'n waffles? :) i can just see it... fried boneless chicken placed between a buttered, halved, glazed donut.

                                                                                                      2. Kris, the two items you listed are two that I always think are easier and better when I make them.

                                                                                                        However, the items I think are easier to buy: mayonnaise, gnocchi, tortillas.

                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: thinks too much

                                                                                                          and tamales.

                                                                                                          I made hundreds of little cocktail-sized tamales for my ex's birthday party. He and all of the other born-in-Texas folks raved about how good they are, but I will never make another tamale as long as I live. I rolled tamales for DAYS.

                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            Next time, just make one tamal the size of a picnic table and give everybody a fork!

                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                              Nope. No next time. I'll order them shipped in if I have to have tamales.

                                                                                                              (No longer married to a Texan, either, so not much call....)

                                                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              We LOVE making tamales with guests. We invite our friends to come over at 5, and have the corn shucks, masa, chicken, peppers, and achiote lined up on the counter. One person pats the masa onto the husk, then come the fillings, and the last person rolls the tamale and stacks in the pot. We are finished and have them on the stove by 6. I always have my chips, salsas, quac, and beverages out, and every one noshes until the tamales are done.

                                                                                                              I freshen the salsas, etc., add a green salad topped with pomegranate seeds, and there is our dinner! Way fun social evening with friends. I've done this with young families, empty-nester friends, grandmas, and everyone loves the experience.

                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  "by yourself? It's the suck."

                                                                                                                  Took the words right out of my mouth. As I said somewhere in this thread, tamales are a Christmas/holiday food for a reason. The party prep Vosfan describes is of course what makes them such a great party food - and as you said, the worst if you're going to try and make them alone. Much like children, tamales etc. take a village.

                                                                                                          2. I've just come to terms with canned refried beans that I'll mildly doctor up are cheaper, easier, and far tastier than anything I make using dried or canned beans.

                                                                                                            And then just about anything deep fried.

                                                                                                            1. Hot dog and burger buns (can't get them soft enough at home)
                                                                                                              Multi-grain bread (see above)
                                                                                                              Mayonnaise
                                                                                                              Taquitos
                                                                                                              Pasta noodles (ravioli is different)
                                                                                                              Ice cream
                                                                                                              Baked beans (we like to mix varieties of Bush's Grillin' beans)

                                                                                                              I'm apparently a lonely voice on cranberry sauce. I can't abide the canned stuff. The flavor and texture is just wrong. Plus, it usually has stems. 'Nough said.

                                                                                                              1. 1) Mayo
                                                                                                                2) Baked goods of most any variety
                                                                                                                3) Veggie burgers. Lord knows I've tried many recipes, but I'll take store bought over my results any day.
                                                                                                                4) Dill pickles
                                                                                                                5) Tomato paste!

                                                                                                                1. Samosa wrappers. Always made my own until an older Indian woman was a guest and was aghast that I "still" did that. She said "all my family buys wonton wrappers"--doh. Have used wonton wrappers ever since, with no great loss in taste.

                                                                                                                  1. Canned Gigantes in tomato and dill sauce. Way better than what I've made from scratch.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: prima

                                                                                                                      What brand? I love the gigantes at Zorba's.

                                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                        Usually Zanae, but I noticed Serano on Pape has at least 3 different brands available right now. Think I might buy each brand to compare. I just add a little chopped fresh dill after heating.

                                                                                                                    2. This could be a long list if I just open my cupboards and look, but my top 3 based on effort, mess and time are:
                                                                                                                      Pasta
                                                                                                                      Anything deep fried
                                                                                                                      Most baked goods

                                                                                                                      ETA: crab cakes and remoulade - too much chopping into fine dice and picking through the crab meat. Never again!

                                                                                                                      1. Dim sum
                                                                                                                        Mayo
                                                                                                                        Chinese stuffed bao-once was enough
                                                                                                                        Hot sauce
                                                                                                                        Chopped chicken livers with schmaltz
                                                                                                                        Cassoulet
                                                                                                                        Puff pastry
                                                                                                                        Pate
                                                                                                                        Cold smoked anything
                                                                                                                        Brains - too much work picking out the veins

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: tomishungry

                                                                                                                          What stores do you frequent that have deveined brains? And how much are they usually? Is it by weight? Or IQ points?

                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                            Err....all the store bought brains have the veins in them. Restaurants will generally clean them up. Hopefully.

                                                                                                                            1. re: tomishungry

                                                                                                                              Right.

                                                                                                                              But the question from the OP was store bought versus homemade.

                                                                                                                              Not store bought versus restaurant.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                You know, the butcher shop in chinatown ny would clean out the veins if you paid the premium. Long time ago. Haven't the faintest if they'll still do that. Haven't been able to eat organ meats since gout took me out of the game.

                                                                                                                        2. Just thought of another two:

                                                                                                                          Ketchup
                                                                                                                          Mustard (any kind)

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                            I actually don't even like it when places get all fancy and do a house ketchup. For me the flavour balance never matches good ol' Heinz (the Canadian version still uses sugar, not HFCS). I've only encountered one exception to that, a smoky version that is quite good while still being ketchup. But the "house mushroom ketchup" was actually the only downside at a really good recent gastropubby type meal (sous vide burger etc).

                                                                                                                          2. I once followed the cranberry sauce recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries. I was so proud of my pretty homemade cranberry sauce, but it tasted no better and no worse than the can of whole bean sauce. I don't need another pot to wash on Thanksgiving, so I am happy to buy the can.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: Tara57

                                                                                                                              I'm with you, I've made the bag recipe, and it's very good, but most of it ends up in the trash. A little cranberry sauce goes a long way with only 2 or 3 of us.

                                                                                                                            2. Fried chicken. Too messy to make at home.

                                                                                                                              Spaghetti sauce. I haven't purchased jarred spaghetti sauce in I don't know how long. Although I still always have canned tomato puree, and usually start from there, unless I can find good local tomatoes.

                                                                                                                              Pasta. Well, I've not yet made it. I just know I wouldn't want to do so.

                                                                                                                              Ketchup and mustard. Although I do make a very good plum ketchup when they're local. Freezes easily so I can enjoy throughout the winter.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                I make pan-fried chicken about once a year. Mostly because of the gravy. The gravy at the deli counter where we otherwise buy fried chicken just cannot compare to homemade. Of course it's also a bit of nostalgia because I learned how to cook it from my mother.

                                                                                                                                It's a milk based country gravy. Last year, I took leftover fried chicken and gavy and put it in a pie crust and baked it. No vegetables, just chicken and gravy. My fsther said he thought he was going to see my mom soon, because he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. I suppose I should make that again sometime.

                                                                                                                                1. Chilles Relenos. They were perfect, tasted JUST like the ones we get at fav Mexican restaurant, but very labor intensive. I'll wait til we go there from now on. Just the prep on the poblano peppers is a time consuming mess. I would use them for lots of dishes were they not.

                                                                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                                      heh -- we crossposted the tamales! :)

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Nanzi

                                                                                                                                      It's not prepping the peppers for me, it's the battering and the deep frying. Rellenos, and fried chicken and beer-battered cod, and tamales, and raviolis - these are all things that are not quicker or easier to make if you're only making a few of them. They are party dishes and it hardly seems worth the trouble if you're only making them for two people. Tamales are a Christmas tradition for a reason - you can really use some extra hands and it's probably actually easier to make 50 or 100 than it is to make six.
                                                                                                                                      All the things I just mentioned are fantastic holiday party dishes, especially if you have the kind of friends (or friends with kids, even better) who enjoy helping out. They were designed as holiday dishes for a reason. Now that's a fun party!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                                        <you can really use some extra hands and it's probably actually easier to make 50 or 100 than it is to make six.>

                                                                                                                                        That's how I feel about lasagne. We're only two, without a lot of freezer space. I don't mind making it for a crowd on Christmas Eve, but for just us? I have to psych myself up to make skillet lasagne for us. That's pathetic.

                                                                                                                                        But I don't like the stuff in the freezer case, either. We don't get a lot of lasagne around my house.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                          Locally we have these jumbo ricotta-filled ravioli that aren't bad. I'll make extra for a meal, then make "lasagne" in large ramekins from the leftovers. It's way less daunting and truly, not bad.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                                            Thanks, julesrules. I always forget about ravioli lasagne. When Mom lived here she used to sweet talk me into making stuffed shells (basically the same thing, yeah?) about once a month. Oh, how I hated it. What a pain, stuffing those damn shells!

                                                                                                                                            I had just bought some flat lasagne noodles to make faux manicotti instead of the shell hassle, then she up and went to stay with my bro in Hawaii.

                                                                                                                                            I could totally layer some big-ass cheese ravioli with some tomato sauce and mozz, no problem. Dude would die and go to manly heaven. Thanks for the reminder! :-)

                                                                                                                                          2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                            I used to just make it in an 8x8 cake pan, with the no-boil noodles.

                                                                                                                                            Worked well when we were just 2. (We now have teenagers, so a flatbed truck isn't enough....)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                              I hear ya! I used to have this thing called "leftovers" that I could bring to work but not anymore...

                                                                                                                                              1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                yeah, I'm genuinely struggling with that right now....hubs and I hate going out every day for lunch, but there's not often anything left to take, so I'm upping the quantities I fix. So far, I still haven't managed to get it right.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                  Unless you package up the leftovers and hide them before serving dinner, you'll never get it right, in my experience. Teenage appetites expand to accommodate availability!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                      Nope. See bionandima's comment above.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                        Oops - forgot about your post about having teenagers. Hollow legs, with extra storage. Never mind.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                                              fyi, i just tried delicious ravioli from drake's -- the spinach and cheese version (still have a plain cheese version to try). i got it at harris teeter. http://www.drakesfreshpasta.com/drakes/

                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                the mushroom's really tasty, too.

                                                                                                                                          3. For us it is pasta sauce. If I am inviting others to join us I'll make my own. At the end of a busy and tiring day the bottle of sauce on my pantry shelf is a quick and tasty dinner.

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                              Same. I always have a few jars of sauce in the pantry for those 'I juts don't want to cook' nights when all I am willing to do is boil some pasta, drain, and pour sauce over for a quick dinner.

                                                                                                                                              If I want to make the effort, I'll brown some onions, mushrooms, and ground beef and add jarred sauce.

                                                                                                                                              Made from scratch is a whole different beast - what I make isn't so much a red sauce as a meat sauce that involves several hours of cooking, starting deep deep carmelization of the onions. I probably only make this a couple of times a year but make enough that I can freeze 1/2 of it and pull it out again a month later for another round.

                                                                                                                                                1. Mayo, yogurt, butter, vinegar

                                                                                                                                                  1. Wine. I've made wine a couple of times (using a kit, such as those at http://www.homebrewing.org/Barolo-Win... ) and its been drinkable but not as good as what I can buy for the same (or less) money.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                                                      Cheez Whiz. I once found a recipe using all the good stuff (aged cheddar etc etc). Took a while, messy, expensive for cheese and... tasted exactly like I'd opened up a bottle from the store. That was back in the day when it was a staple in the parentals' fridge -- I haven't had it in years and now I'm craving some smeared on a celery stick :-).

                                                                                                                                                    2. Chocolate (as in a plain chocolate bar). It will be noted that you do have to spend some time to find good chocolate at the shops, but the effort to do it at home is catastrophic.

                                                                                                                                                      Espresso. Same thing. You have to find a good coffeeshop but doing so at home requires very expensive machinery and takes so long to make a single shot you ask yourself why every time.

                                                                                                                                                      Croissants. Here we go again - same story. Bad ones are dire but from a top-notch bakery they will be at least as good if not better than the best you can produce while not taking a day and a half.

                                                                                                                                                      The obvious theme to me is: with poor selection when buying rather than making, it's possible to get something truly awful, so if you're going to buy, you need to be quite selective, but that can be a lot easier and less effort than DIY.

                                                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                        Espresso at home is easy- i use a stovetop Bialetti, wasn't very expensive and i make it every morning in about 5 minutes. Better than starbucks espresso (not saying much i know) and when i use good beans its pretty darn wonderful.....
                                                                                                                                                        http://www.bialettishop.com/EspressoM...

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                                                          I love my Bialetti. I even travel with it. Carrying it with my beans and hand held burr grinder.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                                                            Difference in expectations. No stovetop pot can produce a real espresso - that is, the dark, syrupy coffee with a spectacular amount of crema on top, no more than about 25 ml per shot or so. That requires a pro-grade machine and lots of fiddling.

                                                                                                                                                            Other posters have commented on tamales. I love a good tamal - agreed that they're hard to make. But if you buy, you have essentially no control over the filling - neither the quality of what goes into it nor the composition. If you're looking for a particular filling or very high quality, you're more or less stuffed. Mesa in Dallas produced the best tamales I've ever had, simply unbelievable. Unfortunately Dallas is miles away from Manchester, so that's not an option either.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                              probably shouldn't tell the Italians that their beloved stovetop pots don't make real espresso. They're pretty sure they do.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                Like anywhere else, some do, some don't. There's certainly nothing magical about Italians that makes them instantly perceive good espresso - although being in a cultural milieu where good espresso is to be had from many bars does give you a better chance.

                                                                                                                                                                Actually few Italians are going to use the word espresso anyway. In Italy, it's a caffè.

                                                                                                                                                                I've had a(n) (Italian) friend and colleague, who is fairly coffee-obsessed, say that at least from his POV the stovetop pots are good for the morning coffee - because they're convenient - but of course that the result is not to be compared with what you'll get at a bar. Which is my position as well. Not that it's necessarily definitive but it's certainly what I mean by "store bought is good enough" (or in this case better): that the end result I'm looking for is not something that without a lot of time and expensive equipment you can replicate at home, and even when you do the results hardly seem worth the effort, when it's possible to go to a good cafe instead.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                  my Italian friends (the ones who were born and still live in Italy, as well as several Italian citizens in the US) refer to the stuff that comes out of their Bialetti as espresso.

                                                                                                                                                                  YMMV.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Since I am on my own, and we were only two when DH was alive, I don't bake anymore. Add baking ingredients up and it gets expensive. I have found most supermarket bakery departments have perfectly acceptable products at reasonable prices.

                                                                                                                                                          1. Crackers. I made them once, and they were pretty good, but a lot of trouble.

                                                                                                                                                            Pumpkin pie filling. Again, I've made pumpkin pies starting from a whole pumpkin, and while they tasted ok, they were 1) a lot of work 2) watery and 3) curiously pale.

                                                                                                                                                            Moles and salsas. I can buy really good ones from a local food truck or Mexican market..

                                                                                                                                                            I occasionally make mayonnaise, and it's a lot better than store-bought, but I mostly use the latter because the homemade stuff is made in too large a quantity for regular use.

                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                                                              did you use a pie pumpkin? makes a big difference if you use a jack o'lantern.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                                                                I agree on the crackers--fiddly, and the results were just fair. I've tried 5-6 recipes, and none were worth repeating.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree on the pumpkin. Starting with a fresh pumpkin was no better, no worse than starting with purée. But, it was much more expensive back to the can I go! (But, I disagree with the post above that all pumpkin pies taste the same. No way! Mine is WAY better than Costcos)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                    You must have bought some expensive pumpkins. We get good size pie pumpkins 5 or 6 for $5 in season -- way cheaper than the can. Or big butternut squash for a couple dollars.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DebinIndiana

                                                                                                                                                                      I have NEVER seen pumpkins anywhere near that cheap! One pie pumpkin usually cost $5 or $6 here. They are a local crop, so it's not some crazy transportation cost. I wonder why there is such a difference in retail price!?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                        I should have added "farmers' market." And I maybe should add that my local farmers' market does not seem to share the frou-frou quality I find associated with them on some of these discussions -- mostly real truck farmers selling good food.

                                                                                                                                                                2. lol....when my kids were in seventh grade (same teacher a year apart) they had to make jerky as part of a social studies section on pioneer/early western living (at least it was "early" for the white men....). Anyway, the teacher sent home several recipes and they had a classroom contest to see whose was best. I guess the idea was to learn how difficult it was to preserve meat and how people managed on the wagon trains (as part of the same unit they also spent a day in snow caves on Donner Summit to get a feel for what the Donner Party went through and to learn survival skills...I refrained from the temptation to ask the teacher what was on the menu for that one..) Anyway, the jerky was a lot of work, and definitely not as good as the stuff you buy at any supermarket checkout line....Still, it all got eaten.....

                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                    Funny! I made all the jerky we ate while hiking the Appalachian Trail. We ate so much, I haven't had it in the decades since then! (Pemmican, too.)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                      Teacher missed a great opportunity to incorporate both modules into a single lesson.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                                        The grocery meat dept will slice meat thin for jerky for free. Choose a lean cut and save fatty bits for stir fry. Marinate overnight then throw on a dehydrator. I guess you can also use your oven set low, some ovens have a dehydrate setting. Pretty easy and you can customize flavor, much better than chemically tasting commercial jerky. Make sure to spray trays lightly with Pam for easy clean up. Also do not overdry, it probably doesn't keep as well as very drye d but I like the softer texture and it gets eaten very fast anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. "fresh" pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, I've made homemade pasta. And I've made them more than a few times. But it's a lot of work and I haven't fallen in love with them and much prefer to run to the local Italian gourmet store and buy their fresh pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                        Plain tomato sauce. The jarred kind from some brands are perfectly fine.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. prepared fresh horseradish

                                                                                                                                                                          from now on a little jar will do me just fine

                                                                                                                                                                          1. baked beans
                                                                                                                                                                            tortillas
                                                                                                                                                                            mayonnaise
                                                                                                                                                                            tamales
                                                                                                                                                                            phyllo dough
                                                                                                                                                                            croissants
                                                                                                                                                                            ricotta

                                                                                                                                                                            1. This departs from the prompt, a bit, but there are some food items that are close to impossible to make with typical home equipment. On my mind:

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Gyro meat or any other ethnic variation (Döner kebab, al pastor) which requires shaving meat from a vertical rotisserie. Although I still have yet to try my notion that one might cook this sort of thing with a blowtorch at home.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Pressure-fried chicken, as they have at KFC and Popeye's.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Pretty much anything deep fried. I just hate doing that at home. Such a mess, and by the time all is said and done, I could have saved myself the aggravation and smelly home had I just gone out.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. 1. Disagree with the pumpkin pie people. If you are talking about Costco vs home baked using that slimy stuff in the can, then yes. But if you are talking about roasting the fresh, smallish, lovely pie pumpkins yourself, quality spices, and a perfect homemade crust - that brings pumpkin pie to a whole new level of deliciousness.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Balsamic reduction. I buy in the bottle from TJ's. If I make home made, I always have to do two batches, because I am SURE to ruin the first. :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                  3. If baking for a gang of kids, I will always use Duncan Hines brownie mix. Cheaper than premium ingredients, and I really like them!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: VosFan

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have no idea why people like the Costco pumpkin pie. yes I've eaten it and I'm sorry but the crust doesn't even compare and neither does the filling.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. rolled chicken tacos. Mine are great, but nobody else seems to be able to tell the difference, so I no longer make the effort. But they weren't available in the 1980s when I was making them.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                        Really? What part about it did you think wasn't worth it?

                                                                                                                                                                                        I find all beef stocks bought at the shops are worse than rubbish. Invariably very insipid in taste, and far too salty. Almost always too watery too.

                                                                                                                                                                                        And beef stock is a doddle to make: Get some very cheap off-cuts, with a reasonable amount of gelatinous bone (shin is good), briefly brown, add some water, perhaps a carrot, an onion, and some celery, bring to a simmer, leave alone for several hours. Drain and chill. You can lift off the fat that congeals once cool. Almost no effort required for an almost infinitely better result.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                          Almost no effort? I count a minimum of 4 pans/utensils needed, plus the cost of the beef and veggies. Then there's the time needed. Finally, you need some significant fridge space.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, homemade stock tastes best, but for the expense and effort, I'll buy Rachel Ray or College Inn Bold Tender stock. Both are very good. YMMV, but that's ok.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                            I always make stock in a slow cooker - just one big pot to clean. I usually make stock from bones of something I've already cooked, so I don't have the browning step (and it's actually saving money rather than spending extra - I don't buy extra meat for stock, and I save up the ends of carrots and celery and onion to throw in). My slow cooker isn't good for much - it's too hot to use as a true slow cooker - but it's changed my opinion of making stock to a maybe to an always. I set it up and let it go overnight and my stocks are so rich and dark and velvety - they've really elevated my cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't have many beef bones just hanging around.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                              4 pans/utensils? If you're being rigorous, that's actually a very small number for almost anything made at home. I can count 4 items in use, namely a pot, a knife, a slotted spoon, and a cutting board, but it seems to me that that can hardly be counted as a large number. Making beans on toast will need the same number of kitchen items.

                                                                                                                                                                                              On cost, that's going to be a factor regardless. You can't make stock from nothing - so whatever your approach there is going to be some spend on something - either the raw materials or the finished product.

                                                                                                                                                                                              The time needed *where you actually need to be there* is no more than about 30 minutes, all considered. The rest of the time the pot can be left to simmer by itself - and you can do anything else. Indeed, left on a low setting, you can leave the house and go to work/play if you feel like it.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Can't deny the fridge space issue, although there I think it's a matter of priorities. If fridge space is truly an issue then what is taking up the additional space in the fridge is just a different tradeoff in what's considered important in the kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                                                              How much is the need to anticipate a consideration? In other words, do you think of stock as a kitchen basic you just have "on hand" at all times (as I do - jars in the fridge) or as something you only get as and when you need it for something specific?

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                A vegetable peeler, a knife for chopping said veggies (carrots, celery, onions), a cutting board. Three utensils that take all of 30 seconds to clean after use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Cost of beef/chicken/veggies - use steak bones from steaks you've cooked, breast bones from bone-in chicken breasts that were previously roasted and consumed, use the tops/bottoms/ends of celery, carrots, onions for a bit of a mirepoix. Cost? Pretty much nothing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Time it takes? Use a slow cooker. The time and effort it takes to prep the veggies is less than 10 minutes. The bones go in frozen; pour water over top, put on a lid, turn it on low, and walk away for 24 hours. Strain, cool in a fridge (if you've planned for making stock, you plan to make room to cool it down), and you've got stock.

                                                                                                                                                                                                For practically FREE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks, everyone, for telling me all the reasons I should be making my own beef stock. Here are my facts, which, frankly, I kind of feel a little defensive about having to defend:

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 person household
                                                                                                                                                                                                  French door fridge (freezer) - this is my ONLY storage space, and a lot of the freezer is taken with proteins and frozen veggies bought on sale.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Given those constraints alone, making my own stock is just not something that's really practical. We'd have to be eating bone-in beef items often, and using beef stock often, for it to begin to make sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I regret posting about this in the first place, and realize I shouldn't have done so. If I really felt the need, I probably should have written something along the lines of "doesn't make sense for my small family" and left it at that. My bad. I'll try not to do it again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, my household is even smaller -- I am cooking for just myself. Granted, I *do* have a chest freezer in my garage, but even if I didn't have that, I'd still be finding room for both homemade beef and chicken stock. But that's me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    But - you posted what you did, you got the responses that you did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Hi, LindaWhit,

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, I did invite the responses I got. Not my finest moment. :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I just don't get the concept that having a small household makes it not worth doing. I'm cooking for three adults but it wouldn't matter if it just me, I do it because I prefer my homemade. To me it's the same reason I garden, can and preserve. I'm worth doing it for regardless of anyone else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hi rasputina,

                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's not strictly about a small household. It's also about how often we utilize bone-in beef (seldom) and how often we need beef stock (also seldom).

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Is homemade better? Yes, but are our favorite brands pretty damn good? Again, yes. Not just good enough, but good. Rachel Ray's brand contains only two ingredients, concentrated beef stock and vegetable stock. My other go-to brand is 98% beef stock. Like I said, pretty decent stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          With good stock available to buy, homemade makes no sense in my home, given my parameters. My own sense of worth allows me to spend my time on things of more personal importance to me. I'm worth that. Does this make sense?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sorry DuffyH. No one will be happy until you're boiling up the bones. Better get to it. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Maybe next week, NonnieMuss. This week I'm making fresh cheddar and the cow is taking up entirely too much kitchen space. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't disagree for myself, rasputina, but for Duffy, it's a usage issue. And I get totally that. If you're not going to use it all that often, AND have storage space issues, why go to the time and effort to make it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry if my comments made you feel a little miffed. However I'm not trying to criticise your choices but rather to provide encouragement that it may not be as hard or impractical as it might seem at first. For example, I'm a one person household and likewise have only one fridge. I also find that when it comes to using stock often, having a quantity of it already available is a tremendous encouragement to use it, not out of any particular need to get rid of it but rather simply because since it's there, you don't need to plan ahead for its use. I can just use it when the inspiration strikes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          A lot of things, I find, in cooking, are like that: things that seem superficially complex but when you actually do them simplify cooking enormously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hi AlexRast,

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I always have stock on hand, in my pantry. I don't use it very often, that's all. It's just not needed for my food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ahhh, very good clarification, DuffyH. Then it makes total sense that you wouldn't make your own stock if you don't use it that often. A tetrapac carton of stock from your pantry used when you need it (hopefully finding enough room to freeze the rest in small containers for later use) makes much more sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is why I said beef stock in my original post and not stock in general. I have minimal use for beef stock in a normal day. I use chicken stock like water so yes for me it's worth making at home but not beef stock.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Apologies, DuffyH, for adding to the "piling on." Totally not my intention.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                As AlexRast said, "I'm not trying to criticise your choices but rather to provide encouragement that it may not be as hard or impractical as it might seem at first."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                This was my intention as well - Sort of like how for years I thought roasting chickens was hard. Now it's my go-to for whenever I need a no-brainer dinner. I have to thank Jamie Oliver for that, and I've been able to share that discovery with a dozen friends.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                We have a small household (2 people) with a small fridge (the bottleneck is we have very small doors in our house - my husband is actually seriously considering cutting a new, bigger door so we can get in a bigger fridge). For years and years we didn't make our own stock because I assumed it would be difficult and messy and time-consuming. Much to my surprise, it's become a common event in our house - every two to three weeks or so. But then again, we actually use stock in many dishes - gumbo, stew, goulash, soup, risotto, etc. If we didn't cook like this so much, it wouldn't make sense to use up our precious fridge space.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                What I'd really love is a way to store the stock outside of my fridge or freezer - and canning seems the obvious answer, but all kinds of preserving seems like an impossible task to me - too messy, too time-consuming, too afraid of botulism. Probably 10 years from now I'll figure out that canning is awesome and kick myself for not doing it earlier. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I had a shoebox of a freezer when we were in France (seriously -- stack four shoeboxes together 2 high and 2 wide - that's all the freezer space I had)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would make stock, then put 2 cups in a ziploc baggie, put them in a flat pan, and freeze them flat. Then I could stand up those bags of stock like magazines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (Yes, I got REALLY good at freezer management...and now my side-by-side freezer compartment is still always full...sigh)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Let's hear it for freezer bags. They're the ONLY things I use to store food in the freezer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is the perfect reason to own a pressure canner. Save all that freezer space.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And those flat bags are easy to find if you stand them upright in a shoe-box-size box. (I use some plastic mesh boxes that are actually a little wider than a shoebox, so the bags rest on their long edge.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Then you pull the box out like a file drawer, and flip through the bags to find your stock or gumbo or pumpkin puree. Or take the box out altogether and close the door, saving electricity to boot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Chicken stock, yes it's basically free. Beef stock, for me it's not. I don't have many beef bones to accumulate so just buying the bones is an expense that's not worth it unless I'm making something where beef stock really is the star of the show (e.g. french onion soup).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't use beef stock that much so for me it wasn't worth it. The supplies, the roasting, just not worth it to me. I make chicken stock every other week but beef stock was more effort and given I don't use it much not really something I want to do often.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I haven't been able to master beef stock yet. For some reason when I try to make it the smell just completely grosses me out and I don't want to save it or can it. I am determined to master it though. I haven't tried again in ages, so don't even ask how I did it, I can't remember.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That sounds like you're trying to make stock at too high a temperature. If it comes to a complete boil the results are usually poor, and you get a decidedly bad smell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It should also be noted that if you use particularly fatty cuts (usually not a good idea for stock, with the exception of oxtails) the fat can "turn" if the stock has been simmering for too long. You can fix this if it's a problem by simmering long enough to render most of the fat, cooling, spooning the congealed fat off, then re-simmering for as long as you want.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    After about 24 hours, though, the stock is about as strong as it's ever going to get; more simmering will just make it go downhill in flavour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "I don't use beef stock that much so for me it wasn't worth it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree with this. Chicken stock we use constantly so we make it constantly. Beef we use rarely so we use Better Than Bouillon usually. We also make lamb stock regularly, mostly because I don't even know of a "boxed" version of lamb - I used to see OXO lamb bouillon cubes at C-Town but I haven't in years. If I want lamb stock it pretty much has to be homemade. Plus we eat a lot of lamb :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is why I try to have a jar of William Sonoma Veal or Beef Demi Glace in the fridge, to pump up pan sauces. Sure it's expensive, but a little goes a long way in the scheme of things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've also heard great things about Schriebers veal base and Minors Custom Culinary Base. Both on my to find and try list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. New. England Baked Beans - made them once decades ago. Went through all the washing, sorting, soaking of the beans, dicing salt pork and onions, getting the molasses and mustard and other flavorings just so. Baked them covered, low and slow for hours, and they came out great. Decided B&M Original were just fine. Haven't made my own baked beans since. Won't ever. Don't recommend it; find a brand you like, and doctor them if necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I had the same experience as a kid - my East Coast grandmother showed me how to make "REAL" Boston Baked Beans. It took the better part of two days. They were good, but not worth the work of two people!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Refried beans, on the other hand - homemade all the way!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Any Asian food
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    horseradish
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    pizza
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    bread
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    rotisserie chicken (Costco's is better than mine)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    mayonnaise (Hellmans)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    yogurt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    tortillas
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    pickles
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    French fries
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    puff pastry
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    just to name a few

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Stuffing. It's my favorite holiday food and every year I try so hard to make a good stuffing but I vastly prefer doctored store bought over my own. i dry out the stale bread, cook all the aromatics in butter, use all the tasty herbs, but it's always blah. Others like it, though, so maybe I just like the artificial-ness of the cheap boxed stuffings. I like so few fake foods so one or two is ok I think.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        my BFF loves Stovetop -- so when she comes for Thanksgiving, there's a huge bowl of my homemade, and a large bowl of Stovetop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We love what we love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "We love what we love."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well said, sunshine, well said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For Christmas I want the stuffing the way it has always been made in my family. But, I've sometimes had StoceTop for a meal all by myself. Yum!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Bagels. I live in the land of plenty of good bagel shops, and they're so cheap and you can mix and match flavor varieties. Much easier to just go buy them (although making them is an enjoyable project...just not really worth it.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And then when you can buy the day old for half price? Heaven!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I live in the heart of bagel country-Metro NYC. I learned to make bagels by hand when I was 14 years old--it was an after school job. I prefer to make my own bagels boiling and then baking in my outdoor wood fired brick pizza oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't consider $8.99 dz (the going rate) cheap. I know, I'm old, I remember Lender selling fresh bagels for 99 cents per dozen.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I also don't want the giant bagels that are marketed today and none of the offbeat, weird flavor bagels.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I bake bagels 2-3 times per week: Plain, Rye (rye flour, not plain with caraway), Pumpernickel, Sesame, Poppy, Salt. Onion, Garlic and Everything are by request of my older brother once per month.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I do not make egg bagels, but I bake Challah each week.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's been 36 years since I left the commercial baking business, but I love baking small batch product at home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Small batch means different things to different people. When you're making, say, Poppy bagels, what constitutes a batch?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  a small batch is 18-24 bagels.......
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Poppy, Sesame, Salt and plain are all the same dough and prep, just the poppy, sesame or salt are dipped in those toppings before going into the oven; therefore I can make as few as one of a variety using plain dough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Onion, garlic and everything I bake at the same time if my brother requests a supply (he only lives 15 minutes away). I do not bake these in the oven before baking the others as the smell/taste lingers and 'cross contaminates' the product. After a potent batch, I will put a dutch oven of water in to steam cleanse the oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I make rye or pumpernickel in 3 dz batches, we use 1/3, in-laws-get 1/3, rest gets frozen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Can you share a recipe (or link) to the pumpernickel bagels? They are impossible to find in OKC and they're my favorite!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: adirunner

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I cannot post the recipe I use as the bakery I worked for and learned it is still in business and I do not have permission to share.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    BUT>>>I have tried the recipe from King Arthur Flour and it makes a respectable product. Their instructions/technique are particularly good. You can tweak for taste. It is truly small batch, yields 8 bagels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    photo is from King Arthur's site

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Made from scratch curry sauce. My curry paste from the store is fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Mayonnaise. It's actually pretty easy to make with a stick blender, but after doing it several times, i realized that it really wasn't better than store-bought.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Baked beans, I have made them, but often fall back on B&M baked beans. I add some Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, a squirt of ketchup a few chopped red onions and some chopped green bell pepper if I have it. It takes ten minutes not three or four hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Until I can afford/get the proper equipment, pretty much anything deep fried.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Even then, I may just leave the eggrolls, chicken, and donuts to the pros that do these things for a living.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As for your examples, beef jerky gets made by me always.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Cranberry sauce is usually homemade, but in a pinch store bought will do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Based on cost and time 2 things that I'd buy over making from scratch are jam and brownies. I can't beat the 6 packages of Ghiradelli mix from Costco for $10.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And unless you have your own berry bushes making raspberry jam can get quite expensive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        35 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: dobs737

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          < I can't beat the 6 packages of Ghiradelli mix from Costco for $10.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          They're really good, too. No reason to make them from scratch when they're not just good enough, they're "Mmmmm, chocolate" good. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dobs737

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes jam - any jam. (Unless you grow your own berries.) Fruit is expensive! Jam/jelly is usually around $2.99.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But you can make so many interesting flavor combination you can't buy. We for example we made recently a kiwi-banana jam which was really nice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: honkman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And I love being able to control the amount of sugar in the jam.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My homemade stuff is two parts fruit to one part sugar. (Commercial jam is usually the opposite.) No added water or pectin and it is delish!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I only make it when I can get fruit on sale as, that means it's in season and, it's cheap! So it's way less than $3 a jar and tastier.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The exception is raspberry jam, due to the expense of fresh raspberries, unless I get incredibly lucky I buy it from Trader Joe's or get Hero jam/preserves, usually on sale at Big Lots. The Hero brand is actually better than TJ's, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hero Brand is made in Switzerland. It's good stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's awesome indeed!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And, many jams in America use a pectin that contains corn, which my mom was severely allergic to. The Hero jams, as they are made in Switzerland where corn isn't as common, are made with a wheat derived pectin. Tasty, well priced and safe for my Mom to eat? I am a fan to this day!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm not much for jellies and jam, but.... When I lived in WA, we'd step outside the house and pick wild blackberries. All the jam we wanted for the cost of the sugar. It's still and always my favorite jam in the world. Love it on vanilla ice cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That said, I now buy jam, mostly because we eat it so seldom. Maybe two jars in a year, if that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Like you with stock, jam/jelly is a time/money/use thing. I don't use it much. I've made it from scratch and canned it for the experience and to see if it was worth it. It was good, but I use it so rarely I can't see continuing. Fruit is never cheap where I am - in season or out, and since I only eat it once a month or so, it's far easier and more cost effective to just buy a jar. I'm not into crazy flavors, or worry about my sugar intake either, so there's no point. It was fun to do once, and I may do it again someday, but it's not going into my repertoire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If I had the time to make raspberry jam in the last month I would have. I did freeze 24 quarts of raspberries so I will just make lots of raspberry dishes instead!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: dobs737

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Another surprise for me. Brownies seem to be so simple to make and the results (with a good recipe, at least) so infinitely superior to anything you can make with any mix, that I wouldn't even consider buying. In fact, cake generally is something that there is basically not a situation where I wouldn't make instead of buying - I find all box mixes to be genuinely bad. Most cakes, it will be admitted, are quite elaborate in preparation. But brownies are dead-easy because it tends to be simply mix and bake. You spend more time arranging the ingredients than actually making the brownies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Or is the principal question here a cost thing? (Admittedly for me if the latter is the main consideration then it's not possible to make good brownies, period, because there's an inescapable cost for good chocolate)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hi AlexRast,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    For me, with the Ghirardelli specifically, it's a combination of cost and taste. They're cheap, for sure. I haven't bought any others in a long time, and never the cheapest ones, but these have to be competitive with the cheapest at the market, I'd think.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Also, they're just really, really good. Given this combination, it comes down to speed. No question that these are easier to make, because there are fewer ingredients to measure, and fewer things to take out and put away.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bottom line? Homemade, with a good recipe, are NOT "infinitely superior" to these.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The "not infinitely superior" I find very, very hard to believe. Can you give me an ingredients list off the box? It would be a bit difficult, of course, to judge precisely because the exact ratios won't be known but just the order of ingredients should give a good clue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My thinking is that it would be very hard specifically for a box mix to produce a truly first-rate brownie and be competitive on price because (at least in my opinion):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You need to use chocolate, not cocoa.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The amount of chocolate needs to be very big indeed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The quality of the chocolate used needs to be good.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That much chocolate, of that quality, is probably more expensive that the combined allowable cost for the entire box.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And that's just the beginning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But I also suppose it depends upon what you expect in a brownie, and what your threshold of "good enough" is. I'm obsessive enough about brownies (and chocolate in general) to expect nothing short of awe-inspiring. What I want is:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1: A flavour of chocolate so powerful that it feels literally enveloping, *without* being sharp or bitter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2: A texture that splits the divide between a very moist pound cake and first-rate fudge.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3: An unmistakeable flavour of sugar with the same enveloping, rich characteristic as the chocolate flavour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        just go buy a box of the Ghirardelli mix and try them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you don't like them, s'okay, keep makin' your own. But yukkin someone else's yum without at least giving a shot, well, maybe not the best way to go.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        but other people like different qualities in brownies (some like milk chocolate, some like 'em dark, some like cakey, some like fudgy, etc., etc., etc.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We love what we love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Unfortunately not a possibility in England - to try by buying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Which is why I was intrigued by the claims (corroborated by others) that they're a box mix good enough to make it not worthwhile to make what seemed to me like an almost inconsequential amount of additional work in order to make them yourself. That, to me, would require something spectacularly amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          However, in the absence of the ability to test by actually trying, the best I was able to do is attempt to get people to give enough information for me to at least guess whether it really is a case of an outstanding box mix, or whether it's a case of different preferences/priorities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm mindful of the effect of different expectations in view of trying some very enthusiastic recommendations for hamburger places. My own experiences weren't so positive, but then it turned out that a major reason for the discrepancy is that I was evaluating things solely on the basis of my perceived quality of the meat and bun, whereas the recommendations didn't necessarily prioritise, particularly the bun, and were considering them including additional toppings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          No implied judgement of some sort of superiority of taste/culture/sophistication here. It's rather that on the one hand from the point of view of my own experimentation it's useful to know where other people are coming from (a situation analogous, for example, to TripAdvisor, where by reading the reviews you can usually get a sense of the priorities of the reviewer, and weight their review accordingly), and on the other hand I have a specific curiosity about other people's points of view on what's worth the effort to DIY, and in general what various people think really matters and what doesn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Another possibility would be to use the Google Machine to find out what's in them. Just a suggestion, but it only takes seconds to do, far less time than someone physically transcribing the information. It's what I do when someone mentions something I'm curious about. Just sayin'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't have any in the house right now, but I believe it's the Triple Chocolate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.ghirardellibrownies.com/pr...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for the link. Will try next time I get to the USA (or to be accurate, will buy box, bring back to UK). Its difficult to know with certainty by looking at the ingredients list, but I see 3 possible areas of concern: the sugar/fat ratio is massively tilted in favour of sugar (over 50% of the contents, with correspondingly less fat), which would make it very sweet indeed, possibly a bit dry and lean; the sugar seems to be ordinary white sugar rather than brown, which would diminish depth of flavour, and while they have chocolate chips (I admit I like my brownies plain; I'd probably omit the chips), the primary source of chocolate flavour for the cake itself is cocoa, which would be "thinner", less round in flavour and also tend to be drier. These probably have to be minimally baked to be good, and there won't be much room for error, a small amount of overbaking and they're likely to be dry and mealy. Just a guess though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I didn't Google because I'm as much interested in personal opinions as the basic facts, and someone with real experience can hopefully provide richer context than simply a fact-sheet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <I didn't Google because I'm as much interested in personal opinions as the basic facts, and someone with real experience can hopefully provide richer context than simply a fact-sheet.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I thought I'd already done that, given my personal opinion. You disagreed, which is fine, but then you have asked me to give you the data to allow you to tell me, point by point, why I'm wrong and these can't possibly taste good. Which, hey, surprise! You proceeded to do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You'll perhaps forgive me if I find your protestations that it's my opinion you wanted a little laughable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm sorry, it seems I caused a misunderstanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It really is the truth that I'm genuinely interested in your (and everyone else's) opinion about the whole issue of what things are worth making yourself, and which aren't. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to question or debate that opinion, or simply sit passively and absorb it without comment. It is through debate that we (or at least I) gain insight into the issues and understand other people. A discussion in which people simply express views without questioning or debating the other is sterile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Please understand that if I debate something you say it is in no way intending to diminish you as a person or deny the validity of your opinion. I'd be happy if you agreed or became convinced of my own opinion, but that doesn't have to happen. In a concrete context where I disassemble and critique the Ghirardelli brownie ingredients it is to be understood that this is *my* opinion based on what *I* would prefer, it is not to be understood as some sort of fundamental truth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also please don't read into this message itself hostility or contempt - I can assure you none is intended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In the final analysis, there must be room for (sometimes impassioned) debate or we will all stay locked in our own private ideas about how things should be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hi AlexRast,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've got no problem with debate here, I'm used to it and vigorously participate. I enjoy it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I also understand that my yum may be your yuck, and vice versa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I do feel, though, that yuck v. yum is not a good subject for vigorous debate, beyond stating why something is your yum, etc.... then moving on. To persist, to go so far as to ask me to help you make your point, well, I'm sorry, that's just not much fun. Why would anyone do this? But I did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I see that you don't agree, and feel that this subject is something to be debated. That is your right, of course. Still, no one else has requested that any other person post the ingredient list for boxed stuffing, baked beans or any of the other processed foods listed here. I take this to be some indication that hot debate isn't quite the thing on this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think (and I may be wrong) that we went off the rails over the word "good" and the phrase "infinitely better", which you used in your first opinion on mix v. homemade. Both the word and phrase apply to the home recipe. Then in your next post on the subject, you raised the bar from "good" to "truly first-rate". So, I'm saying my mix is not "infinitely" worse than a "good" homemade recipe, then get called out because it can't possibly be "first-rate". You're right. It's not first-rate. But it most assuredly is, as previously stated by me, "really good". EDIT - On reflection, maybe it is first-rate, after all. I haven't had any in a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My bottom line though is this, and it's simple and logical. The purpose of debate is to persuade someone to your opinion. But this is yuck v. yum. How can you possibly hope to convince someone that their taste buds are lying to them, and that, gee golly, they don't really like their yum at all? Why would you even want to try? Simple respect demands that we don't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll leave the last word to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This should go in the posting guidelines or FAQ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The bit I've quoted below is where I think we differ. At the risk of diverging off-topic into philosophical matters, I'm commenting because I think it actually matters quite a lot in discussions about food - and thus has an impact on postings as a whole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "My bottom line though is this, and it's simple and logical. The purpose of debate is to persuade someone to your opinion. But this is yuck v. yum. How can you possibly hope to convince someone that their taste buds are lying to them, and that, gee golly, they don't really like their yum at all?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In my view the purpose of debate is not to persuade somebody to your opinion. The purpose of debate is to shed light on the issues. Whether you "win" or "lose" is entirely beside the point - it's that this medium of discussion helps to bring to the fore ideas that would otherwise not be understood. It helps (or should help) to increase understanding between different people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To be more concrete, in matters of food, I also think that while taste is obviously subjective, it's not *completely* subjective, in the sense that there were no correlation between what people thought of specific foods, or recipes, or whatever. I think there are at least some correlations, some of them very enlightening. So there is sense, in my view, in going over different perceptions - to find out where the common elements are and what aspects of taste are purely personal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But more importantly vigorous discussion of personal preferences gives you the ability to articulate what you do and don't like, beyond simply "like" and "dislike". And when you can do that, you're on your way towards being able to create new dishes - or to decide what on a restaurant menu that otherwise might appear forbidding might appeal - by thinking in terms of qualities you like and dislike rather than just an entire dish taken in toto as an overall reaction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Even more, and especially through discussion with others, you learn what *they* like and why, and can go beyond simply making what you like to being able to make things that give pleasure to others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That's why I think "yuck vs. yum" is a good subject for debate: I think simply stating your "yums" and "yucks" isn't very informative and leads to a sterile discussion; it sort of assumes, *a priori*, that there is little room for common ground (except by chance) on points of taste and that everybody's reasons for liking things are entirely based on internal subjective reactions completely inaccessible to everyone else. The reason in my view to discuss this isn't to bring people over to "your" side necessarily but to increase understanding of what's possible in the world of taste.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I never meant to cause a squabble over brownies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For me its not worth making them from scratch. The only place I could possibly get high end chocolate to make a super quality brownie is at least 30 minutes away in good traffic so it takes a lot of planning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Then there is the convenience factor. I can have a box of brownie mix in the pantry from Costco and at a moment's notice be able to whip up a batch by the time the oven preheated. This is great when we make last minute plans with friends and need to bring a dessert.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Even my husband can't screw up these brownies (except when he used olive oil that one time).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The key is to under bake them. The box gives some ridiculous time but I think I start checking them at 35 min and they are def out by 39. Edges never overdone and the dead center is not runny but the perfect piece for my husband.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I tried the Ghiradelli mix, could tell by the colour (too light) they were not going to fly with me compared to my basic recipe, and they did not. I have the Fry's cocoa recipe memorized, baking time tweaked to my liking, uses cocoa so no chocolate to melt... the dry ingredients get mixed right in the measuring cup and yeah, it's pretty low effort for me and always a winner.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not yucking anyone's yum. With an open mind, I tried the Ghirardeli because so many chowhounds swear by it. I also realize a lot of people like the crackly top effect you get from boxed brownies, mine don't have that. My daughter says Grandma makes the best brownies. They're Duncan Hines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hi julesrules,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'd try that easy recipe of yours. What is Fry's cocoa?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        On the subject of crackly or not, I'm neutral. But I do prefer a mixed batch, where some of the brownies are undercooked and gooey while others have that wonderful crusty edge. Square pans are helpful. Any slice with both features? Brownie bliss!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For parties, I bake scratch brownies in a 13 x 9 pan and then, when slicing them up for serving or taking home routinely ask "Do you like the chewy outside? Or the soft inside?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          People are so happy to be asked and, oh my! They have definite opinions!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            One party, where I asked that question? One guy broke down in tears. No one had asked him that since his grandmother, who had passed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            He was a chewy corners guy and needless to say, from then on with me? He always got first dibs on the edges.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I must confess that, if forced to choose, I'd take chewy edges, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Besides, I can always set aside some of the batter and have all the gooeyness I want on a spoon. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: AlexRast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      <The "not infinitely superior" I find very, very hard to believe.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      <...it depends upon what you expect in a brownie, and what your threshold of "good enough" is.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I accept your bias. Clearly, my taste in brownies is so far beneath yours, my palate so primitive, that I've no business even suggesting that I might know a good brownie when I taste one. What was I thinking?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Duffy -

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I prefer homemade brownies, made with unsweetened chocolate BUT - I've had the Ghirardelli mix brownies at many a party and they are lovely indeed. Tasty enough to wrap one in a napkin and take it home in my purse for the next day, LOL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hi happybaker,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Let's hear it for the unsweetened chocolate. Yes, indeed, I'd go for those brownies. The darker the better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And yeah, I totally get the whole brownie thief instinct. Guilty! ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DuffyH, I think this thread is not being so kind to you. You clearly are terrible at brownies, beef stock, and life in general.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hey NonnieMuss,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            <You clearly are terrible at brownies, beef stock, and life in general.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That is so true. Look up "Sucks to be you" and you'll find my photo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cranberry sauce, I always thought, would be my saving grace. Mine will rock your world. Turns out, most people don't care so much about cranberry sauce. Who knew? My own mother even likes the slice-it canned stuff best. *sigh*

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Split pea soup? I can do that really well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Dumplings. So much fiddling around with the filling and the folding and the frying ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yeast and I are not friends, so sadly sandwich bread also goes on this list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On the other hand, I make crackers (savory and sweet) and once made fig newtons which were far, far better than the store-bought kind which to my palate have a horrible fake taste. I just don't love fig newtons enough to keep making them, given how much work they admittedly are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. The first thing that pops to mind for me is pasta! I fell for the fad and bought a ridiculously expensive pasta machine way back in the mid-70's. The kind you put the Durham flour and water in and let it mix itself, then extrude it in any form you like from lasagna (complete with wavy edges) to fettuccine to elbow macaroni or angel hair pasta. You name it, my machine had a blade for it. And after about two or three months of religious slavery to the damned machine, I finally said to myself, "Self, are we EVER going to have al dente pasta again?" Self discovered it was only possible if I air dried the pasta for two or three weeks. And Self also discovered that there are some pretty fine "artisan" (I hate that word!) pastas out there and absolutely no reason for me to forego pasta cooked al dente the way I like it! Curiously, neither of my kids nor my husband nor any of our many frequent dinner guests back then EVER mentioned missing my home made pasta. Not one!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Crispy home made tacos! I used to make FANTASTIC crispy tacos and have big fun "build your own taco" parties around the pool when we lived in California. The tortillas would get nice and flaky and crispy. Not any more! I don't know if it's the humidity here in the Dallas area or not, but I also suspect that something has changed in the masa harina processing that makes tortillas not crisp the way they used to. I have tried tortillas from every manufacturer and tortilleria in the area, and they're all big flops when it comes to crispy tacos. It's a real bummer, because I LOVE crispy tacos. REAL crispy tacos, not those molded extruded baked things similar to a Taco Bell shell. <sigh> Maybe all I need is time travel?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Greygarious got a chuckle out of me with his quote of Garrison Keillor's gem about the best and worst pumpkin pies not being all that far apart. I DO like a made from scratch with suet pie crust around a deep dish pumpkin (almost chiffon) pie like my mother used to make when I was growing up, but where can you buy really good "leaf" beef suet these days? Most of you guys probably have nooooooo idea what I'm talking about. Oh well. I wonder what you'll be reminiscing about when you're 80? '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cranberry sauce? From scratch! Cranberry, orange, Grand Marnier, and Happy Holidays! But I do have to have some "Ocean Spray" on the table for my son. He learned that at Grandma's house...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Haven't made puff pastry since it became available in my grocer's freezer! Pity, because now I have nice granite counter tops that are perfect for puff pastry: Pack a few bags of ice cubes on the granite for about 30 or 40 minutes before rolling the puff pastry and there's no need to pop it back in the fridge to let the butter firm up again! But that's okay.... I can happily live without the mess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I still cook almost everything from scratch, including and especially soups. Well, except desserts. Can't trust myself there because I live alone, and if I bake a cake it goes straight to my hips! And I've stopped baking bread from scratch for the same reason... There's some sort of strange math conflict involved with bread: Even though a loaf of home made bread may be the same size as a store bought loaf, it only lasts about 1/4 as long.... hmmmm.... Better to leave the yeast in the freezer!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm pretty much burned out on chicken because I don't like the "store bought" varieties, and while I am willing to pay $20+ dollars a pound for grass fed dry aged beef (I don't eat it THAT often) damned if I'll pay $16.00 a pound for free range hand fed family farm chickens! It DOES taste better, but sheesh. HOWEVER! There *IS* a chain of "Hispanic" super markets in my area where I DO buy rotisserie chicken! I don't know where Fiesta markets source their chicken, but they do rotiss them "in house." The fun thing that makes their rotisserie chicken so amusing is that besides "old fashioned" chicken flavor (these chickens have bright yellow fat like home grown chickens with home grown flavor at "crappy chicken" prices!), they skewer their birds "side to side" so they come with the skewer holes running differently than most supermarkets. It would be fabulous if they rotisseried them over live charcoal! (Dream on, Caroline!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      that seems to be my threshold...if it's not worth the mess or the fiddling around, I tend to just skip it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (I had a pasta extruder, too...mine was a manual crank, but tearing the machine down and trying to get all the little crusty bits out of the interior of the machine was just a pita)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hi sunshine,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        <...if it's not worth the mess or the fiddling around, I tend to just skip it.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Know what I hate? The stuff that should be not worth the mess but has no really good alternative. For me, it's pizza dough. When I make it, I blow up 6 feet of counter and am left with 2 bowls and an assortment of other implements to wash. It isn't hard to make, just really messy. So I tried a ball of dough from the grocery. No bowls, and the only implement is my bench scraper. Still left a lot of real estate to clean, and for what? Mediocre crust. I need a pre-rolled skin from one of my two favorite local pizza joints. Sadly, that's not happening. Because it's all made fresh daily and rolled as needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So I'm stuck. I love homemade pizza dough, and really like how cheap it is to make, but hate the mess. Is it worth it to me? I don't like it, but see no good alternative.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you have a TJ's nearby, I find their dough to be quite good, actually. Better than Wegmans, which I find too bready.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hi linguafood,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            TJ is a bit of a drive (only one store in Tampa), but I'll try it next time we're in the area. Thanks for the rec.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There's a neat frozen crust in some health food stores, Against The Grain, which is pretty good. It has zero oven spring, so no puffy joy, but it crisps up beautifully without being too crackery or bready. Also, simple ingredients: Tapioca starch, milk, eggs, non-GMO canola oil, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Note the complete lack of flour of any kind. The cheese gives it stretch, too. It really works. But, at $9 per skin, it's not cheap. It is better than most delivery crusts by a mile, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            No knead pizza dough! Super simple, minimal effort, excellent flavour. I ignore the part of the directions where it says to swap bowls, so I dirty one bowl and a spoon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hi CanadaGirl,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I haven't had the best luck with the no-knead pizzas I've tried so far, one being Reinhart's, the other from CI. They've given me very little oven spring. I am all about big holes and nice chew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for the SE rec. I've got a copy of Kenji's recipe sitting in my recipe manager, but haven't tried it yet, although it's on my try-it list. I've been playing with another, a quick recipe, that uses a huge amount of yeast, 2 tbls, for 2-3 cups flour. It's adapted from a feather bread recipe, and is showing great promise. It calls for only a 5-10 minute rest/rise. It didn't suck, but I think I can make it pretty good with a 30 minute rise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I may take your advice and forget about the whole bowl swap. I've just purchased a dough whisk in an effort to ditch my KA mixer. It doesn't do so well with a single batch and uses the beater AND hook. However I make the dough, my tendency to blow up my kitchen definitely needs work! :-D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I did Kenji's no knead deep dish pizza and while I had a bit of a learning curve - it had ENORMOUS potential!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It now makes me want to try his no knead pizza for my pizza brick. Just one bowl, overnight proof then the pizza procedure. You can do it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hi happybaker,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, I know I can do it. I'm just wary of no-knead cold rise pizza dough, after being burned by both CI and Reinhart. Peter Frickin' Reinhart let me down!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So I'll give Kenji's modified recipe a try, after a few more pies made from the feather bread dough. It is really similar in behavior to no-knead, being very loose and wet. My first attempt with a very short 10 minute rise, really just a rest, gave me a finished pie that had a few small holes and was chewy instead of bready. Very promising. A nice feature of it is that I don't have to plan ahead, but can make pizza night a spur-of-the-moment affair. I like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Still, any recipe good enough to pass the Pizza Lab standards is worth a try. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I haven't seen the recipes you've used, but I've never had a problem with the Leahy one. It definitely creates a good, chewy crust that has nice airy bits, and because it rises so slowly, the flavour is great. I shared it with many people that I know IRL, and all have succeeded. But, then all of the people I've shared it with used Canadian flour, which I understand to be different than American.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  i got a danish whisk from amazon that i really like. i used to use a wooden spoon but this is faster and easier to clean.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: divadmas

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fingers crossed, it will be for me, too. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah, Caroline, the things we do for love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I fell in love with homemade pasta, too. And hated the damn machine from day one. So much hassle for what? Pasta? Well, thank goodness there's lots of decent and a goodly amount of damn fine pasta in our stores now. Last Mom's day my kid and DIL gifted me a shiny new red hand-crank machine from WS. I think I'll have to have a ravioli dinner with it, and he can help me make them. That'll teach them. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Taco shells? Thank you! I thought I was the only one. They just seem different than they used to. For starters, the layers puff apart way more often, and they're overall not as crispy as they used to be. They lack snap. I don't think it's us, because the restaurants can't get it right, either. Maybe it's moist climates? I noticed a change when I moved to cloudy Kingston, WA and it's continued here in Florida. My tortilla chips now need a few minutes in the oven to get really crisp. That's the proof, I think.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hey, if Oscar Mayer can quietly change (and ruin) their time-tested recipe for all-meat wieners, and refuse to admit it, anything's possible in the food industry. :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                HEY GIRL! good stuff from your little fingers typing away. as usual. wish i could get those side-skewers chickens here. the rotisserie ones around these parts are pathetic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Fresh pasta. I spent most of the 90's perfecting it then it was for sale everywhere and I stopped. Plus our family shrank to two weight watchers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Popiah (spring roll) wrappers. Ingredients are simple, but some serious skill is involved. I was intrigued enough by the process to give it a go - once. This guy makes it look so easy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp-zG...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Won ton wrappers... well, actually I am on the fence about that one. If I am in the mood it can be quite meditative, but I just don't seem to have the energy these days. I have been wondering whether a pasta machine might make the job easier but I haven't gotten around to finding out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Corn tortillas - all the ones I've made have been blah.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I just thought of another one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Miracle Whip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Biscuits.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I know they are cheaper and better homemade. Mine just never turn out very good.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        So I buy those frozen Pillsbury kind. They are really good and always turn out wonderful.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A little honey and butter with a hot cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon hits the spot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: itsmejessica

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          if you're in the South, at least do yourself a favor and look for Mary B's Biscuits -- seriously good stuff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (not affiliated other than as a customer)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: itsmejessica

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Biscuits are dead easy. Try the Cooks Illustrated recipe for bacon black pepper drop biscuits, or their recipe for buttermilk (cut) biscuits.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, I know they are pretty easy. Mine just never really taste great. They come out hard and dry.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The frozen ones are easy to pop one or or two in the toaster oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I used to be able to rock the CI buttermilk biscuit recipe. Then I didn't make them for a few years and now, not so much. I lost the ability to make tall fluffy biscuits about 5 years ago. Not for lack of trying almost every recipe, either. It's just pathetic, but thankfully, frozen ones are better than ever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We like Mary B's, and the Walmart store brand is the second best we've found.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. SALSA
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              when i first make it, after shopping, washing, chopping, clean up, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              it DOES taste as good as the stuff that i buy from the local taqueria.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BUT it all doesn't get consumed the first day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              by the second day, by comparison, it sucks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When I lived in SoCal, I seldom made salsa. As westsidegal says, the taqueria stuff was that good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Outside of SoCal, I buy the best-looking stuff the supermarket has to offer, then fix it with extra cilantro, onion, garlic and lime. Maybe add a fresh tomato. No one is the wiser, compliments and groans of delight ensue. Everyone simply presumes that it's homemade, like the guac and chips (which are).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's like jewelry. Sprinkle a few fake pieces in with the real thing, no one will suspect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DuffyH

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hey, Duffy -- take a dig around and see if you can find Sunset Salsa -- it's a local brand made in Clearwater (I think -- no address on the label in the fridge).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's sold through small local retailers like my local butcher shop -- and it's seriously good stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Here's the closest thing I could find to a website: https://www.facebook.com/SunsetSalsaInfo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks, sunshine,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll watch for it.