Yes, You Can…

Yesterday, in my post on local food, MK and Patty pointed out that if local eating is really going to take off, people need to know how to cook, and realize cooking isn’t necessarily more time-consuming than cooking from a box.

This got me thinking…what are foods that people could easily make at home, but think they can’t? The idea would be to have a series of cooking classes with the theme “Yes, you can cook it at home.”These things would ideally take no special equipment or hours of prep, and would replicate things that people think they “have to” buy because it’s way too hard to make them at home.

Here are some of my initial ideas:

  • Chinese restaurant-style sauces (white, brown, sweet-and-sour, and spicy orange glaze)
  • Crackers
  • Pizza
  • Fajitas
  • Fish sticks & chicken nuggets
  • French fries (oven fries)
  • Lasagne

What else can you think of?



  1. December 23, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Bread – especially the no-knead kind you keep in your frig. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day people have a new edition out that incorporates whole grains (the recipe is also in the latest Mother Earth News).

  2. December 23, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I always think indian and thai food seem totally complicated and time-consuming. (And I have a cookbook on thai food & it sort of confirmed my fears, truth be told. 🙂 )

    In addition to teaching people how to cook, I wonder what’s the best way to get people to *want* to? If I didn’t love the fun of shopping at the farmer’s market, I’d probably have a lot fewer local foods in my own kitchen.

  3. TeacherPatti said,

    December 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Homemade spaghetti sauce to go on the pizza and lasagne.
    Anything baked (cookies, cakes, etc)
    Real hamburger dishes that aren’t Hamburger Helper

  4. Kate said,

    December 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Sauces in general, and spice mixes. I think of all the times I’ve bought or been tempted to buy a packet of dry mix to make a sauce, or a gravy, or some prepare mix of spices to dump into ground beef – because I didn’t know how or what to put into a real sauce. But even cream sauces aren’t hard to make, and spice mixes – really? 🙂

  5. Alyssa said,

    December 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Salad dressing and stuff to marinate with.

  6. Heather said,

    December 23, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Breakfast foods like biscuits, sweet rolls, pop tarts, and oatmeal that isn’t instant.

  7. MK said,

    December 23, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Anything that can be made in 30 minutes or less….stuff made from ground beef that isn’t hamburger helper.

  8. Suzie said,

    December 23, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Ooo, I make a ROCKING salad dressing. Balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, lots of good dijon mustard, maybe water if it’s all too much, shake briskly, pour on stuff you want to taste yummy. 🙂

  9. cat said,

    December 24, 2009 at 1:48 am

    salsa and guacamole. I found out this year exactly how easy those are to make if you have the ingredients. Don’t know if that works locally though…

  10. TeacherPatti said,

    December 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Thought of some more while reading through a new (old) cookbook….
    pancakes and waffles
    the joy of stuff in a crockpot!! 🙂

  11. December 26, 2009 at 8:27 am

    What we cook:
    – oatmeal
    – eggs: scrambled, boiled, poached, dropped, in a cup (literal), fried, omelet,
    – waffles
    – pancakes
    – french toast
    – grits
    – left overs

    – soup/stew/chili (almost always in winter)
    – salad or sandwich (warm months)
    – eggs (see above)

    Dinner: (generally also includes a summer (lettuce) or winter salad (cabbage/carrot)
    – soup
    – stew
    – chili (often in winter)
    – shepherd’s pie
    – eggs
    – spaghetti
    – stir fry
    – a dish I have no name for but is small pieces of meat, fried onions, cream, red wine, mushrooms if we have them)
    – goulash (not quite the same as the above one)
    – lasagna
    – meat (the farmer’s basket as we call it – we eat what doesn’t sell, dogs eat what we don’t)

    These are all simple quick meals. Easy ones we teach our kids to cook.

    Foods are very seasonal. In the winter we want warm, higher calorie food to fill our bellies and warm us for working out in the cold.

    Left overs are great – it means they’re ready to eat.

    We tend to cook a lot of things like chili, soup, stew, etc in batches, canning up large amounts. Ready-to-eat meals that you just heat and serve. Doubles as a way to warm the house and make it smell delicious in the winter.

    Here’s a post I did a while back about food for a week:

    Interesting photo and list.


    Walter Jeffries
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in Vermont

  12. TeacherPatti said,

    December 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I’m still reading through the new/old cookbook that I got and thought of this! Biscuits! They are so easy and yummy! Lots of variations on recipes too.

    I have long wanted to have a cooking show on Ann Arbor’s access cable station teaching stuff like this! 🙂

  13. varmentrout said,

    December 27, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I think what people also need are ways to cook vegetables, if we are to grow more and eat more locally farmed ones. Also, back to your “meat as seasoning” idea, more vegetable dishes means smaller meat entrees can be used. But lots of people who get an unfamiliar vegetable or see one for sale say “but how do you cook it”?

    Have you seen the “Recipes for Health” series on the New York Times website?

    It is wonderful because it has recipes for individual ingredients, many of which are vegetables.

  14. Joan Bailey said,

    December 29, 2009 at 1:32 am

    I’m not sure if my previous reply went through or not, but here’s the gist.

    How about casseroles? These were a favorite of mine when I was a kid, and my mom worked full time. I think they were a lifesaver for her as a single mom.

    Granola is easy to make and pretty cheap if you avoid pricey nuts and fancy ingredients. Just remember to put the raisins in AFTER you bake it.

    Salads are also pretty cheap and ours are cabbage based – green now but it used to be red. They include kale, fennel, arugula, swiss chard, carrot shreds, and whatever else we forage from the garden. Our dressing is olive oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice/vinegar just drizzled over the top. Nothing fancy, but it has yet to fail.

    The other thing I’ve been thinking about lately are these two things:
    How do you make fresh veggies cheap if you don’t have a garden? Our friends talk alot about how expensive fruits and veggies are here (Tokyo), and to some degree its valid, for sure.
    How do we make this sort of food experience – eating locally and fresh and organic – not seem like something just for “foodies”? I think it really comes off that way more often than not despite best intentions otherwise. My family, hearty Wisconsin folk, think I’m just a crazy hippy type who also happens to make a mean banana bread and still eats fish fry’s on Friday. How can we make it regular for people? (Does that make sense?)

    Great question and great idea, too, by the way!

  15. Suzie said,

    December 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Oh, Macaroni & Cheese, which I think is a favorite for many families. Totally delicious & does not need to come from a box / with powdery orange substances. And re-heats well too.

  16. December 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I second the bread! I don’t use the 5-minute recipe, but rather the “standard” no-knead method instead. In fact, I’m in the midst of mixing up three two-loaf batches to be baked off tomorrow. It is surprisingly easy to make.

    I think there’s both a laziness factor and an intimidation factor that keeps people from cooking things for themselves. Yes, there are things you can screw up in a kitchen. But far more often boldness is rewarded. Cooking just isn’t that hard to do!

  17. Ed Schenk said,

    January 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I just made a batch of homemade Ricotta cheese. Really good and really inexpensive

  18. Julia said,

    January 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Not only do people need to know how to cook– they have to want to cook. But, they also have to think they can afford it. There’s some thinking and cooking and extra leg work involved if you have a tight budget and you want to eat locally and sustainably.

    That said, I think crock pot meals are where it’s at. Throw food in and when you get home from work a great meal is sitting there waiting for you. That works in winter. Summer time and you’ve got the grill and quick cooking things.

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