Fake foods I prefer

So based on what I blog about, you probably assume it’s home-cooked, home-grown all the time around my house. Not true, as much as I aspire to it. Not only will you find some meal mixes and packaged processed foods in my pantry (tonight’s pad thai kit-based dinner, for example), I’ve found that there are some food products that I actually prefer with preservatives, extra processing, and their unique food-like characters.

  • ReaLemon and Rose’s Key Lime Juice.  It’s a pain in the neck keeping fresh lemons and limes around when you only need a tablespoon every 2 weeks. And I’ve bought the lovely organic stuff only to have it go bad on me in a month or two. But give me a bottle of pasteurized citrus juice, standardized to the correct acidity, with a smidge of whatever chemical they use, and that bottle has a much longer useful life to me. I’ll risk the chemicals for two tablespoons a month. (And besides…canning recipes assume that standardized acidity, and food safety depends on that acidity.)
  • Garlic in a jar. It doesn’t taste as good, it’s got the goodness cooked out of it, and it’s hard to find stuff that isn’t from China…and there’s always a jar in my fridge and a spare in the pantry. I just hate peeling garlic cloves, and when I’m mid dinner-prep, I don’t want to fiddle with them. Water-bath canning garlic isn’t safe, unless it’s pickled in vinegar, and pressure canning it kills the flavor (and I can’t find any certified safe recipes to do so), but maybe I’ll freeze some one of these days…
  • Kraft “Parmesan Cheese.” I have a friend who grew up calling this “spaghetti powder,” which I think is a much more honest name for the stuff. And still…I love it. I especially love its thickening power. My sweetie makes the best homemade macaroni and cheese on the planet, and part of the secret to the sauce is spaghetti powder. It binds, thickens, and rounds out the cheese sauce better than anything from Parma possibly can. And I don’t particularly care if it does exactly the same thing to my midsection.
  • Mac’n’Cheez. Scott’s sublime concoction of noodles and cheeses is one thing…boxed mac-n-cheez is another thing altogether. And when you want mac-n-cheez, nothing else will really do. I do prefer something like Amy’s Organic these days instead of the blue box stuff, and it always has peas in it, too, but I keep a couple boxes on hand always for times I just gotta have it.
  • Sandwich and raisin breads. I can make bread. It’s quite good. For about 12 hours. And it rarely slices nicely, or fits in a sandwich bag, or makes a peanut butter sandwich without shedding crumbs all over…including back into the jelly jar, clinging to the knife. And raisin bread…Aunt Millie’s does it just right, and even though the size of the loaf has shrunk dramatically, I still can’t make it as well for the price. I also like sprouted bread, and it’s worth the money to avoid the hassle…and the over-sprouted loaves that taste like a bale of fresh hay.
  • Salty, crunchy snacks. Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory chips, Meijer pork rinds, and almost anything else deep-fried and sprinkled with salt. Though I find myself thinking of potato chips as “health food” because they’re relatively unprocessed – just potatoes, oil, and salt. *shakes head*

So how ’bout you? Got any deep, dark, pantry secrets?



  1. teacherpatti said,

    July 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    My mom used to make Kraft Spaghetti and it came with a little packet of the “parm cheese”. I loved it and I miss it.

    I also love Better Made potato chips…mmmm…..

  2. Jacqueline said,

    July 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    In the realm of candy, I can name several: Dots, Skittles, Peachies, Gummy Bears, Charleston Chews (best frozen and eaten after hours of swimming), and probably more.

    This help balance with my enjoyment of great chocolate, I think.

  3. July 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    My mom used to make this incredible spaghetti dish with milk, eggs and parm powder all whisked together, then poured over hot spaghetti so that the eggs cooked in little clumps. My mouth is watering even now…

    Fritos. ‘Nuff said. 😀

  4. Suzie said,

    July 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Yum, food-like characters! Our pantry is pretty good, what with dumping almost everything in the move, & then needing to lose weight so investing in whole foods. But bread and tortillas we do not consider fake foods – there’s no way we’re going to make them ourselves.

    • Emily said,

      July 20, 2010 at 8:38 am

      Bread and tortillas are totally real food. Well, usually. I’ve definitely found some sketchy bread-like products, but I somehow doubt you and Bob would deign to eat them. Since real bread is teh awesome…

  5. July 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Well, confession is good for the soul. My sin is R.M. Quigg’s Yellow Rice mix (loaded with MSG) – a favorite from early days and I’ve even been known to order it by mail. Oh, and my sick food is Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup with curry powder added, plus onions cooked in butter, then over rice. When I make that, my husband puts me under quarantine.

  6. UrsulaV said,

    July 21, 2010 at 9:19 am

    You will pry my teeny tiny Laughing Cow cheeses from my cold dead hands.

  7. Dakota said,

    July 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Tamari sauce… if that’s considered fake. It’s so nice to add to a stir fry or something like that. And the Frontier brand taco seasoning. I know I could make it, but when I need to make something quick at night it’s so much easier to just dig a spoon into a bag and sprinkle that stuff on it. Probably my favorite sinful food is crab rangoons… and so krab and wonton wrappers are definitely on my list. 😛

    On a different note, would you share some more of your kale recipes and how you prep it for the winter? I have kale coming out of my ears!

    • Emily said,

      July 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

      I’ll think of some…but better yet, I’ll send to you my friend Diana’s blog: 365 Days of Kale! She’ll be doing a kale class for Preserving Traditions in October…are you near Ann Arbor?

      • Dakota said,

        July 31, 2010 at 5:32 pm

        Emily, unfortunately I’m not… I’m in Montana. I wish I was close enough to take part in the Preserving Traditions classes though, they always sound so fun and useful. I don’t suppose you’d ever consider putting up a website with slide shows or videos or something similar that people could pay you money for and subscribe to? (I know, one more thing to do, right?)

        Thank you very much for the link though. I will check that out. My husband quit eating for the summer (he’s fasting) so I have a ton of produce and the baby and I just don’t eat that much that fast!

  8. Serenity said,

    July 22, 2010 at 9:39 am


  9. Kat Hagedorn said,

    July 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Ew, ReaLemon is nasty. Instead, buy some lemons, juice them, pour into ice cube trays, freeze, pop out and keep in bags or some other container in the freezer. Repeat with limes. Huge timesaver! And you have basically fresh citrus on hand at all times.

    • Emily said,

      July 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

      You are so clever and sensible. 🙂

      • Anonymous said,

        April 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm

        The Produce Station in Ann Arbor sells fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice — were about $7 last winter. Get some for whatever cooking project sent you out for it, make some lemon or limeade, freeze some in ice cube trays, put some in the food processor with ginger & honey as cough syrup or tea for your next cold.

  10. July 27, 2010 at 9:46 am

    I’m shocked. Shocked! 🙂 I’m slightly more of a purist, but I say that without judgment, if you can believe it.

    I still buy Hebrew National hot dogs, but I’m feeling less and less content with this decision as time goes on. I will confess to buying that awful spicy-sweet-sour Thai chili dipping sauce – first ingredient: sugar. What can I say – I like it with stir-fried rice! I deconstruct my lemons into juice and zest and freeze them separately; I don’t like the flavor of the ReaLemon stuff, though my husband thinks it’s fine. He also still buys tortilla chips and store-bought salsa, but will make his own salsa during tomato season. He’s got a serious cheese and crackers habit too, but he always buys good cheese, even if not always local.

  11. Patrick Haggood said,

    August 23, 2010 at 3:03 am

    I kids have never known the pleasure (horror) that is box mac n cheese; the ease of prep just isn’t worth the “this is not food!” reaction by my brain. However, Alton Brown (of Food Network fame) has a stove-top mac n cheese recipe that is nearly as quick as the boxed stuff, but tastes WAY more like real food.


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