Can’t find it in the Organic Section? Make it Yourself!

Depending on the diversity of selection in the organic section in your local grocery store, it may be difficult to find organic versions of the condiments and other prepared foods you or your family like to eat.  And if what you want is a prepared food, such as salad dressing, odds are some sort of preservative may have to be added to allow it to have a reasonable shelf life from producer to store to table.

Even though I live in a large city and I’m blessed with more than one local grocery store that stocks organic food, I can’t always find everything I want.

When I went looking for organic honey dijon salad dressing to go with my organic greens and sprouts, I couldn’t always find what I wanted so I decided to try making it myself.  Salad dressing became my first adventure in DIY Organic.  In a cereal-size bowl, I combined a heaping tablespoon of Honey with 1 teaspoon of Balsamic Vinegar, a dash of Dijon Mustard, a heaping teaspoon of mayonnaise and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of Olive Oil.  All the ingredients were organic (except the mustard, which was local) and sitting in my refrigerator anyway so there was the added benefit of using them up faster thus ensuring a fresher supply on hand no matter what I might wish to use one of them for at any moment.

Next, I couldn’t often find an organic version my son’s favourite flavour of ice cream – and organic ice cream seemed expensive in general.  I invested in an ice cream maker and tried the basic vanilla recipe that came with the instructions.  I soon discovered another benefit of DIYing your organic prepped food, and that was a much greater awareness of what goes into those foods.  In the case of ice cream, it was the amount of sugar (lots!).  We continue to eat ice cream but understanding the amount of sugar used in a much more tangible way (by measuring it out myself) allows me to be better informed about balancing that choice with other choices for an overall healthy diet.

Plus, when you make it yourself, you gain a much better understanding of the costs involved.  We’ve become so accustomed to cheap processed food that we’ve lost touch with the true cost of genuine quality.

Tips for making Organic Ice Cream:  I found that the amount of granulated sugar recommended didn’t remain completely dissolved as the ice cream cooled, giving the final product a slightly granular texture.  I’ve been experimenting with using a combination of powdered or “icing” sugar along with some of the granulated variety with a notable improvement.  And here’s another discovery, when we make more ice cream than we’ll be eating that day, I put the remainder in one or more plastic containers made for the purpose.  It happened that one of those containers tipped slightly on its side during the freezing process, revealing a bit of separation when opened.  It tasted fine but my next ice cream experiment will be to see if I can successfully downsize the recipe to just 2 or 4 servings so that we only make as much as we intend to eat immediately.

Sundried Tomato Pesto!  I could not find an organic version to save my life so you can imagine my delight when my local organic grocer started carrying sundried tomatoes with a recipe for pesto on the back of the package.  I was able to pick-up the pine nuts and fresh basil leaves at the same store (I purchased an organic basil plant to grow on my windowsill shortly thereafter).  The other ingredients (garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pepper) were already in my pantry or fridge ready to go.  I quick “whir” in the food processor when I got home and we were ready to add sundried tomato pesto to our pasta dinner (the pesto keeps for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator).

Speaking of garlic, when my local grocer stopped carrying smallish glass jars of chopped garlic in favour of the 350ml+ plastic container variety, I was daunted.  We don’t eat enough garlic to justify purchasing so much at one go (it would take forever to use up) and you won’t be surprised to learn that when I purchase garlic bulbs, they tend to dry out before they’re all used up.  I also prefer to store food in glass whenever feasible.  So next on my list of “To Do’s” will be to purchase some garlic bulbs, chop them up and put them in a small jar with some olive oil (I’ll keep the mixture in the refrigerator).

You may feel that DIY Organic is more work than you’re ready to get yourself into and that’s cool.  For some reason, I get WAY too excited about discovering what goes into my prepared food and then making it myself – it’s my thing these days so I’ll enjoy it while my enthusiasm lasts (or until those lovely little glass jars of pre-chopped garlic reappear on my organic grocer’s shelf).  And along the way, I’ll enjoy becoming much more knowledgeable about what goes into prepared food and the economics of producing healthy versions of those foods.

Still in the contemplation stage:  Potato Chips!  I’ll keep you posted.

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