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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Convenience Store(d) Food

[ Another great piece by Wendy at Home Is... ]

Some time ago, I went on a quest for convenience, but I didn’t want the kind of convenience that comes in a box from the store.

Actually, that’s exactly what I wanted, but what I didn’t want is modified food starch, disodium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides (to prevent foaming … seriously, is foamy pudding a bad thing?), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, or BHA (preservative).

I’m not a purist or anything, but in learning to eat locally, we had to unlearn our dependence on commercial food products. So, when I went looking for “convenience”, initially, it was just because I couldn’t verify where the stuff in the boxes had come from, but I could find local flour and salt for the mix, and milk and butter when I mixed the pudding, and using raw vanilla beans and local vodka, I can make my own vanilla extract. So, at first, it was all about keeping our diet as local as possible, which means we had to learn to eat a lot of “whole” foods.

But sometimes, it’s nice to have the convenience. You know?


Then, I started looking at what’s in those boxes …

… and, well, as Neo discovered, once you’ve eaten the red pill, there’s just no going back.

So, I went on a quest for “mixes” I could make myself, and I found a lot of them. Currently, I have in my cabinet, pancake mix and vanilla pudding mix. I have recipe for corn muffin mix, but I haven’t mixed it, yet :).

I found the Vanilla Pudding Mix recipe on

It is:

1 1/2 c sugar
1 c instant nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt

Stir ingredients together and store in a tightly covered container in a cool place.

For different flavors you can add:

Caramel: 1 1/2 c brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar.
Chocolate: add 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa.

Recipe yields about 5 c of mix.

To make the pudding:

2/3 c pudding mix
1 3/4 c warm milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Stir pudding mix into the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles throughout. Reduce heat and cook over low heat for one minute. Add butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Chill before serving.

There are no preservatives - except what’s in the dry milk (Added later: I looked at the ingredient list, and the dry milk doesn’t have any preservatives, only the addition of vitamins A and D, but there is a concern as to how the dry milk is *made*). We used real butter and raw milk when we made the pudding, and added green food coloring (because it was St. Patrick’s Day ;).

It’s really rich! One could probably reduce the amount of sugar by a quarter and not miss it too much.


When we first started our quest to localize our diet, I assumed it would mean giving up things like pudding, which is crazy, when I really think about it, because pudding wasn’t “invented” by Jell-O, but I don’t think my assumptions were too far removed from the average American’s. I never thought *I* could can tomato soup, or that *I* could make cinnamon rolls that are at least as good as anything I can buy.

But I have, to both, and the more I learn about cooking with whole ingredients, the more I realize that food production isn’t some magic created in the bowels of the Campbell Soup factory.

I’m a little embarrased that it’s taken me so long to get where I am with regard to my food preparation skills, but, as they say, “better late than never ….”

And even better than my learning these skills, is that my three youngest are learning right along side me.

They actually know that cinnamon rolls don’t come shrink wrapped from the grocery store, that milk comes from a cow’s udder (which they’ve seen), that “chicken” is an animal that lays eggs and not just a KFC product, that yogurt and cheese can be made in our kitchen using milk and heat and bacteria, that maple syrup started out as maple sap, that potatoes and carrots grow underground, and while money doesn’t, apples do grow on trees.

They may not be able to recite the Preamble to the Constitution (thanks, Schoolhouse Rock!), but they have a great deal more knowledge than I had at their ages.

And better, it’s knowledge that has value.

Of course, if you’ll give me a dollar, I’ll sing the Preamble for you :).


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