Handy Home-Prepared Mixes

Pre-packaged store-bought box mixes are expensive. Have you considered homemade alternatives? Made-from-scratch mixes are healthy, cost beneficial, store well, and taste great. Often times, you're paying for the packaging of commercial "convenience" foods and you don't have any control over the additives and preservatives they contain. When making your own mixes, you tailor the ingredients, so have control over the quality and quantity.

Making your own bulk mixes is a great way to stock your pantry. Creative containers make homemade mixes a terrific frugal gift idea too. There's something deeply satisfying when cooking from scratch. It takes some minimal preparation, but many of the ingredients are already a staple in your pantry. It's not as time consuming as you may think.

Supplies

Plastic baggies
Glass containers with tight fitted lids
Prep area
Labels
Appropriate ingredients
Storage area
Basic kitchen tools
Plastic containers
Decorative items for gifts. (ribbons, printable recipe cards, labels)

Master Baking Mix

9 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk solids
2 cups shortening (which does not require refrigeration)

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar and sugar three times. Add dry milk. Mix well. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like cornmeal. Store in covered container at room temperature.

Biscuits
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine 1 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix and 1/3 cup milk in a bowl. Add milk and stir. Knead lightly on floured board. Roll 1/2-inch thick; cut and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Makes 8.
Options: Add grated cheese and chopped herbs. Increase milk to 1/2 cup for drop biscuits.

Muffins
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Beat together in a bowl 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add 3 cups Master Baking Mix. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pans or into paper muffin cups and bake 20 minutes.
Options: Add drained fruit, chopped nuts or dried fruit. Replace 1/3 cup of Master Baking Mix called for with quick-cooking oatmeal or All-Bran® cereal. Add chopped dried fruit and nuts to recipe and bake as a fruit bread in a greased 8 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Pancakes or Waffles
Beat together 1 cup milk and 1 egg. Stir in 1 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Bake on griddle or waffle iron.

Dumplings
Mix 1/3 cup water to 1 cup Master Baking Mix. Drop into hot stock and cook 10 minutes, uncovered, and 10 minutes, covered.

Yellow Cake
Sift together in a large bowl 3 cups Master Baking Mix and 1 1/4 cups sugar. Mix together in a small bowl 2 beaten eggs, 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add this to dry ingredients. Beat at high speed for 4 minutes. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Frost or sprinkle confectioners' sugar over the top. Options: For chocolate cake increase the sugar to 1 1/2 and add 1/2 cup of cococa powder.

Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat together in a bowl 1/3 cup milk and 1 egg. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 2 1/4 cups Master Baking Mix. Stir until well blended, about one minute. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons margarine and 1/4 cup chopped nuts and sprinkle over the top. Bake 25 minutes.

Oatmeal Cookies
Place 2 1/4 cups Master Baking Mix in a bowl. Stir in 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Combine 1/3 cup milk, 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup melted shortening. Stir into mix and blend well. Add 3 cups oatmeal and mix. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 12 minutes.

Banana Bread
Beat 2 eggs and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/4 cups (about 3) mashed bananas. Stir in 2 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Pour into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes or until brown.

Pizza Crust
Add 1/2 cup water to 2 cups Master Baking Mix and form into a ball. Knead and roll out 1/2-inch thick. Place in a 10-inch pan, leaving a rim around the edge. Brush the dough with oil, then spread with favorite toppings.

Basic Mixes

Chicken Coating Mix

1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons onion powder or dried minced onion
2 teaspoons dried minced celery
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
To use: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Gently beat 1/2 cup milk and 1 egg together in a bowl. Wash and pat dry chicken. Fill a bag with 1 cup of the coating mix. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk-egg mixture and then drop a piece of chicken into the bag and shake. Let pieces dry thoroughly before baking. Place chicken on a shallow, lightly greased baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

Stuffing Mix

6 cups large bread cubes
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon leaf thyme, crumbled
1/2 cup dried minced celery
1/2 teaspoon leaf sage, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cubes chicken bouillon, crumbled, or 3 Tablespoons chicken bouillon powder

Bake bread cubes on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, turning a few times to brown evenly. Toss bread cubes with remaining ingredients until the cubes are evenly coated. Store in a tightly closed container on the shelf for 1 to 4 months, or freeze for 1 year. To use: Melt 3 tablespoons butter; stir into 2 cups Stuffing Mix in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup chicken broth or water, stirring gently. Warm in a pan on top of the stove, in the oven, or in a microwave.

Condiments

Ranch Dressing Mix

15 saltine crackers
1 cup dry parsley
1/2 cup dry onions
2 Tablespoons thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Whirl in blender until crumbs are very small. Store in an airtight container. It will keep for 1 year.
To use: Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup buttermilk and 1 Tablespoon Ranch Dressing Mix.

Italian Dressing Mix

2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Mix and store in an airtight container.
To make dressing: Use 3 Tablespoon mix with 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil and 1/2 cup wine vinegar.

Beverages

Cocoa Mix

8 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups non-dairy coffee creamer
3 cups instant chocolate drink mix for milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, combine all and blend well. Store in an airtight container.
To serve: Combine 1/2 cup of mix with 9 ounces of boiling water. Stir well. Makes 16 cups of mix.

Cappuccino Mix

1 cup instant coffee creamer
1 cup instant chocolate drink mix
2/3 cup instant coffee crystals, regular or decaffeinated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine creamer, drink mix, coffee crystals, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and mix well. Store in airtight container. Makes 3 cups dry mix, 15 servings.
To prepare: Add 3 Tablespoons mix to 6 ounces of hot water and stir well.

Spice Blends

All Purpose Spice Mix

1/3 cup Grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Sesame seeds
2 Tablespoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Poppy seeds
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 teaspoon Dried parsley
1 teaspoon Onion flakes
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 teaspoon Celery seed
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Crush bouillon cube into fine powder, put in screw-top jar. Add remaining ingredients and shake until well mixed. Store in refrigerator for up to 4 months. May be used on fish, meat, stews, casseroles, salads, vegetables.

Onion Soup Mix

2 cups powdered milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup beef bouillon crystals
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed

Mix and store in an airtight container in refrigerator.
To prepare: Mix 1/3 cup dry Onion Soup Mix with 1 1/2 cups water. Cook and stir until thickened.

Gift Ideas (Gifts In a Jar)

Dreamsicle Cookies

1/2 cup orange-flavored drink mix (Tang)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla baking chips
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the flour with baking soda and baking powder. Starting with the Tang, then sugar, chips and flour mix, layer the ingredients in a glass jar.
Attach Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F Empty contents into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix well. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls into balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

Colorful Soup Mix in a Jar

1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried split peas
1/2 cup uncooked twist macaroni
1/4 cup barley
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup uncooked tri-color spiral pasta

Use a funnel. Layer ingredients in the following order: bouillon, onion flakes, split peas, small shape pasta, barley, lentils, rice, and enough tricolor spiral pasta to fill jar.
Attach Instructions: Brown 1 pound ground beef or stew beef in a little olive oil. Remove tricolor pasta from top of jar and reserve. Add the rest of the jar contents to the pan and add 12 cups water. Boil and simmer 45 minutes. Add tricolor pasta and simmer 15 minutes more.

Tips

Be sure to store your mixes in a cool, dark place. They hold a shelf life of approximately six months. You can also freeze flour for 24 hours prior to using in your mixes to prevent the possibility of bugs.

Gifts In a Jar Tips

When assembling gifts in a jar, you should use one quart, wide mouth canning jars;however, many containers will work such as mugs, baskets, gift bags, flower pots, bowls, and teapots. Press each layer firmly in place before adding the next ingredient. You can decorate with fabric, floral and ribbon embellishments, or by drawing on jars with glass paint markers. You can consider attaching small gifts to the container such as ornaments, cookie cutters, measuring spoons, or a wooden spoon. Don't forget to attach the recipe to your homemade gift.

If you enjoyed these mix recipes, you'll love Just Recipes website with over 700 mix recipes at your fingertips.
http://www.melborponsti.com/inxmix.html

You're well on your way to creating great alternatives to store-bought convenience foods. Who thought it could be so simple and sensible? You'll create something handy, frugal, healthy, and tasty. They're wonderful for stocking up, camping trips, and emergencies too. You'll even have wonderful kitchen gifts to share. Not bad for thinking "outside of the box".

Sara Noel is a freelance writer and the Editor/Publisher of http://www.FrugalVillage.com and http://www.HomesteadGarden.com Visit both these sites for information on getting back to basics through frugality, gardening, lost arts, simplicity, homesteading, and natural family living.

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A new recipe to spice up the old book clubs  LivemintCookbook clubs are springing up across the metros to explore new cuisinesTechnology helps these food-and-book lovers stay connected.
Recipe: Josh Niland's crumbed garfish with yoghurt tartare and herb salad  foodserviceSERVES 4. GARFISH 4 200 g garfish, scaled, gutted and gilled 1 cup plain flour 4 eggs, lightly whisked 2 cups white panko breadcrumbs 400 ml clarified butter

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