Some things are best store-bought, but these particular staples are worth making at home. They’ll taste better, cost less, and make you appreciate the kitchen prowess and bragging rights you’ll earn along the way.
1. Almond Milk
Almond milk tastes better and is healthier when made at home. Store-bought almond milk can have a bunch of added ingredients, like sugar, which makes it go from an innocent milk alternative to a calorie-loaded beverage. For the very basic, non-flavored milk you’ll need only two ingredients: water and raw almonds.
1 cup almonds (soaked in water overnight)
4 cups water
Vanilla bean (or extract)
Maple syrup, honey, agave, or stevia to taste
Soak the almonds in a bowl with water (additional to the recipe) overnight in the fridge—up to 8 to 12 hours.
Mix soaked almonds, water, and optional ingredients in a blender for 1 to 2 minutes, until fully mixed and creamy.
Strain and squeeze out the mixture into a bowl using a cheesecloth, kitchen towel, or nut milk bag.
2. Taco Seasoning
Taco seasoning is a simple blend of spices you’re better off mixing up yourself. The ingredients you need for this recipe are pretty basic spice cabinet staples you likely have in your kitchen, so use this as a template when you need seasoning in a pinch.
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl or a jar.
Store in an air-tight container or jar in the pantry.
Use 2 tablespoons of seasoning for every 1 pound of meat.
3. French Fries
Buying a bag of frozen pre-cut spuds from the grocery store may seem like the easier option here, but once you make your own oven-roasted fries, you’ll never go back to the ones from the freezer aisle. The secret to a perfectly crispy fry is to make sure they’re completely dry and lathered with oil when they go in the oven.
2 medium russet potatoes
2 Tbsp canola oil
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1⁄4-inch fries (about twice the thickness of standard fast-food fries).
Soak in warm water for at least 15 minutes before cooking.
Drain the potatoes and dry thoroughly.
Combine the fries and the oil in a mixing bowl and toss until they’re evenly coated.
Season thoroughly with salt.
Spread the fries out on a large baking sheet, being careful they don’t overlap.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the fries are just tender and lightly browned on the outside.
Sprinkle with the garlic, rosemary, and Parmesan and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the garlic lightly browned.
4. Chicken Tenders
Another freezer aisle staple that can be much-improved if made from scratch is chicken tenders. There really isn’t a whole lot to achieving the crispy texture—simply make sure to use Panko bread crumbs instead of the regular bread crumbs.
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenders
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 cups panko gluten-free bread crumbs
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp chipotle pepper purée (This dish is perfect for chicken finger-loving kids. Just be sure to cut the chiles from the sauce.)
1 Tbsp honey
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl. Place the crumbs on a plate and season those, too.
Dip the chicken tenders into the egg, then toss in the crumbs, being sure to coat fully.
Place the breaded chicken pieces on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the crumbs have browned and the chicken is firm.
Combine the mustard, chipotle, and honey in a large bowl.
Toss the cooked chicken tenders in the mixture so they are all evenly coated with the spicy-sweet sauce.
5. Healthy Granola
Specialty granola, like the one that falls into the paleo category, can end up being quite expensive in stores. But with a few smart ingredients swaps that eliminate grains and crank up the healthy fat content, you could be making a big batch of it at home for a lot less money.
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups halved raw walnuts, cashews, pecans, or almonds (or a combination)
1 cup raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or a combination)
2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup almond flour
2 tablespoons white or black chia seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Nondairy milk or yogurt, for serving, optional
Fresh fruit, for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 300ºF and line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Whisk together tahini, coconut oil, olive oil, and coconut sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until oil is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
In a large bowl, toss to combine sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, coconut, cocoa powder, almond flour, chia seeds, cinnamon, and salt.
Pour tahini mixture over seeds mixture. Toss to combine, then use your hands to clump the mixture together into bite-sized clusters.
Spread the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan, ensuring that the clusters stay intact.
Bake until toasty, 20-25 minutes. Let granola cool completely on the tray (it will continue to crisp as it cools).
Serve with nondairy milk or yogurt. Store in airtight containers at room temperature or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
6. Immune-Boosting Shot
If you love buying bottled immune-boosting shots, you’ll agree they work wonders. But you’ll also agree that you’re paying way too much for a tiny bottle of essentially fruit juice and some spices. Make our fire cider recipe and keep this precious immunity elixir stored in the fridge for when you need it.
1/4 cup freshly chopped garlic
1/4 cup freshly chopped ginger
1/4 cup freshly chopped horseradish
2 dried hot chiles, crushed (freshly chopped will also work)
1 Tbsp ground or freshly grated turmeric
1/2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 orange, washed and quartered
1 lemon, washed and quartered
Apple cider vinegar
In a clean quart-sized jar, combine garlic, ginger, horseradish, chiles, turmeric, and peppercorns. Squeeze orange and lemon into the mixture and add the rinds. Stir well, then press the solids down to firmly pack them.
Pour in apple cider vinegar until the solids are completely covered (but don’t fill the jar to the very brim). If your jar’s lid is metal, cover the top of the jar with a square of parchment paper before tightly sealing the lid—metal can react weirdly with vinegar, and no one wants that.
For quick cider: Transfer the jar to the fridge and let steep at least 12 hours. Use a wooden spoon to press down on solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Pour out about 1 shot of the cider and mix in honey to taste. Take a shot (or a half-shot) every morning, or whenever you’re feeling under the weather. Finish within 1 month.
For OG slow cider: Transfer the jar to a cool, dark area in the kitchen, like a pantry or cabinet. Let the mixture steep, gently shaking the jar once a day for three weeks. Use a wooden spoon to press down on solids to extract as much flavor as possible, then strain out the solids and mix in honey to taste. Discard the solids and transfer the cider to the fridge. Take a shot (or a half-shot) every morning, or whenever you’re feeling under the weather. Finish within 1 month.