I have lately been on a quest to make my own convenience foods. Or to at least find quicker methods of making some of the foods I use often. Here is what I learned.
First I tried a couple of recipes I found for making your own rice side dishes. I like those Knorr Rice Sides and Rice-A-Roni. I like them once in a while with a meal instead of potatoes or sometimes I will add my canned chicken or beef to them for a skillet type meal. So I followed the recipes and made both a chicken flavor and a beef flavor rice mix. I added meat to half a batch and left the other half plain. And I have to report that I didn't much care for any of it. Both the homemade mixes were bland and sort of tasteless. Even doctoring them up didn't help much. Given a choice between the homemade mixes and the store bought, I would choose the store bought for flavor every time.
I had seen posts on a couple of food and preparedness blogs about making baking powder biscuit dough and freezing the biscuits to be baked later. Thinking that might work well for me, I followed the instructions, using a recipe included in the blog post for one batch, using the Bisquick recipe for another batch and finally using my tried and true biscuit recipe for the third. I mixed the dough, rolled it out and cut the biscuits. I put the raw biscuits on parchment lined cookie sheets and popped them into the freezer. When frozen, I bagged and labeled each batch and back into the freezer they went. The instructions said to bake them, just place the frozen biscuits on a baking sheet and bake as usual. So I took two biscuits from each bag and put them on a parchment paper lined sheet, writing on the paper with a Sharpie so I wouldn't mix them up, and baked them. When they came out of the oven, the first two would have made great substitutions for hockey pucks. The biscuits made using my recipe were a little better, but not much. They weren't nearly as light and fluffy as I like them but were more dense and heavy.
So far, I'm not doing real well with these experiments. But I had one more to try.
I had found a YouTube series about making no-knead bread. Thought it was worth trying. I watched the videos and wrote down the recipes and instructions for a loaf of white bread and for rolls. I followed the instructions to the letter. The guy in the videos made it look so easy, and it was fairly quick and easy to mix the dough. But when the loaf of bread came out of the oven, I found I had a really nice smelling door stop. It was heavy and had a really tough crust, even after I brushed butter on the outside to soften it up a bit. It didn't taste nearly as good as a loaf made the conventional way using my favorite recipe. The rolls weren't any better.
So that is how I managed to waste a couple of perfectly good days. I suppose they weren't a total loss. I learned that quick and easy isn't always a good thing. I learned that sometimes substitutes for a dish like the rice sides can't be duplicated to taste like what I am used to. And I learned that even though kneading bread takes time and energy, the results are well worth it. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying any of these methods. Could be Operator Error. But personally, I found that for me, it just wasn't working. I will continue to stock the store bought rice mixes and make bread and biscuits from scratch, the old fashioned way.
So mostly I learned that if it ain't broke - don't fix it!
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