Semi-homemade is a type of cooking that makes use of premade, canned, or mixed foods as “shortcuts” in cooking. For instance, using store-made cookies or dough to make cookie-ice cream scream sandwiches, instead of making the cookies from scratch. Another common occurrence is adding ingredients to cake mixes.
This is an idea that can be quite controversial for some people–especially professional chefs, such as Anthony Bourdain. However, as a normal person without the time or training to make everything from scratch, I am usually a fan of semi-homemade food…within reason. For instance, I don’t bother with adding things to pre-packaged cake mixes; when adding milk, butter, and eggs, one may as well just make the cake from scratch. Households where cooking is a regular occurrence usually have all the ingredients on hand, and you’re still going to use the mixer.
I also want my semi-homemade items to taste good. If it tastes like it came out of a can, and that’s unappealing, that’s not something I’m interested in making. Overall, semi-homemade is a great way to cook while also working and being busy. It can also be useful when you need to substitute ingredients. Earlier this week, I substituted a box of mac n cheese and the packets for a box of regular pasta and shredded cheese. Our dinner was still yummy.
Or take puff pastry. How many people really have the time and patience to roll out the layers of dough and butter every few hours rather than buying it at the store? Hubby threw Nutella in off-brand crescent rolls last week and it was delicious.
Some chefs do embrace this idea, most notably Sandra Lee, who describes her cooking as “using 70 percent pre-packaged products and 30 percent fresh items” and was star of Food Network’s Semi-Homemade. While I wouldn’t make everything her way, she has perfected this art as part of her brand.
Do you have a strong opinion on throwing together premade items vs. all from scratch meals? Comment for discussion.