homemade foods

I am trying to avoid processed foods and lots of sugar and salts in my family’s food. It is very difficult though, when you are on a tight budget to afford healthy foods. For example I want to buy wheat bread but Wonder bread is so much cheaper. When you are feeding four kids, two of which are teenage boys, a few cents makes a difference.

So, I am attempting to cook mainly homemade foods. But I have a lot of questions. Like why does homemade cake taste more dry then store bought? Am I doing something wrong?

I have found that old cookbooks from before the sixties(I have three such books) are a big help because they don’t assume that the cook is in a hurry. In fact, I am surprised at the amount of satisfaction that I am attaining from simply cooking a meal.

Because I used to be the processed food queen this is all new to me. Do any of you have recipes for food that you cook mainly from scratch?

By the way, I made mayo! Yeah! Okay, that is pretty boring but I am excited. I tried and tried to make this food but ended up annoyed and frustrated. Finally, I followed Alton Brown from food network’s suggestion but I changed his recipe at the end. I used a bit of onion salt and, I admit, 1/4teaspoon of sugar.(Okay, I am too used to store bought sweet mayo:( ) Mine is better then store bought! But I doubt that I have the patience to make mayo for my family.

I’ve lost about three pounds since Christmas without being on a diet. It is either because I am not using processed foods or because I stand up so long doing the actual cooking.:stuck_out_tongue:


First of all, your teens will actually feel fuller and in the long run eat less if you go with the whole grain breads. I recommend you make your own though, it will be cheaper and is very satisfying.

As to why homemade cakes are “drier” my only thought is it is because you are not useing those transfats that are in the cake mixes. As a family we would rather have the “dry” cake over that “moist” box cake any day.

Try making cakes different from the traditional “white” cake. Oatmeal cake is a really good one that comes to mind:
Seminary Oatmeal Cake
1 C. Quick Oats 1 ½ C. Flour
¾ C. Margarine 1 tsp. Soda
1 ½ C. Boiling Water ½ tsp. Salt
1 C. White Sugar ½ tsp. Baking Powder
1 C. Brown Sugar 1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 Eggs, beaten

Combine oats and margarine. Pour boiling water over oats mixture. Let set a few minutes. Add the sugars and eggs. Sift together and add dry ingredients. Bake in 9x13 pan for 35 minutes at 350º. Frost while warm with seminary frosting.

Seminary Frosting
1 C. Sugar ¼ C. Milk
1 C. Shredded Coconut 1 Egg
1 C. Pecans, chopped 1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Stick Margarine

Beat egg with milk. Add sugar, coconut, nuts and margarine. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vanilla, and frost cake.

This is an absolute favorite cake in this house. I use regular oats instead of the “instant” oats too. Comes out just fine. Yes, it has a lot of sugar but any dessert should have lots of sugar :wink: and should not be a significant part of your diet.

Brenda V.

perhaps the homemade cake tastes drier because of the flour you are using…I never have a problem with this (dry cakes)…also in regards to wheat bread…if you are baking cakes why not try making oyur own…not hard really and it is a good way to get your fustrations out:D

Okay so what flour are you using? I know that my from scratch cakes are dryer than the boxed cakes but we all just prefer them to that extra moist cake. (BTW, I don’t make many cakes anymore because I have found that wheat flour is bad for me).

Brenda V.

King Arthur flours are good and what we use for all of our baking (cakes, breads, etc.)…
also some common things can make a home made cake dry…

1.Too much flour or leavening (baking soda/baking powder) was used.
2.Not enough shortening or sugar was used.
3.The cake was over-baked - the oven temperature was too high and/or the baking time was too long.

Thank you for the recipe Brenda. I will try it out this pay day(I have to plan out all my meals) It sounds delicious!:slight_smile:

Karin, could you post a recipe? I use Down’s(I think) Cake Flour but it still seems dry to me. Maybe I will use your recipe instead of the one in my cookbook.

I use the ismplest cookbook out there…Betty Crocker’s but here are some of our favorties…
[LEFT] Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake Recipe[/LEFT]
**1 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use less than this…usually 1/2-1cup)
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla
1 8-oz. container lemon yogurt
Cream together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Then add flour and yogurt alternately to creamed mixture. Stir in rind and vanilla. Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Add poppy seeds to batter if desired.

Banana Bread Cake Recipe
**Cream together:
1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups ripe, mashed bananas

Whisk together and add to to wet ingredients, mix well:
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Almond extract

Sift together and fold into wet ingredients:
3 cups flour
2 tsp. Baking powder
2 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Cardamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
Pour into 9x13 prepared baking pan. Sprinkle top of cake with granola.

Bake about 30-40 minutes in 375 degree oven.

At the rate you’re going with these recipe suggestions, you’re going to be living on dessert and mayonnaise!

Here are my Best Easy Brownies:

Preheat oven to 350. Spray with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour a 9 inch square pan.

Melt together in a saucepan over very low heat:

1 stick of butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
Remove from heat and stir in:

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla or a splash of Frangelico hazelnut liqueurSift in after measuring (you’ll be sorry if you don’t sift - LUMPS):

3/4 cup flour

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 27 to 35 minutes - depends on your oven. Cool in pan and cut into 9 or 16 brownies. Mmmmmmmmmm.


Thank you so much! I am going to have to invest in a notebook so I can keep all these recipes together.:smiley:

The most moist cake I ever baked from scratch was made with buttermilk. I don’t remember the type of flour being an issue. It also matters what the weather is doing on a particular day. I moved from Houston, TX a very humid climate, to Albuquerque, NM, an extremely dry climate, and had to make some adjustments especially to my baked goods recipes. A little more butter than is called for is usually a good idea in most recipes! Also, make sure your baking powder is fresh, that stuff gets old and does not do the trick like it did whe you first opened the can.

Try your cake recipe again, and just use buttermilk instead, I’ll bet you’ll notice a great difference!

Also, do you know of a day-old bread shop in your area? You can get great deals at those places, and the bread is sometimes fresh baked that day, it’s just overstock. If you know where the actual bakery is in town, you can usually find the bread shop close by to it.

This website has loads of recipes for “from scratch” foods-- even some homemade convenince foods.


Whole wheat flour is more healthy than white flour, but whole wheat flour just doesn’t work in many recipes…unless you use whole wheat PASTRY flour.

I began using it about two months ago and it is awesome. I don’t even use white flour at all anymore. I used it to make biscuits, bundt cakes, pancakes, gravy, cookies, etc., and nobody around this house full of picky white bread fans even NOTICED. HA!

You must get a Joy of Cooking cookbook if you don’t have one. It is the bible of cookbooks.

A dry cake might be overcooked or not have enough fats or oils. The Joy of Cooking tells you all this kind of stuff.

An excellent staple when trying to make homemade food is to know how to roast a chicken to perfection. You can then use the meat for an endless number of recipes such as casseroles, soups, stews, sandwiches, etc. Same with pork loin, which can some times be on sale at great prices.

Also get a slow cooker/crock pot. They make it extremely easy to make homemade meals with little fuss and not too many ingredients.

Do you have a Save A Lot grocery store near you? They are a store that sells their own brand of items and some name brands at significant discount to going to a regular store. save-a-lot.com/ This site has a store finder, so you can see if there is one near you. You will notice a distinct difference in your food bill for staples such as eggs, cheese, milk, juice, etc. here. DH and I go there every other trip and find that we get some of the best prices on fresh meats and produce and staples, though they do not have the same selection as a regular name brand grocery store.

I would love your modified recipe for mayo! I’ve always wanted to try that, but have never been brave enough! :rolleyes:


I love my “More with Less Cookbook”, published by the Mennonites. Very good, but economical recipes, nothing processed at all. I also second the hillbilly housewife site (url above). The Fannie Farmer cookbook is also great.
Since we moved here last summer, I too have had to learn to cook from scratch–never did it before, there was always a deli or takeout place within a few blocks. Out here… if you want it, you gotta make it! There are tons of great recipe sites online too, just keep searching until you find some you like.

If Alton Brown taught you how to make mayo, he’s the best person to teach you how to make a moist cake. I recommend starting with Episode EA1F13, the Gold Cake:


Remember, weigh that flour, don’t measure with a cup. And do use King Arthur!

To the OP: (i’m not good at quoting other posters…) but my understanding of why store bought cakes & mixes-most store-bought being made from mixes- are moister is the use of the chemical propelyne glycol (sp).
As others have said, the flour can make a significant difference, whole wheat pastry flour is by far the best of the healthy flours to use in baking…also, for the fat, I usually use 1/2 real butter & half canola oil, more moist than just butter…& also, you could try mayonnaise in your recipe…I don’t have specifics, I just have dobbed some in some cake recipes in the past, particularly chocolate, & it does contribute to the moistness…

congrats on making your own mayo…how did you do it or have you already said?? I just skimmed thru…my computer is sooooo slow…
Love all the recipes & tips!!!

The Good News is that you can make Coke too. :stuck_out_tongue: sparror.cubecinema.com/cube/cola/


Joy of Cooking is the bible of cooking. DW has her mother’s first edition copy of it. DW bakes bread for our local farmer’s market and will only use King Arthur which she buys in 50 lb. sacks. Down here we grow a lot of our own food since we have three growing seasons. DW barters with the other farmers at the market since we raise free range chickens and eggs. Cauliflower, any kind of green you can imagine, brussel sprouts, brocolli, etc. are all fresh. We had a really nice wheel of chevre (French goat cheese) with crackers for lunch today. And, DW is eyeing a certain rooster as a candidate for the stew pot.

There is nothing to compare between the flavor of store bought goods as opposed to fresh. I can tell you from my own experience that our eggs are richer and Mr. Rooster will have far more flavor than your commercially raised chicken.

This husband cooks as much as his wife and we both watch Food Network. We both like Cook’s Magazine - their show is on PBS.

In your position, I’d pick my battles. There are store-bought mixes that are not significantly different in price or nutritionally than homemade–you may find lasagna is even cheaper–and there are those things for which the price or nutritional difference is astonishing.

Homemade bread is an example. You either win by a mile in price or in quality, one or the other. It is also something that kids can learn to make. If you prepare the dough one day and let it rise in the refrigerator to be made up the next day, the quality is even better.

When there is no difference in the finished result, frozen veggies are usually much cheaper and better quality than out-of-season fresh ones. Canned tomatoes outdistance all but in-season fresh ones. And so on.

On the mayo, keep in mind that commerical mayo does have preservatives in it and is cooked. Do not expect the same keeping quality from raw-egg mayo.

If you are new at cooking, go to your library and browse through the cookbooks aimed at cooking from scratch for college students. See if they have some of the tried-and-true starter cookbooks, such as Joy of Cooking. Also, check out freezer cooking. If they have both the old one and the new one, check out both. The older one has fewer mixes in it. A third avenue to explore is vegetarian cooking. There are some very cheap meals to be had there. Dyed-in-the wool meat-eaters can often make similar dishes with “condiment” amounts of meat added.

If you and the kids work together on monthly cooking days to lay away something for the freezer, you’ll be getting helping hands and they’ll be learning how to provide meals for themselves on a budget. It won’t be long before they will need that information and experience.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.