For me, one of the greatest pleasures in life is crafting something out of nothing and making it beautiful. I love the industriousness it requires, and the feeling of total independence when I’m able use the finished product. It’s often more economical to make things from scratch, too, which is a nice bonus when one is living on a budget. People sometimes overlook food when talking DIY–after all, the convenience and immediate gratification of a microwavable meal is hard to trump–but there is something to be said about foodie projects, and growing and/or making food from scratch. I find that I feel much more connected to my meals when I’ve had a direct hand in their creation; kneading bread dough, blending a salad dressing, roasting tomatoes for a sauce…these are the moments that inform my whole and nourished lifestyle.
And what better time to commit to incorporating kitchen DIY projects into your routine than in January? Once you start to cook from scratch, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t been doing it all along. I’ve listed some of my favorite, tried-and-true foodie projects below, as well as some new ideas I’m hoping to undertake in the new year. Happy cooking!
1. Nut butter and hummus
Learning to make my own nut butter and hummus from scratch was a revelatory experience. I mean, it doesn’t get much easier than this. All you really need is a food processor (which you can purchase at a low price on Amazon) and a short list of ingredients. Unlike a lot of commercial brands, homemade nut butter and hummus have clean ingredient lists and no preservatives. Plus, you can customize your own flavors (think: chocolate mocha pecan butter or sweet potato hummus).
To learn how to make your own, see Easy Homemade Vegan Nut Butter and 5 Tips For The Best Homemade Hummus.
A lot of people are intimidated at the prospect of baking bread. I think a lot of that anxiety stems from the lengthy process–once you get over the fact that it will take a few hours to reach the finished product, however, the rest is a breeze. I love the kneading process, and punching down the bread once it’s risen. And, you cannot beat the smell of fresh bread baking. Perfect on a cozy Sunday morning!
If you have a bread machine, try this recipe for loaves and pretzels. If you don’t have a machine (like me), try this fantastic recipe for oil-free whole wheat bread.
3. Salad dressings
Salad dressings are among the easiest recipes to make, and yet so many of us only allow store-bought bottled dressings to grace our salads. I, for one, try to have a dressing in my refrigerator at all times, since they are so versatile and simple to make.
Try out any of these recipes for a quick and easy addition to your meals: Creamy Za’atar Dressing, Maca Miso Dressing, Carrot Ginger Dressing, or Oil-Free Cumin Dijon.
4. Lacto-fermented vegetables
This is another process that many people approach with trepidation, and I can see why. Making lacto-fermented vegetables requires vegetables to sit in a brine, without refrigeration, for up to a week or more. As long as you’re careful and monitor your vegetables daily, they will be safe to eat…and delicious. If you are a beginner, I suggest following a thorough, step-by-step guide to fermenting.
To start, check out our Vegan Kimchi and DIY Pickles tutorials.
5. Vegan cheese
Admittedly, I’ve never tried to make my own vegan cheese, but I know lots of people who have done so and had great results. My best advice is to start off with a simple recipe, and work your way up to some of the more complicated and time-intensive recipes. There are lots of recipes online, but I recommend checking out a cookbook like Artisan Vegan Cheese to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
If you’re not feeling ready to culture and age your cheese, there are plenty of easy recipes that create that same cheesy flavor you’re after. Try our Life-Changing Butternut Squash Cheese Sauce or Pumpkin Cauliflower Mac N’ Cheese.
Are you a fan of kombucha? If you are, then you know how quickly it can empty your wallet. The good news is that kombucha is relatively easy to make at home, and can be customized to your flavor preferences.
Our Beginners Guide to Kombucha (part 1 and part 2) is a great guide for any brewing novice.
7. Infused liquor
Perfect for a snow day project, infusing your own liquor is as easy as it is delicious. Make a big batch and use it throughout the year for dinner and cocktail parties.
See this comprehensive guide to flavoring your favorite libations.
Making my own pasta is an undertaking I’ve been reluctant to try, but even I can’t resist the allure of making my own noodles from scratch. Aside from needing a pasta maker (which, I just learned, can be purchased for as little as $20-30!), there are few ingredients required.
Intrigued? Try your hand at homemade pasta with this easy tutorial.
Which kitchen project will you be trying this year? Share in the comments!
Also by Molly: How Batch Cooking Has Changed The Way I Eat
Related: 4 Ways to Break Out of Lunch Rut
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Photos: Todd Quackenbush via Unsplash; Molly Lansdowne; Mary Hood; Christina Ramirez; Maddy Strassler