The smell of bread baking is almost an everyday occurrence in our home. But to my children’s friends, it’s the smell of a magical world come to life! I laugh every time one of their friends says, “Your mom makes bread?!” I remember well the scents of my grandmother’s and great-aunt’s home. The smell of something baking and fresh coffee always seemed to linger in the air. Its one of those strange remembrances from childhood where a dreamlike scent accompanies the memory of the floral wallpaper and the feel of yellow-shag carpet on your bare feet.

While I have always been a bread baker (to tell the truth my husband is better at it than me) the way we eat and what we eat has radically changed since my son was born. As he began eating table food, we discovered he was allergic to the preservatives found in most foods we bought at the grocery store. One particular additive that in truth is not a preservative at all, but a drug added to most spaghetti sauces, jams, and breads, caused him severe gastrointestinal distress, redness around his mouth, and bouts of “I think I’m dying” screaming. These led us unequivocally to a preservative and dye free diet. This was a radical change and one that most people notice when they eat at our home. “You make this?” is the most common sentence uttered within these walls, and while it was an initial choice to keep my son safe from the chemicals that cause him adverse reactions, our transitioning plate from store bought food to nearly 100% homemade has paid off for our entire family.

Time spent in the kitchen is time spent making food. It is work – good work. We make our own jam. We bake our own bread. We make our own cereal, granola, pancakes, waffles, muffins, cakes and anything else you can think of from scratch. (Yes, I’m that woman hauling the fifty-pound bag of flour through Costco.) We make our own salad dressing, sauces, and syrups. And while you can find more and more on the grocery store shelves claiming to be all natural, ultimately these products are cost-prohibitive for a family of five. The bonus for my kids is that they don’t look to a box to cook, they look to the original components of a recipe and are learning to enjoy the work that creates our family food.

Surprisingly, many parents ask me how I made the change. And while I had to make the transition, anyone can make the shift to preservative free, all natural foods at home. A recent cookbook by Alana Chernila that is lovely in every way, points to this make-it-don’t-buy-it philosophy I adhere to, and is a perfect fit if you are just starting out on your journey toward homemade food.

homemade pantry 2

Alana Chernila created a mouth-watering introduction to cooking for families that includes things like yes, Pop-Tarts. In full disclosure, it was the front cover picture of said Pop-Tarts that got me to open the cookbook initially. And, I will disclose also that I enjoyed almost rock-star status at a recent play date for my girls when I served these fresh from the oven. Rock-star status people – it was awesome. Cooking for your family this way takes extra planning and extra time, but the healthy and ‘happy’ benefits outweigh the effort.  The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making is a great start to begin your journey toward more homemade food and maybe, just maybe, gaining rock-star status too.