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July 2, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

DIY in the Kitchen: Making Things From Scratch

By Kristin McKinney More Blogs by This Author

I've always enjoyed making things from scratch. I like to make my own cake batter instead of using a box, and sometimes, I won't use a recipe, I just make it up as I go along. I'm also a huge fan of buying less processed foods and things that are in their natural state. So, what better way to get things in their natural state then to make it yourself?

Sun Dried Tomatoes:

These can be pricey in stores, so why not make your own? Make them even cheaper by growing your own tomatoes. Once you've made some, they can be used for just about anything. You could make your own sun dried tomato pesto, spaghetti sauce, or use them in pastas dishes.


  • The best tomatoes to use are Roma or Cherry because they are more meaty, but you can use whatever kind you like. Just make sure they aren't mushy. You want to cut your tomatoes into slices, making sure they are all the same size, so they dry at the same rate
  • There are different ways you can dry out your tomatoes, but the best is to use a dehydrator, as it keeps more of the enzymes intact. The recommended temperature on a dehydrator is 155 degrees.
  • If you decide to make them in the oven, place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, and then put them in the oven at about 200 degrees. You want to leave them in the oven until there is basically no moisture left in them, but they are still flexible.
  • When you are done drying the tomatoes, place them in an airtight container, then store in a pantry or put in the freezer for long term storage. 
  • I would suggest tossing the tomato slices with olive oil, basil, and garlic, before drying, to give them more flavor.

Make Your Own Extracts:


These are super easy to make and you can create just about any extract you want. My family is
currently working on making their own vanilla extract because they finally ran out of the nice Mexican vanilla that had been around for ages.

For this, all you need is Vodka and whatever you need to make the specific extract you want. Some suggestions are fresh oranges, coconut, vanilla beans, or mint leaves. If you are using the oranges, just peel off the skin. For the coconut, crack it open so you can get to the inside meat, peel off the skin, and grate the coconut. All you have to do for the mint leaves is rinse them, then peel the leaves off the stem. The vanilla beans just need to be split.


  1. Get a small jar with a tight lid. 
  2. Pour in a cup of vodka, then either put in three vanilla beans, 2 oranges, one coconut, or a small bunch of mint. 
  3. Let the extract sit about 2-3 months (the longer they sit the more potent they become). If you're using any type of herb, it can only sit for 2 days, and then the herbs need to be removed.

Don't just stick to the ideas above. Experiment with your extract by using different herbs, fruit or spices, even combine different ingredients together to make your own special extract.

Peanut Butter:

I love natural peanut butter! While, at the moment, I just buy it, I would like to make my own. It's actually super easy to make, and when you make it, you know exactly what's going into it. All you need is a food processor, dry roasted peanuts, and salt.


  1. Put about 16 oz. of peanuts into the food processor, and blend for 8-10 minutes. 
  2. Every 2-3 minutes, stop and scrape the side of the processor. At first, the mixture will seem crumbly or powdery, just keep going until it turns creamy. You may need to add a teaspoon or two of oil depending on the freshness of your peanuts, but only add if necessary. 
  3. Once creamy, taste it, and add salt as desired. Store in an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to a month.    
  • You could also add cocoa powder and some sugar to taste for your very own chocolate peanut butter.

Homemade Ice Cream:

I've always wanted to make my own ice cream or sherbert, but I've never wanted to invest in an ice cream maker. I have made my own sherbert before but haven't tried ice cream yet. Here is a recipe I recently found to make ice cream without one. When I made my sherbert, the first few hours I would go and mix it to make sure the consistency was right and to check for any freezer burn. I would suggest doing this to the ice cream as well.  

If you visit my gift giving blog post, there are two recipes there for jam and pesto that you can make from scratch as well.

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  • Cool, I'll have to try out making my own peanut butter! I never realized it was that easy haha :)

  • I know right, me neither. I think it's that way with a lot of things. It always looks and seems complicated, especially when you look at the ingredients list in stores but a lot of things are actually pretty easy to make on your own.

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