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From the food editor: Don't be intimidated by cooking from scratch

Spice-Crusted Salmon With Beets is a healthful meal.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Spice-Crusted Salmon With Beets is a healthful meal.

Look, I'll be the first to admit it: I'm kind of a snob when it comes to processed foods.

A couple of years ago, I decided for health reasons that I wanted to try to eat as few as possible. That goal is the driving force behind my daily food choices, and the real reason I can be found in my kitchen whipping up things like bagels on the regular. I like to know exactly what is in the food I am eating, which is why I don't mind spending a little time letting yeast dough rise.

Shortly after I started practicing the habit, I realized I felt better and, hokey as it may sound, striving to cook most of my food from scratch has brought me closer to what I eat. It's easier to appreciate a bowl of chicken noodle soup when you have chopped the carrots and celery and brought the whole pot to a rolling boil.

Eating like this takes a bit of getting used to. When you cook things like bread from scratch, there are no preservatives, which means the food doesn't last nearly as long on your counter as that package of Publix bagels. You learn to cook only what you are going to eat that week — and clear out some freezer space for the rest.

And there is the time element. Cooking like this does take longer than picking up a frozen Trader Joe's lasagna. There are still times on a busy Thursday night when I'll go for a side of frozen sweet potato fries. But in general, I have found that keeping a few key staples on hand means a from-scratch meal is never too far away. Some of my go-to staples are pasta, frozen veggies, potatoes and eggs. And I always have garlic cloves, onion or shallots and lemons on the counter — little things that can turn even plain pasta into an exciting meal.

This week's #CookClub recipe is a great example of a "clean" meal that is easy to make at home but tastes as though it could have come from a restaurant.

Choose the best salmon you can find — it's truly the star of this dish. You'll crust it with a subtle blend of spices, including the aromatic coriander, which gives it that little something extra. The fish is paired with bright red beets, and both get roasted on the same sheet pan for maximum ease.

You might find this recipe more inviting than the idea of making your own bagels, and I get that. But I urge you to try it. Especially with the holidays on the way, bagelmaking is an easy way to impress a brunch party (and something with which the whole family can get involved).

Plus, you know, in the end, you're left with a dozen delicious bagels. Not bad for a few hours in the kitchen, right? Up next: making your own cream cheese.

Just kidding. That's way too much work.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

From the food editor: Don't be intimidated by cooking from scratch 10/05/15 [Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2015 11:11am]
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