There are some things that you can purchase but are really extra special when you pull together a few minutes (enough with the attitude, take a break from facebook or reddit) and make them yourself.
When we were living in Kelowna and I was receiving weekly baskets of fresh produce from Urban Harvest, I would make EVERYTHING from scratch (except pastry dough - don't be ridiculous). Our landlord worked for Shaw Cable so we were spoiled with television and I had the food network on for more hours of the day than I would like to admit. Someone who really encourages his audience to experiment and learn about food, not just follow recipes, is Chef Michael Smith. Although his "dad" voice just drove Connor mad.
Here are some things I learned from Mr. Smith:
PICKLED RED ONIONS
2 large red onions
1 cup sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
Slice the onions as thinly as possible. Cram them into a large Mason jar (to make sure they all fit). Pour the sugar and red wine vinegar into a small pot and bring to a boil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Dump the onions from the jar into the pot and continue heating just long enough to return the mixture to a simmer. Pour the mixture back into the Mason jar, cover it and rest (at least) overnight in your refrigerator.
Lasts indefinitely in the fridge. Great with hummus, in wraps, on sandwiches, veggie burgers, whatever.
1 (28oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 (5.5oz) can tomato paste
1 large white onion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp ground nutmeg (or not, I personally hate nutmeg)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 bay leaves
Toss all ingredients into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces by half (about 30 minutes, dears). Cool the ketchup to room temperature and proceed to blend with an immersion blender or a food processor.
Michael Smith's tip for determining whether a liquid has reduced by half: Stand a wooden spoon in the pot when you first pour in all the ingredients, mark the ketchup's level on it and use that mark as a reference to know when the mixture has reduced by half.
Homemade ketchup is neat because you can add whatever you like to it - garlic, curry spices, chili paste - in order to make it exactly what you want it to be.
Recipes adapted from The Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today's Kitchen by Michael Smith (Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2009). Images from Google Images.