Here at Sunday Supper, we are fans of store-bought cooking shortcuts. The grocery store is full of such convenience products and we embrace them as the help we need to get dinner on the table quickly. We would rather spend our time on dishes where scratch-cooking really shines.
We also like convenience products on holidays like Labor Day, when we want time to spend with family and friends, rather than over a hot stove. The Sunday Supper tastemakers did their work in advance to come up with a enticing menu of no-work holiday recipes for today. They want to kick back today.
Convenience products often get a bad rap as being unhealthy. Read labels. There are low-fat and low-sodium versions of many products. Almost everything on the market has an organic or natural version. Be a diligent shopper to get what you want.
Here is a list of 10 store-bought shortcuts that are worthy time-savers.
Canned tomates. Of course canned tomatoes aren’t appropriate for salads or sandwiches, but they are plenty flavorful for soups and stews, pasta sauces and casseroles. Tomatoes are usually canned at the peak of flavor.
Stock/broth. Chicken, beef, vegetables and even seafood stocks and broth stand in well for homemade. There is a slight different between the two. Both are made by leaching flavor from bones, meat, herbs and vegetables in simmering water. The mixture is strained and the solids discarded, leaving a flavored liquid. Here’s the difference between the two: Stock is unseasoned and bland on its own. Broth is seasoned and can be sipped by itself. That’s about it.
Pie crusts. For the pie crust challenged or people in a hurry, frozen or refrigerated crusts are a welcomed helping hand. You can buy crusts already formed for pies or quiches, or purchase dough sheets that can be used for smaller jobs (individual pot pies, hand pies, etc.) or to line your own pie plates (when you don’t want the aluminum). Time-savers, for sure.
Pumpkin puree. People who make pumpkin puree from scratch are often disappointed. There is a lot of work to prepare the pumpkin and if you don’t have the right kind of pumpkin (small over large carving pumpkins), you might end up with a watery mess. Canned puree is consistent. Read the label carefully. It should say “pure pumpkin” not “pumpkin pie filling.” It’s easy to mistake one for the other.
Mashed potatoes. This might seem culinary blasphemy for those who are known for their creamy mashed potatoes. But not all of us are. Check the labels on refrigerated mashed potatoes. Look for ones that say potatoes, cream, butter, salt, and that’s about it. That’s what’s in homemade mashed potatoes. Doctor them how you want, but give them a try. Especially in a pinch.
Barbecue sauce. There are dozens of BBQ sauce on the market to fit all tastes. Making one from scratch is time consuming and expensive, especially when the recipe calls for 5 pounds tomatoes. Unless you are growing them or the bounty is plentiful, that’s a costly ingredient. The time-money factor plus all the choices, make store-bought worth it.
Pasta Sauce. Pasta sauces can be doctored to your tastes. (I often add some red wine.) There are so many choices that you should be able to find one to fit your needs. Jarred sauces are a tasty and economical alternative to scratch … unless you live with Mama Leone.
Rotisserie chicken. Roasting a chicken is a skill every cook should master. But the rotisserie bird is a handy base for salads, soups, quesadillas, burritos, and any number of other dishes. An average-size chicken will yield about 3 1/2 cups of white and dark meat.
Canned beans. If you have a pantry loaded with canned beans you’ve got a lot of versatility. Add them to soups and salads for fiber and flavor. They can be pureed for dips. Even pasta and baked casseroles benefit from legumes. Rinse and drain them before using and you will alleviate some sodium.
Cake mixes. Ditto brownie mixes. The mixes are good to have if you need to make a quick treat to bring to the office or a school function. But the beauty of them is that they can serve as the basis for other types of cakes.
Need more ideas on how to save time in the kitchen? Join the Sunday Supper crew at 7 p.m. ET tonight when we dish on no-work entertaining. Here are this week’s recipes guaranteed to save you time but win you lots of compliments.
Savory Snacks and Sides:
- Acorn Squash, Black Bean and Spinach Quesadillas by Our Good Life
- Copy Cat: Momma’s Nachos by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Cream Cheese and Peach Chutney Pastry Cups by Soni’s Food
- Easy Peasy Cole Slaw by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Fruit & Cheese Platter by The Freshman Cook
- Olive Tapenade by Whole Food | Real Families
- Semi-Homemade Baked Beans by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Smoked Salmon Spread with Sourdough Baguette by A Gouda Life
Labor Free Main Dishes:
- Ace of Clubs by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Easy and Tasty Filet Mignon on the Grill by Family Foodie
- Easy Baked Spaghetti for a Crowd by Lifestyle Food Artistry
- Greek Salad Endive Boats by Casa de Crews
- Grilled Butternut Squash, Zucchini and Steak with Chimichurri Sauce by Caroline’s Cooking
- Pesto Chicken with Fennel & Tomato Couscous by Books n’ Cooks
- Simple Cheese Enchiladas by Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
- Simple Grilled Rosemary Shrimp by Nosh My Way
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Mustard Barbecue Sauce by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Slow Cooker Turkey Sloppy Joes by Food Done Light
- Spicy Thai Noodles by Momma’s Meals
Sweet Treats and Drinks:
- Apple Spice Dump Cake by Palatable Pastime
- Blender Chocolate Mousse by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles by What Smells So Good?
- Coconut Martini by Desserts Required
- Creamy Coconut Popsicles by Food Lust People Love
- Eiskaffee by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Healthy Grab’n’Go Breakfast Muffins by Happy Baking Days
- Mango Salad with Crystallized Ginger by MealDiva
- Mini Pavlovas by Curious Cuisiniere
- One Step Vanilla Sauce by Magnolia Days
- White Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Bars by Pies and Plots
Labor Free Labor Day:
- 10 Store-Bought Cooking Shortcuts by Sunday Supper Movement
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