Recipes: Time-savers and add-ins

Who wouldn’t love creating soup-to-nuts meals every day, from scratch?

OK, maybe not literally soup-to-nuts, but you know what I mean: wholesome, healthy meals that are creative and delicious. Time constraints and energy shortages can get in the way;  as much as I   to cook from scratch,  there are times when I need to take a few shortcuts.

I’m not alone in that, either;  there is a very popular show on the Food Network, Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee,  in which Sandra combines fresh ingredients with store-bought to create what she calls “semi-homemade” dishes.

Over time, I’ve come up with a few shortcuts, myself,  that are real winners:

Spiced cranberry relish: I know that there are a lot of fans of the jiggly slices of canned cranberry relish… but I am not one. However, making cranberry relish from scratch is not always possible, so here is a quick way to fake it:  buy a can of the WHOLE BERRY relish. Place the relish in a small serving bowl, and add in 3/4 tsp of “Easy as Pie” Apple Pie Spice.  Stir to mix in the spice and break up the relish. I like the relish warmed but that is a preference… so warm it or chill, but either way,  enjoy it!

Turkey Stuffing Soup:  Many of us made turkey soup after Thanksgiving, using the tasty bones and bits of meat to make this old-fashioned favorite. Many of us also made so much that we are sick of it… so I came up with a way to change it up and make it seem like a new dish.

Here is how:  Dice up some day-old bread and place it in a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil to moisten. Sprinkle with a pinch of “Gobble Me Up” poultry seasoning and a dash of sea salt.  Toss the bread to coat. You can place the croutons on a cookie sheet and bake for a few minutes at 400 degrees until toasty,  or brown them in a frying pan on medium heat until golden. Heat up your turkey soup, then toss in the seasoned croutons right before serving.

Instant Snickerdoodles:  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I don’t claim to be a baker,  for good reason. So when I came up with this shortcut for some truly delicious cookies, no one was more thrilled than I was. Ready?  Pick up a roll of ready-to-bake sugar cookies, and follow the package directions for oven temperature, cookie size and spacing on the cookie sheet.  Here is the twist: before baking, roll each piece of cookie dough in a small dish of “As Sweet As Kate” spiced sugar (a tasty combination of Turbinado sugar, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric). You will want to cover every bit of the cookie; don’t worry, it may look like a lot but once the cookie bakes and spreads, it will develop the familiar “crackle” pattern that snickerdoodles are known for. Bake per package directions. Suggestion:  pick up 2 rolls of dough because you are going to want to make more of these once you taste them!

Ta-da compound butter: I love this trick because it is SO easy, yet people flip out when they are served this “fancy” seasoned butter. Here is how to make it: place some softened (not melted) butter in a small bowl. Mix in a small amount of your favorite spice blend* and a dash of sea salt. Tear off a few small pieces of waxed paper. Place a teaspoonful of the seasoned butter in the middle of the paper, then roll it up and shape it so it looks kind of like a roll of quarters. Repeat with all of the butter, then place the waxed paper rolls in the freezer. Once the butter is frozen,  it is ready to be sliced into pats and used in any number of ways:

  • placed atop a steak or piece of grilled salmon (this one is the real “ta-da”… it’s a fancy restaurant thing)
  • nestled on top of a baked potato
  • stirred into a bowl of steamed vegetables
  • dropped into a bowl of hot popcorn
  • pressed down into a boiled lobster

You can prepare a variety of these seasoned butters to have on hand… but consider labeling them if you make more than one kind (you can write the name on a twist-tie and wrap it around the waxed paper).

I’ve also heard of folks making compound butter in ice cube trays… when I have time,  I will try it and let you know!

*here are some of my favorite pairings:  Sarah’s Home on the Ranch on salmon;  Viva Italia! on steak;  Smokin’ Onion Double Dipper on popcorn;  Racy Paprika on baked potatoes;  Hurricane Curry on just about everything; Tangy Citrus on green vegetables;  and Rockin’ Moroccan on lamb.


Posted on December 22, 2011, in As Sweet As Kate spiced sugar, Hurricane Curry, Mixed spices, Racy Paprika, Recipes, Rockin' Moroccan, Sarah's Home on the Ranch, Smokin' Onion Double Dipper, Tangy Citrus, Viva Italia and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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