When my husband I were dating, I volunteered to bake a pumpkin pie for our first Thanksgiving together. I showed up with a near-perfect pie he was impressed. Once he learned that it wasn’t my recipe, but instead Sara Lee’s, and to say he was disappointed is putting it mildly. I reminded him that I said I would bake a pie, not make a pie.
Thankfully, my culinary skills have developed throughout our nearly 15 years of marriage; however, I’m still quick to rely on shortcuts when it comes to cooking, though. Making something that’s semi-homemade means we get the benefit of the flavor without all work. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your time in the kitchen.
I love salad, but I don’t love washing and tearing lettuce. Because of this, bagged greens have become my best friend through the years. It’s easy to open the bag and let my imagination go wild. Our lives are busy, and it’s hard to eat healthy without planning, so I try and keep a variety of salad toppings on hand for quick lunches or late dinners. Most days, our refrigerator has a mix of grilled chicken, ham, salami and hard-boiled eggs. It’s easy for us to pick a green, a protein, add a few other toppings and have salad ready to eat in less than five minutes.
Don’t forget to look beyond bagged lettuce for inspiration. We also buy a lot of bagged kale and spinach. In addition to being quick side dishes for just about any meal, I throw a handful into my smoothies to add extra nutrients. We’re also trying to cut down on carbs, so we’ve been using bagged romaine lettuce hearts as wraps.
Buying bagged greens is a little more expensive than buying them whole, but for my family, it’s worth saving the time to have healthy items at hand. Check out these easy recipes that use bagged greens as a base.
From my experience, rotisserie chicken is the key to making semi-homemade meals quickly. For $5 to $7, you can pull together a nice meal without even turning on your oven. We frequently use the whole chicken as dinner one night and then repurpose the leftovers the next night. Whether I’m making chicken salad, Mexican food or even a hearty soup, it’s easy to transform the leftover meat into something memorable. If you’re looking for ways to make the most out of your rotisserie chicken purchase, check out this list of 133 ideas from Taste of Home.
When it comes to making quick meals with minimal fuss pasta is another easy answer. Whether you’re using store-bought pasta or sauce, it’s easy to get a flavorful Italian meal on the table in no time. Need inspiration? The Pioneer Woman has eight easy ways to elevate canned sauce.
It’s also easy to change the flavor of your meal by changing your pasta. If you’re used to traditional spaghetti, consider changing things up with a traditional potato gnocchi or a lower carb cauliflower version. Or possibly even polenta. If you take a quick look in your grocery store’s refrigerator or freezer section, you’ll likely find a variety of ready-made pasta such as ravioli filled with mushrooms, beef or cheese. This is just the beginning of what you can do when you’re open to pasta options. If you’re looking for more ways to expand your pasta intake, this article from Plated.com provides an overview of different pastas and when you should use them.
If you’re interested in learning how to combine fresh ingredients with a few store-bought items, enroll in our upcoming Semi-Homemade cooking short course. To register call 405.377.3333. To find out about more courses like this sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. View all of our upcoming courses in our digital catalog.
Cara Adney is the Marketing and Media Relations Coordinator at Meridian Technology Center.