Off the shelf for easy prep

Do you have favorite off-the-shelf products? This is a product that you can find on the grocery shelf and can be prepared per package instructions or be changed or improved by simply adding one or two other ingredients.

Most of these products are partially processed and packaged for easy preparation. I have several favorites and some of them are things that I just couldn’t live without.

Just because I am constantly talking about cooking and baking doesn’t mean that I don’t take shortcuts. In fact, I met a lady the other day who said to me, “Do you really do and make everything you say you do?”

The answer is yes, but as I just stated I don’t always do it the hard way. Some of today’s food products are so good, even a gourmet cook would be foolish not to take advantage of using them.

Let me give you a few of my favorites and maybe you will want to add them to your food pantry.

I love breaded fish, shrimp and chicken but find most breading too heavy and tending to overpower the flavor of the food you are coating.

I found the solution with Panko Japanese bread crumbs. These crumbs are made with traditional Japanese bread which has been dried and shredded into crispy flakes and are much lighter and crunchier than ordinary bread crumbs.

They are simple to use by first lightly beating 2 egg whites with 1 tablespoon of water. After seasoning your meat or vegetables, dip them in flour, then in egg white mixture and then dip them in Panko crumbs. Place on a wire rack and let set for 5 minutes. Fry in hot “fresh” oil (avoid over heated oil as it will burn your food) either in a deep fryer or a deep layer of oil placed in a skillet.

Panko browns very quickly so for best results use breading on small or thin pieces of food rather than large pieces. This works extremely well with small filets of fish, fresh shrimp, chicken “tender” strips and vegetable pieces like cauliflower or mushrooms.

This type of breading is light and not greasy so don’t be afraid of deep frying for your family. By using FRESH HOT oil, small pieces, and the fact that this process doesn’t take very long to cooked, it does not absorb the grease like heavier breading.

The problem with many fried food is that the oil is not hot enough and the food is overcooked! I breaded fresh flounder filets (cut in half) with Panko crumbs and they were so light and crispy that they were “to die for.”

Panko crumbs are available in all food markets and can be found under many brand names (most all are good).

One of my husband’s favorite shelf products is found in the baking section along with cake and cookie mixes. It is a product called “Raspberry Bars” and is made by Krusteaz. They are a bar cookie made in layers with a raspberry puree filling.

The mix contains everything you need with the exception of butter. I have made these for several people and they can’t believe that they are not homemade. This company also makes a wonderful Crumb Coffee Cake mix along with other bar cookies and bread products but this one is my all time favorites.

One of my favorite dinner entrees is stuffed peppers. These are very time consuming and not something you want to make in a hurry.

With a boxed “Spanish rice” mix it is fast and easy. (Uncle Ben’s Spanish Rice is my favorite). These products can be found in the rice section of your grocery store either in a box or bag.

I love this product because I am allergic to MSG and most don’t use this flavor enhancer in their packaging. I like ground beef in my peppers so I first brown the beef and onions in a skillet. The rice is then made on the stovetop either in a medium-sized sauce pan or a skillet (as per directions; you’ll need canned tomatoes).

Cook rice and add to hamburger mixture and stuff in peppers that have been cooked (in water in microwave) until still crisp. Bake in oven until pepper is done (about 20 minutes). Serve with salad and bread and your meal is complete.

For today’s recipe I have chosen a pasta dish with a fresh no-cook tomato basil sauce. Because the sauce is not cooked but only warmed, it is the freshest sauce you will ever taste.


1/2 cup olive oil (extra virgin)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup sliced green onions

3 “large” tomatoes (peeled and diced)

2 heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 pound Angel Hair Pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of water.

While pasta is cooking make sauce. In a large skillet on medium heat the oil and add the garlic and green onions. Cook stiring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, cook and stir only until slightly heated (1-2 minutes).

Drain pasta. Toss the tomato sauce in the hot pasta. Serve immediately.

Sprinkle cheese on top. Makes 4-6 servings

Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column Welcome to My Kitchen out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at

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Sheryl Sollars

Welcome to My Kitchen