After you read this ,column, maybe you will believe me when I tell you that “good” cooking and baking can come from a box or package.
Even though you don’t start with self-measured ingredients, you can still claim to your friends and family that it is home made. After all you made it in your home!
When I first learned to cook, there were no packaged mixes available with the exception of cake mixes.
Today I am going to review with you some of the best “quick to fix” mixes and semi-prepared items on your grocery store shelves.
Let’s start with main dish products. I love pasta and when I first began preparing spaghetti for my kids, I depended on Kraft Spaghetti Classic boxed mix. It serves about four when mixed with your own onion and ground beef.
The mix calls for one can of tomato “paste” and water and a flavorful Italian spice pack is included. If you are making a large family pot of spaghetti, this might not be for you, but it is great for a small family and the taste is very authentic.
Another one of my favorite “new” semi-prepared entrees are frozen products made by companies such as Birds-Eye, Green Giant and Bertolli (a pasta company). The contents of this package includes everything you need to make a complete entrée (meat or seafood, vegetables, sauce and pasta or rice).
Just pour them in a hot skillet, simmer for a few minutes and you have a delicious main dish for you and your family’s dinner. They contain various meats or shrimp and great vegetables like asparagus.
Today, salmon is a way of life. But not all of us have access to fresh salmon. In no way is it the same, but I love “red” salmon in a can.
Many of my readers have said that they do not like canned salmon, but many times it is not prepared correctly. If you have used it before, then you know that it comes with round bones and a layer of skin.
First remove the skin from the salmon. Many of you would automatically remove the bones, but they are very nutritional and are very soft. They can be easily crushed between your fingers and added to the salmon meat.
To one can of salmon, add 1 egg and enough crushed Ritz crackers to form a patty. Place each side in additional crushed crackers and then fry in oil along with a tablespoon of butter. Fry just until well browned and crisp on the outside. Serve with a remoulade sauce (or a non-sweet tarter sauce).
A new salmon product that has a mild and high quality flavor is Chicken of The Sea. It comes in a vacuumed foil pack giving you less waste and makes wonderful salmon patties.
Let’s move on to baking products. My favorite is Krusteaz Raspberry Bars and can be found in the baking aisle. They also make a lemon or pecan bar but none are as great as the raspberry flavor.
They produce a rich bar cookie that uses oats, brown sugar and nuts, filled with a tart raspberry jam filling. Just add butter and the rest of the ingredients are in the box. Simply mix, pat and bake. They are great to take to a carry-in or a family dinner.
If you are a “sweet” corn bread lover, I have a great product for you. It is Glory Golden Sweet Corn Bread and is a box mix found on the baking product shelf. (I believe that there is also a non-sweet type so make sure you check the label). I have always used Jiffy brand but this one is so much better and has a very moist texture.
A CRUMBY HINT
The use of Panko crumbs is somewhat new in my kitchen. I have always enjoyed seafood and vegetables that are coated with light airy bread crumbs (often served in Asian restaurants) but did not know that much about where to find them or how to use them.
While living in Florida and running Creations by Sheryl (my gourmet food shop), I did some investigating and discovered Panko crumbs. They were exactly what was being used by the chefs and I soon found out they were available on many food store shelves, including Kroger.
To use them, rinse and dry fish (between paper towels). In 3 separate dishes, place seasoned flour, lightly beaten egg whites and Panko crumbs. Dip the seafood or vegetables first in flour, then in egg whites and then in the crumbs. Place the coated item on a wire cooling rack for at least 20-30 minutes, allowing the crumbs to set up. Dipping in the flour before the egg whites will prevent the crumb coating from falling off when the item is fried.
After the food item has set up, carefully place in hot grease for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remember: Seafood and veggies cook very quickly so make sure your grease is not too hot as it will burn the coating before the food is cooked.
I hope these ideas and recipes will give you a new view of boxed foods — Sheryl
NOTE: I will be off next week due to cataract surgery but will return on March 15.
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 email@example.com.