It's noon and your in-laws are calling to say they'll be over in a few hours for dinner. You do not have a lot of time to cook an elaborate meal but you know this is what they'll expect. One way to fix your problem is to buy some store-bought food and make it taste as thought you created it from scratch. All it takes is some creativity and basic cooking skills.
Pasta is an easy staple for quick meals but the jars of sauce all taste standard. Here are ways you can spice up your pasta sauce: In a medium skillet with a few teaspoons of olive oil, saute chunky vegetables such as carrots and celery. Add spices such as cumin, ground oregano, cayenne pepper, chili powder, crushed red pepper and ground thyme. After 15 minutes add two jars of the pasta sauce. Also add beef or seafood stock and a few teaspoons of honey for extra flavor.
It is not hard to doctor up canned pie filling if the in-laws feel like eating a delicious pie after dinner. For pumpkin pie filling, add two cups of dark brown sugar, three teaspoons of vanilla, two teaspoons of cinnamon, a teaspoon of salt and a third cup of apple juice. These ingredients take the blandness out of the filling. For canned apple pie filling you can use the same ingredients.
Buy two to three rotisserie chickens and then tear off the pieces. In a medium pot saute two cups of diced carrots, three cups of diced celery, three crushed garlic cloves and a half cup of green onions. In another pot boil the bones from the rotisserie chicken to create a quick stock. Add this stock along with the chicken pieces, spices, your favorite herbs, green beans, two cups of diced tomatoes and a splash of white wine. Cook for 30-45 minutes then serve with rice.
In a medium pot combine two cups of melted butter and a few sprigs of herbs along with four to six teaspoons of spices such as salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Let the herbs steep in the butter for thirty minutes then remove them. Pour the herbed butter over store-bought biscuits and bake uncovered according to package directions.
In a medium pot combine a bottle of coffee drink, a third cup of heavy cream, three teaspoons of honey, and a few teaspoons of cocoa powder as well as three teaspoons of almond extract. Boil until the liquid is hot then serve with spiked whipped cream.
These shortcuts make last-minute meal preparation less stressful and your guests will never guess that you used store-bought foods to prepare dinner.