5 Store-Bought Shortcut Ingredients This Mom of 4 Can’t Live Without
There's no shame in her game.
I love cooking more than I love sweatpants, but even I get worn out by the daily grind. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, snack, “can we have a snack?” Too much! Sometimes I need a quick way to get things done, and on those days, I look to shortcut ingredients to save me. These are things I always have on hand.
Aged Cheddar Cheese in Slices
As any parent can surely tell you, cheese is a gateway food. If you want kids to try something new, say Roasted Broccoli, it never hurts to slather everything in melted cheese. I prefer slices to pre-shredded because there’s less cellulose involved. Slices are perfect for grilled cheese but also Cheeseburger Hand Pies, Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas and even Ham & Cheddar Quiche.
I give the tube one “pop” and then we’re ready to make way more than biscuits. Shortcut Tomato Pie starts with a biscuit dough base and ends with melted cheese and juicy tomatoes on top. It’s so good for dinner that we made a mini version to pack in lunches.
Plus, biscuits work perfectly to make “pockets.” Flatten the dough and fill it with ham, broccoli and cheese, or try the same method for a make-ahead breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach. Just trust me when I say any combination of cheese, veggies and protein will work well.
Craving something sweet? All you need is biscuit dough and three other ingredients to make this Cinnamon-Sugar Monkey Bread.
You can make your own delicious pesto, but skipping this step and relying on the store-bought stuff makes our family-favorite Turkey Pesto Meatballs more doable. Juicy and flavorful, our meatballs are delicious over pasta and just as good later in the week when you stuff them inside a biscuit (see above) or pizza dough. Cook once, eat twice! And on really busy nights, I’ll schmear a big spoonful of pesto onto naan bread, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese to have dinner ready in 10 minutes.
Don’t let anyone tell you that fresh vegetables have more nutrition than frozen. Frozen veggies are picked at peak ripeness and frozen immediately to seal in all their goodness. But they’re also a busy parent’s best friend because unlike a big ol’ head of broccoli, a frozen bag is already cut and usually partially boiled for faster cooking. Roasted Cauliflower comes together in minutes straight out of a bag, and frozen broccoli is the base for our favorite soup: Simple Broccoli & Cheese. Use frozen peas and carrots in this quick-fix chicken pot pie, which features a store-bought pie crust on top too!
Speaking of carrots... This sounds specific, but bags of matchstick carrots are the fastest way to make a boring bowl of lettuce feel like a pretty salad. Seriously. My kids learned to love kale after about one bite of the Maple Syrup-Balsamic Vinegar dressing, but visually, it’s the carrots that make the whole salad shine. Matchstick carrots are also part of that broccoli soup I mentioned earlier, a staple for Very Veggie Marinara Sauce (with tons of vitamin-rich veggies pureed right in!) and the centerpiece of Veggie-Filled Calzones. Don’t forget Carrot Salad as a simple weeknight side.