How to dress up convenience foods

Let’s face it…we live a convenience-filled life. We are busy and as much as we’d love to sit and have a from-scratch meal with our beloveds, the time just isn’t there. That doesn’t mean we have to eat plain ole food though.

Baked Beans

2 cans of Bush’s Baked Beans (any flavor)

1/2 C each chopped green pepper, onion

Add one or more of the following:

1/2 T molasses

1/4 – 1/3 C bbq sauce … just not ketchup!

2 or more T salsa

1 t garlic powder

splash of apple cider vinegar or a bit of mustard

Bake awhile…350º x 30 minutes

Black Beans

2 cans of Black Beans – any kind

1/2 C each finely chopped green pepper, onion

1 t garlic powder

1/2 – 1 t cumin (1/2 t is enough for me)

couple dashes of thyme – optional

ONE dash of ground cloves – this is a must add

Serve w/ a small side of squash pickles (homemade or boughten)

Refried Beans – any kind will do

Add: salsa and cheese, the end.

Green Beans

1 slice bacon, uncooked

some onion (onion powder, dehydrated onion, fresh finely chopped onion)

black pepper, no salt

Cook until the bacon is done & the onions soft.

Spaghetti Sauce – Paul Newman’s Sockarooni or Marina. Yes, only that brand!

Add garlic and a wee bit more basil. Cook ground beef separately and mix it all together and simmer awhile. Highly recommend a small amount of ground Italian sausage…say half a package, at most. 

Chili – Use the Magic

Mac N Cheese – Homemade baked mac n cheese is in a class by itself and the Pioneer Woman’s is sublime. But we’re not home on the range, so buy that blue box on sale.

boxed Mac n Cheese – make with full fat milk and butter, don’t be skimpin’ just ‘cuz it comes from a box

add cheese, any cheese, but mostly cheddar and a slice or two of American

dry mustard – even the slightest bit helps

slightest dash of nutmeg

Ranch Dressing

1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing prepared as directed

1/2 t black pepper

1/2 t garlic powder, more or less

couple dashes of hot sauce – totally optional

Tuna Salad – Make it as you normally would but add about a tablespoon of frozen OJ.

Chicken Salad – You have to find a good brand, first off! Don’t get one with added grapes or nuts b/c you will add those yourself. It will taste so much fresher.

Add any or all of the following, but don’t get too carried away:

grapes, halved or quartered, or substitute pineapple, dried cranberries

artichokes – marinated or not, chopped into bite sizes

pecans – chopped into bits

water chestnuts – chopped

black pepper, freshly ground

Potato Salad & Cole Slaw – Just kidding, there are no acceptable pre-made versions of these. The best you can do is buy the shredded cabbage in a bag for the slaw. Chop it up more and it will give you more flavor.

Oatmeal – do not, Do NOT use instant. Ever. It is the reason people hate oatmeal. Save the instant oatmeal for No Bake Cookies! And do not, Do NOT cook it in the microwave. Ever. Cook the oatmeal slow and it won’t get that gummy texture. Substitute some milk for the water for a creamier oatmeal. Use water, alone, for a firmer, drier oatmeal.

The combinations are almost endless with cooked oatmeal, but basically you need a fruit, a fat, and maybe a crunch. These are my favorites:

•Blueberry – Add frozen berries at the beginning, when starting the water to boil. Add a bit of cream and lemon zest, if you have it.

•Banana Nut – Mash bananas and add to cooked oatmeal w/chopped pecans, maple syrup, cinnamon, and butter. Consider mini chocolate chips.

•Apple – Add a chopped apple, cinnamon, butter, maple syrup, maybe chopped walnuts

•Cookie Version – Add raisins during cooking, so they soften up a bit. Top with almond slivers and drizzle with honey.

•Candy Version – Add spoonful of peanut butter, mini chocolate chips, coconut 

•The Best – butter, salt, lots of pepper. Don’t add another thing, it is already perfect.

Dollop of yogurt or whipped cream is always appropriate. Dollop.

Savory Oatmeal? Nah. Huh-uh.

Blueberry Sauce 

Frozen blueberries- cook down w/a small amount of water. 

lemon juice – a tablespoon at most, 

nutmeg, just a dash

Blackberries and raspberries, or any combination of, are great, too. Pour this sauce over everything! But mostly waffles. 

Dump Cakes – No list like this is complete without dump cakes and about the time I don’t want to see another one, I’m putting a big ole spoonful of that fruity cakey mess in my mouth. See here.

That’s it for now. My number 1 tip…always use butter. Never margarine. Maybe coconut oil, especially when making brownies.