I am happy to report that after some 40 days and nights of wandering in the wilderness of moving from one abode to another, I am back in business. It has been a long slog, and I’m not saying it’s over yet, but the digital piano just got set up and the hall carpet runners have been put down, and tonight I found the perfect spot in the kitchen to settle my open laptop in order to view the resident blog’s recipe for Potsticker Soup as I made it for our dinner. *Sigh* It’s good to be home again, at last.
During the long period of pre-wandering, known as packing, and the aftermath of the move, I increasingly had to rely on simple prep foods and mixes. They saved me, many a night. (And so did my sister, who kindly had us over for dinner a lot. :-)) Now I know that when I started this blog I was all about DIY Birthday cake and baking bread from scratch and whatnot, but do not let it be said that I can afford to look down on mixes. Looking down on mixes is a refuge of the unemployed, I believe. And I should know. Now that I am working and arriving home between 6:00 and 6:30 four nights a week, I see those ten or fifteen minutes you save by making something from a mix or prepared sauce as possibly being the difference between being able to make a dish or not. And sometimes mixes are better than picking up the grocery stores’ answer to a home cooked meal. Those store prepped entrees are often more salty and chemical-y tasting than the result of making the mix – but that of course depends on the store and how much money a person is willing to spend. The better stores charge more than the local diner would for the same meal.
My ongoing goal is to find mixes or sauces that are high quality and truly labor saving enough to give me results that would be pretty close to what I might put together if I had more time. Here are my top picks.
1. Krusteaz Mixes.
Sometimes you just want a baked good, and you want it early in the day and you just don’t have the wherewithal to do it from scratch. These mixes are all good, but the cornbread mix is great. The cinnamon swirl coffee cake turns out really well too.
2. Wok Mei Sauces.
As a dear, departed writer friend once said to me, the rule of thumb for dialog is that a turn of dialog should not be longer than your thumb. The same applies to the ingredient list on a box of processed food.
Chicken Wings – marinated with the Wok Mei oyster sauce and broiled in the oven. Easy peasey & tasty.
The Wok Mei line of natural Asian prepared sauces are pretty basic and unadorned, and that’s why I can recommend them. Here is the blurb about the Wok Mei Oyster Sauce from the Dean and DeLuca website:
“No junk, just 100% natural ingredients. No MSG, no sodium benzoate, no gluten, no modified corn starch. Wok Mei even uses evaporated cane juice rather than sugar resulting in an Oyster Sauce that makes a great, rich and dark sauce in a wok.”
3. Frontera Enchilada Sauce
While I put this together (using leftover Costco rotisserie chicken from the previous night’s dinner) my daughter called out from her room that something smelled good. What was I making? A good sign. Ricky Bayless is the chef with a Chicago restaurant and PBS tv show behind this brand, and the Frontera line is also high-end and not full of preservatives and a million chemicals. It tastes very good when it cooks up!
Sausage counts as a mix – a mix from the pre-industrial age that has stood the test of time. Split open a fresh sausage or two into a hot skillet with sauteeing onions and peppers and you’ve got a very good meal about to happen. (My favorite is Chicken Santa Fe style, but there are so many varieties to try.) Serve over rice or pasta. If you want to get fancy, mix in some creme fraiche at the end. It’s a keeper, and quick.