Healthy convenience foods offer a dinnertime boost

  • Article by: MEREDITH DEEDS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2013 - 2:41 PM

A few pantry standards can keep your dinner plans on schedule.

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Lemon, Asparagus and Brown Butter Gnocchi. Photo by Meredith Deeds

Some of us find cooking relaxing and love to do it every chance we get. Others find it to be simply a chore. Then there are the in-betweens, those whose culinary interests might not match the time they have.

While those who love to cook might enjoy spending weekends making their own bread or canning their own pickles, during the workweek even they often rely on help from convenience foods. Though I’m a proponent of home cooking, there are a few convenience products on the grocery store shelves that can save you some time, and still allow you to put a healthy meal on the table.

Here are a few things I find in my shopping cart on a regular basis:

• Rotisserie chicken: An absolute go-to ingredient for the busy cook. I remove the skin first, then pull the meat off the bones to add to pasta, soups, salads, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

• Jarred marinara sauce or tomato salsa: While both pasta sauces and salsas don’t have to take hours to make, having a good quality option in your pantry can be handy when you’re trying to get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. I use them both on top of baked chicken breasts, or as dippers for quesadillas or baked crispy chicken tenders.

• Low-sodium broth: A splash of broth into a sauce can make it taste like it’s been simmering for hours. It’s also the basis for a quick soup or stew. I usually buy it in the aseptic boxes, so I can use what I want, close it up and store in my refrigerator.

• Gnocchi: Kids love these little dumplings almost any way you serve them. Toss them with marinara sauce and a little Parmesan or take it to the next level with an easy, but sophisticated Lemon, Asparagus and Brown Butter Gnocchi. Either way, they’ll be a hit and you’ll be out of the kitchen in no time.

A few well-chosen convenience foods can make any cook’s time in the kitchen a little less stressful and perhaps even a bit more delicious.

 

Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.

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