May 17, 2011

First up, this is NOT a tribute to Sandra Dee, or whoever it is that does that atrocious Food Network show. But at the same time, all of us (most of us? some of us?) periodically take shortcuts when we want dinner in a hurry and we freakin’ don’t feel like cooking.

If you do not, and ALWAYS make your own pie crust, puff pastry, mushroom veloute, etc., kindly do not disturb my inbox by telling me so. I already do not like you. Get over it.

Tonight, my shortcut was Papa Murphy’s Pizza, a new franchise type operation in Hot Springs. You walk in, you tell ’em what you want, they make your pizza, you take it home and bake it. Assorted menu standard variations, or you build your own.

I opted for a stuffed pizza; layer of crust, tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni; second layer o f crust, nicely crimped, more sauce, more cheese, more pepperoni. Picked up a cinnamon wheel — a 15-inch round of pizza dough topped with cinnamon and sugar, accompanied by cream cheese icing — and cheesy bread, ditto round, topped with, well, cheese, accompanied by marinara. All for less than 20 bucks.

And it ain’t bad. It ain’t going to send you off in transports of ecstasy, but for 20 bucks, WTF do you expect?

I particularly like the cinnamon wheel.  Not overly sweet, good hot with cream cheese frosting, good cold w/o same.  Didn’t bake the cheesy bread, having already had the carb overload for the night. That’ll do for an accompaniment to the marinara I have in the fridge that will go with penne I’ll cook in a day or two.

All that said, it got me to thinking about other short-cut methods I take to dinners that somehow differentiate themselves from out-of-the-box or out-of-the-can. There are some egregious examplex of this genre; think the canonical holiday green bean casserole, wherein one combines canned green beans, canned golden mushroom soup, canned pimiento peppers, canned French fried onions.

I went to the trouble of recreating one of those with all-homemade ingredients for Thanksgiving last  year. Y’know what? It wasn’t THAT much better than the dump-the-cans variety.

Ditto the chicken pot pie. I went for years on Pillsbury rolled pie crusts, cream of chicken soup, canned cooked chicken, canned mixed veggies, grated cheese-from-a-bag. I’ve graduated to frozen veggies (they ARE better) and grate-it-yourself cheese (none of that icky cornstarch coating), but I can’t make a sauce that is THAT much better than Campbell’s or Progresso can do.

Hey. I’m damn near 56 years old, if I make it the next six weeks. I do not wish to waste what moments I have left on making stuff that mass-production kitchens can make as well as I can.

Like biscuits. If I’m going to make general, everyday biscuits, the ones that come in the bag in the freezer case are damn near as good as what I can produce. Not AS good, but close enough it ain’t worth the investment in my time to do the real thing. On the other hand, if I am making cheese biscuits to go with my bacon jam, I’ll make them from scratch, thankyouvery much. I do have my standards.

Some other of my favorites of the “open and dump” variety:

  • Ambrosia. Two cans of pineapple tidbits, drained; two cans mandarin orange segments, drained; one bag fresh-frozen coconut, thawed. Mix ’em all. Toss in a jar of maraschino cherry halves, drained. Guilty admision: I love to scoop me out a healthy serving of this, add a heaping tablespoon of Hellman’s mayo, stir it up and snarf it down.
  • Hummus. Open and drain the chickpeas. FoPro them with some lemon, some garlic, enough olive oil to thin them down, some allspice, a little pepper. Add drained liquid if you need to make it the consistency you want.
  • Salsa with cheese. Dump a jar of Best Value black bean and white corn salsa in a bowl. Add a cup, cup and a half of grated co-jack cheese. Stir and munch with chips. It’s one of the nasty secrets that takes me to the dreaded Wal-Mart from time to time.
  • Black bean and corn salad. Drain and rinse a can of black beans. Drain and can of corn. Drain a jar of pimientos, or half a jar of fire-roasted red peppers. Mix ’em all with a dressing of lime juice, neutral oil, and chile powder.

What are you and y’mama ‘n ’em’s favorite open-and-dump recipes?


5 Responses to “Semi-homemade”

  1. Toy Lady Says:

    Kay, your ambrosia sounds almost the same as mine – only instead of mayo, try sour cream some time.

  2. Len Cleavelin Says:

    Apropos your “dump ‘n cook” chicken pot pie recipe (which I use from time to time, having learned from you), I look at it this way: It’s healthier (less sodium), cheaper (per serving), and better than what’s in the freezer case (which was how Mama used to make it 🙂 ).

    I just took a look; there are two Papa Murphy’s here in Larger Memphis. One in Arlington, and one in Germantown. Not someplace I’m going to go to specifically to get dinner, but I’ll have to stop by the one in Germantown if I’m ever out there for another reason. Which reminds me that I’m going to have to get out to the Germantown Commissary sometime.

  3. Kath the Cook Says:

    Consider adding some tahini (sesame paste) to your hummus – makes all the diff. I like to serve with toasted pita, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, and a bit of sliced sweet onion. kath

  4. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Actually, I do often add tahini. But I was out the last time, and that’s something I just don’t think to buy!

  5. Len Cleavelin Says:

    I always thought tahini was a “required” ingredient in hummus; at least I’ve always seen it in every recipe for hummus I’ve ever read.

    I usually wind up buying it (if I’m out) when I get the bug up my butt to make hummus, which I haven’t in a while. Need to do that again sometime soon…

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