<There would be a picture here if I would ever remember to take a good one before we actually eat the food>
When I set up housekeeping with my first husband (can it really have been over 13 years ago already?) I believed that creating home cooked meals meant doing everything “from scratch”. If a recipe called for a cream base, I made it with flour and cream. Pasta sauce was started with fresh or home canned tomatoes. I had a freezer full of soup stock I made by boiling down bones. It was time consuming and I actually resented it a little bit.
That wasn’t how I was raised. My dad (the cook in our family) used store bought cream soups, pasta sauces and broth. It wasn’t even how my ex-husband was raised. His grandmother taught me many of the tricks I am going to share with you. It was just the way I thought it should be.
Over the years, I have come to realize the power of store bought red sauce, tomato products, soups and broths. I don’t usually serve them right out of the jar, but I use them every day.
I make a pretty darn good chili (if I do say so myself) and I start it with store bought spaghetti sauce. The first time I saw my grandmother in law do this I was appalled. Spaghetti sauce in chili? What in the world? Then she reminded me that spaghetti sauce has exactly the same ingredients you put in chili sans the chili pepper. Oh my God…she changed my world! A jar of spaghetti sauce, some chili seasoning, meat and beans and you’ve got a bangin’ dinner!
I also start my vegetable soup with a can of tomato soup. I could never get just the right tomato taste with my “from scratch” version. Something was always missing. Even if I boil down a beef leg bone for the broth, I add a can of tomato soup (the store brand is fine) to the mix to give it that extra oomph.
I use cream of chicken soup and canned chicken broth in my chicken meat pie. If I’m making a beef meat pie, I use a jar of gravy or cream of mushroom soup. Actually, I very rarely make gravy from scratch any more. I never get it right and the store brand is fine.
I’m working on a ebook of recipes that use “doctored” up sauces and soups. Until I started thinking about it, I never realized how often I do this.
Are there any shortcuts you use that you think are unique? If so, let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to cut corners while cooking. I like to cook, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t have as much time for it as I used to!