Serious cooks - what convenience foods do you think are worth it?

This came up in a recent discussion. It turned out the only canned things I use are roma tomatoes, baked beans, salmon and beetroot (it’s an Aussie thing). But a recent addition is Stagg Chili - I just love the stuff, it’s the only ready to eat thing in a can worth eating. To stop myself just eating it from the tin I force myself to make Stagg stuffed peppers. I fill capsicums with cous cous, chopped veges and chili and top with grated cheese and bake them. Since I usually have cous cous and a carrot or zuchini in the fridge preparation takes about 3 minutes.

I love it, too! Our favorite junk food dinner is chili dogs - Hebrew National dogs, Stagg Chili, cheddar cheese, dill pickles, diced tomatoes and onions.

Convenience foods I utilize:

Frozen peas and frozen artichoke hearts
Boxed stock
Tomato “passata” sauce (but must get it at an Italian supermarket)
Packaged European cookies
California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas

“Ranch Style” beans and other canned beans. Beans seem to survive the canning process quite well, and I’ve been using a lot more of them lately: garbanzos, borlottis, black beans, broad Italian white beans

That’s what I use too. Zyliss garlic press - presto, fresh garlic. You can use less of the fresh pressed stuff too compared to the jar.

I make a lot of pasta and I appreciate when people make noodles from scratch but I would never do it myself, good dried pasta is close enough for me. I also use canned tomatoes to make sauce. During the winter the tomatoes in the store are pretty sad anyway, so the canned ones are actually better. When I grow my own tomatoes then I can tell the big difference, but not with the store bought ones.

I mostly use frozen vegetables. I prefer fresh spices but I keep dried ones around and use them quite often, it’s too hard to have all the fresh ones on hand when you need them.

Does ice cream count if I actually have an ice cream maker that has never come out of its box? :wink:

Although there are certain things that I prefer to make from scratch, mostly dessert-y stuff (anu-la1979, email me if you want a really good brownie recipe . . . seriously) I would not call myself a “serious cook”, and am generally appreciative of convenience foods.

However, I do not do Cool Whip. Homemade whipped cream is just . . . well, it’s just so. much. better. Y’know?

I also prefer homemade Mac and Cheese, but that’s kind of a whole different beast from the boxed stuff.

I don’t like garlic presses, they mush the garlic. I’ve tried the jars and don’t like those either except in a real pinch.

As for the OP, I use bouillon cubes, canned crushed tomatoes.

I hope loaves of bread are no longer considered “convenience foods.” :slight_smile:

Frozen spinach. In order to end up with the amount of cooked spinach that’s in a frozen package, you’d need to cook bags and bags of the fresh stuff.

Artichoke hearts, most salad dressings (but I make my own ceasar, with anchovies), Hatch green chili out of season, bread crumbs. Most of these are due to a combination of taste and convenience, with the weight on convenience.

Just a quick look through my pantry gave me these, I’m sure there are more.

Bagged Salad
Fish Filets
Easy Peel Shrimp (split and de-veined)
Canned stock
Dried Pasta
Prewashed and cut greens (kale, collard, spinach)

I have to chime in about garlic though. I can taste the difference between garlic that’s pressed and garlic that’s chopped, chopped garlic=more garlicky flavor. And garlic in a jar just doesn’t have much garlic flavor at all to me.

Oh, and I’m another one who didn’t realize that cous-cous could take longer than 5 minutes.

I’ll add my support for jar garlic, a good one is fine and there is much less mess and cleaning required than using fresh garlic. Boxes or cans of Italian pure strained tomatos are great, they contain only tomato, I like the Pomi brand especially.
I use the concentrated beef stock from Smart&Final it is the only one with a significan beef content that I have found which isn’t too salty for using in making reduced sauces. Canned beans are fine for a long cooked dish, and canned clear chicken soup seems better to me than any available chicken concentrated stock.

… for Garlic jars, I susspect that being close to gilroy and getting farm-made jars might make a big difference in whether a jar of garlic is a worthwhile thing. I’m happy eating raw pickled garlics by the dozen, and the jarred garlic I get doesn’t leave me wanting for more garliciness.

I buy the Trader Joe’s frozen fish that are supposedly wild & flash frozen after being vacuum packed on the boat…I don’t know how true this is but I have no time to sit around chopping and cleaning fish and guts. Besides, it doesn’t seem worth the effort for things like salmon or whatnot. My parents are running over to Chinatown to buy the type of fish you don’t get in American supermarkets (Pomphret, kingfish, Pacific mackerel and sardines, some type of tiny edible shark) for their native curries. About the only American fish they’ve taken to is salmon. I, on the other hand, am perfectly comfortable eating less exotic species.

auntie em-that’s very sweet of you. I don’t eat dessert on a daily basis but the next time I’m hit up to bring something to a potluck I’ll make sure to get your recipe.

So, people who buy stock, what brand? I get the Swanson Natural Goodness chicken stock in the aseptic box thing; I think it tastes a lot better than the canned stuff. I don’t use much beef stock, so I keep some of that “better than bullion” sludge in the fridge for that. I only use the cubes when I roast Vidalia onions; that’s what they’re for.

That’s because chopping the garlic breaks up more of the cells. This releases chemicals that are normally stored safely in the overhead compartment, which then combine with other newly released chemicals to make new chemicals that are in large part repsonsible for garlics taste, armoma, heat, and pungent-ness. The smaller the pieces, and the more damage is done to the clove, the more pronounced this effect will be. If you were to pop a whole clove of garlic in your mouth and eat it, it would be less garlicy than if you chopped up a whole clove and ate that.

So then shouldn’t pressed garlic be more pungent than chopped, not less? That’s my experience anyway, I can press one garlic clove and it’s stronger than one clove chopped. velvetjones says chopped garlic has a stronger flavor than pressed.

So, got your copy of How To Read A French Fry? :smiley:

Okay, ignoring the whole “garlic from a jar” fiasco, why has Dried Pasta turned up in the thread 3 different times? I just hope that people don’t consider the dried variety as a lesser alternative to fresh. That might make my head explode.

Fresh pasta isn’t that hard to make, and some of us are lucky enough to live in places where one can buy fresh. But it is a huge convenience and time-saver to use dried pasta.

“better than bullion” sludge QUOTE]

Yeah, I use this stuff, and the chicken one too. It does indeed look like sludge.

Also, another vote for tubed polenta. I make it from scratch sometimes, but I get lazy too.

Apparently, I also like to take the easy way out when coding.

I like Swanson’s, too. I tried some of those other organic chicken stocks-in-a-box, but I didn’t like the flavor as much. I thought they tasted too vegetable-y. I also use some brand of sludge for beef stock, since I seldom need it. I use it when I stew a batch of mushrooms in stock, butter and garlic, and it works fine.

I only recently was able to find seafood stock in boullion cube form. I found it in a Portuguese market, where I suppose it was sold to folks wanting to make a bouillabaise. It smells and tastes fine for my purposes, which will be gumbo or some other fish stew.