Make Convenience Foods Taste Even Better

Although I make most meals from scratch, I'm no stranger to using ready-made foods when I'm busy or too tired to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Here are a few of my hacks for dressing up ready-made meals.

Pizza: I don't know about you, but pizza never has enough cheese on it. I always keep a little bag of frozen shredded pizza cheese at the ready and top it off.

Veggie to Meat Pizza: I love vegetarian pizzas, but Greg, not so much. I've taken to half-cooking one Italian sausage and slicing it over his half of the pizza. Voila! We both get what we want.

Spaghetti Sauce: I prefer homemade sauce, but if I'm in a bind I'll use store bought sauce and dress it up with sausage, mushrooms, bell pepper, or onions. Toss in a couple of spoonfuls of red wine and you end up with a super rich sauce that's almost as good as homemade.

Wontons: I buy the big bag of frozen wontons from Costco. Whenever I boil a chicken for the dogs, I keep the broth and use it for wonton soup. Add bok choy and green onions for a really filling meal.

Ramen: Who doesn't have ramen in their pantry? Don't settle for hum drum when you can dress it up with sliced scallions, cilantro, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced chicken, pork, or beef from last night's dinner. For a kick, add a couple of drops of hot sauce or thinly sliced jalapeno.

Oatmeal: We love steel cut oats for oatmeal, but take it to the next level with fruit. I always add frozen blueberries, but you can also try fresh strawberries, apple, cinnamon, or banana.

Tomato Soup: Add a little cooked rice or macaroni to keep it from looking so naked.

Fajitas: Have you ever tried the seasoned and pre-cooked fajitas-in-a-bag? Don't settle for bag food. Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and sauté some onions and peppers, then drop in the fajita meat. I promise you, this is way better.

Leftover white rice: Did you end up with more rice than you ate from your last Chinese take-out? We never finish both boxes of rice that come with our meals. I drizzle oil in a skillet, heat until it's very hot. Toss in the white rice, add scallions, water chestnuts, snow peas, and/or mushrooms. A dash of soy sauce and garlic powder and you have complete vegetarian stir fried rice meal.

Canned Salmon: Aside from salmon patties or salmon salad you can make an amazing schmear for bagels from canned salmon. Puree one can of salmon with 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, dash of mustard, lemon, dill, salt and pepper to taste. It's fantastic as a bagel spread or as a dip for your next party.

How about you? Do you take prepared foods up a notch?

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