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Your "go to" convenience food is.....

Mine is probably your typical boxed cake mix. I store several in the pantry, all flavors, some probably not even made any longer, odd flavors etc. My favorite is Orange Supreme due to husbands favorite cake being Orange Dreamsicle Cream cake with like frosting. But with other cake mixes, I make several things out of them and then think they're pretty versatile.
Cookies/cupcakes/cakes/quick breads/breads. I have even added a tablespoon or two to crepes I've made or added same amount to add flavor to other things, even sweeten up sauces for over fruit like with sour cream or cream cheese.

Do you have a go to convenience food that you always find yourself reaching in the pantry for? What is it and what do you do with it?

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  1. Even persons who love cooking from basic fresh ingredients have those days when chopping and slicing and blending and simmering just don't appeal but the mouth still wants good flavors. My shortcut to some pretty tasty quick meals comes in a little can with a green label: Herdez Salsa Verde; a tomatillo and chile sauce that can shortcut me to decent guacamole, chile verde, salsas, and any number of spicy Mexican or SE Asian quick dishes. It even makes an acceptable base for a Thai green curry.

    7 Replies
    1. re: fromagina

      I do the herdez verde too, but only in winter when tomatoes are worthless.
      Some of my go tos:
      Jarred Ginger paste
      Jarred Chile garlic sauce
      Cilantro Chutney
      Maesri Curry pastes
      Pre-fried Extra firm tofu from the Asian mkts. Who has time to dry, and then fry tofu during the week?

      1. re: gordeaux

        Sounds like your "hasty cooking" is pretty tasty!

        1. re: fromagina

          Maesri red or green curry, a can o' coconut milk, and a few throw ins...
          Better Thai curry than most of your town's Thai restaurants in 30 minutes, anyone?

          And what's quicker than a good stir fry with real ginger, chile garlic, and sesame oil/oyster sauce, and a little ponzu? I can put most chinese food takeout to shame for about 1/8 the price.

      2. re: fromagina

        the times I've seen that in the market too has been often but just never picked up any of it, hum, herdez, I will try it. yesterday Nigella used a tomato garlic paste in a jar for her morroccan meal but never heard of it so don't know what it is so can't pick it up for later use, oh well.

            1. re: fromagina

              http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=H..., this looks like it's makeable, thanks for the word "fromaquina" I never heard her say the word and I even played it back and few times and still didn't get it.

        1. Canned beans (depending on the night - garbanzos, pinto, red kidney) - typically thrown on top of a salad for lazy work nights.

          10 Replies
          1. re: jeni1002

            Beans for me too. Canned chickpeas and fava beans drained and rinsed mixed with a chopped roasted red pepper from a jar, minced green, and a glug of EVOO. Valentina hot sauce on the side..

            1. re: jeni1002

              Me, too. B&M beans with mustard and kielbasa. Also avocado, garbanzos and chopped onion with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or maybe a bowl of cereal in the event of a total lame-out.

              1. re: flavrmeistr

                Hahaha - I keep a box of Cheerios in the cupboard for those "lame-out" times! I almost never eat cold cereal, but in a culinary emergency they do just fine.

                1. re: Catskillgirl

                  Same here: although I do eat it for breakfast as well, emergency cereal is always on my counter :) (multiple kinds in order to accommodate spur-of-the-moment combinations).

                  Edited to add: Also, TJ's frozen spinach lasagna, tuna & salmon pouches, TJ's smoked trout and miso soup. DH is also known to store various types of Asian soups in the same pantry.

                  1. re: Catskillgirl

                    Not as lame as Cheerios (kidding! I kid!) but my favorite in-a-pinch go-to food is Black Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits (divine!) with a schmear of plain whipped cream cheese. There's just something about the combination of textures and salty/peppery with cream cheese.

                    1. re: Catskillgirl

                      i eat cold cereal all the time. probably more than anything else.

                      peanut butter crunch is a current favorite, alongside go lean crunch.

                      1. re: beelzebozo

                        I also eat cereal and lots of it too. I also eat peanut butter out of the jar frequently

                  2. re: jeni1002

                    Beans for me too. This may sound gross, but I just rinse the beans from the can and eat them cold.

                    1. re: cakesncookies

                      I don't eat them from a can BUT I love canned black beans drained in GoodHealthGourmet's Black Bean Dip...it is SO great! You can easily sub kidney beans or pinto beans if you don't have enough black beans.

                      1. re: cakesncookies

                        well, its not much different than rinsing them off and chucking them straight into a salad or salsa. :)

                    2. From the Campbell's website. Beef Taco Skillet.

                      In a skillet, brown a pound of ground beef. Add onion and sautee. Add a can of tomato soup, can of water and a can of salsa. Add some cheese. Add some cut up flour tortillas. Top with remaining cheese.

                      It's quick, easy and more importantly, it's pretty tasty.
                      I add some Tone's Chipotle seasoning to mine.



                      1. Gimme a large can of chopped green chile, a can of pintos and a can of hominy and I can do wonders. A can of chopped clams, a jar of white clam sauce and some pasta, ditto. I keep both in the cupboard at camp*, in case we want to stay longer or I get kicked out of the house (beats the dog house).

                        * Camp is the Maine generic for lakeside cabin. Cottage is a rich person's summer house. Martha Stewart has Edsel Ford's old cottage in Seal Harbor.

                        1. My current favorites are the Archer Farms risottos, mushroom or red pepper. Easy and good with whatever is grilled up on the barbecue.

                          1. Pudding mixes (never instant) i.e. cooked pudding
                            Soup mixes
                            Canned soup
                            Canned beans
                            Jarred pasta sauce
                            TJs pesto
                            Whipped cream in a can (never cool whip)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: laliz

                              LaLiz, you got what I was talking about here. I recognize your name from another foodie site I think, or I'm off my rocker which is entirely possible too ;)

                            2. What does 'go to' mean in this context?
                              I've tried to Google it with no luck.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Peg

                                It's a sports neologism that has entered mainstream American English since the turn of the century. In 2000, American Heritage's Fourth Unabridged noted its use as referring to a player on an athletic team who is relied upon to make important plays, eg, "the team's go-to receiver." But in 2004, Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate edition noted use beyond the context of sports, noting that the term refers to someone "relied on for expert knowledge or skill," for example "the company's go-to guy."

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Alan you get a round of applause. Very good. Honestly, I never thought anyone would not understand my verbiage, my bad and forgive me please.

                                  Now, a lot of you folks are going to "what your favorite thing is to grab in a pinch for a quick bite] if I'm reading many of these right. My idea was about your pantry picks to use when stretching or creating or using to update or even change something that can maybe turn one thing, [ie. Campbells cream of mushroom soup] from only using it for the standard green bean casserole to something all together different and incredible.

                                2. re: Peg

                                  Peg, when I walk in the door after a hard or arduous day of work, and I am famished, my go to snack [which is off topic of this thread and I think I've confused many] is peanut butter spread on high fiber bread, sit and eat quick.

                                3. Totinos Frozen Pizzas. One whole pizza hits the spot, with no left-overs.

                                  1. SPAM with Ramen. Delicious.

                                    1. boxed rice pilaf...every time

                                      1. Second the curry paste as a quick way to put a good meal on the table quick, especially when used in conjunction with UHT coconut cream.

                                        But the ultimate convenience food in our house is Trader Joe's frozen potstickers. Freezer to plate in 7 minutes, and everybody loves 'em.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          toss them in chicken broth and you have wonton-ish soup in an instant.

                                          1. re: lulubelle

                                            do you zap them and then put in the broth, or just cook them in the broth? how long?

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              heat the broth and when it is close to boiling turn it down to a simmer and toss in however many you want. They cook in 4-5 minutes.

                                              1. re: lulubelle

                                                thanks. i'd tried it before, but wasn't thrilled with the results (dumpling texture, iirc). i'll try it again, as i have some dumplings in the freezer.

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  It's certainly not fine cuisine, but it's pretty tasty. Sometimes I toss in some chive or chopped up green onions for a little color and texture.

                                        2. On nights when I'm totally spent and it's getting too late to cook, I'll grab a bag of whatever curry boil-in-bag dish I have in the cupboard. Those things are handy. A light dinner in about two minutes. Haven't found that brand really makes much of a difference, although I stay away from the ones with paneer. Just doesn't microwave right. Usually at that point it's too much to even cook rice, so I'll just take some pita or flatbread with it along with a couple spoonfuls of lime pickle.

                                          If I can muster 10 minutes of energy, there's always a bag of frozen shrimp and some cocktail sauce on hand. That or scraping together bits and pieces of leftovers for an omelet.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                            Yes, PG. Always with the frozen shrimp as well. That and some boiled pasta with a spicy red or scampi sauce and bread, bagged salad and I'm done.

                                            Burgers, too. Loves me some burgers.

                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                              TJ's has a Tuna Curry that's really tasty and I think it's like $1.49.

                                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                                Pan guy -

                                                Can you lead me to a good brand/dish with these?
                                                I bought a good handful of ones to try on my last excursion to an ind mkt. So far, none have been really good. I made some chicken boti last night, and I'm having a paneer makhni from a box to go along with it tonight. Last night it was an aloo mutter. Basically it was just meh. I tossed the leftovers (which is rare for me to do with Indian Food) PLease hook me up with some brands/dishes that are ok. I love the concept, but so far, they've just been 'meh.'

                                              2. Can of Antioquia beans, can of corn, diced red onion, diced tomato, chopped chives or cilantro, lots of chile powder or flakes; nuke; serve with tortillas or over rice.

                                                Drained can of water-packed tuna topped with soy sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce; eaten cold with hot (can be nuked left-over) rice.

                                                Japanese pickled vegetables (quick or purchased) or ume and hot rice.

                                                Instant noodles--topped with mixed quick cooking vegetables (e.g., sliced young green beans, snow peas, sliced green onions, napa) briefly simmered in just a bit of seasoned liquid (some combo of chile powder, oyster sauce, hoisin, soy sauce, dash of the soup mix) until liquid largely evaporates and/or is incorporated into the veggies.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  I stir-fry a bag of cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) to throw on my instant noodles, add soy sauce, garlic and ginger and I've got dinner. If I've got more time, I'll throw in some shrimp or chicken.

                                                2. spaghetti / pasta sauce. i know it's so much better homemade, but nothing beats the convenience of the jarred stuff for everything from pizza to short rib baste to soup base.

                                                  1. During the week, pretty much all I eat is a combination of convenience foods. I love:

                                                    Powdered veggie stock
                                                    Canned beans
                                                    Frozen mixed veggies
                                                    Jarred salsa
                                                    Jarred kimchee
                                                    Bottled lime juice
                                                    Frozen veggie burgers

                                                    And sometimes, canned or vacu-packed Indian food (TJ's makes good ones).

                                                    1. canned tuna or salmon.

                                                      Just mix in some evoo and basalmic vinegar and I'm good to go

                                                      Of course there's cereal, and the flavor recently has been Honey Bunches of Oats

                                                      1. Shirataki noodles... they're a great base for simple and complex dishes.

                                                        1. In the freezer is my amazing collection of sausages. White ones, hot ones, ballparks, Italian, bangers, chorizo, lil' smokies, and more... Make a selection, find something to go with it and there you are.

                                                          1. I use almost no convenience foods; where I live they have to be shipped in and are far too expensive to use on a regular. (plus I have a full time cook) I do buy the Classico jarred pesto and hoard it though, because it make a great quick pizza topping.

                                                            1. I'm going to try this again. A lot of you folks are going to "what your favorite thing is to grab in a pinch for a quick bite] if I'm reading many of these right. My idea was about your pantry picks to use when stretching or creating or using to update or even change something that can maybe turn one thing, [ie. Campbells cream of mushroom soup] from only using it for the standard green bean casserole to something all together different and incredible.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                Let's see here...mayonnaise...laughing cow cheese...marashcino cherries...hmmm. Nope. Can't do it.

                                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                                  It changes depending on my mood, but right now it's those little wasabi peas.

                                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                                    yup, they still dont get it...lol

                                                                    for me its:
                                                                    Canned tomatoes
                                                                    Canned beans
                                                                    boxed pilaf mixes
                                                                    coconut milk
                                                                    single meal cans of thai curry pastes

                                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                                      Cans of beans, kidney, chickpea, whatever. Great in salads, hot dishes, turned into dip.
                                                                      My tom sauce in 1 portion sizes in my freezer,can turn into spaghetti, chili, pizza sauce, etc
                                                                      Cans of tuna, again in salads, sandwiches, wraps, hot rice dishes
                                                                      Soba noodles, cold or hot!
                                                                      Cheese all flavours, again salads (hmm summer time much?) sandwiches, topping, for use in everything!!!
                                                                      That's really all I can think of because I always have so many fresh veggies etc around...

                                                                    2. Canned beans for me, too. Also canned tomatoes with green chiles - Ro-Tel is the standard, but I ain't too proud to go generic. Drain and stir into your mac & cheese, or add to browned chicken or turkey (juice and all), cover and braise. Martha White cornbread mixes in the small bags, too, but I have to bring those back from Nashville now. Just enough for my small skillet, perfect with chili.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                                        once I made an appetizer for the girls/guys at work just because. I took my 5 qt. crock pot to work with bags of tortilla chips and a hot bean dip I'd done with 2 cans of each: rotel/dennisons chili con carne no beans/Gebhardts pinto beans in sauce and 2 8 oz'ers of cream cheese. Dumped all in the crock pot early in the morning so it'd be hot by the time I got to work. It honestly surprised even me. Sooo good that one manicurist asked if she could just take the crock home, give the little bit rest to her husband and bring back the clean crock the next day. I said sure, apparently she loved it...

                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                          hmmm...good office fodder indeed

                                                                          1. re: TSQ75

                                                                            may be good office fodder but at least on subject ;()

                                                                          2. re: iL Divo

                                                                            Are the beans mashed (refried style) or whole?

                                                                        2. Isernio's spicy italian sausage and eggs. Not together. But when we're stumped and I'm lazy (I'm the cook) we rely on pork fat and heat to make a plain whatevers-in-the-fridge meal great. You can add kale/arugula/broccoli/broccoli raab and whatever hard cheese end is sitting in the fridge door and dump it on pasta and have a tasty meal.

                                                                          That, or I start having fun with eggs. Lately eggs and cottage cheese together. I love beating egg whites till they're stiff and then folding in cottage cheese and a bit of flour. Yolks or not. I usually do them like pancakes but in the interest of laziness I'm going to start browning them in the pan and finishing them in a very hot oven.

                                                                          1. Canned tomatoes. Italian plum ones are best but honestly I usually have cans of Muir Glen diced on hand.
                                                                            Pacific brand chicken broth in the resealable aseptic boxes.
                                                                            Canned minced clams. Actually, canned tuna, too.
                                                                            Big bags of frozen organic peas and "haricots verts" from Costco.
                                                                            A couple of spice mixtures from our local "whole foods" type market-- "greek spice", "pizza spice".
                                                                            And.... Bisquick. I can and do make scratch biscuits, waffles, biscuits, etc--- but sometimes I want to just add milk, bake and enjoy.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: missoulagrace

                                                                              I was too embarrassed to say it myself, but BISQUICK! Behold the bible to my comfort food cravings. You can do endless things with bisquick, great one dish suppers!!

                                                                              I also us store bought demi glace as a base for many different sauces.

                                                                              1. re: Kam7185

                                                                                One of the ongoing disagreements my ex and I had was the great "Bisquick vs. Krusteez debate"... I grew up with Bisquick. Plus, I like that when you make pancakes, you do have to add your own egg and milk with Bisquick. With Krusteez, you just add water-- I guess it's in there already. Now, if you're camping, I'm down with "add water and go"-- no pancakes taste better than camping pancakes no matter what.

                                                                                1. re: Kam7185

                                                                                  I like TJs multigrain pancake and baking mix - very versatile and with whole grains. I make pancakes, waffles, cake, faux pot pie, cookies, etc.

                                                                              2. canned fat free chicken broth
                                                                                usually have sausage or chicken in the fridge
                                                                                rice, barley or pasta
                                                                                good assortment of spices
                                                                                always have a good hunk of parmigiano reggiano
                                                                                always keep chick peas or kidney beans
                                                                                tuna fish

                                                                                1. For me, it is frozen salmon burgers.

                                                                                  Costco carries a very good brand of restaurant-quality burgers made from wild-caught salmon. Whenever I am short of time or just plain too tired to cook, I can pull one or two of these out of my freezer, put them into a Circulon skillet on low heat, and I have a very tasty, incredibly healthy meal in a few minutes. Served on a toasted whole wheat bun with some grainy mustard, this makes a well-balanced meal that is both quick and tasty.

                                                                                  1. canned refried beans
                                                                                    shredded cheeses
                                                                                    Bumble Bee foil pack salmon
                                                                                    Cheerios (while I cook I snack - I'm bad)
                                                                                    Jellies instead of fresh fruit
                                                                                    Kraft Mac and Cheese


                                                                                    1. Rice a Roni. DH doesn't eat too many veggies, and sometimes I am just at a loss as to what to serve him while my daughter and I are enjoying our fresh brocolli and salads as side dishes. If I don't have too much time to plan, this is perfect for him. Use the low sodium kind if you can find it.

                                                                                      1. zatarain's low-sodium jambalaya rice mix. good to toss in some cooked chicken and you have a delicious chicken and rice.

                                                                                        1. Right now it is those Velveeta cheese sause packets. My 4 year old is a picky eater but will eat Velveeta shells and cheese. Yes, I have made him home made and it is a waste of time, he won't eat it.
                                                                                          So when I saw those Velveeta cheese packets for $3.19 you get 3 packets in the box, I bought it. I always have whole wheat pasta of different shapes. And the box of shells and cheese is usually 2 for $5 at my Kroger so the sauce packets are better for me.