Breakfast-time, dinnertime or anytime in between, time always seems to be an ingredient in short supply these days. With kids and grandkids heading back off to school, there are lunches to be packed, snacks to fix, bake sales to organize! It’s times like these when I turn to my trusty recipe box and start thumbing through those tried and true stand-by dishes that I know won’t let me down.
Happily, my recipe box is now bursting its virtual seams thanks to all you clever time-crunchers out there. The Kitchen Crew and I recently caught a break from the summer heat and kicked back with some delicious Easy Strawberry Popsicles. The recipe, submitted by member Jo Zimny of Albuquerque, NM, was the perfect mid-afternoon treat for us cookin’ gals, and my grandson Connor made quick work of gobbling up all the leftover pops when he got home from school. Aside from the obvious, my favorite thing about these pops is that they can be whipped up in a matter of minutes (minus the patience-testing freezing period). Fast, easy and nutritious, these pretty little treats are becoming quite the in-demand item in the Test Kitchen!
Busy Oregon mom Michelle Waco also recently shared one of her family’s favorite meals on the fly. Super Easy Working Mom’s Manicotti is Michelle’s answer to a busy day. By combining classic manicotti flavors, no-boil pasta shells (love them!) and some make-ahead magic, Michelle can have a hot, versatile meal on the table in a flash.
“Sometimes I make it with sausage and mushrooms,” explains Michelle, “sometimes veggie style – either way is great!”
Another helpful make-ahead must-have is my trusty crock pot. This sweet darling has many miles behind it… and it’s never once shown its age. With good recipes at my side, I’ve had great success preparing everything from appetizers to desserts this way. The crock pot personifies the “set it and forget it” mentality that has helped keep me sane over the years.
One favorite crock pot meal comes to us from Jennifer Null of Elkton, MD. Her Crock Pot Dr. Pepper Pork mixes the kick of Creole seasoning and red pepper flakes with the sweet spiciness of Dr. Pepper!
“My kids LOVE this recipe,” says Jennifer. “It’s a flavorful recipe… both sweet and a little spicy.”
In fact, the technique in Jennifer’s recipe is so solid that it’s what we like to call a “foundation” recipe. It’s the perfect recipe to keep in your back pocket to build upon any which way you like. This dish can carry any number of seasoning combinations… and is ideal for last-minute, clean-out-the-spices experimentation. What busy cook doesn’t need that every now and then?
Kudos to all of you who are swapping recipes and sharing stories about your favorite fast-track cooking techniques. Food is a heartfelt extension of how we feel, and I’m grateful for these schedule-friendly recipes that allow this busy grandma to show her family how much she cares. It’s amazing how satisfying a truly homemade meal can be.