Some people obsess over sports or hunting; I shop. Food shopping meets all my favorite sport’s requirements: store availability, product variety, and price variability. Supermarkets, one of my favorite shopping destinations, excel in all three key criteria. And, nowadays, food shopping can be done in discount chains, drugstores, and dollar stores. These shopping venues sell food items that easily transition into homemade appetizers, snacks, entrees, and desserts.
Following up on last week’s list of my favorite supermarket items, here are more go-to items that I pick up almost anytime I engage in my favorite sport.
1. Borrowing a line from childhood song, “Farmer in the Dell,” the cheese, or in this case, the “cream cheese stands alone.” It’s hard to surpass the rich, creamy taste of cream cheese, served alone or adorned with or mixed with almost anything. Cream cheese serves as the base of hundreds, possibly thousands, of cold and hot dips, cheese balls, cracker toppings, and sandwich spreads.
Favorite cream cheese-centric appetizers are baked spinach and artichoke dip with crostini; smoked salmon spread liberally slathered on toasted bagel slices; loaded baked potato dip and kettle chips; caramel apple dip with Fuji apple slices; deviled ham on Pepperidge Farm Thin Bread rounds; and sliced fruit with strawberry dessert dip.
Dessert wouldn’t be the same without cream cheese’s significant contributions to thick and decadent cheesecake; world’s best cream cheese icing; strawberry and cream cheese coffee cake and turnovers; fruit pizza; and one of my top 10 favorite cakes, cream cheese pound cake.
As dependent as we are on cream cheese to begin and end meals, you’re missing out if you don’t pick up a bar to enhance the main course.
Some of my favorite cream cheese-infused meals are grilled steaks or chicken breasts stuffed with spinach, tomato pesto and cream cheese; red, white and green lasagna; tomato and cream cheese ravioli bake; creamy pasta primavera with shrimp; and Mediterranean pizza.
2. Before you turn up your nose, take it from me: your reputation as a from-scratch cook won't suffer if you're spotted with a box of Bisquick in your shopping cart. In today’s frenzied world, there’s no shame in the quick baking game.
Created in the 1930s to help busy farm wives whip up several pans a day of homemade biscuits and cornbread to feed hungry field hands, Bisquick is a baking mix of flour, shortening, salt, baking powder, and a few other ingredients.
Bisquick can be a lifesaver. Most importantly, if you’re hungry for a biscuit, all you have to do is add two-thirds cup of milk to 2-1/4 cups of Bisquick mix, knead the mixture on a floured board, roll out and cut into rounds, and bake on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Just like that, your biscuit craving is adequately met.
The same goes for cornbread, Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits, and the item without which no decent Christmas party would be complete, sausage balls.
Other Bisquick creations include pancakes, strawberry shortcake, sausage breakfast bake, leftover chili skillet pie, enchilada casserole, and easy fruit cobblers. You name it, almost every dish requiring flour and other ingredients can be simplified with a cup or two of Bisquick.
Lastly, I know there are some classic dishes that should be left alone. Chicken and dumplings is in this category. As a rule, I don’t fool around with shortcut versions made with canned biscuits or strips of tortillas.
However, a friend insisted that it was not only acceptable to make Bisquick dumplings, she suggested I might never go back to my grandmother’s version of mixing, rolling, and cutting homemade dumplings.
I won’t claim this recipe meets the high taste standards of the old-fashioned version. But, after making it, it’s one I can safely recommend when a craving for the ultimate comfort food must be met. I even think my grandmother would ask for a second helping.
Quick Chicken and Dumplings, Circa 2017
1 cup Bisquick
1 tablespoon milk
Mix three ingredients thoroughly. Turn dough onto well-floured board. Knead 2 to 3 minutes until smooth and elastic. Roll into large rectangle, cut into 12 strips (1 x 6 inch each). Set aside in a cool place or place in refrigerator. Make sure board is floured so dough won't stick.
3-4 boneless chicken breasts; boiled until done, then cut into bite-sized pieces – reserve broth (tip: boil the chicken the night before and refrigerate; the following day/night, the remaining steps take less than 30 minutes)
1-1/2 cups milk
4 cups chicken broth reserved from boiling chicken
Small bag frozen green peas and carrots, defrosted
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
Heat the milk, chicken broth, the peas and carrots, chicken and soup to boiling in 3-quart saucepan, stirring frequently as mixture boils.
Drop dumpling strips onto boiling stew; with fork push strips gently into broth to coat both sides. Cook over low heat 10 minutes uncovered and then cover for last 10 minutes.
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