February is all about love – love for a spouse, partner, child, or friend. Your love for your sweatpants. Your love for a quiet moment (yes, even if it’s in the bathroom). Or your love for quick-cook and just-about-ready-to-serve foods. Creating an inspired, fully homemade meal each night can be a real chore for anyone, even in a family with two professional chefs. Here’s a list of some of my favorite go-to shortcut items:
Pre-made pizza dough
This is always handy to have in your refrigerator or freezer. You can purchase white or whole-wheat pizza dough in many of your local grocery stores or even at your favorite pizza place. Just ask. Most pizzerias will sell you some of their dough, or if you’re a good customer they might just give it to you! A pizza dough can be not only a fantastic pizza – with grated cheese, your favorite jarred sauce, and fresh toppings – but it can also be transformed into homemade calzones or garlic knots stuffed with leftover chicken and vegetables. Just bake your pie – or whatever you’ve created with the dough – on a well-oiled baking sheet (if you don’t have a stone) at 400°F until the crust is crispy and the cheese is bubbling!
Fresh stuffed tortellini
I like to buy fresh tortellini stuffed with cheese and spinach and serve it with sweet italian chicken sausage. Of course, any sausage or even pre-cooked meatballs work well too. While the pasta is boiling, sauté the fully cooked sausages in a pan, just to give them that seared, crispy taste, and then slice them. Once the pasta is cooked (follow package directions, but don’t overcook!), drain it, and toss it into the sausage pan; add sausage slices in with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese and dinner is served! Buy a salad in a bag, toss with your favorite dressing and you have a meal. No need for bread, as there are plenty of carbs in that pasta. Fresh pasta can be purchased from several local pasta shops, gourmet shops, and from the refrigerated case of most local grocery stores.
Potstickers or wontons
Our family enjoys the chicken and vegetable potstickers or wontons, but there are vegetable, shrimp, and pork variations, too. Boil the potstickers as directed on the package, drain, then quickly sauté in a preheated pan with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to crisp them a bit. Serve with steamed vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, and snow peas – tossed in a little bit of low sodium soy sauce. The best variety of potstickers or wontons can be found at the local asian market, where you will also find fresh produce and plenty of sauces for dipping.
Crescent roll dough
My mother used crescent roll dough as a head start for this apple doughnut she made on cold new england weekend mornings. These are a fun, easy treat with just a few ingredients: one apple (granny smith or honey crisp) peeled, cored and cut into 1-in. Cubes; one tube of crescent roll dough; a sugar cinnamon mix; and vegetable oil for frying. Heat about two inches of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Place the apple cubes in a bowl and toss with a tablespoon or so of the cinnamon and sugar. Unroll the crescent dough and cut each crescent in half, making 16 pieces. Wrap each piece of apple in the dough and fry, 4 to 5 pieces at a time, until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel then toss into the cinnamon sugar mix. Allow to cool slightly, as the apple treats will be hot.