Tip #1: Use premade salad dressings to dress pasta salads. Prepackaged salad dressings have just the right combination of oil, vinegar, and seasonings for a pasta salad. Make it look homemade by adding a handful of fresh chopped herbs before tossing.
Tip #2: Use chicken stock from a box.There is no need to simmer the carcass of a chicken or turkey for with herbs and vegetables to make your own stock because the kind you buy in a box has the same flavor as homemade. The boxes can be purchased in low sodium, organic, and msg free versions if desired.
Tip #3: Use store bought sugar cookie dough, but make your own icing. I save myself hours of mixing and chilling sugar cookie dough by purchasing the pre-made sugar cookie dough available in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. After baking and cooling the cookies, if you ice them with a homemade icing, no one will ever guess that you didn’t make the cookies from scratch too. My favorite icing recipe combines about 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla. I usually judge the amounts by eye since you can’t really mess up any combination sugar, butter, and vanilla. Cookie food coloring can be added if desired. Mix all of the ingredients and spread on cookies and decorate cookies immediately. If the icing hardens, add a little milk to thin it out.
Recommended Reading: Get started with baking by reading our Ultimate Guide to the Best Baking Equipment for Beginners!
Tip #4: When baking, make a large batch of one or two traditional family recipes. Most cookie recipes freeze well, so you can make an extra large batch by tripling or quadrupling a recipe and then freezing the extras in several airtight containers to have fresh cookies all season long. Quick breads made in a bread machine also freeze well if they are well wrapped or sealed with a vacuum sealer.
Tip #5: Make cookies using cake mix as a base. A variety of flavors of cookies can be made from a variety of flavors of cake mixes. For the most basic cake mix cookie recipe, click here.
Tip #6: When entertaining have the ingredients for ultra fast snacks on hand. I love this recipe for a sweet and smoky nut mix because it only takes a minute to make, literally.
Tip #7: Dip everything in melted chocolate in your chocolate fountain. Pretzel, fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, store bought cookies, and crackers are all great dipped in melted chocolate. They also take little time to make and add variety to any holiday baked goods tray without having to bake several extra recipes.
Tip #8: Double casserole recipes and freeze half. When you make a casserole, double the recipe and freeze the other half. And save the prep time at a future dinner. Thaw the frozen casserole for 24 hours before cooking.
Tip #9: Use a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking your own. Rotisserie chickens cost just a little more than a raw chicken and are ready to be used in casseroles, paninis, sandwiches, and in soups. You can also make chicken in the best rotisserie oven.
Tip #10: Substitute less expensive ingredients. Ground turkey, when on sale, is less than lean ground beef. Frozen chicken breasts are less expensive than fresh ones. Heads of lettuce are less expensive than prechopped and packaged salads.
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