Comfort-Cookin'When cooking while dealing with pain we know “easy” is what we want.  When we think “easy” we also think of convenience foods. The thing is, anyone can say their product makes cooking “easier”; the question is: Are we sacrificing taste for “store bought” easy as well what is easy to afford?  The bottom line is if something tastes really good to you (and your family) then go for it. However, is it really easy enough to be worth it?  Let’s investigate the pros and cons of convenience “easy” foods so that we are better armed to make an informed choice. Let’s start with flavorings and sauces:

  • Condensed soups and soup mixes: These can make great recipes and make those recipes “easy” Stick with the soups you like (I have several canned soups and soup mixes I like-others I don’t like the flavor.  I just substitute the ones I like or just not make that recipe).  They are a convenience food.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese:  Unless you really like the flavor of the stuff that comes in the jar, forget it.  It is just as easy to grate your wedge of parmesan cheese with a microplane zester/grater for smaller amounts or a rotary grater (Zyliss or Oxo are just two brands) for larger; neither tools bother my arthritic hands. It just takes a few seconds, and they clean up nice in the dishwasher.  The difference in taste will blow you away.  I have never figured out the difference in cost but I personally don’t care.  The parmesan wedge keeps well wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.  This works well also for Asiago, Romano, and Aged Provolone as well.
  • Bottled salad dressings:  While you can make salad dressings fairly easy from scratch or with season packets, the bottled ones are lovely and tasty.  I call them convenient.
  • Salad dressing mixes:  Handy to use as seasoning for meats, potatoes and vegetable dishes; if you like the taste as dressings you can use it instead of bottled versions.
  • Marinades:  There is no reason I can think of to use a bottled marinade.  It is easy to mix a marinade together and it is 100% likely to taste better and be less expensive.  The only exception I make is Teriyaki marinade as I use it in some recipes (but make my own for marinating)
  • Cooking/Recipe Sauces:  These are a waste of money unless you really like the taste.  There are so many easy recipes out there why would you?  You can’t adjust ingredients to you and your family’s tastes and they are likely to be more expensive.  If you do have one you love you can be sure that just like your favorite television show, it will be canceled or altered eventually and no longer available.
  • Pasta sauces:  Different story-these are convenient. Serve on pasta, brown ground beef and make a meat sauce (I also throw in some olives, marinated artichoke hearts as well as a can of diced tomatoes).  They are useful for a great for many easy recipes as well (think chicken parmesan, chicken cacciatore, pasta casseroles, even pizza).  Find out which flavors and brands you like (we don’t happen to like the meat flavored ones or ones which are too spicy). You can also use the as your base sauce and “doctor it up” with your favorite spices, wine, meats and/or vegetables.
  • Pesto sauce: This is another convenience food which is truly convenient.  Making it from scratch is a little labor intensive.  It keeps well, is good tossed with pasta, in recipes, as a sandwich spread, as a quick appetizer (use a log of goat cheese or cream cheese and pour pesto sauce over-serve with crackers) and so on. Salute!

Keep watching as we will discuss so more next time. Remember when we talk about making it easy, we mean making it easy for you the cook–less stress, less pain.

[toggle title=”Crispy Pesto Potatoes”]

This recipe was downloaded from in 2006; very tasty and yes, easy.


1 ½ lbs. baby red potatoes, halved, cooked and drained (I microwave steam them)

¼ cup refrigerated pesto sauce


Preheat broiler; line baking sheet with heavy duty foil.

Place hot potatoes and pesto in a large bowl; toss to coat.  Spread potatoes on prepared baking sheet.

Broil for 4-5 minutes until potatoes are lightly browned.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Lemon Garlic Marinade”]

This has been a favorite marinade for almost 40 years.  I adapted it from a recipe in The New Pillsbury Cookbook (1973).  It is wonderful with pork chops, chicken, and seafood.  While I usually grill, chicken marinated in this tastes wonderful baked also.


½ cup lemon juice

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 Tbs. minced garlic

2 tsp. salt

½ tsp. thyme

½ tsp. oregano

½ tsp freshly ground pepper


Mix all ingredients.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Double-Decker BLTs”]

This recipe is adapted from one in The Coastal Living Cookbook (2004).  You may have to take it down to a single layer as the double decker form is huge however they are so good.


1 loaf Sourdough or French bread sliced (your supermarket bakery will do this for you)

Olive Oil

Garlic-Basil mayonnaise

8 lettuce leaves

4 small tomatoes sliced

16 slices of bacon cooked (I microwave)

Garlic –Basil Mayonnaise

½ cup mayonnaise (I prefer Hellman’s Light)

1 Tbs. refrigerated pesto

¼ tsp. pepper


We’ll be using 12 slices of bread for 4 double decker sandwiches.  Brush each bread slice lightly with olive oil.  Toast coated side under broiler until golden brown.

Spread Garlic-Basil mayonnaise on untoasted side of each slice of bread; layer 4 slices with half of lettuce leaves, tomato and bacon.  Top with second bread slice and remaining lettuce, tomato and bacon.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Teriyaki Marinade”]

This is my favorite teriyaki marinade.  Good on anything.  Adapted from a recipe in Sunset’s Barbecue Cookbook (1986)


2/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup honey

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger (I use the stuff from a bottle)

3 Tbs. dry sherry

½ cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

½ cup thinly sliced green onions (including tops).


Mix ingredients together.  If you don’t have any green onions handy it still is a great marinade.  You can thicken with a little cornstarch to make a glaze as well.  Stir in and mix well about 1 Tbs. cornstarch in a microwave safe measuring cup or bowl.  Heat in microwave and stir every 30 seconds until thickened and clear.[/toggle]


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