Oh blog, How I neglect you so. I have all these recipes I have successfully tried and yet not written about here.

Anyway, as a big fan of Real Simple's “fake it don't make it” and Sandra Lee's “Semi-homemade” cooking, I like the time saving shortcuts that let you make a great dinner without a huge fuss. So, I am going to share why these ingredients below are a God-send for me and why I have begun to stock them in the pantry.

#1) Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce.
“I put this SH** in everything.” These little peppers pack a fiery punch, but aside from their heat, they have a wonderful flavor and will make something average quite extraordinary without a lot of work. I was first turned onto these in a chili recipe out of Cottage Living about 4 years ago, and I have grown to LOVE LOVE LOVE them.

Here are some ideas on how I have used them before: seven layer dip (mixed in with the SC), spaghetti, coleslaw (yes, mixed in with SC or mayo it's awesome), spicy mayo for fish tacos, hummus, beans and rice, burritos, there really are very few things that this ingredient does not make better!!!

2) Panko bread crumbs.
Take average baked chicken, fish or whatever from “ehhh” to “who hoo!” Panko, unlike other breadcrumbs, does not get soggy and retains its crunch so it is a great way to bake and retain flavor and crunchiness versus frying, which is not as healthy…

3) Mojo Marinade:
This stuff is great in a flash—no need to make your own rub/marinade, this low fat/sodium marinade is great on chicken and fish. For last minute grilling, great to have in the fridge. Publix sells this stuff in a huge bottle (exactly like the stuff sold by Goya).

4) Aged parmesan:
The fresh, hard cheese kind, not the Kraft-in-a-bottle kind. This is good on everything—fish, veggies, chicken, almost anything you can think of.

5) Salsa fresca:
This is the homemade salsa you can buy in the produce section of your grocery store. It is FRESH, hence why it is called salsa fresca. I put this in sautéed spinach, it mixes well with vegetables, I've added it to empanadas, etc…. You can buy this and also doctor it with beans, fruit, etc for your own semi-homemade chutney, relish or salsa for chicken and fish. It's also a healthy and flavorful alternative to butter/SC for baked potatoes.

5) White wine:
Good for cooking with and for cooking with. Ha ha!! Everything is better with this ingredient—before, during and after the meal 🙂