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Kit Cooking

Jan D’Atri | Apr 7, 2014, 8:33 a.m.

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Jan D’Atri

We’ve seen so many of them on store shelves for years. Packages and kits that make a meal or dessert, and all you do is add water or just a few ingredients. I’ve passed them up thousands of times, but this shopping trip was different.

From chili kits to Kung Pao chicken sauces to signature marinades from famous chefs, I bought, cooked and ate my way through dozens of boxes and packets of “convenience foods” all designed to make our lives easier.

I whipped and spread and stirred my way through dessert after dessert, asking the same question, “They may be convenient, but were they delicious?”

Actually, many of them were. In fact, some tasted as scrumptious as homemade and that was a huge surprise to me. In my opinion, what topped the list for the best-tasting?

It was in the dessert category and I found it at Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market. The Fresh and Easy Chocolate Frosting Mix is as tasty as any homemade version and all you do is add a little butter (I used unsalted) and water. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to perfect chocolate frosting—adding espresso, imported cocoa powder and a pinch of exotic salt from Sicily. Truthfully, the next time I have to ice a chocolate cake, I’ll be heading to Fresh and Easy, where the package promises that it’s ready in minutes.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites for convenience and flavor:

Kit Cooking—Entrees:

  1. Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit (Safeway)

Just add: Ground beef, tomato sauce and water (onion, optional)

Done in 30 minutes

  1. Bear Creek Tortilla Soup Mix (Smart and Final)

Just add: Water

Done in 15 minutes

  1. Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil (Safeway)

Just add: Water, seafood, lemon and salt

Done in 15-20 minutes

  1. Zatarain’s New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice (Safeway)

Just add: Water and butter

Done in 18 minutes

  1. Lee Kum Kee Kung Pao Chicken (Sprouts)

Just add: Cooked chicken and vegetables. (Peanuts optional)

Done in 6 minutes

  1. Frontera Chipotle Honey Marinade (Sprouts)

Just add: Shrimp

Done in 3-4 minutes (after 30 minute marinade)

  1. Frontera Texas Original Taco Skillet Sauce (Sprouts)

Just add: Ground beef and onion

Done in 10 minutes

  1. Louisiana Cajun Gumbo Mix (Smart and Final)

Just add: Water and chicken, sausage or chicken

Done in 15 minutes

Kit Cooking—Desserts:

  1. Chiquita Banana Bread Mix (Sprouts)

Just add: Two bananas, egg and water

Done in 40 minutes

  1. Almond Joy Instant Chocolate Pudding (Walmart)

Just add: Milk

Done in: One to three hours or when set

  1. Dr. Oetker Crème Caramel with Caramel Sauce (Cost Plus World Market)

Just add: Milk

Done in: 30 minutes

  1. Louisiana Cobbler Mix (Smart and Final)

Just add: Milk and can of fruit pie filling

Done in: 40 minutes

  1. Fresh and Easy Chocolate Frosting Mix (Fresh and Easy)

Just add: Butter and water

Done in: Minutes

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