6 Holiday Foods Our Test Kitchen Doesn't Bother Making from Scratch
We’re just as happy buying ice cream, rolls and more.
From hand-pounded curry pastes and long-simmered sauces and stocks to multi-day baking projects, we’re not afraid of a cooking project around EatingWell. But even we food editors and recipe developers have plenty of foods we sometimes skip making from scratch, especially when we are putting together a big holiday meal. And with so many good products on the market these days, we’re not ashamed to take these shortcuts to make getting meals on the table easier. Here are a few things we don’t bother making—we hope this will help you feel better about skipping some prep work too!
Rolls: I have gone through a few bread baking phases in my life, but overall I’m not much of a baker. And when it comes to prepping holiday fare, there’s just too much else going on for me to make rolls. I would typically buy rolls from a local bakery, but for a nationally available brand I’m a big fan of Sister Schubert’s Parker House-style rolls. Rather make your own? Try our recipe for Parker House Rolls, which require just 30 minutes of active time, so maybe I shouldn’t be so lazy.
Cheesecake: While she loves cooking savory dishes, EatingWell.com digital editor Jaime Milan confesses she’s not a big baker. “Everyone assumes that because I like to cook, I like to bake,” she says. “I loathe baking. It’s the measuring and patience, which I do not have. ” So she’d much rather buy a cheesecake than bake one. She likes the cheesecakes from Sam’s Club, Costco and Publix. If you want a super-easy cheesecake that gets slow-cooked instead of baked, try our Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Pumpkin Puree: While you can totally make your own pumpkin puree from scratch, when it comes time to make pumpkin baked goods and savory dishes with pumpkin, we almost always reach for canned pumpkin, which works beautifully in recipes—whether or not it’s actually pumpkin. And opening a can is a heck of a lot easier than cooking and pureeing a pumpkin (and that’s coming from a left-hander for whom opening cans was hell until I got a special can opener for left-handed people).
Puff Pastry and Phyllo: These two buttery doughs figure into all sorts of holiday appetizers and desserts, but if you have ever made them from scratch you know how fussy they are. So when it comes time to make treats like tarts with puff pastry or anything calling for phyllo dough, most of us reach for a box. “Puff pastry is something I always buy,” says EatingWell.com fellow Alex Loh. “I have no desire to even attempt making it for myself—watching the Great British Baking Show just proves it’s difficult.” In addition to using it for apps and desserts, Loh uses puff pastry for everyday meals: “I layer ham, salami, Swiss cheese, onions and mustard in the pastry and then bake it for an easy dinner.” (Side note: I am totally stealing this idea for dinner tonight.)
Ice Cream: When it comes time to top our holiday pies, we’re not ashamed to head to the freezer case instead of getting out our ice cream makers. “I will make ice cream every once in a while for a project,” says EatingWell magazine senior food editor Devon O’Brien. “But if I'm serving homemade pie or apple crisp for dessert, I have no problem topping it with store-bought ice cream ... especially when there are so many good ones and so much variety on the market.” While I love gourmet ice cream brands for eating on their own, for topping apple pie I am a fan of plain old Breyers vanilla, which I think has just the right level of richness and simplicity to complement pie and other desserts.
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