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Cooking from the back of boxes, bottles and cans

November 17, 2009
Cooking from the back of boxes, bottles and cans.

Don’t be afraid to read the backs of bottles boxes or cans. There are food company test kitchen aficionados all across the globe that have far more expertise in creating dishes than many of us at-home cooks. I appreciate their zest to give us ideas on what and how to cook while they push brand loyalty. I know I’m being sold, but I want something in return and that’s knowledge. I want to be a better cook. I need ideas. Midweek meals have to become more exciting.

Finally, for any number of health reasons you can list, I need reinforcement not to go through the drive up windows at any fast food restaurants in my area.

I consider these recipes my basic blank canvas. It’s a start and I feel obligated to create my own work of art with it.

I love when the packing says “Recipes Inside.” Like it’s my Cracker Jack prize. My favorite is Quaker Oats  oatmeal. What will be underneath the lid? Perhaps it will suggest a new oatmeal raisin cookie, breaded chicken breasts, or quick tips for beefing up my morning bowl. Rebuild the bowl!

Campbell’s Soup is another classic for helping me through that awful midweek moment where I’m standing in front of the pantry with a hungry 4-year-old at my feet and asking the family, “What should I make for dinner?” I was so relieved recently to find a can of condensed celery soup. With a package of egg noodles, the soup, 2 cups of grilled and chopped chicken breast, a cup of green beans and freshly ground whole wheat bread crumbs, I had a fresh casserole on the table in 35 minutes.

McCormick Spices doesn’t usually have whole recipes on its tiny little bottles, just tips. However, I always grab the little booklets that are distributed at the stores. They still fit into an old school recipe card file. Oftentimes, I’ll find them tucked into my cookbooks as a bookmark. I’m also a faithful clipper of the two-page spreads with recipes inserted into the coupon sections of Sunday newspapers. These are always popular when I’m in charge of baking for every Super Bowl party.

The old tan wicker recipe card box that sits atop my cpookbooks is jammed with pieces of former packaging. It might make sense for me to just compile it electronically, but I love the journey of leafing through the box. Asoorted pieces of paper trigger my memories to some event, some moment in my life when my family came together. They are reminder of home.

My daughters always say, “It’s not home until Mom is cooking.”

The Pillsbury Bake Off Contests have always been a source of inspiration, even if it didn’t fit into my current diet. Seriously, all diets are off when I decide to bake. Today’s Meal comes from the Pillsbury Pie Crust box. The following recipe is for appetizers, but I figured out that I could adapt it into a meal for two to four people.

Salmon Pastries with Dill Pesto

By Edgar Rudberg, Saint Paul, MN, Bake-Off Contest 43, 2008.

Prep time: 25 minutes, start-to-finish 50 Min

½ cup packed fresh dill weed

1/3 cup of light olive oil

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup of fresh lime juice

1 clove of garlic

1tbs Dijon mustard

2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper if desired

¼ lb salmon fillet, thawed and patted dry

1 box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

Dill weed sprigs.

Heat over to 400 degrees. In a food processor combine dill, oil, walnuts, lime juice, garlic and Dijon mustard and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Process until smooth.

2. If Salmon has skin or bones remove them.

3. On a cutting board, unroll one pie crust. Cut four strips by three stripes to create rectangles. Repeat with remaining crush.

4. In the center of each rectangle put a spoonful of dill pesto sauce. Top with a cube of salmon.

5. Fold the four corners of the crust to the center and pinch it closed.

6. Place pastries 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

7. Bake 20-25 minutes. Drizzle remaining pesto on serving plate. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh dill springs.

Recipe adaptation: I wanted to try it for dinner with my husband. I cut one pie crust in half, placed a salmon fillet in the center of each pastry half and topped with the Dill Pesto. Yummy! We did actually eat the Pesto garnish. Paired with a fresh green salad this was very filling. Actually my husband and I realized that we could split one fillet next time and have a larger salad. So there’s a big saving for us.

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