1. Mini Pies with Fresh Fruit and Whipped Cream
Take ready-made, uncooked pie crust, and cut up pieces to fit into a muffin/cupcake pan. Make sure you grease the pan (sprays are the easiest way) before lining the dough all the way around. This recipe can be super messy, but my kids made it and they had fun. Bake for seven minutes until the crust is fully-cooked and light brown. Take the pies out, let them cool, and remove each individual cup.
At this point, you can add anything on top. Try the Eton Mess below, or just fruit and whipped cream. Other great options are chocolate mousse, apples and caramel, or make a meal out of it with chicken pot pie!
2. Eton Mess dessert
I had this dessert at the Soho House, but it’s deceptively easy to make at home, even with fresh whipped cream. All you need is the Cuisinart hand blender (on Amazon for $54.55), which I recommend you keep in your kitchen for everything anyway! Use the measuring cup it comes with to do the whipping. Add one cup of heavy whipping cream, two teaspoons of powdered sugar (you can use more or less to taste), and one drop of vanilla extract. Take the blender and immerse it in the cream. The trick is to pull the Cuisinart up just enough to allow some air to be whipped into the mix without letting the blades splash anything out and create a mess. Or to make it even easier, buy ready-made whipped cream.
You can get the prepared meringue at Whole Foods. Just crush it up slightly, add fresh berries, and toss lightly. Eton Mess couldn’t be easier, and it’s incredibly delicious and light!
3. Roast Chicken Broth Ice Cubes
Yes, getting the broth requires a bit of work, but that rotisserie chicken you had last night? Take the bones and leftovers, and throw them in a pot of water with salt and pepper. If you feel like getting fancy, add spring onions, leeks, or garlic. I use these cubes to stir fry vegetables that’ll be devoured by all, even the picky kids (try with broccoli, mushrooms and asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or spinach). Or you can steam the veggies and add olive oil to the broth for equally tasty results.
Croissants are only good for one day after you buy them, if even that. And though nobody wants stale croissants, it feels wrong to toss them out. I always come up with ways to use them, like cooking French toast, etc. My best idea yet? Whipping up my own cronuts. Dominique Ansel has nothing on me! Using a doughnut pan like this (on Amazon for $24.99) makes it so easy; silicone is BPA-free and naturally non-stick, and the soft pan allows you to push from the back if there’s a piece that’s sticking.
One regular size croissant makes about one cronut, and this recipe is for six. Tear half a dozen croissants in large pieces about 1 1/2 inches across, and set aside. Then mix the following in bowl:
1 tablespoon of butter, melted
1/4 cup of heavy cream
2 drops of vanilla extract
Toss the croissants in the wet mixture and mix until they’re fully absorbed. Then spoon the mixture into a doughnut pan, making sure to pack it in, avoiding the hole. Bake at 375 F for 12 minutes, and finish by sprinkling with powdered sugar and adding frosting or chocolate. It’s all fun from there!
5. Spring Garlic
Instead of the inconvenience of peeling and mincing garlic, along with the smelly-hand aftermath, I buy spring garlic at the farmer’s market. It looks like green onion, only the long leaves are flat (whereas green onions are like straws). When cooked, this has the same wonderful aroma as garlic – without any of the bitter or potent sting. In fact, it has a sweet flavor that makes anything you add it to that much more delightful.
6. Chicken Cooked in Salsa
This is my go-to meal when I have no time at all to prep. With chicken legs or thighs (you can use breast as well, but you’ll need to stand by and make sure it’s cooked perfectly without drying it out) and a jar or fresh container of salsa, cook this in a pot small enough so the salsa covers the chicken.
I highly recommend getting an electric pressure cooker, especially Wolfgang Puck’s (on HSN for $89.95). I have others, and this performs the best of all of them. It can cook anything. For this recipe, add the chicken and salsa, turn it on, and in 30 minutes you’ll have juicy, flavorful chicken that tastes a bit like chicken marsala.
7. Watermelon Ice Cubes for Summer Spa Water
Another ice cube trick of mine! Watermelon season means an overabundance of the ultimate refreshing fruit. When you cut up an entire watermelon, it’s crazy overwhelming to see how much is there; so I chop it into cubes and freeze these in Tupperware, then use them as ice cubes to make my own spa water. Add a sprig of mint for extra flavor!