Halfway Homemade: Cooking with Convenience Foods


You’ve got just 20-30 minutes to whip up a delicious dinner before the skin!

  • Shredded cheese. You can find reduced-fat types, too.
  • Bottled marinara sauce. Use this wherever tomato or red sauce is called for.
  • Bottled or canned enchilada sauce.
  • Bottled salsa.
  • Reduced-Fat Bisquick. This is a quick way to make biscuits, pancakes and waffles and other dishes.
  • Cake mix. You can replace the oil with lower-calorie ingredients such as strong coffee, fat-free sour cream, lemon yogurt, etc.
  • Light Cool Whip. Use it instead of whipped cream for dessert or chocolate chips
    2 teaspoons granulated sugar
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the crescent rolls to lie flat on a nonstick jellyroll pan or cookie sheet.
    • Mix sugar with cinnamon in a small cup, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the unrolled triangles of dough.
    • Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon (or 1/2 tablespoon) of mini cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 388 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 50%.

  • Parmesan Artichoke Dip

    Journal as: 1/2 cup vegetables with 1 tsp fat + 2 ounces low-fat cheese OR 1 cup cream based soup

    Serve with lower fat, higher-fiber dippers, such as vegetables, baguettes, and low-fat wheat crackers.

    4 ounces light cream cheese
    1/2 cup light mayonnaise
    1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
    3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
    2 tablespoons dry white wine
    1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
    1 to 2 tablespoons mild chopped canned green chilies

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Add cream cheese, mayonnaise and garlic to a small mixing bowl and beat on medium low until blended. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
    • Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2 quart casserole or baking dish and bake until bubbly (about 30 minutes).

    Yield: 6 servings

    Per serving (not including the bread): 164 calories, 6 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 13 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 352 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 55%.

    Beef & Bean Mexican Lasagna

    Journal as: 2 ounces low-fat cheese + 1/2 cup “starch without added fat” + 1/2 cup vegetable without added fat + 1 serving lean meat without added fat OR 1 “light frozen dinner with light sauce” OR 1 cup “hearty stews, chili” + 2 ounces low-fat cheese

    It’s layered like lasagna, but has all the flavors of a beef and bean burrito!

    1 pound ground sirloin or super-lean ground beef (around 6-8% fat)
    1 cup chopped sweet or mild onion
    1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
    1 packet/envelope taco seasoning
    10 flour tortillas cut in half
    14-ounce can enchilada sauce
    15-ounce can fat-free or vegetarian refried beans
    12-ounce jar mild salsa (whatever flavor you desire)
    2 1/2 cups shredded, reduced-fat Jack cheese (or a combination of reduced-fat Jack and reduced-fat cheddar)

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef and onion in a large, nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat, breaking the beef into small pieces as it cooks using a potato masher. Stir in the garlic powder, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and taco seasoning.
    • Spread 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Top with about a third of the flour tortillas. Add refried beans and 1/8 cup of the enchilada sauce to a medium, microwave-safe bowl and warm in microwave over HIGH heat to soften beans (30-60 seconds). Spread beans over the layer of tortillas in pan. Add half of the beef mixture, then half of the salsa, and a cup of the grated cheese.
    • Repeat the layers again, starting with another third of the tortillas, the rest of the beef, the rest of the salsa, and a cup of the grated cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas and spread the remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top.
    • Bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes or until heated throughout and cheese is bubbly.

    Yield: 10 servings

    Per serving: 345 calories, 22 g protein, 39 g carbohydrate, 10.5 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 27 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 850 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 30%.