Like an episode of the Food Network show Chopped, I am on a mission to create amazing dishes using convenient pantry (or prepackaged) items. Sounds like fun, right? Actually, I have been researching easy-to-fix recipes that use store bought ingredients, a way to save some time in the kitchen. On the television show Chopped, contestants are given a basket of “mystery ingredients” to use in preparing their dishes. My basket selections (see recipes below) feature the following pre-seasoned ingredients, mixes, bottled sauces, and canned food items: Kraft Oven Fry Extra Crispy Seasoned Coating Mix for Pork, Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce, Bruce’s Yams, and Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. Discover authentic tasting meal savers and some recipes that use some shortcuts, because canned foods and spice packets are a great way to ease the stress of meal prep.

Oven Fried Pork Chops

• 6 large boneless pork chops

• 1 box Kraft Oven Fry for Pork

• 2 eggs

• 6 TBSP. butter

• Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, to taste

Dry the pork chops with a paper towel. Set aside. Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the oven fry mix in another shallow bowl. Dip the pork chops in the egg and coat all sides. Then coat the pork chops in the oven fry mix; get all sides covered. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil. Place the chops on the sheet and sprinkle with the Creole seasoning. Place a tablespoon of butter on top of each pork chop. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.

Cheesy Baked Pasta

• 1 (16 oz.) box ziti (or penne pasta)

• 1 lb. lean ground beef, sauteed with ¼ cup diced onion

• 1 (16 oz.) container ricotta cheese

• ½ tsp. garlic powder

• 1 ¾ tsp. seasoned salt

• 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

• 1 large egg

• 1 (24 oz.) jar Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

• 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, and drain well. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, salt, garlic powder, and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Add the egg and stir well. Stir in the pasta and the (cooked and drained) cooked meat and onion; transfer to a greased 9x13 baking pan. Pour the marinara sauce over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese and bake for 5 more minutes.

Sweet Potato Muffins

• 1 (15 oz.) can Bruce’s Yams (Cut Sweet Potatoes in Syrup)

• 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

• ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice

• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. salt

• 2 eggs

• ½ cup sugar

• ½ cup canola oil

• ½ cup milk

• ¼ tsp. orange extract

• ¾ cup pecans, chopped

Cinnamon-sugar topping: Stir together 3 TBSP. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon

In a bowl, stir together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, milk, and orange extract; stir well. Drain the sweet potatoes and mash with a fork. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes to the egg mixture and beat well. Add the flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in the pecans. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Spoon half of the batter into the muffin cups; sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar topping on top of each, dividing evenly. Spoon the remaining batter on top of each muffin cup and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar topping on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Serve with Land O' Lakes Cinnamon Sugar Butter Spread.

Beefy Taco Bake

• 2 lbs. ground beef

• 1 (15 oz.) can cream style corn or 1 can niblet corn, drained

• 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

• 1/3 cup water

• 1 envelope taco seasoning (Old El Paso, McCormick etc.)

• 1 (8.5 oz.) Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (plus 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk)

• 2 dashes cayenne pepper

• 1 (2.8 oz.) can French Fried Onions, divided

• 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

Cook beef over medium heat and drain well. Stir in the corn, tomato sauce, water, and taco seasoning. Spoon into a greased 2 or 3-quart baking dish. Prepare the muffin mix according to package directions and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Stir in half the onions and half the shredded cheese. Spread over the beef mixture, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining onions and cheese and bake 3-5 minutes, until cornbread layer is done.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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