Convenience Food Confessions (Recipe: Crispy Waffles)

Written by Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet

You get in the door at 5:30 pm, hockey/dance practice starts in an hour and the kids are screaming for dinner. Without even thinking about it you throw some fish sticks into the oven and open a bag of frozen peas. At least they’ll have some veggies.

Not a single one of us are immune to the power of convenience foods. Anything to get dinner on the table quick, right? Something to cook that requires no energy and little brain power? There is a reason it is called convenience food.

What I define as a convenience food, however, differs from my neighbor and the rest of the preschool moms. I imagine it is the same for you.

All photos by Cheryl

Convenience food is relative

To me, a convenience food is something I can eat, right out of the package, with no extra effort on my part.

Frozen dinners, packaged pot pies, chips, pre-made dips, and pretty much anything that comes in a can from the grocery store. A convenience food is also something that has had the steps of preparation done for you – frozen and peeled potatoes, pre-diced onions, salad in a bag, baby carrots, pie filling, or canned beans. If it doesn’t come to you looking like it just came out of the ground or from the farm, then it can be classified as a convenience food.

Obviously I’m a fan of cooking from scratch, and encourage anyone I know to add more and more scratch cooking to their kitchen repertoire. That being said, I don’t make my own almond milk or ricotta cheese. I make pie crust, pickles, and jam because I grew up doing so and wouldn’t think of buying it. But I don’t make my own pasta. And another friend might make ravioli every week but can’t fathom using anything but a jar of jelly from the grocery store.

Full confession: a bi-weekly meal in this house is a name-brand filled pasta from the grocery store with clamshell salad on the side. That, however, is our only grocery store convenience meal.

Local convenience

Pre-prepared food doesn’t always have to come from the grocery store. Farmers’ markets can be great sources of convenience foods. In fact, that is where my husband and I get nearly anything in our house that would qualify:  frozen savory pies, quick curries, shelled nuts, bags of pre-washed greens, and even the odd frozen pizza. The best part? You often meet the person who actually made the meal and the ingredient list is likely never to include something unnatural or unpronounceable.

I won’t knock your choices in convenience food. I do, however, encourage you to examine those foods you do eat. Can you make it yourself? Can you buy a real potato and spend the minute peeling it instead of the frozen variety? Can you walk away from the baby carrots?

Two tips for the best convenience food

We all want shortcuts and tricks for making dinner easier. I’m afraid I’ve only got two and they both still require you to cook:

  1. Batch cooking and a stocked freezer mean shopping in your own house when faced with a dinnertime rush.
  2. Leftovers are the most convenient meal.  Cook more than you mean to and plan for the leftovers.

Crispy Waffles

This recipe is a family favorite. It isn’t just for Sunday brunch, either. When I am really stressed and pressed for time at dinner I tend to default to eating breakfast at dinner, scrambled eggs, pancakes, or these waffles. Add some crumbled bacon, ham, and pecans for a neat twist. Or change up the flavor by adding orange zest and a 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom.

They also make use of one of everyone’s favorite convenience foods – boxed cereal. Leftovers freeze really well so they can be pulled out and toasted for breakfast. There; one less package coming into the house.

Makes 8-12 waffles (depending on your waffle iron)

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

1.  Preheat a waffle iron.

2.  Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Whisk the egg yolks, milk, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

3.  Beat the egg whites with a wire whisk or electric mixer until soft peaks form. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until just combined.  Fold in the whites gently.  Do not overmix.

4. Cook according the instructions of your waffle maker.

Confession time. What convenience foods are in your house?

About Cheryl

Cheryl is a mom to two energetic and strong-willed little girls. It’s a good thing they already like her cooking. She blogs the family’s cooking and taste adventures at Backseat Gourmet.

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Comments

  1. Our biggest convenience foods are Applegate Farms Organic Turkey Dogs and Ian’s Alpha Tots. They are my kids favorite. We have a few others like crackers, jelly and cereal. But most dinners, desserts and snacks are made from scratch.
    MonicaB’s last post: Whats so Confusing about Peanut-Free

  2. Our convenience food of choice is pancakes with berry sauce (still ones we picked last summer) for supper. I also love Amy’s frozen foods which I can by through our buying club and sometimes do to stock in the freezer “just in case”.

  3. Frozen veggis are often a good choice, because they contain more vitamins than vegetables that are more than two days old, especially greens like spinach.
    My favorite “convenience” meal is simply pasta with any kind off frozen vegetables (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower) cooked with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a bit of cream cheese.
    Nora’s last post: Gewürzkekse mit Kichererbsenmehl

  4. we don’t buy any convenience foods..ANYMORE… I used to get boxed foods often for a quick go to.. but now everything pretty much comes from scratch around here.. (but now that I think about it.. we often have a box or two of Annies mac and cheese :) and I always double our walfle recipe… for the freezer :)

  5. Frozen green beans, frozen peas, frozen corn, canned tomatoes, jelly (homemade from a friend), natural peanut butter, cereal (I know, really bad), organic pancake mix, dried pasta, sourdough bread from a local shop…
    Wow, I feel really bad about my food choices right now. I pretty much completely failed this winter because I know I was doing better this past fall and summer. At least I know most of my dinners are cooked from scratch; that has to be better than hamburger helper, right?

    • Don’t feel bad at all! Personally, I think those all sounds reasonable. What’s important is that you do what works for you. The more we cook every day, the better. No one cares that it’s dried pasta.
      Cheryl Arkison’s last post: Nutella is Evil

  6. I second the motion on the couple of boxes of Annie’s Natural mac and cheese in my pantry although I only buy the all organic ones. They just come in so handy, and I’ve yet to make a homemade mac and cheese that my kids will eat! We also always have cans of organic refried beans for our weekly burrito night as well as canned tomato products. But I rarely buy cereal, crackers, granola bars and the like anymore. Anyone have a great mac and cheese recipe?

  7. Well, you’ve opened my eyes about convenience foods! I never buy frozen or boxed dinners but pasta, natural peanut butter and frozen vegetables are exactly that. I do buy those although I’d love to do more home canning and freezing and pledge to do that this year.

    We do, on occasion, have “breakfast for dinner”. It’s quick and tasty. I’ll try this waffle recipe, for sure. It looks delicious. I think I’ll divide the batter in half and add the cardamom and/or orange zest to one half. Yum!

    Thanks!
    cherylk’s last post: Bird Abode

  8. Sarah Gainey says:

    On convenience food we keep that I know is terrible for me and plan to quit using this year (as soon as my supply runs out):

    Cream of xyz soup. I saw your recipe for cream/white soup on here a while back and plan to make casseroles with that instead : )

  9. Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) says:

    Haha, fun post! We periodically have hot dogs, lunchmeat, and boxed cereal. But th cereal must be on super sale and the hot dogs must be all beef to make it to our house :-)
    Steph (The Cheapskate Cook)’s last post: Thin-Crust Chicken &amp Bacon Pizza

  10. You might want to check out the ingredients in the cup of rice k’s used in the waffle recipe: sugar and high fructose corn syrup look like they’re in there. There’s puffed rice you can get that might work well that is made up of… nothing but rice.

    • I know the bad stuff is in there. But a box of cereal lasts half a year in our house. I’m not anti-sugar, but the kids don’t eat much.

      I wonder if the puffed rice would work, they are much larger grains?
      Cheryl Arkison’s last post: Nutella is Evil

  11. Homemade granola. Great for b’fast, for a snack, sprinkled on ice cream for dessert.
    Steve @ HPD’s last post: Leaving your mark

  12. This is something that I continue to struggle with. While we do a lot of scratch-cooking in our home, it’s simply not always realistic to come home and make dinner completely from scratch.

    Convenience for us is typically shopping my freezer (we frequently spend a sunday afternoon preparing make-ahead meals or double up on batches of soup, chili, pasta sauce, meatloaf, etc). Leftovers are saved for warm lunches for the kids (their favorite school lunch).

    I have to admit that once a week, we turn to packaged foods – maybe Van de Kamp fish sticks (whole fish, not “bits” and no unknown ingredients) or organic spanish rice + can of Eden beans are the usual suspects around here.

    Our lifestyle doesn’t allow us to live a 100% scratch-made meals lifestyle, especially being dairy-free and gluten-free. I don’t have the time to make almond milk, vegan cheese, orange juice, cereal, or pasta each week by scratch. We buy organic foods whenever possible so that we’re at least getting the best quality. It’s what works for our family – 90% scratch, 10% organic packaged foods.

  13. We have too many convenience foods in the cupboard. I know that, and I try when I can to avoid just opening a can and serving that for dinner. Though I do use canned food as ingredients in my ‘homemade’ meals. I have a space reserved in our new yard to plant as a garden next spring and I hope to have great success in canning tomatoes and pickling.
    I buy lots of frozen veggies, but I don’t see that as a convenience food, more as a cost-effective way for me to ensure there are veggies in the house all the time. And to avoid the waste that comes when I buy too much produce and watch it go bad in the fridge. It sucks to pay for fresh and then end up trying to freeze it to preserve it.

  14. I’m right there with you on the breakfast for dinner! I would much rather make some pancakes from scratch and know what’s in them than eat something out of the box.
    I often freeze leftover soup on weeks when I know I’ll have time to cook often, then on my busy weeks, I can pull out the soup at a moment’s notice and serve it with some bread and butter.

  15. great suggestions! One thing that I have gotten much better at is using only real potatoes for anything potatoey- no more frozen fries- so much cheaper, too!

  16. Great post!!! A little less guilt over here after reading it!

    Our most common convenience foods are: canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, frozen veggies and natural, organic peanut butter.

    By the way, I love your blog! Especially because we live in Calgary too and used to be CFM regulars!

  17. Okay I am the really bad one at the moment I have way to many to list. I am new to all of this and it does not help that a would rather clean my Kitchen than cook in it. I am going to be working on it over the next little while, my husband and I have been trying to do a garden for the past couple of years and have had mother nature against us but will try again this year. My biggest problem is I have 2 special needs kids that require 24/7 eyes on and getting them into the kitchen is stressful. As I use up the stuff we got I will not buy more and will learn to do this the all natural way.

  18. Great post! My husband gave me a funny look when I was nagging about canned beans the other day. Its so good to see someone else say it!!!! I’ve made pancakes and stashed them in the freezer for years now. I’ve heard you can pop them directly into a toaster just like regular freezer varieties.

    I make my own chicken nuggets, oatmeal packs and pizza’s. There’s really very few “convenience” foods you cant replicate yourself in spare time. Although we do occasionally resort to boxed macaroni or hot dogs its really only because they feel deprived of “what normal people eat”. Pancakes are the #1 favorite in my house. Breakfast any time of day is good by me, it is the most important meal of the day…even if it is at 7pm!

    http://neo-homesteading.blogspot.com/2011/02/sweet-potato-pancakes.html

  19. I made these tonight and they were a hit. My husband said “I think those are the best waffles you’ve made so far” and I have tried a lot of waffle recipes. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with us!

  20. Here is my waffle recipe, it has less ingredients, and no corn syrup!

    Yields 6 big waffles

    1 cup of all purpose flour (i do 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose)
    1 cup of milk (1% works well but I’m sure almond milk would also be good)
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup of canola oil
    2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

    Top with yogourt, fruits and maple syrup.

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