The $4 Dinner Shortcut Busy Cooks Swear By
This huge time-saver in the dairy aisle can help you make supper with a whole lot less effort than you'd expect.
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The Premade Ingredient We Often Forget About
If you usually cruise right past the refrigerated pie crust in the grocery store, thinking it's strictly for last-minute apple or pumpkin pies, you're missing out on a weeknight-supper godsend. The ready-to-bake dough turns practically anything, from eggs to cheese to chicken and beef, into a gorgeous and delicious meal that only looks like it took hours to make. This beef potpie is a perfect example. It starts with chuck steak that you brown in a frying pan, add vegetables and herbs to then cook in red wine and some stock. Then, swapping in a supermarket version of pie dough for the kind in the recipe, you lay one crust on the bottom, pile in the beef, top with another crust and bake. (You can divide the dough to make individual pies, or just make one big one.)
Get the recipe: Beef Shiraz Pies
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A Veggie Main Course That's Hearty—and Filling
Here's a vegetarian twist on the classic potpie, which calls for sturdy portobello mushrooms (to add bulk) and wild mushrooms (for texture), plus a splash of cream (for richness). There's Swiss chard, too; its vibrant taste brightens the entire dish. If you're using a premade crust that needs to be unrolled, let it come almost to room temperature before flattening it out (from the fridge, it should take about 15 minutes); if it's too cold, it could crack, but if it's too warm, it may get overstretched. Unroll it directly into your pie pan, so you don't have to transfer it and risk tearing the dough (as with the beef pies, you can turn this into one big pie if you prefer).
Get the recipe: Mushroom Pies with Swiss Chard
Photo: Michael Harlan Turkell
Salad and an Entrée, All in One
Although this colorful dish is technically a tart, you could also think of it as a lightened-up pizza. The base layer is your crust. Then comes a creamy custard, made from tangy goat cheese, heavy cream, eggs and fresh thyme. Over that you lay frisée lettuce, pomegranate seeds and Fuji apple slices. The pairing of crisp greens and fruit with the warm bottom is unbeatable. Slice it into wedges of any size, or bake it in a rectangular pan (using premade dough) and cut it into squares.
Get the recipe: Goat Cheese Tart with Pomegranate & Frisée
The Individual Pies You Can Eat with One Hand
These handheld cheese pies, sweetened with a little honey, make a lovely dinner with a simple salad or soup; you can make them with farmer cheese (a mild, unripened cheese) or swap in ricotta or cottage cheese. And while using a premade pie crust that you roll out cuts way down on prep time, there's another helpful trick to this recipe, too: Bake the pies in a muffin tin to easily keep them all the same size (and from oozing all over the baking sheet).
Get the recipe: Farmer Cheese Pie
A Sweet and Smoky Anytime Meal
This pantry-friendly tart is a great brunch, lunch or dinner to fall back on when you don't know what else to make because it doesn't require any unusual ingredients. You just need bacon, onions, thyme (if using dried, use one-third of the amount), ricotta cheese, an egg, some Parmigiano-Reggiano and a pie or tart shell. Like with most tarts, this one tastes delicious warm, at room temperature or straight out of the fridge.
Get the recipe: Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart