OK gals, fess up. You know you’ve done this, we’ve all done this. We may not talk about it, we may not admit it outside of our closest gal pals circles, but we HAVE ALL FAKED IT.
I am, of course, talking about the not-so-homemade homemade dessert, appetizer, or full out dinner.
Geez, where was your mind headed?
Gals, it’s time to let ourselves off the hook. The holidays are approaching; the hectic, frenetic, want everything to be perfect holidays. For this Virgo Girl, I’ve spent many a late night, after a long day at work, tearfully trying to finish the cookies for the gift tins and decorate the tree and address the Christmas cards, and….yadda, yadda, yadda. This year I am giving all of us permission to cheat a little. Fake it as you will.
One of my favorite books is the very funny “I Don’t Know How She Does It” by Allison Pearson. There is this great moment when the protagonist is up at midnight beating a frozen pie with a rolling pin to make it look more homemade for her daughter’s bake sale the next day. I read that passage and instead of being incredulous I was thinking what a good idea.
Here’s what I have learned: no one has to know that you are faking it. You don’t have to arrive at your child’s school and announce that the cookies are store bought or the cake comes from a mix. Your kids don’t care – they’re plenty happy that you remembered that it was the holiday party and they didn’t arrive empty handed.
A personal hero of mine is Sandra Lee and her brilliant semi-homemade cooking franchise. Get this: with each semi-homemade meal (yep, a whole meal!) she always includes a quick and easy cocktail recipe – my kinda gal! Take a peek at her blog; you won’t be disappointed. There are times when I just need a quick meal and be done with it. Sandra is my patron saint of faking it with finesse.
Here are a few of my go-to resources for getting through the holidays:
Ghirardelli Brownie Mix. I have been using this mix for years. Easy, simple ingredients and they come out gooey every time. Very rich. Bonus: Costco sells this mix in large six batch boxes.
Bread Mixes from Trader Joe’s. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood then you probably already know that they are a haven for reasonably priced wines, cheeses, and sauces. What you might not know is that they also sell two terrific bread mixes: pumpkin and banana. You can even further fake it by tossing walnuts and cranberries into the pumpkin bread batter and calling it “Holiday Bread” – their suggestion right there on the side of the box. The best part? These mixes are less than $3 each!
Rare Bird Preserves. This is a new find for me. Products from this Chicago-based company can be hard to find (they do have an online store), but I discovered a local specialty shop carrying their apple caramel preserves. When poured over a store-bought frozen cheesecake, this quick fix morphs into an elegant dessert. This is definitely going to appear at my house for Thanksgiving this year.
Store-bought Frozen Hors d’oeuvres. In the middle of all the holiday fuss, you decide it’s a good idea to host a girl’s night at the house. A couple of bottles of wine, pot of chili, and someone else brings the dessert. Problem: not everyone arrives at the same time; you need to put something out with the wine and cheese (which you just bought at Trader Joe’s). Solution: the frozen food section of your local grocery store for frozen hors d’oeuvres. I’ve sampled a few and my favorites come from Wegmans. They’re not particularly inexpensive, but, they’re a tasty, reliable fake.
Speaking of grocery stores, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve embraced a whole new level of faking it this year: I ordered a turkey, fully cooked, from the grocery store for Thanksgiving (audible gasps heard far and wide). Please don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, I really do. But I’ve decided to let the grocery store do the heavy lifting and I’ll continue to work on the side dishes with my family. The turkey will go into the oven to be re-heated on Thanksgiving Day and no one will be the wiser (well, except for everyone reading this). My point is, I want this year’s Thanksgiving to be about time with my friends and family, not about the bird. Not sure my grandmother would approve…
How about you, have you ever faked it? Do you have a go-to short cut that you can share with your fellow gal pals?
Cheers, and here’s to a less stressful Thanksgiving for everyone,
PS: For the record, I have received no compensation from any of the brands noted in this post; I just like their stuff!
Laura Young saysNovember 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm
Hmmm so interesting! I've never faked it by anyone thinking that store bought wasn't store bought because I've never thought about just using that as a base and fixing it up to call my own! What a brilliant idea! Love it!
Jen Duchene saysNovember 23, 2013 at 3:08 am
You peaked my interest. I love to fake it. Or updo store bought. I love to entertain with ease after living with an obsessed cook who would get very intense about cooking perfection. I love Trader Joes Lacey cookies and will mix a couple of different options so it looks interesting. I buy ready cooked meats from a local deli that is "home made" A great appetizer is using german type dark bread (already sliced) butter and sliced smoked salmon. A squeeze of lemon juice. Or create kabobs with fruit and cheese – or olives & cheese. I also like to make simple desserts like raspberries in alcohol eg orange liquer served with icecream. Shortcuts are a fabulous way to cook eat and enjoy family.
Kimba saysNovember 24, 2013 at 11:31 am
Your suggestions are great – thanks for all the ideas!
Candace Davenport saysNovember 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm
Love that you became naked with the truth! I find Trader Joe's to be a remarkable place to find cheat stuff for foods, (although I must admit that I generally will add stuff so at least I feel I've done something!) You can make an entire Thanksgiving meal from TJ using their 'cheat' foods!
Unfortunately, as I've gone more and more towards unprocessed foods, I find I use less and less of "things in a box". Of course that means that as I get older, I fake it less and less… But, TJ's has some pretty healthy 'things in a box' if you look carefully!
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Kim Dalferes saysNovember 21, 2013 at 9:04 am
"As you get older you fake it less and less..". ain't THAT the truth!! 😉
Judy Stone-Goldman saysNovember 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm
I read that Sandra Lee was turned down when she first approached television about her show. I think she was viewed suspiciously! But then she was a huge success and lots of women sighed a big sigh of relief. I really don't bake or cook anything fancy, so there's nothing to fake! We've even ordered in a whole meal. I don't blame anyone for looking for ways to make things easier.
Kimba saysNovember 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm
I didn't know that about Sandra Lee – I wonder what made the network decide to give her a shot; I bet someone is happy they did! Thx for sharing.
Lorii Abela saysNovember 20, 2013 at 6:13 am
Interesting post! It is definitely the taste that counts. What without faking do you usually prefer to cook then?
Kimba saysNovember 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm
I make awesome fried chicken and potato salad – both learned from my Mom. I can also put together a respectable lasagna, thanks to my Aunt MaryAnn's recipe and secret ingredient.
Kate Lindsay saysNovember 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm
Seriously – all of those short cuts seem like the actual way to do it, not one feels like a cheat to me. Except perhaps the premade turkey from the store but my gasps were more of an "OH My. THAT is freaking BRILLIANT!!' nature. I SO wish we had Trader Joes here in Canada
Kim Dalferes saysNovember 18, 2013 at 9:44 am
Canada seems like such a cool place, I can't believe Trader Joe's isn't there. I'll let you know how the turkey turns out…
Nathalie Villeneuve saysNovember 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm
Great ideas Kimba! Hugh and I baked our first chocolate cake from scratch last Summer from "Crazy Sexy Kitchen"…well it was delicious but took Hugh and I 6 hours to do…At this rate it doesn't leave you time to fake much else…LOL…(wink) I fake my cakes all the time and they are my kids favorite.
Kim Dalferes saysNovember 18, 2013 at 9:41 am
6 hours to make a cake, girl you are dedicated. Love that Hugh was also involved; with the cake and with anything else ya'll were doing!
Julieanne Case saysNovember 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm
Well, of course, I went right there. And there are times, I can see that being useful to fake as well! LOL! I don't usually fake food though. I have a recipe for cake that is so simple you mix it in the pan you bake it in. I have used Trader Joe's truffle brownie box mix and that is so good, I don't consider it faking! Plus you can add some blood orange oilve oil to it to change it up a bit! I love cooking so I'm not a fan of Sandra Lee's. But love speciality items so I'll check out the Ghiardelli mixes and the Rare Bird Preserves sounds delightful.
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Kimba saysNovember 18, 2013 at 9:37 am
Ooohh, I didn't know Trader Joe's also has a brownie mix – thanks for the tip! Question: do you use the blood orange olive oil instead of the vegetable oil?
Jacs Henderson saysNovember 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm
Good to see how you celebrate in the USA!
Of course we have our our fake-it options here in the UK too – and I love your idea of trying them out before the event to get the authentically home made tasting ones – then adding personalization!
Kimba saysNovember 18, 2013 at 9:35 am
I wonder what options you have in the UK – when my sister was in Ireland she was surprised that she couldn't find Duncan Hines cake mixes; we had to ship them to her!
Flo Bradley saysNovember 17, 2013 at 6:44 pm
I just made Ghirardelli brownies today. To give that authentic touch. . .addchocolate chips:)
Kimba saysNovember 18, 2013 at 9:34 am
Adding chocolate chips – brilliant! I wonder what I could add to make them more holiday-esque; maybe a coating of crushed peppermint?
Jennifer Sanders saysNovember 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm
I used to bake cakes/cookies for after a yoga class but if I couldnt find the time then everyone was still happy with my store bought ones 🙂 It's the thought that counts sometimes xx
Kimba saysNovember 18, 2013 at 9:25 am
Cookies for yoga – I like that! Making me think I need to take something to my gym class tonight….
marquita herald saysNovember 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm
You know it's funny Kim, for years when people would make a big deal about my chocolate chip cookies I'd respond with "Oh, it's no big deal just the Toll House recipe." I finally got smart and started telling everyone it's an old secret family recipe handed down from my great, great grandmother. (Of course I will deny that hoax emphatically should anyone attempt to call me on it.)
Kimba saysNovember 17, 2013 at 10:55 am
Heather Bestel saysNovember 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm
Kim, I'm all for anything that lessons the already enormous amount of stress we put on ourselves at this time of year ~ so yes, I encourage faking it and have been known to do it myself once or twice 😉
Kimba saysNovember 17, 2013 at 10:48 am
What's your favorite "fake?"
Vicki saysNovember 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm
You may be owning up to "faking it" but I know for a fact that you're an excellent "from scratch" cook too. I'm all for making life easier..especially in the kitchen. Just because those of us that are getting older may have more time, it does not mean we enjoy standing in the kitchen like we did when raising our families. That was our Mom time, & whether we like to cook or not, we deserve a breal, right? I'm getting ready to make some pumpkn muffins..from scratch..to take for Thanksgiving. Most of dinner will be pre-cooked by Whole Foods…yum!
Kimba saysNovember 17, 2013 at 10:47 am
I miss your fried chicken and potato salad on a daily basis.
RJ Crayton saysNovember 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Interesting. I had no idea people felt the need to fake it with food. It's so funny, because my mother always said to look at people and how they behave, and if they don't seem particularly sanitary, don't eat their food. Therefore, the fact that you stopped at Costco and bought a pie is a good thing, in my book (at least for some folks).
It's good that you're here to set straight the folks who fake it. As an eater, we tend not to care if you made it at home or bought it from a store. If you're looking for an excuse to give your kids store-bought stuff for bakesales, go with: "Parents of children with allergies feel much better if they've got the ingredient label right there to look at."
Anyway, fun post.
Kimba saysNovember 17, 2013 at 10:38 am
Never thought about the virtues of the food label for kids with allergies – good point!
Janie Emaus saysNovember 15, 2013 at 10:27 am
My go to guy is my husband!
Kimba saysNovember 17, 2013 at 10:25 am
Can we borrow him? 😉
Ellen Thomas saysNovember 15, 2013 at 9:52 am
Great ideas, Kim! Easy is always better-no need to stress and reinvent the wheel if not necessary. We're all so busy! I like to put out a charcuterie board for appetizers or a drinks party: A nice wooden board with 2-3 nice cheeses, a spread and/or a dip, and a couple sausages. Add a Jamón Serrano (buy a whole one; it will last 2-3 months on your kitchen counter with a rub of olive oil after cutting and covering with a tea towel) that guests can cut themselves and you have entertained and happy guests!
Kimba saysNovember 17, 2013 at 10:24 am
Really like that idea about the Serrano ham – will try that! Thx for sharing.
Christina saysNovember 15, 2013 at 8:09 am
Great tips! I especially love the Ghiardelli brownie mix idea–didn't know about that, but looks yummy and easy. I'm not much of a cook, but planning to start (I happen to know a blender/food processor is on its way to me as a Christmas present). I would love to try some of these suggestions!
Kim Dalferes saysNovember 15, 2013 at 8:44 am
A good food processor will make your life so much easier in the kitchen. I'm also forever indebted to my kitchenaid stand mixer. Let me know if you discover any great shortcuts.
Suzie Cheel saysNovember 15, 2013 at 8:01 am
Love it Kim
Yes some of the best cakes I have ever made that have got great compliments are packet ones- orande and poppyseed carrot and date
it's all good
Kim Dalferes saysNovember 15, 2013 at 8:42 am
Hey Suzie, those cakes sound great – what brand mix did you use?
Tina saysNovember 15, 2013 at 7:58 am
Michael refers to Sandra Lee as the half-assed lady. =D
Kim Dalferes saysNovember 15, 2013 at 8:40 am
LOL – have you ever tried any of her recipes? Now you have to and not tell Micheal!