10 Delicious But Difficult Recipes Made Easy

Would you care for some pate' on fresh bread? Perhaps some sushi? No trouble, I'll just whip some up. Really. Okay, some of these recipes require a little planning, but these are true time-savers. You don't need to think you are compromising, because they're also delicious. (See also: Elevate Your Cooking Skills With These 5 Easy Techniques)

1. Strawberry Freezer Jam

My best friend's mother used to crank this strawberry jam out every summer. The beauty of freezer jam is that once you've made it, you've made jam like some dang pioneer. However, you don't need one of those massive canning kettles, boiling water, fancy jars and lids, and the worry of "did they properly seal?"

I like the quantity of this recipe, which makes five pints. That's enough to store a few and share some. Freezer jam is great over toast, waffles, and pancakes. A little bit on the runny side, this jam is also great to stir into plain yogurt, or put over ice cream. I liked mine over a well-buttered English muffin.

2. Refrigerator Pickles

My aunt used to make pickles, and that's why I haven't. The work involved is too daunting. You have to make a brine, and get out the giant kettle, sterilize the jars, trim the ends of the cucumbers if they are too tall, and worry about if they have sealed properly… ugh, no thanks. Target has excellent pickle prices.

So when a co-worker said, "Just make refrigerator pickles," I thought well, let's look into that! These are delicious. Based on the recipe comments, I used apple cider vinegar instead of white. They remind me very much of Japanese sunomono, a cucumber salad (the difference being the use of rice vinegar, ginger root, and sesame seeds). Refrigerator pickles are not at all daunting and they are very delicious.

3. No-Knead Bread

"Even a six-year-old can do it!" Those are my kind of instructions.

This no-knead bread is amazingly easy. It does need to rest for twelve hours, so you will need to allow for that. However, it makes a fantastic loaf.

Sometimes, though, I want my bread even faster! Did you ever make a pot of soup and think, "I wish I had some fresh bread to go with this"? Beer bread is one of my favorite quick bread go-to's. I always seem to have these ingredients around… including the beer.

Another favorite (no need to wait for St. Patrick's Day) is Irish Soda bread, which I think is absolutely great for breakfast. No buttermilk? Don't worry. Just substitute lemon juice or vinegar into regular milk, in place of buttermilk.

Special diet? Here is a no-knead oatmeal bread that works with with soy milk. No yeast is used. I found that if I added some finely-chopped apple (about a half-cup), it was like dessert.

4. Sushi

As much as I love sushi, you would think I would be better at making it. Not so! Any type of cooking that requires good manual dexterity is not my thing. I have tried sushi, spring rolls, shaped baked rolls, but mine come out looking pretty ugly.

Loving the flavors of sushi, I was so happy to find a recipe for "pan sushi." Keoni Chang is the chef for the Hawaii chain of Foodland stores and this is a fun demo. Try with imitation (or real) crab, Spam, tuna, or let your imagination go crazy. I like to add a layer of Japanese omelet or tofu, spicy ahi poke, bacon and/or fried chicken pieces. A layer of sliced green onions is also good.

5. Ice Cream

I do own an ice-cream maker. It makes wonderful ice cream and frozen yogurt, but it takes a lot of pre-planning and time. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't easier to use.

When I am not in the mood to get all the parts out, I have two "cheater" ice-cream recipes that are great. The first one? Frozen bananas. No kidding. Slice a banana, freeze it, pummel it in the food processor or blender and ta-daah! Ice cream. I use a blender, which is powerful enough that it works fine. Keep in mind the advantages of the frozen banana ice cream: Fat-free, gluten-free, vegan… you get my drift. What is really unusual is that I first thought it would just taste, oh, I don't know, just banana-y. But oddly, and especially when you add a little chocolate syrup on top, or peanut butter, or coconut shavings, well, that other flavor seems to be the dominant one. It's a little like a blank slate.

My second "fake ice cream" trick? Whipping cream and condensed milk. Again, add whatever flavorings you want (if any). I challenge you to wait until it is completely solid. The first time we made this ice cream, my husband and I waited an hour and a half and decided we would "check" it. Like quality control. Just to make sure it wasn't horrible. Well, we ate it. All. It was like soft-serve ice cream, and it was a hot day, and we'd had a small lunch…

6. Margaritas

If I ask my husband to make me a margarita, it is an undertaking. He makes a simple syrup, picks fresh limes, and gets out some fancy glasses and coarse salt. If I have been marinating carnitas or simmering a mole, that kind of margarita fuss is justified. But hey, tacos? No. Let's just make an easy margarita. I keep frozen limeade (which is also cheap) around just for this purpose.

7. Pate

Pate, anyone? Why, yes, thank you, I would love some. Would you believe that, aside from the chicken livers, I had the makings in my pantry? I had never considered making it, thinking it would be really complicated. Wrong! This Emeril Lagase recipe for chicken liver pate is surprisingly easy. It does take a little pre-planning, so if you want to throw a dinner party on Saturday night, you will need to shop and cook on Friday. I used brandy rather than cognac and served on toasted baguettes.

8. Hollandaise

When my mother wanted to impress her guests, out came the fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Couldn't you just swim in this sauce? I don't own a double boiler, and I certainly do not have the patience for all the stirring and monitoring. Fortunately, some smarty came up with a blender hollandaise sauce. I use a little Sriracha sauce in mine for extra zip. Great on asparagus, of course (roasted, not boiled — sorry, mom) and of course on Eggs Benedict. You could put this sauce on just about anything and it would be great, shoe leather included.

9. Pasta

I used to have a pasta maker. It did make very nice pasta, but it also had many parts, needed assembly each use, and the clean-up was a nightmare. I ended up selling it. However, I do love fresh pasta, and was feeling a little deprived until I looked into making it without the equipment.

What do you really need for good, fresh pasta? Basically, a good, sharp knife and a rolling pin.

I found instructions in lots of places online, but I like this fresh pasta recipe the best.

There was some trial and error involved. I did not have good luck with whole-wheat flour, which fell apart a lot. In my cookbooks, "semolina flour" is recommended, but I just used plain flour and it worked fine.

There is a lot of debate online about whether to allow the pasta to dry or to cook it immediately. Most people seem to agree that results are better if you allow spaghetti or linguini to dry for between one and three hours. If you do decide to dry your pasta, you're going to need a rack or a tree to hang it from. When I had a pasta maker, I also had a drying tree — no problem. But when I got rid of that maker, I sold the tree with it. What to do if you don't have a pasta drying tree? Improvise.

I took my cookie rack (like this one), put it between two tall standing books (making a sort of bridge), and put the noodles on the rungs of the rack to dry. I also put some waxed paper underneath the noodles, as some of them fell off and I wanted them to land on a clean surface.

10. Pie Crust

I have no issues with using those ready-made crusts, but sometimes, I don't have them around at the ready. Also, I am not terribly handy with a rolling pin and I really hate getting flour everywhere. But wait! You don't need all that stuff. I love this simple pie crust recipe — and it works! How? Smushing. Yep, you just "smush" the dough into place. It takes a little practice, but this dough recipe is very forgiving. I am not very good at decorative crusts, but I think mine turned out looking fine and definitely had a homemade touch.

See, anybody can look like a total gourmet on a day's notice. Any easy recipes to share, readers?

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Amy Lu's picture
Amy Lu

Oh my! I want to try all of these, starting with the pie crust and ice cream. I don't mind making pie crust the long way...but it's, you know, LONG! And I love the versatility of the ice cream recipe. So many flavor possibilities!