Kitchen Cheats and Short Cuts


My family traveled to Vermont over the December break and, upon arrival, I succumbed to the flu.

It was abysmal timing, but my sister was there and took charge of the care and feeding of all. Because we were staying in a ski house, the pantry and kitchen were not terribly well provisioned, so improvisation was required.

Using a fair amount of culinary ingenuity, prefab ingredients and the items on offer at the rather small grocery store, my sister did a spectacular job of catering for the week. Her cheater chicken soup for my sick self was particularly noteworthy, but everything she made warranted sharing.

Here are the greatest hits from her repertoire.

IMG_1694Cheater Chicken Soup

½ stick margarine

1 pound carrots, sliced

1 pound celery, sliced

2 onions, chopped

2 quarts store-bought chicken broth

1 quart water

1 rotisserie chicken

1 lemon

3 cups cooked rice


In a large pot, melt the margarine and add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté until softened, about 10 minutes.

While the vegetables cook, remove the breast meat from the chicken and reserve it for another use. Remove the leg, thigh and wing meat for the soup.

Add the chicken bones, skin and dark meat to the pot, and cover with the broth and water. Zest the lemon and add it to the soup with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice into the soup.

Bring the soup to a boil, then cover and simmer it over low heat for one to two hours.

Remove the chicken bones and skin, add the rice, adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper and enjoy.

Serves 6 generously


Roast Chicken Dinner cooked and packaged by grocery story and brought home ready to serve. Still in plastic contain against white background. Chicken To Go.

Chicken Pot Pie

This is comfort food at its best.

The topping for this dish can be varied depending on personal preference and level of observance. Pillsbury Grands biscuits do not list any dairy ingredients, but they add a disclaimer indicating that they may contain whey, which is a milk product.

If this does not work for your crowd, you can top the dish with sliced bread brushed with oil, bread crumbs or cracker crumbs, or you can make biscuit dough using margarine and nondairy milk such as soy or unsweetened nut milk.

Another option is to substitute tofu and more veggies for the chicken and swap vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

Breast meat from a rotisserie chicken

3 tablespoons margarine

½ onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 cup frozen or canned peas

¼ cup fresh herbs (parsley, dill, thyme, whatever you have on hand) or ½ teaspoon each, dried

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Hot sauce, if desired

1 cup canned chicken broth

1 tablespoon flour

Refrigerated dough for 4 biscuits or crust topping of your choice


In a skillet, melt the margarine and add the onion, celery and carrots. Saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken, herbs, salt and pepper; continue stirring.

Dissolve the flour in broth and pour into skillet. Mix and cook until slightly thickened.

Pour the mixture into a square baking dish and top it with dough, bread crumbs, cracker crumbs or crostini.

Bake it at 350 degrees until the biscuit crust is cooked, about 40 minutes, or until the bread/crust topping is browned. Note: If you’re not using a biscuit topping, reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes.

Serves 4


Picture of a pizza.Vegetarian Pizza

Vegetarian Pizza

This was our appetizer on New Year’s Eve — again, making lemonade out of lemons.

In addition to the small size and limited inventory of the local supermarket, we had a major snowstorm during our stay, which impacted delivery.

We cut this pizza into bite-sized canapés and everyone enjoyed the après-ski snack.

1 package crescent roll dough

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

3 cups assorted raw chopped vegetables: carrots, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, scallions, celery, string beans, etc. (the more colors, the better it looks)


Roll the dough out onto a cookie sheet and pinch it together so it forms a rectangular “pizza crust.” Bake it at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes until cooked through and browning on the edges.

Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely.

While the crust bakes, mix the cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt, and dressing mix; set aside.

Chop the vegetables into small dice and mix them together in a bowl.

Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the crust and top it with vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour or more. Cut it into bite-sized pieces and serve.


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