Buy This: Three ways to make meals tastier and easier

Garden District Kitchen rice mixes from Zatarain’s
Garden District Kitchen rice mixes from Zatarain’s

Try these three shortcuts for a delicious meal.

Garden District Kitchen rice mixes from Zatarain’s 

I’ve long been a fan of New Orleans-based Zatarain’s, having grown up with a jar of their Creole mustard always in the pantry and their crawfish, crab and shrimp boil at the ready. They’ve recently added Garden District Kitchen brown rice and bean mixes to their product lineup. Stirring up one of these gives you a very easy way to provide a side dish that’s full of plant-based protein and fiber. It’s great that the result also is really tasty. Our favorites are the Spanish-style (with white beans and bell peppers) and salsa verde (with red beans, parsley and jalapeno). All you add is water, and your side dish is done in about 15 minutes. They’re so easy to make that a hot, freshly made rice bowl for breakfast now is a possibility.

$2.49 per 5.7-ounce box. Available at Kroger and Walmart. mccormick.com/zatarains/garden-district-kitchen. 

Sweet Betsy hush puppy mix from Atkinson Milling Co.
Sweet Betsy hush puppy mix from Atkinson Milling Co.

Sweet Betsy hush puppy mix from Atkinson Milling Co.

The Wheeler family of Atkinson Milling Co., in Selma, North Carolina, has been operating its grist mill since the late 1950s. The mill itself dates back to 1757, and the Wheelers can tell you the story of all the individuals who’ve kept the mill going for more than 250 years. We didn’t know any of that when we purchased a bag of their Sweet Betsy white hush puppy mix (with onions) at a seafood shop in Brunswick. We were surrounded by shrimpers and fishing boats, and were looking for ideas for quick side dishes to go with all that freshly caught seafood. We read the instructions on the bag and saw that all we had to do was add water and start frying. Sold. This mix makes hush puppies that are absolutely perfect (in our book). Just sweet enough, light and tender, they were exactly what we were looking for, and cooked up in the same time it took us to boil shrimp and saute a little grouper.

$3.99 for 2-pound bag, $6.50 for 5-pound bag. Available at atkinsonmilling.com

Soups from Safe Harvest.
Soups from Safe Harvest.

Soups from Safe Harvest 

Prepared soups take up lots of shelf space at the grocery store for good reason. They’re an easy way to get a comforting meal on the table in record time. But, if you take the time to check the ingredients, the choices narrow. Recently, we discovered Safe Harvest soups in shrimp bisque, clam chowder, salmon chowder and chicken “oodle” varieties. They’re made from chicken raised without antibiotics, or wild-caught salmon, shrimp or clams. Every variety is grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and will work with a Whole30 or paleo diet. All are made without preservatives or artificial flavors or coloring. Packaged in glass jars, they’re easy to find on the grocery shelf.

$4.99 per 13-ounce jar. Available at Kroger. safeharvest.com.

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