The 2017 Taste of Home Best Loved Brand Awards

We get it: Sometimes there's no time to cook from scratch. But what are the best go-to timesaver ingredients? Our Test Kitchen experts announce their favorite shortcut superstars right here.

Breakfast skillet on a red towel beside a plate of filled biscuitsTaste of Home
Taste of Home

You know when time is ultra tight, schedules are packed and getting dinner on the table seems like the impossible dream? There’s a hack for that. Meet our best-loved brands. They’re total lifesavers at breakfast, dinner and snack time.

Breakfasts

These a.m. all-stars are ready quicker than you can say “drive-thru.”

Recipe Ideas

Lasagne Chilaquiles: For a multicultural spin on breakfast, crumble eight Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagne noodles into 16 oz. of salsa; simmer 10 minutes. (No precooked pasta required!) Top with Wholly Guacamole Classic and fried eggs; sprinkle with cilantro. Makes eight servings.

Apple Danish Bites: Craving apple Danish? Give in to the urge by pressing a tube of Pillsbury Crescents into eight greased muffin cups. Dollop the dough with Philadelphia Ready-to-Eat Cheesecake Filling; add apple slices, McCormick Apple Pie Spice and Diamond Shake and Spoon chopped pecans. Fold pastry edges to form bundles; bake at 375° for 11-13 minutes. Makes eight bundles.

Yogurt with a Buzz: Kick morning into high gear by stirring 1 tsp. of Nescafé Taster’s Choice instant coffee into a bottle of Drink Chobani Vanilla Bean Yogurt. It’s a whole new day! Makes one serving.

Shortcut Superstars
  • Nescafé Taster’s Choice: A teaspoon infuses rubs, stews, molés and chocolate cake with amazing richness.
  • Drink Chobani Vanilla Bean Yogurt: Enjoy this creamy protein boost on the go, or pour it over your favorite granola.
  • Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagne: Skip precooking and simmer in the sauce to rock one-pot pastas, lasagna and more.
  • Wholly Guacamole Classic: Add a luscious finishing touch to fish tacos, salads, breakfast burritos and burgers.
  • Pillsbury Crescents: Simply unroll to make Danishes for breakfast, Reuben roll-ups for lunch and pizza for dinner.
  • Philadelphia Ready-to-Eat Cheesecake Filling: There’s no faster way to bake up a dreamy cheesecake—or to enjoy a midnight spoonful!
  • McCormick Apple Pie Spice: A sprinkling lends instant coziness to sweet potato fries, overnight oats and pancakes.
  • Diamond Shake and Spoon: Keep a shaker at the table to give crunch to cereal, salads, puddings and other desserts.

Plates of food crowded onto a table which includes potato soup, sliced zucchinis covered in sausage and a casserole with waffle friesTaste of Home
Taste of Home

Dinners

Here’s your ticket to a home-cooked meal, even on those crazy days that just won’t stop.

Recipe Ideas

Italian Sub Zucchini Boats: Sail into dinnertime with these pizza boats. Halve three zucchini lengthwise; hollow out the centers and stuff with slices of Johnsonville Three Cheese Italian Style Chicken Sausage. Top with Contadina Pizza Squeeze and strands of Galbani String Cheese. Bake, covered, in a greased 13×9-in. baking dish at 350° for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake for 15 more minutes. Makes six servings.

Super Fast Zuppa Toscana: Make soup 1-2-3! In a Dutch oven, mix one package each Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Sausage Crumbles and Simply Potatoes Diced Potatoes With Onion; simmer with 3 Tbsp. Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base and 8 cups water. Cook until reduced slightly, stirring in 1/2 cup cream and 10 oz. fresh baby spinach or kale at the end. Makes 12 servings (3 qt.).

BBQ Chicken Supper Pie: Bring the barbecue indoors: In an 8-in. square baking pan, combine a 16-oz. tub of Lloyd’s Seasoned Shredded Chicken in Original BBQ Sauce with a package of Green Giant Roasted Corn. Top with Alexia Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Seasoned Fries; bake at 425° for 25 minutes. Great smoky flavor! Makes eight servings.

Shortcut Superstars
  • Johnsonville Three Cheese Italian Style Chicken Sausage: Precooked sausage is ready to toss into soup, pasta and rice dishes.
  • Contadina Pizza Squeeze: Turn flour tortillas and bagels into pizza fun. It’s a great dip, too!
  • Galbani String Cheese: No grater necessary—just pull it into strings for speedy shreds.
  • Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Sausage Crumbles: Cut prep time in half for busy-day skillet dinners or breakfast in a hurry.
  • Simply Potatoes Diced Potatoes With Onion: Save time slicing and dicing for your next potato salad or hash.
  • Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base: No need to make stock from scratch to get rich, flavorful soups.
  • Lloyd’s Seasoned Shredded Chicken in Original BBQ Sauce: Skip the slow cooker and add a smoky note to BBQ pizza or nachos.
  • Green Giant Roasted Corn: Add fire-roasted flavor to a favorite salsa, chili or veggie frittata.
  • Alexia Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Seasoned Fries: Load ’em up like nachos or toss with sugar and cinnamon for a treat.

Table with plates of pigs in blankets, cheesy chicken tenders, goldfish crackers and sliced jalapenos wrapped in bacon and mac and cheeseTaste of Home
Taste of Home

Snacks

Hey, host with the most: Anytime is party time with these speed-demon apps.

Recipe Ideas

Mac & Cheese Poppers: Halve eight jalapeno peppers lengthwise and remove membrane and seeds; stuff each half with prepared Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese. Wind strips of Oscar Mayer Fully Cooked Bacon around half of the jalapenos; secure with toothpicks. Broil all for 1-2 minutes. Top the plain poppers with crushed Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar Goldfish crackers. Makes 16 poppers.

Cuban Chicken Nachos: Bake a package of Tyson Any’tizers Popcorn Chicken with diced deli ham, shredded Swiss cheese and sliced Vlasic Stackers Kosher Dill Pickles at 400° for 15-20 minutes. For the meltiest cheese, shred your own Swiss. (Hint: Line the pan with parchment paper to make cleanup a breeze.) Makes eight servings.

Spicy-Sweet Franks in a Blanket: Bake a package of Hebrew National Beef Franks in a Blanket in a greased 13×9-in. baking dish at 425° for 17-20 minutes. Stir together a 12-oz. jar of Smucker’s Sweet Orange Marmalade with 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Kikkoman Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce; pour over franks and bake 1-2 minutes longer. Sweet! Makes 32 appetizers.

Shortcut Superstars
  • Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese: Fast-track tonight’s chili cheeseburger skillet or hack that mac with custom stir-ins.
  • Oscar Mayer Fully Cooked Bacon: Top a burger or crumble over a salad for instant bacon flavor and crunch without the wait.
  • Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar Goldfish: Crush finely and use as a zesty breading for chicken or fish or to top a favorite casserole.
  • Hebrew National Beef Franks in a Blanket: Start the party with dips and dunkers, or try as a Bloody Mary garnish at brunch.
  • Smucker’s Sweet Orange Marmalade: Brush onto grilled pork chops, mix into stir-fry or whisk with icing for a sweet-roll glaze.
  • Kikkoman Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce: Add heat to deviled eggs, breakfast tacos or spaghetti, or whip up a spicy mayo.
  • Tyson Any’tizers Popcorn Chicken: Make last-minute chicken and waffles or toss with sauce for your own Chinese takeout.
  • Vlasic Stackers Kosher Dill Pickles: Perfectly sized for hot dogs, these also punch up sloppy joes, tartar sauce or egg salad.
Smiling man handing out food with a spatula from a plate he's holdingTaste of Home
Taste of Home

How’d they get to be superstars, anyway? Taste of Home food editors and Test Kitchen pros put countless products to the test, then rated each on availability, time-saving performance, reliability and price. In the end, these 25 products prevailed.

So stock up your pantry. These go-to ingredients are here to save the day!

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Ellie Martin Cliffe
Now an executive editor at Taste of Home, Ellie has been writing about food and parenting for more than a decade. When she isn't at TOH HQ, she's likely trying gluten- and dairy-free recipes, canning whatever's in season, listening to anything with a fiddle, or playing Uno with her family.