How To Elevate 4 Meals From Dreary To Dreamy In A Flash

You know I’m all about cutting corners, right?

But I also want to present my family with meals so delicious, I’ll forever be one step above whoever my boys marry someday. 

That my boys will always show gratitude for their sweetheart making them a meal, but that they’ll also give an invisible-to-the-naked-eye shake of the head while thinking, deep inside, “My mother would be horrified if she could see this.”

That, no matter how much butter or sugar is involved, every recipe is sub-optimal in comparison to what they grew up with.

Of course, I know the likelihood of this is close to nil, considering that - to this day - I still have to make an alternate meal for my youngest, just like most people do for their toddlers, despite my sweet baby angel closing in on 143 months old. 

He’s walking the halls of middle school, checking his armpits for hairs almost daily, and yet I’m convinced I’ll still be preparing his Plan-B-PB&J long after he forms a five o’clock shadow.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.

How To Elevate 4 Meals From Dreary To Dreamy In A Flash | Bring Mommy A Martini

I wanted to share with you some simple ways to elevate otherwise basic meals. Meals that use mostly ordinary packaged ingredients, but that use a few tiny, very easy secret steps to take them to the next level.

These are perfect for the busy-ness of the school year, because they’re fast and easy, and they use ingredients your probably already have on hand.

How To Elevate 4 Basic Meals Fast

Packaged Salad

How To Elevate 4 Basic Meals FAST | Bring Mommy A Martini

What you will need: 

  • Package(s) of salad

  • ¼-Cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

  • ¼ Red onion, thinly sliced

  • Olive oil

  • Sea salt

  • Black pepper

  • Dressing or salad vinegar


At least 30 minutes before serving the salad, toss the sliced onion and tomatoes into a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and black pepper.

Pour a good size glug of olive oil over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate (or, as my mom says*, “Let it get happy”) until you’re ready to serve the salad.

At go time, add package(s) of salad, tossing to coat. 

Add dressing or salad dressing individually, to your liking.


Why a picture of me cooking meat, instead of a picture of spaghetti? GREAT QUESTION. Keep those bad boys comin’.

Why a picture of me cooking meat, instead of a picture of spaghetti? GREAT QUESTION. Keep those bad boys comin’.

What you will need:

  • 1 package Spaghetti noodles

  • 1 jar Spaghetti sauce

  • 1 pound Hamburger or ground turkey or ground chicken

  • 1 teaspoon Fennel seed

  • ½-teaspoon Smoked paprika

  • Sea salt to taste

  • Black pepper to taste

  • Block of parmesan cheese


Brown the meat in a skillet. As it cooks, add fennel seed, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions (reserve about 1/4-cup of pasta water if you plan to mix the noodles and the sauce together).

When meat is browned, drain off grease. Add spaghetti sauce to the meat and simmer until spaghetti noodles are done.

You can then mix it all together, using tiny bits of the reserved pasta water to make the sauce silky. We do not mix the sauce and noodles together at my house, because my 11-year-old is a monster and eats his noodles dry. See “sweet baby angel 143-month-old toddler” comment above.

Top with FRESHLY GRATED parmesan cheese. Do not use the powdered stuff or we can no longer be friends.

Scrambled Eggs

How To Elevate 4 Basic Meals Fast | Bring Mommy A Martini

What you will need:

  • Eggs (2 per person)

  • Butter

  • Sea salt

  • Black pepper

  • Skillet (not too big - the eggs should cover the bottom completely, and fill the pan at least ⅛”


Whisk the eggs for at least 30 or 45 seconds. It will seem like you’re over-doing it. You aren’t. Trust.

Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Melt a pat of butter in a skillet on low-medium heat. Add the eggs and don’t touch until they appear to be setting slightly around the edge of the pan. Move the eggs around in the pan gently, starting from the outside, working toward the middle.

Remove from heat as soon as the eggs are cooked, but appear just a tiny bit under-done - not runny, but not fully cooked, either. They’ll continue to cook after they’ve been removed.


How To Elevate 4 Basic Meals Fast | Bring Mommy A Martini

What you will need:

  • Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Pancake mix

  • Buttermilk (or use milk with a splash of vinegar)

  • Eggs

  • Vegetable oil


Prepare the mix according to package directions. DON’T OVER-MIX!

Here’s the secret: let the mix sit for at least 5-10 minutes. This makes them super-fluffy. 

Cook the pancakes according to package instructions, but here’s another secret: don’t pat them down with the spatula after turning them.

And don’t continue flipping them over and over - cook one side, then when little bubbles are at the edges, pick up the edge to peek underneath and see if the color is right. If it is, flip the pancake over and cook until golden brown (keep checking to make sure you don’t over-cook it). 

Remove from heat and add to a plate covered with a towel to keep the pancakes hot and moist until they’re all ready to serve.

There you have it!

Forever more, with these simple tweaks, you’ll have all the ingredients needed to confuse friends and family and make them wonder how you do it.

How they can use the same Prego spaghetti sauce, same spaghetti noodles, and yet your spaghetti tastes so much different - so much better - than theirs.

*My mom also lifts her leg back behind her when she’s leaning over to check whatever’s in the oven, and calls this “activity” her exercise. 🤷

How To Elevate 4 Basic Meals In A Flash | Bring Mommy A Martini
How To Make 4 Basic Meals Fancy In A Flash | Bring Mommy A Martini