This won't be much of a gourmet column, but the following are a few fast fixes when the kids bring home friends unexpectedly, or you just don't have time to get all creative in the kitchen. Most of the ingredients are probably in your refrigerator, freezer or pantry.
Spinach Souffle and Artichoke Dip
1 box of frozen spinach souffle
1 5oz. jar of drained marinated artichokes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Cook the soufflé per package directions. Place soufflé in a microwave-safe bowl and add the artichokes and cheese. Stir and microwave another minute. Serve with chips.
Super Easy Shrimp in Butter/Lemon Sauce
Melt a stick of butter in a 9x13" Pyrex baking dish. Slice one lemon thinly and layer the lemon slices on top of the butter. Place a single layer of fresh, uncooked (tails removed) on top of the lemon. Then sprinkle a packet of Italian seasoning on top of all. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Inside-Out Candied Apples
Hollow out some Granny Smith apple cores. Pour some melted caramel sauce in hole left behind. Let cool until caramel is soft/hard. Then slice the caramels. (You can speed this up by putting caramel apples in refrigerator.)
Fast fixes for Frozen Foods: Jazz up the usual
Sauce for frozen jalapeno poppers: Combine 1 1/2 cup plain yogurt with 2 mashed garlic cloves, some chopped cilantro and zest and juice of one lime.
Sauce for frozen egg rolls: Combine 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. fish sauce (optional), juice of 1 lime, 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar, and 1 tsp. each of brown sugar and chile-garlic paste.
Dipping sauce for frozen samosas: Use the meat-filled ones with lamb or beef: Combine some bottled mint chutney (8 oz.) with some plain yogurt