I'm not a fan of adding too much to a good thing. I believe that the best things a recipe could have going for it are fresh & natural ingrediants, simplicity and ease of construction. I don't want to use powders, packaged mixes, gelatine, margarine, processed cheese, etc..
Pam Anderson's Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken Breasts in a Balsamic Pan Sauce has a good example of what I don't want. It uses both dried and fresh mushrooms. Now, I'm sure there is a taste differential when using both mushrooms, instead of just one, and I'm not against using dried foodstuff (sometimes there is no other way when you require a certain result - dried cranberries & stuffing). However, you really have to balance that difference with the extra time and complication required when you use both. I made this recipe using only fresh mushrooms, and it turned out beautifully. It was also incredibly simple to make. Even if the dish tasted 15% better with dried mushrooms (doubtful, since I'm not that big a fan of mushrooms), I wouldn't add them because they require 20% more effort, and a couple more steps for me to mess up. If, on the other had, I were to make a dessert which required a chocolate sauce, I would go the extra mile to create a simple home-made version, rather than use a preservative-loaded, over-sugared store-bought brand.
I do, however, have a few packaged crutches I rely on, mostly because I haven't taken the time to figure out how to prepare them from scratch:
1. Uncle Ben's Fast & Fancy rice is simply wonderful. I tend to put most of my cooking effort into the meat or vegetables, and I forget about the traditionally mandatory starch (I'm slightly allergic to both rice and potatoes, so they're not terribly important to me) These little packs are the perfect size (4 servings), and they require very little attention (although I really should set a timer, the next time I make one).
2. I have a thing for the old Duncan Hine's brownie mix, however they recently changed the packaging and the formula; they have lost their wonderfully dense texture. We're currently settling for Quaker's brownie mix, but we haven't made brownies in quite some time, which is a pretty good indication of our disappointment. I think I might just have to start looking for a homemade brownie recipe...
3. Jello chocolate pudding mix: I have no clue how to make pudding, and these packages are terribly easy and fast enough to satisfy my chocolate cravings.
4. President's Choice sauces, primarily Memories of Kobe, but more recently their other varieties. I love how fast and flavourful they are - I just dump them over meat, roast, then make gravy with watered down whole wheat flour. The taste is too amazing and too easy to pass up. I might have a change of heart if I looked into homemade sauces. Once I found one, I'd have to buy portion-sized canning jars so I could make a batch ahead of time. Then I could just pop open a bottle and dump it over the meat. Hmmm.. that sounds like a great idea. After I perfect the Tiramisu recipe (or my DH bans me from buying more Mascarpone cheese), I'll have to look into sauces and marinades which can be canned. Hmmm... I like that idea - if we ever have company over, and they like the meat, then I can send them home with a bottle of sauce :)