Almost a year ago, I ventured into the realm of pre-made puff pastry dough when I put less than five ingredients together and made a batch of tarts. These tarts, to be exact. If I could put that experience into words, I would only say that they were extremely tasty and just so easy. Immediately I had all of these ideas of everything else that could be done with such a simple store-bought ingredient. Ok, mostly I was thinking about slathering some Nutella onto my next batch, but believe me, there are plenty of other options for using store-bought puff pastry dough that extend beyond the dessert realm. Allow me to present a few examples.

In the world of holiday parties, potlucks, and showers - appetizers are key. They're arguably even better than the dessert table. This collection of puff pastry appetizers feature a great selection to kick off any occasion, like the individual hand-held quiches below.

Puff Pastry Mini Quiches

Puff Pastry Mini Quiches

Speaking of appetizers, let's talk cheese straws. You've probably heard of them, or have had them before, but they're kind of amazing. They're a great party food and make for an awesome grab-and-go kind of snack. Guests will be blown away when you mention that these only require a few ingredients, and the main one is puff pastry dough. Yep, just another reason to love store-bought puff pastry dough.

Two-Tone Puff Straws

By topping a circular piece of puff pastry with sliced tomatoes, cheese, and basil, you've got yourself a super-easy appetizer that's fit for your next summer bash. Feel free to get creative and use your own favorite veggies to top these little bite-sized tarts. For all of you out there who have a home garden going, I bet the wheels are spinning already!

Puff-Pastry Tomato Tarts

Because you save a lot of extra time, you can get creative with pre-made puff pastry dough, even if that means cutting, twisting, and molding it into different shapes, like in these pretzels below. Similar to the cheese straws that we already talked about, these pretzels are dusted with cheese and baked to perfection. But hey, if you aren't going for a cheesy flavor, try dusting them with cinnamon and sugar and serving them with a dipping bowl of easy icing. Are the wheels spinning yet?

Puff Pastry "Pretzels"

If your guests have a taste for barbecue, serving up these bite-sized barbecue sandwiches on a big platter makes for a great party food option. Simply wrap the puff pastry dough at the corners and press to seal at the top for a great appetizer option.

Quick Brisket Puffs

2.) Desserts

When people think of puff pastry, it's typically in the category of desserts. From tarts, to cream puffs, to this awesome layered strawberry dessert, the options here are really endless, and can be tweaked and transformed in creative ways.

3-Step Strawberry Dessert

As seen in the brisket appetizer above, a really great way to use puff pastry dough is to fill it with an ingredient of your choice and simply fold up the corners to hold the contents inside. Fresh fruit works really well with puff pastry dough, as I'd already found out working with nectarines before. In this recipe below, plums are the main event, wrapped up neatly by squares of puff pastry dough and lightly baked in the oven. If plums and nectarines aren't your thing, you could always substitute for a fruit of your choice. A fun duo to try might be apple slices with cheddar cheese, which is totally a winning combination if you haven't tried it yet.

The thing that makes store-bought puff pastry dough so versatile is that it can literally go with anything. There are so many creative uses for it. Use it to your advantage to save time, rock that next party or potluck, and really wow some friends and family with some upscale looking appetizers and desserts. You don't have to tell them it only took you a few minutes to whip up, that can always be your little secret.

For a lot of foods, it's great to make them from scratch or buy all-natural. Buying overly packaged and processed foods brings in extra ingredients that you wouldn't normally have put in yourself, like preservatives or chemical enhancers. Always check the labels of any store-bought ingredient if you're unsure of its contents. However, because of it's time-saving capabilities, sometimes store-bought ingredients like puff pastry dough are totally worth it in terms of making life easier. What do you think? Are you a fan of any store-bought or pre-made ingredients that you return to time and time again? Let us know in the comments, and until then, happy cooking!