Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Can I Cook With This?

Wow.  Talk about coincidences.

A couple weeks ago, there was absolutely nothing on TV (surprise surprise!), so, as we invariably do on a Saturday like that, we turn to the Food Network.  

Because I'm on a diet.

And nothing says "IN YOUR FACE, LOSER!" like being on a diet and being forced to watch Food Network.

The show that happened to be on was the Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) cooking show about Pantry Cooking.  I believe it was called Stocking Up.  I could be wrong, though.  That's the name of her post that goes with the show, so I'm going to assume that they're all the same thing and go with it.  OK?  OK.

I wish I had that kind of time and space to cook like she does, but I'm not Doctor Who, and there's not a TARDIS anywhere around, so...  I do what I can to get by.

Then, last Saturday, a friend of mine posted a picture of the inside of her refrigerator on Facebook.  It was mostly bare, but it had a few things sitting on the shelves.  What I could see was a jar of jelly, two cartons of some kind of berries, a carton of cherry/grape tomatoes (I couldn't tell which), an opened bottle of wine, some hot dog buns, some butter, some ketchup, some coffee creamer, a jug of (possibly) tea, and some mustard.

And she wanted to know what she could make herself for breakfast.

I will admit, there's not a lot going on there.

Someone did say she could make a "poor man's sandwich" out of the buns, ketchup, and butter.  But that's just not right (IMO).

Here's what I suggested.  And, no, it's not located anywhere on my diet.  So if you're on a diet, I don't recommend it.

  1. Put the berries, some wine, and a quarter cup of sugar into a saute pan, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are starting to burst.
  2. Take 1 tsp corn starch, mix it with a little cold water, then stir into the berries until it becomes thick and bubbly, then reduce the heat to low (just to keep it warm).
  3. Take one of the hot dog buns (or two or whatever she wanted to use), butter them, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar, and broil for just a minute to toast them.
  4. Spoon some of the warm berry compote over the toasted hot dog buns, and it's one heck of a breakfast!
Shortly after, I saw that Pioneer Woman had put a list of Stocking Up items on her website, and posted it to Facebook.  This got me to thinking that, hey, what are the bare minimum of ingredients you can have to making some incredible dishes?  Those things that you might be down to the last of, have no clue what you're going to do with, and it's still a day or two away from Pay Day and you still need to eat something?

Here's some quick and easy recipes I've come up with.  And please note, these aren't necessarily something I'd consider "diet food."  Some are, but not all of them.

All Day Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 Frozen chicken breasts
2 dried-out carrots (or 8 dried-out baby carrots--you know, the ones with the white stuff on them?), diced
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
That limp celery that's still in the back of your crisper (as long as it's NOT slimy!), thinly sliced
bay leaf or 1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder (you can use garlic salt instead, but DO NOT add the regular salt if you do!)
any kind of pasta you have on hand anywhere

  1. In a slow cooker, place the chicken breasts, carrots, onion, and celery.  Put enough water in it to just cover the ingredients--you don't want too much water in there.
  2. Drop in the bay leaf/dried oregano and garlic powder/salt, and salt/pepper (remember:  if you use garlic salt, DO NOT use regular salt here!)
  3. Cook on low all day long while you're at work.
  4. When you get home, boil a pot of water, add in a little salt, and then drop in your pasta to boil.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, take some kitchen shears and chunk up your cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized (or smaller) pieces.
  6. Drain your pasta, and drop/stir it into the chicken and veggies in the Crock Pot.
  7. Serve immediately.
That's it!  That's all there is to it!  Oh!  And one more thing:  If you happen to have an old cube of chicken bouillon in a jar somewhere in the back of your cabinet, feel free to drop it into the Crock Pot in the morning, but DO NOT use salt if you do.  Unless you like salt.  Then use as much of it as you want.

"Fresh" Tomato Soup (assuming you don't have a can of Campbell's sitting in your cupboard)

1 large can tomato sauce
1 large can diced/stewed/whole tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup water
dried oregano
garlic powder/salt to taste
salt (if you're NOT using garlic salt) and pepper to taste

  1. Put everything into a pot on the stove, turn it to medium, and let simmer.  If you're using stewed or whole tomatoes, chop 'em up in the pot with some kitchen shears.
  2. Serve hot, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich.

This is quick, it's easy, and it's not too terrible.  Even the Cub Reporters enjoy this!

Pasta with Buttercream Sauce

Enough pasta to feed your family
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
dried oregano
garlic powder/salt to taste
salt (if you're NOT using garlic salt) and pepper to taste

  1. Boil some water, put some salt in it, and add the pasta (if you're using spaghetti/linguini/something long and thin like that, break it up as best you can).
  2. When the pasta is done, drain it.
  3. While the pasta is draining, put the butter, milk, and spices in the pot, stirring until the butter is completely melted and everything is incorporated.
  4. Put the pasta back into the pot, and stir to coat everything.
  5. Because this is all you had in your refrigerator, make plans to go to the store AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

Yes, people, I've been there, too.  I've looked into the abyss that is my refrigerator/pantry/freezer and thought "Lord Jesus, please help me figure out something I can feed these kids using this box of bisquick and some ketchup!" before.  It's pretty amazing what you can do when Jesus is your sous chef!  After all, if He can feed 5,000 on a few loaves of bread and a couple fish...

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