This post is especially for my guests who found this blog by putting "no food in the house" into their search engine. Ever since I made my "You can't cook if there's no food in the house" post, I've gotten many visits a week from people who haven't got a stocked pantry. With the worldwide economy in its' present state, I have a feeling that I'll be getting even more visits in the months to come.
So, in order to better serve those who need something to fix tonight, I'm going to offer a few suggestions. I'm also listing some resources that might be helpful in the future. And I'd love comments from any of you who have ideas to share as well.
Soups are a great option when you've got little in the way of ingredients. A few cans of veggies (whatever you have can work together), some pasta or rice and any bits of leftover meat can be stretched a number of ways. Mix together some quick biscuits or cornbread (we like the Jiffy mix best and it's usally under .50 a box; follow the "johnny cake" recipe and bake in a round pan) and you've got a warm, filling, comforting meal.
Here's a good overall outline for making quick soup (ignore the title on the post; he does a good job breaking down the basic ingredients in soup so you have a nice starting point working with whatever you have).
A take-off from soup that is a great source of protein and doesn't taste like the economy meal it is. My favorite recipe is really easy:
From the Better Homes and Gardens website (and red checkered cookbook)
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper (1 small)
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, undrained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Chopped onion (optional)
Dairy sour cream (optional)
Crushed red pepper (optional)
1. In a 3-quart saucepan cook and stir ground beef, sweet pepper, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and the garlic over medium heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.
2. Stir in tomato sauce, undrained beans, undrained tomatoes, chili powder, salt, basil, and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. To serve, ladle chili into bowls. If desired, top each serving with cheese, chopped onion, and/or sour cream and pass crushed red pepper. Makes 4 main-dish servings.
This is a very forgiving recipe that you can adapt to suit your tastes. I don't like chunks of tomatoes, so I just use tomato sauce and two cans of kidney beans. You can make it without the meat if you don't have any, or use less to make what you do have go farther. It also freezes well for future use.
What about when you're down to your last two eggs and you've got a family to feed? How about quiche? It's another way to use whatever bits of meat and veggies and cheese you have on hand to become something more substantial.
My favorite mock-quiche comes from the Bisquick site. It only takes two eggs and one cup of milk, so it's a good option when you're down to next-to-nothing.
I like a turkey ham/broccoli/cheese combo the best, but they offer lots of interesting combinations for any leftovers you might have. Some of the variations under the "Impossibly Easy (fill in the blank) Pie" label include, Cheeseburger, Ham 'n' Swiss, Quesadilla, Salmon and Asparagus...check out the site for something that suits you.
If you don't have Bisquick or a baking mix (here's a do it yourself version you can always have on hand), you can make a quick crumb crust using whatever crackers you have (not graham crackers though):
1 1/2 cups crushed crackers (wheat thins, Cheez-its, Ritz, saltines, etc)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Combine cracker crumbs and melted butter or margarine until crumbs are well coated. Press evenly into a 9 inch pie plate. Pour in desired filling and bake according to filling recipe.
Links to the real thing:
All Recipes.com quiche recipes
Here's another quick way to make a filling meal with things you probably have in the back of the cupboard. While most of us are spoiled with having a jar of sauce around, it's almost as easy to make something from scratch once you know how to make a basic white sauce and a basic red sauce.
Once you've got a sauce going, the same ingredients you had for the quiche go well with the pasta. Add some cheese to the white sauce for a quick, tasty mac 'n' cheese. Leftover chicken and cajun seasoning makes one of my favorite restaurant dishes; quick, easy and cheap.
It's all about mixing and matching
Once you get used to seeing bits of various things as ingredients for other dishes, you'll find that no matter how bare the pantry seems, if you have a couple cans of something, meat of some sort (or not), pasta or rice, you can create a nourishing and satisfying meal.
You'll also find that you can make a ham or roast or turkey feed you for most of the week. So, the ham you fixed on Sunday can be served as leftovers Monday, be cut up and made into a quiche with broccoli on Tuesday, and a pasta dish with frozen peas or any other canned/frozen vegetable Wednesday or Thursday, and soup on Friday. Each meal is different enough you won't really face the "What? Ham again?" complaint.
Finally, here are some resources for you to find other options.
Recipe search engines where you can list the ingredients you do have:
Betty Crocker recipe finder
All Recipes Ingredient Search (lets you say ingredients you don't want too)
Kraft Foods (also lets you exclude ingredients)
Other good recipe sites for inspiration:
Better Homes and Gardens recipes (LOVE this one)
I'd love to hear what worked and what didn't, what you did to improvise. If you have other resources you use when you're stumped on what to fix, list those too. And I want you to know that I pray for each of you that happens across my blog by way of "no food in the house."