Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kitchen Quick and Convenient

Hello, my name is Sam. I am a user of convenience foods in the kitchen. There! I continue to own it. Even though I wish I was a terrific gardener and could be pulling from a pantry or freezer of preserved  produce, I'm not. We all find our balance of what we will and won't use for convenience in the kitchen. While I'm at least trying to move away from pre-made meals, especially in the middle of winter, I will utilize the convenience of canned and frozen ingredients. Plus, it is January in Minnesota. whatever I buy from the produce section has traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles, losing vitamins and freshness with each mile. I question how much better it is than canned or frozen. It has been bitter cold, yet busy life goes on, and meals need to be quick to prepare, ahead if possible to just reheat later. My favorites for the week are below. 

Pantry Chili: 3/4 pounds of ground beef, cooked up with one onion, and the celery remnants from my veggie drawer (about 1 1/2 stalks worth.) Add heavy amounts of  course black pepper. I added about 1/2 tsp of garlic salt as well. Drain the fat. Add 2,14 ounce cans diced tomatoes and 2,14 ounce cans of chili beans, in sauce, plus 2 cups water and two bouillon cubes. If I  had tomato juice, I would have added that instead of water and cubes but made do with what I had. Add 2 TBLS of chili powder and another tsp of black pepper. Bring to a high simmer, low boil, turn down to simmer, taste and add more seasoning as preferred. Turn off burner, then cool, to reheat later and let the flavors meld. I mixed up a box of Trader Joe's gluten free corn bread to serve with this last night, a gift from our division director at work. It had a good flavor but the texture and corn pieces were odd. We have no gluten intolerance so I  won't buy in future and stick to Jiffy brand.

Monday night Curry (with leftovers for DD2 on Tuesday): Versions of recipes are on the Sam's Kitchen page.  My veggie version is based on Skint Dad's Veggie Masala. Convenience items used were two chicken bouillon cubes with two cups water for the stock, and a can of diced tomatoes. This hands down, has become DD2's dinner of choice. 

Chicken Fried Rice: I intentionally made extra rice from the curry to do something with. DH found the grocery store and bought a deli rotisserie chicken (even though I have both breasts and thighs in the freezer!!!), and instant mashed potatoes and jarred gravy, for supper Thursday. I'll take out the reserved rice, 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables, 1 bouillon cube with water, and pickings of chicken from the chicken, to fry up the rice. A splash of soy sauce for a little Asian flavor, push the rice to the outsides, cook up two scrambled eggs in the center of the pan, and stir it all together for a minimal cost meal. This will be supper tonight. 

Sea Food Casserole: Alright, it really is tuna hot dish, but a favorite of my family. Mix 8 ounces of cooked pasta of your choice and 1 cup of shredded cheese (great use of odds and end cheeses) to the sauce. Sauce: 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1-2 tsp pepper, 1-2 tsp garlic powder, and 1 can flake tuna. Pour into a sprayed casserole; top with bread crumbs and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Easy to make up ahead of time to throw in the oven when you get home. The mayo and garlic in the sauce  and the bread crumbs on top take the old school lunch room staple up a notch or two. Yes, I used cream of something soup and store bought bread crumbs, but I mixed the bread crumbs with the crushed bits from the last of the Christmas Chex mix, rather than throwing them out, so added frugal. 

Not totally home made, but not restaurant, not take out, and most importantly, not fast food. All are very frugal, and relatively healthy and wholesome. I buy reduced sodium canned goods whenever available, and limit added salt, but am liberal with pepper. I'd love a lower sodium option for bouillon cubes as they are a pantry stable. These all yield a leftover lunch or two as well. Spending  on the week, I stopped for bread, an onion, eggs, and bananas, and spent $7. DH  spent about $25 on his run for the chicken meal, along with some frozen pot pies and pizzas. We've still got loads of food, so another menu plan will be put together today. Are you pantry and freezer cooking this month?

15 comments:

  1. I don't use many convenience foods, but I will if I want to do so. It really annoys me when someone tries to change my habits in a judge-y way.
    practical parsimony

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    1. I try to think of the wholesome only good cooks as wanting to make the world a healthier place, but I know what you mean. I guess it is like anything, sharing ideas, and we all take what works for ourselves.

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  2. I am a food snob and would love to eat only locally sourced products, but that isn't happening. We can't afford to eat that healthy. I hate using convenience foods, but I use them all the time. I can and have made homemade mayonnaise but Dukes makes one that is very similar to mine so why bother. Same thing with pie crusts. The ones I buy taste just as good as something I can make so I won't waste my time making them. I do factor in time as a valuable commodity so paying a little more for somethings is well worth the time investment. (See also pastas, bread,s peanut butter, tomato soup and Martha While cornbread mix because there is never a day I don;t have those on hand along with a half dozen or so cake mixes and just about every version of frozen vegetable that is available) In the summer I do buy and process a lot of local produce, but my personal garden is small and only supplies enough for us to use in the summer. Plus I have read many studies that suggest flash frozen veggies hold their vitamin and mineral content much better than anything we can buy at the grocery store, so go Birdseye!. But I do love fresh lettuce and cukes for salads daily,

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    1. I'm like a 1970's BHG cookbook! As I learn better quick skills for healthier options, I use them. So refreshing to not feel all alone with some of my choices.

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  3. I don't consider tinned tomatoes and frozen vegetables to be convenience foods; I consider them to be sensible options!

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    1. I agree, but know other's use only fresh, or 90% of time. We would eat poorly and expensively if I did that.

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  4. I use convenience foods as part of my cooking sometimes. I'm not a huge fan of cooking and am often tired after a day's work. I figured out what worked out for us budget wise that could be made relatively quickly but healthily when we were both working full time with a young son. Arilx

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    1. I'd love more home grown options, but so appreciate that my pantry is there loaded and ready.

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  5. You know I think we do what we can when we can depending on what phase of life we're in. When I was working full time with four kids at home and pretty much a single parent having separated from their dad I muddled through as best I could. Although I have always cooked because I enjoy it and it relaxes me I'm as guilty as the rest of us in using tins and frozen foods. Frozen veg is often better quality than fresh anyway and who doesn't use tinned toms and beans lol. Now I have more time and more money I use less convenience foods and I buy better meat but less of it so each to their own we all do what we can and there's no right or wrong way. Your recipes are great Sam

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    1. My son rarely used canned beans because he prefers dry, and prepares, then freezes a few portions, with lots of cheap spices. Other than bean soup, I never use dry! I wonder if he'll change his kitchen practices over time.My recipes keep us fed!

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    1. The masala, while easy, is time consuming because it needs to simmer for 45 minutes, but great healthy meal that heats up well for leftovers.

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  7. I agree that some of those items are not convenience foods as long as they don't have any additives and yes, I'm a label reader! If I don't have any chicken stock then I buy it, again, checking the labels. I'm going to try that Skint Veggie Masala dish - I tried butter chicken last week and it went over well.

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    1. The cubes are just so convenient and take up no room, so I always have on hand. Yes, I would give the masala try. I made the naan before too, but while tasty, very time consuming, so I'll just continue to buy. I still want to try the bajhi's too.

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  8. Canned mushroom soup is definitely used at my house. My favorite crock pot dish is 2 cans mushroom soup, chicken breasts (1 per person), 1 can button mushrooms, chopped celery, 3 carrots sliced. Stick in slow cooker on high 3 hrs. Put frozen corn niblets in last 20 minutes just to heat up and mix in. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes. Comfort food :) I also use both boxed chicken broth and cubes. Partly as I have a throw up response to boiling chicken or turkey carcasses so no lovely turkey after Christmas soups for me (we've tried, it wasn't pretty, not sure why it happens I just can't stand the smell, love turkey and chicken though)

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