Tip Tuesday: Kitchen Keeper Kabinet

Tip Tuesday

You know those days when you come home just exhausted…and you didn’t get all of your weekend meal prep done…and you kept (haha!) thinking that maybe…just maybe…you would have the energy on Monday to prep the meals for later in the week?

Yah…for me those are usually Thursdays.  Thursdays, if any day of the week (I promise, if I charted this, that this maxim would prove true), are the day of the week when the meal plan goes awry the most.  And worse?  If the plan veers off course during the first part of the week, it is simply nonexistent come Thursday.

But, in tandem with some of my resolutions, I offer you an idea list that I first found a few days ago on the Dinner:  A Love Story blog.  The author offers up an idea of cabinet-worthy meals, those that you can whip up with ingredients you usually have on hand, with very little thought or effort.  In other words, when your brain is fried and the huge casserole that you meant to prep in advance just totally didn’t happen or the planned leftovers were eaten at the first sitting (or as a midnight snack), these are the meals that you can find tacked hidden away (unless you are like me and for some reason leave the cabinet doors open…I know…scary, right?) on a kitchen cabinet door as a sanity-restoring reminder.

Not all of these are perfectly healthy, but when you consider that you can add veg or fruit (or that in the meals throughout the day everyone should have had a balanced meal at some point), it should (fingers crossed) balance out…I hope.

And I’m the first to admit that sometimes the meal plan does not work out the way I planned (a few certain slow cooker meatloaves come to mind) and that you can save your pocketbook and your sanity by whipping up a few of these choices.

Of course…this involves having a fairly well-stocked pantry and fridge (one moldy apple and questionable green furry meat in the fridge and a grain or two of rice in the pantry are not going to cut it).

I know I’m going to make some of the whole foods parents angry with me with this list, but there are a few things that get dinner on the table…and…well…to bring out my inner redneck…git ‘er done.

  1.  Hot Dogs:  If you have a bit of remaining ingenuity, you could whip up an impromptu mini-hot dog bar.  I’m not talking of Canada Day/Fourth of July standards, but when you get to the point of serving hot dogs accidentally on a weekly basis, they get old REALLY quickly.  Not like I know from personal experience (but let’s just say:  if Bar-S gave out points like Coke does, I could probably purchase a diamond-studded tiara…for the population of China).  Yes, I know, that makes me bad mommy…right up there with McNuggets at every meal.  But I’m blessed with a child who filled up most of his Christmas dinner plate with cruditees sans dip and ate pretty much only that (except for the scary things he did with that slice of turkey).

  2.  Quesadillas:  If your fridge is sans hot dogs (yes, this happened over the holidays) and you really need a lunch really really REALLY fast…quesadillas fit the bill.  Dress them up or down as much as possible…but cheese between two tortillas dipped in sour cream and salsa fits the bill.  Think of it as a slightly healthier (okay…I can delude myself here) grilled cheese sandwich.  This is probably the fastest hot meal I can think of.  Cheese and tortillas are necessary fridge and pantry staples here.

  3.  Canned soups:  Yes, I know, lots of sodium.  Barring this…freeze large batches of soups in family-size portions (instead of eating my mom’s hamburger vegetable soup for breakfast for a week solid…ummm…yeah…guilty).  Have a soup buffet on a blustery or rainy day.  My sister did this one evening when we were all visiting.  It was one of my favorite meals at her house…and several of her meals have been memorable.

  4.  Canned other things that are reminiscent of childhood:  Two words…Chef Boyardee.  Yup.  I went there.

  5.  Baked potato bar:  If you can’t wait the hour for them to bake and you don’t have an aversion to microwave baked potatoes (meaning, you aren’t my husband), you can skip the long cooking time.  This is the time to pull out all the (soon to go bad) leftovers:  that dab of taco meat or chili that’s not enough for even one person to eat, leftover bacon (Is there such a thing?), bits and pieces of other meat (including lunch meats), cheeses, cooked veg, raw veg that you can quickly cook, and sauces all have a place in the baked potato bar.  This is great for Thursdays because by Thursday you might have some toppings that are in need of using up (and that leaves you free to enjoy pizza on Friday).  Potatoes are the only mandatory here (although you can do the same thing with frozen potatoes, like fries).

  6.  Pizza:  Speaking of pizza, you can use leftover pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, jarred marinara, or kicked up canned tomato sauce and any sort of cheese (and any sort of toppings) to top slices of toast (or french bread, if you have it) or tortillas (Mexican pizza, anyone) or refrigerated biscuits (or leftover biscuits) to spend some time in the oven becoming bubbly and cheesy.  Also, remember, if you will, the pizza grilled cheese.

  7.  Burritos:  Yes.  This is the second of many Tex-Mex offerings that can make the list.  Leftover meats, cheese, beans, and rice can find a place here.  If the ingredients are not Tex-Mexy, you can always call it a wrap.

  8.  Sandwiches:  Of any kind, variety, or name.  Roast beef debris with leftover roast.  Luncheon roast beef slices kicked up a bit with a dunking in flavorful beef broth and called au jus.  Leftover meatballs and sauce becoming a meatball sub.  Cheese and dill pickle, anyone?

  9.  Macaroni and cheese.  It can be out of the blue box or made very quickly and passed through the oven for a few minutes topped with shredded cheese.  Meat and veg can be added or not.  Many types of pasta, including macaroni, are constantly in our pantry so that pasta dishes are only a bit away.

  10.  Pasta and sauce.  This is pretty much a repeat of #9.  If you have leftover meat bits or frozen meatballs, you can add them in.  If you only have one slice of meatloaf and three people staring at it hungrily, you can even chop it up to add to the sauce.  Frozen sauce, jarred sauce, or leftover sauce can be used here.  You can even go the aglio olio or carbonara method and do “non-sauces.”

  11.  Fried rice:  Leftover rice, meat bits, and veg (along with a scrambled egg or so and a bit of bacon fried and crumbled) are given new life in a dish worthy of chopsticks.

  12.  Breakfast:  Speaking of bacon and eggs, breakfast for supper is an always sure-fire winner.  Biscuits, toast, pancakes, or waffles (or even muffins) can be served alongside a breakfast meat and/or eggs.  Hearty omelets are not out of place here.  This also comes under the bowl of cereal theory of meal planning.  If you keep a tummy from going to bed growling, there is nothing to be ashamed of…every once in a while.  This also covers the 2-Minute Frenchy Toasty Bread Pudding in a Mug.

  13.  Nachos.  Chips and cheese (or other toppings can be added to make them more healthy and meal-like).

  14.  Snacky meal:  Think a bloated Lunchable or ploughman’s lunch simplified.

  15.  Clean out the fridge smorgasbord:  I’ve seen this done but haven’t followed through with rules and figuring out who goes first, etc.  I’ve read on other blogs that these can get very involved (such as youngest to oldest choosing order).  Basically, all of those bits that wouldn’t make a meal on their own are mashed together to make enough meals for the family.  Think a buffet of tids and bits.

  16.  A family meal “shopping” from the fridge and pantry.  Think about it as a form of Chopped.  Each person gathers an armful of ingredients from the fridge and pantry.  Then the family comes together to create a meal experience together.  I’ve never actually tried this one…but I think it would be interesting to see what we could come up with.

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There are many many more (and many within each category).  What are your favorite go-to recipes?

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