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Do you ever have one of those days that is unexpectedly stressful and hectic? I think we all do, right? Well, yesterday was one of those days for me. Work and more work, along with upcoming deadlines and the related stresses. It was just not a good day for anything too involved as far as dinner was concerned.
Such days are smaller instances where having a full pantry can be quite handy. No SHTF scenario, no crisis. Just a busy day in need of a quick dinner solution. Luckily, I had just gone to the grocery store and grabbed up a few new items that I was raring to try. Even a small indulgence or change from the ordinary can make a world of difference in our mood. And if they’re convenient, then so much the better.
I had been reading about sardines and their nutritional benefits, and so I wanted to give them a try. As I was new to eating them, I selected a boneless and skinless variety. After doing some reading, I decided to make a quick sardine salad that could be eaten with cheese and crackers. A cool meal that would be perfect for a hurried schedule!
Although this basic recipe could be fancied up quite a bit, I just used what I had on hand. Here’s what I mixed up:
The resulting salad is easily eaten with crackers and is filling. Plus it made enough leftovers for a few meals, which is certainly a bonus.
What are your favorite ways to use sardines? Any recommendations for someone like myself who is new to eating them?
My husband revolted today against the continued tyranny of the chicken and dumpling leftovers. In a small family, leftovers are always a potential problem and source of dissatisfaction. Even halving a recipe can result in leftovers that last too long, leaving family members dreaming of a hamburger. Yes, folks, my husband wanted a hamburger, and I was prepared to give it to him. Lacking bread or buns, I was ready to make some quick homemade hamburger buns, but we were out of eggs, with neither of us wanting to venture out during rush hour for one ingredient. Enter improvised cooking to save the dinner hour!
During my last trip to the grocery store, I picked up some Progresso Recipe Starters on a whim. Although they are a bit more expensive than store brand soup or a homemade mix, I had an inkling that they might come in useful during the coming week. As my husband’s daughter hates any spices, I purchased the Creamy Three Cheese variety, along with a few others. Staring at the can, I thought of a few possibilities for meals, but I eventually decided to improvise based on a recipe on the can label. I cut the recipe in half and substituted small shells for the penne, marbled colby for the cheddar cheese, summer sausage for the bacon bits, and the remains of the French bread loaf for the bread crumbs. Doing this allowed us to have dinner and give new life to certain ingredients–particularly the French bread–that were possibly on their last legs.
As an added bonus and incentive not to revolt against me, I quickly made up some Parmesan monkey bread. Luckily, I had purchased too many cans of biscuits for the chicken and dumplings recipe, and so I was able to use those tonight. While I broke up the biscuits into pieces and coated them with Parmesan, I melted a stick of butter in the bottom of a Bundt pan. The biscuits pieces were then put in the pan on top of the melted butter. The bread cooked at the same time and temperature as the casserole: 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
When a meal plan doesn’t quite work out, improvised cooking can preserve the peace in your house, just like it did in ours. Everyone ate up the dinner, with no complaints from anyone. It’s always nice to have a happy ending, even without a hamburger.
I’ll admit it: I have never been good at planning ahead when it comes to meals. I’ve tried time and time again to make and follow weekly meal plans, only to abandon them part-way through the week. Partially this stems from a former lack of emphasis on all things home, but too, I believe that it also comes from the fact that I am usually only cooking for two. I have found that what works for me is to plan a few meals based on what I find on sale, “winging it” for the rest. By stocking my pantry with a variety of ingredients, I can have those showy, planned meals that provide leftovers and create spur-of-the-moment dishes and snacks throughout the rest of the week.
This weekend has been all about comfort foods, and that has necessitated a bit of planning. For my own special comfort, I made Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings. My grandmother would make chicken and dumplings for me when I was younger, and it was certainly my favorite dish. The creamy, slightly spicy soup with chunks of chicken and tasty biscuits always warmed me up no matter how cold it was outside. I know that my version certainly isn’t nearly as yummy as hers, but I just don’t think that’s possible. She was a master at improvised cooking. Still, I wanted to have that experience again, even if it was just a shadow of what I remember of my grandmother’s tasty creations.
The slow cooker chicken and dumplings was very easy; I just threw everything in the crockpot and let it cook. One thing that we did do, however, was shred the chicken half way through the cooking time. This allowed us to confirm that the chicken cooked thoroughly. By the end, the chicken fell apart anyway, but we really wanted to make sure that everything was cooked. I also found that the biscuits required at least an hour to cook completely, much longer than what the recipe states. Too, if you make this for your own family, you might want to consider adding some spices as it was rather bland.
For a final goody for this weekend, I prepared Overnight French Toast last night so that we could have a hot breakfast this morning. When I saw French bread on sale yesterday at the grocery store, I knew that I would have to give this recipe a try. As we already had all of the other ingredients, it was a cheap risk. And that risk was certainly a tasty one! Preparing the dish the night before and storing it in the fridge overnight, I found that it was ready to stick in the oven this morning. Perfect for those of us who can’t function–much less plan a meal–before our morning coffee. I was able to wake my husband up with cinnamon and coffee smells. What a nice way to begin the day!
I know that plenty of wives follow meal plans strictly, and I do admire that. I suppose I haven’t yet reached that level of organization. For now, this works for us. Occasionally planning ahead doesn’t hurt one bit. And it’s mighty yummy!
Personally, I love the convenience of leftovers, but they can be tiring after several days. In an attempt to relieve our boredom with the Spicy Pasta Salad that I made for Labor Day, I decided to make it spicy and hot, literally. I added chipotle dressing, canned chicken, garlic salt and pepper, and chipotles to the leftovers. This was all heated up at 350 degrees until melt-y. While not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly served to spice up our leftovers and allow us to eat up the rest of that salad.