Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pantry Cleaning & a challenge for you...Week of 1/1/12

Every so often a time in our lives here, something pops up where we have to go to the cupboards to make dinner. It might be a budget issue, or a "Mom doesn't feel like cooking" night, or even "Mom doesn't feel like having to drive to town for...whatever...". Regardless, pantry cooking happens.

Pantry cooking, or pantry cleaning, can be one of the most inexpensive ways to feed your family. Inexpensive in the sense that it won't cost you money for that nights dinner, you've already paid for it. It also allows you to keep your pantry properly rotated, so that older items are used up before they get a chance to expire. If you won't get to those items before they expire, then please donate them to a shelter, food bank, Ronald McDonald house, or even a local church, somewhere there is a place you can donate it, and someone elses' family will enjoy it.

Last night was one of those nights. Kind of a combo of all 3 things...money's tight, I didn't feel like cooking a big meal-which is normal for me, and I wasn't going to drive all the way to town (20-30 minutes) to pick something up! Never fails that when that happens, it just never that great. Probably has something to do with food being best when eaten fresh and hot.

So, last night I was asked- "Don't we have some tomato soup, can't we just have some grilled cheese and tomato soup? The kids will like it." And there you have it! My reason for not cooking... I love tomato soup! As soon as it was mentioned I was all about it!

So I searched...pulling out every stinking canned good we have! Guess what I found though? Good old Tomato Sauce! And a few more goodies, but I'll admit, I didn't pull them out right away. I decided to add the other canned goods as an absolutely spontaneous kitchen experiment.

So once I had my tomato sauce out, I knew I had onion, and garlic, and all of the seasonings. I even knew I had some heavy cream (leftover from Holiday baking!). So off to Swagbucks search I go...And I searched, never actually finding a recipe, but finding out that in a way it's kind of possible, but I was going to have to wing it. One thing I did notice was the use of Chicken Stock in the homemade tomato soups that I did find recipes for. But I knew I had run out of Stock, and didn't have any more bouillion cubes to make some, so I just tabled the idea & put it on the back burner. I still figured I could make the soup, but it would probably definitely taste like "frugal"...I'm sure you all know what I'm referring to...when something just tastes...canned, blah, and cheap!

Thats one of the things I do love about living so far out of town. I get the chance to cook often, like almost every night often. So I set off to do a little experimenting. I sweated the onion, added some garlic, and after about 10ish minutes, I could finally taste test it. But, I didn't, I let the kids taste it. It was going to be their dinner afterall, they might as well like it! And like it they did, so I finished it up, made the grilled cheese, and VOILA! it was done! Dinner was served! I'd love to give you all a price break down, but I can't! Not this time, I wasn't planning on doing this post, but felt compelled to share after it all went so well!I can't give you the breakdown because I had EVERYTHING on hand! The onion I used was a leftover half of an onion. The reason for the carrots is 1. to sneak in some more veggies for the kids, and 2. when making a typical chicken stock, chicken, onion, carrots, celery is all mixed and cooked together-it's called a Mirepoix, and since I didn't have everything, I made it the best I could... This soup served 2 adults, 3 kids, and had plenty of leftovers! Also, I didnt take any pictures, once again, wasn't planning on this one.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do:

Homemade Tomato Soup

1 can Tomato Sauce (lg can)

1/2 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 can of carrots

~ 1 cup Chicken Stock (or bouillion cube + water, or 1 can chicken noodle soup-that's what I used)

onion powder, to taste

garlic powder, to taste

celery salt, to taste

Italian Seasoning, to taste

Garlic Sea Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Olive Oil, for sauteeing

~1/2 cup Heavy Cream ( 1/2 & 1/2, or milk)

1. Sweat onion and garlic, until transparent. Drain Carrots and add to onion & garlic mixture. Add spices, according to your preferences. Sautee a little bit longer. Add tomato soup, Chicken Stock, and heavy cream. Heat through. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth.

Serve with ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. For some reason, when you dip your grilled cheese in it, it reminded me of Pizza. Might be because when I made it, it ended up with a little extra Italian Seasoning. I used just white bread, margarine, and mild cheddar cheese (from the block). If you want to try and make it a Pizza Soup, just add a little more Italian Seasoning, to help bring out those flavors, and make grilled cheese sandwiches with Sourdough bread and mozzarella cheese.

OK OK OK- I know what you're thing...Why would you use chicken noodle soup? One it's concentrated, so it's kinda like just chicken stock, and two, I knew the noodles would be blended up in the blender anyway. Remember the other recipes I found, that were just way too complicated, all called for Chicken Stock. Using a can of condensed chicken noodle soup was just that much easier...
So here's my challenge to you all: What can you create from your pantry? Please share your ideas, photos, &/or recipes on the Facebook wall.

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