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“What’s for dinner, honey?”

Have you ever heard this question? If you are a wife, I’m sure you have. That’s great when the pantry and freezer are full to busting but what if they aren’t? What if you stand in a less-than-full kitchen and have to answer that question?

Emergency times call for emergency solutions. When food is short and money is shorter, what do you do to fill tummies and warm hearts?

Old-fashioned pictures and stories center family activity around the kitchen. Folks eat, they talk, they dream. In the kitchen, around the table, tales are told, wounds are healed, hearts are soothed. If the talk itself doesn’t do it, there was always Grandma’s homemade apple pie.

But, if there is no grandma…and no apple pie…not even apples for apple pie? What then?

There’s a lot you can do with little, if you know how. There are many books on the market to help you figure out a new way to serve left-overs or tell you what to do with whatever food you have on hand. There are many basic cook-books out there that present real-life recipes with real-life food (as in no specialty items). But, if you don’t have access to one and you don’t have a clue, what then?

Get creative. Break out your imagination. Think of new ways of combining foods, new flavors to try. Consider the unusual, the wildly different. Sometimes, it works better than you can imagine.

Tonight for instance. It’s three days until we can buy food and not too many vegetables in the house. I didn’t have a lot of any one thing. Here’s what I did:

  1. sautéed mushrooms: put a dab of margarine in pan, sliced up an onion, sautéed it; at the end of 5 minutes, I opened two cans of mushrooms, drained them and added to pan. I sautéed them for 5 more minutes then added a tiny bit of red wine vinegar.
  2. Opened half-bag of frozen green beans and put them in a pan; added one can of diced tomatoes, one can of green chili peppers; cooked for 10 minutes.
  3. Opened a half-bag of frozen cauliflower, added a can of diced tomatoes and sprinkled with Greek seasonings (Italian would have been good, too).
  4. Opened one can of baked beans and one can of pork and beans and mixed well and heated them up.

All of these were tasty and unusual. I didn’t pull out a recipe book and find them, I just knew from experience what flavors would blend and worked with them.

Here are some more ideas:

  1. Mix a can of kidney beans with a can of corn, heat and serve. If desired add a dash of cumin or simply salt and pepper. You can also add a can of corn or diced green peppers to this. You could expand this with some ground beef seasoned with taco seasonings.
  2. A can of peas and a generous pat of butter, cook until juices are thickened somewhat–very tasty.
  3. Melt margarine in a pot until it browns, open and drain well cans of niblet corn. Add to browned margarine and cook, stirring frequently, until corn browns. Brings out the sweetness. Extra yummy (this is one of my son, Samuel’s, favorite veggie dishes).
  4. Cut up a potato or two in a can of green beans, season with chicken bouillon (or ham bouillon), if you don’t have ham hock or ham slices.
  5. Heat cans of tomato soup with milk (if you have it, top with bits of cheese, sour cream and cheese flavored crackers), serve with fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches (one of our favorite after church lunches–also makes a nice supper).
  6. Mix okra or cauliflower or broccoli or corn or black-eyed peas or pinto beans or kidney beans or green beans (or come up with one yourself) with tomatoes; season with Italian, Greek or Mexican flavors (or just salt and pepper). You can even add in noodles or rice and see what happens (but it will be good!).
  7. Make gravy out of a bit of oil (bacon grease is even better) and flour cooked until brown, add canned diced tomatoes, a dash of salt, a spoonful of sugar and a dash of black pepper. Serve over grits, mashed potatoes, rice, biscuits or scrambled eggs.
  8. Scramble a chub of bulk sausage, breaking it up well, add flour to the grease once it is cooked, stir well, add water or milk to it (milk is richer but more expensive), add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with biscuits and scrambled eggs.
  9. Melt margarine in a pan, dice up an onion, cook 5 minutes until soft, add one cup of rice, stir well until browned somewhat, add two cups of water and bouillon (beef or chicken). Bring to boil, cook for 2-3 minutes, cover, reduce heat. Cook until tender. You can easily build on this by adding meat or other vegetables to it.
  10. Cook 1 lb. spaghetti noodles per instructions, drain. Set aside. In that pot (or another), melt 2 to 3 sticks of margarine, dump in two or three cans of tomatoes (diced, whole, stewed, whatever), add back the noodles, cook for a couple of hours. Taste occasionally. Add more margarine or tomatoes if desired. Can also add spaghetti seasonings (from a packet or just oregano and basil). Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread (can be made out of loaf bread, hot dog or hamburger buns, french bread, etc). Called Fry Pan Spaghetti, it’s one of our family favorites.
  11. Cut up summer squash in water, add an onion or two, boil until tender. Drain and add back to pan with a few pats of margarine. Add cooked ground beef and mix well. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with rolls or cornbread. Wonderful!
  12. Prepare a box of macaroni and cheese. Dice a half-pack of hot dogs and saute in margarine. Add to macaroni along with a couple of spoons of sweet relish and a spoon of mustard. Mix well. Taste. Add more relish and mustard if desired. Called Western Supper–we all love it.

Okay, that’s several ideas to get you started. They are easy and cheap…and sometimes that’s important. Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so, practice mixing flavors and see what works or get a basic cookbook and get some good ideas going so if you hear, “What’s for dinner, honey?” and you haven’t a clue, you can easily get one.

Until next time,

May God be with you in your feasting (even when the feast is small),


Soli Deo gloria!