I grew up lower-middle class as the eldest child in a family of eight, six of us kids and two hardworking adults. I would like to say I was comfortably middle class, but I have had my fair share of mostly-empty cupboards in my childhood. When my father was dealing with cancer and my mother was having a difficult pregnancy, there was no working person in my parents’ household. I was the eldest of four kids then, and we were saved from losing our rented duplex and starvation by the wonderful people at our church and St. Vincent de Paul. We were frequently brought meals by those wonderful people, and even had Thanksgiving Dinner that year solely because we were donated a turkey dinner. I didn’t know this at the time. Christmas was uncomplicated and the gifts were nothing expensive and few. It really didn’t matter that there wasn’t much. We were actually pretty happy during that time, so don’t worry about that.
So my mother and father were great at being creative with what little was in the cupboards from donations. I feel really privileged to have such amazing parents that were able to, with no income, raise their four (soon to be five) daughters. Cooking with mommy was a favourite activity of mine around then. Particularly chocolate chip cookies and brownies (notice a trend of liking sweets?). I am blessed with my mother’s creative insanity. (Really, she mixed hamburger, spanish rice, and black beans to make a great dinner!)
Last night, we sighed and stared at the low-stocked cupboards trying to figure out what to make for dinner. There were plenty of cans of chili, but that particular brand makes me have severe stomach aches. Refried beans, green beans, tuna, canned salmon, cream cheese, onions, rice, mashed potatoes… all things that are delicious, but planning a meal is difficult. Especially since we try to have at least one protein and at least one vegetable.
Last night’s creative dish consisted of onions, mayo, canned salmon (which has a lot of fragile bones that are a pain in the bum to pick out since they crack), jiffy cornbread mix , and au gratin potatoes. I had milk, eggs, and margarine, so I was able to make these pretty easy. The way to do it? Check it out!
Well, first I prepared the au gratin according to the directions on the box. We didn’t mess with those because we really like au gratin potatoes.
Next, we mixed the jiffy cornbread mix the way the box says for cornbread pancakes. Yup, pancakes. Then we cooked them on a griddle. When those were done, we turned our thoughts to our protein.
We sliced onions, then chopped them a little so that they were smallish rectangles and used our already-hot griddle until golden brown.
While those fried, I de-boned the canned salmon as best I could, and de-skinned it. We tossed that on the griddle and did a quick-fry to heat the salmon through. Then the mix was scooped into a bowl and mixed with one large tablespoon of mayo (okay, took a large spoon and scooped it up). This was put on top of the pancakes.
It was a really tasty meal and I am sorry I don’t have pictures of it to share. But hey, it was definitely more resourceful than I thought I could be. Staring at the kitchen for a while does seem to work pretty well.
The a few nights ago the meal was leftover hamburgers chopped and mixed into mac-and-cheese with a little shredded cheddar mixed in and a bit of parmesan on top with green beans on the side. It was actually pretty good..
Tonight’s dinner? Well, the ingredients were tuna, cream cheese, spring roll wrappers, green beans, little cherry tomatoes (from our dying tomato plant), basmati rice, margarine, onion, dried chives, celery salt, and a bit of water. That’s it…
First? Melt some butter/margarine in a pot(medium heat), in a hot pot heat a good deal of water to a boil. In the pot, we stirred in one cup basmati rice (the rice/water balance is what is stated on the package). Next, we chopped 1/2 small onion and added to the rice and stirred the butter and rice together for about 5-10 minutes, until it is a nice golden color. Mix 1 bullion cube (we used chicken) in 2c boiling water and stir into the pot with rice. Reduce heat to low/med low and simmer for ~30-40minutes, or until water is mostly absorbed.
We mixed 2/3 container Cream cheese (1/3 fat stuff) with 2 tins tuna (in water, drained) and added dried chives and a little celery salt. Next we put this mix in dampened spring roll wrappers with some green beans and small tomato-chunks. We fried most of them, and they were nummy.
Add some green beans on the side and voila! Easy meal that was just what we had in the house.
Tomorrow, who knows? Payday isn’t for another two days, so we are gonna be working with what is in the house for now. Even when we get money, we will be working on being really frugal, since student loans are going into repayment this coming month.
It is a really important thing, you know, to be able to throw together a (mostly) nutritious meal with a less-than-plentiful cupboard. I am by no means starving or going hungry. It is just getting a lot tougher to make an easy meal and is a stress on my creative juices after a day of data entry-type work.
Just be sure, when you do this, that you get in some sort of protein, some sort of vegetable, and at least one other food-group. I will likely be doing something with peanut butter coming up.
//End ramble for today//