Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snowed In!: Pantry Recipes for Unexpected Snow Days

I hate going to the grocery store when there's a storm brewing, especially a Nor'easter. It's crazy busy, they run out of stuff I need, and everyone is kind of edgy. So over the years I've built up a collection of recipes that I can make with pretty much just what I have in my pantry and my freezer. Admittedly, my pantry (and, to a lesser extent, my freezer) tends to be unusually full and complete, so I'm also including a list of everything needed to make these recipes, all of which can be stored for months in the pantry or freezer. If you happen to have fresh items like milk, butter, eggs, bacon, and onions on hand, you can use them rather than the pantry or freezer version. There are also a few additions or garnishes, such as guacamole and sour cream, that aren't strictly necessary but are nice to add if you happen to have them on hand.

Pantry Items:
  • Baking supplies: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, chocolate chips
  • Nonfat dry milk powder
  • Vegetable oil
  • White vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Canned black beans
  • Salsa
  • Chicken broth
  • Canned chicken
  • Spices: cumin, garlic powder, oregano, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, black pepper, taco seasoning
  • Canned tomatoes (with or without herbs)
  • Olive oil
  • Pre-cooked bacon
  • Canned kidney beans
  • Pasta
  • Sticky rice
  • Soy sauce
  • Tortilla chips (optional)
  • Boxed cake mix (any flavor)
Freezer Items:
  • Eggs (Note: you can buy cartons of frozen eggs, but you can also freeze your own eggs: Beat them just until blended, then seal tightly in freezable containers or ziploc freezer bags. Thaw overnight in fridge or quickly under running water when ready to use.)
  • Butter
  • Chopped onion
  • Corn
  • Chicken breast (or tenderloins)
  • Mixed (or stir-fry) vegetables
  • Vanilla ice cream or Cool Whip (optional)
Optional Refrigerator Items (all can be omitted or a freezer or pantry version substituted):
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole or sliced avocado
  • Bacon
  • Onion
  • Minced or fresh garlic

Bread, eggs, and milk are breakfast staples for me. But when I have time to make something a bit more involved for breakfast (say, on a snow day), there are some great breakfast options that take a little time to make, but that are well worth the wait, and they don't call for bread or eggs, and the milk is incorporated so you don't notice it's reconstituted nonfat.

Cinnamon Popovers

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For coating:
   4 tablespoons butter, melted
   1/2 cup sugar
   1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat together milk, eggs, and 1 tablespoon butter. Add flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, salt, and vanilla and beat until smooth and frothy. Also to sit while oven preheats to 450. Preheat muffin tin in oven for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and brush each cup with vegetable oil. Briefly beat batter and fill cups halfway full. Bake for 15 minutes. DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown and dry to the touch (you may open oven door during this time). While baking, combine sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in small bowl and set aside. When done, loosen popovers with a sharp knife and pierce the bottom of each to allow steam to escape. Cool on a wire rack until still warm but handleable. Brush with melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar.

Vanilla Cinnamon Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups milk (scant)
2 tablespoons white vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine the milk and vinegar and allow to set for several minutes to create buttermilk. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon, and egg. Whisk in melted butter. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking just until completely mixed. Cook on a hot griddle, flipping when bubbles form and do not pop and edges appear dry. Serve with butter and syrup.

I love soup for lunch, but most of my favorite soup recipes spend hours simmering on the stove or in the crockpot. But there are still some great quick recipes that rely entirely on pantry and freezer ingredients. And nothing tastes as good as hot soup on a cold, snowy day!

Chicken, Black Bean and Salsa Soup

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chunky salsa
1 teaspoon cumin
2-3 tablespoons frozen onion
1 can chicken, drained and broken up with fork
Optional garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole or sliced avocado

Combine all ingredients (except optional garnishes) in a saucepan and heat thoroughly. If desired, use immersion blender to puree small batches. Serve plain or with any combination of suggested garnishes.

Pasta and Red Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder OR 2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans kidney beans
2 bay leaves
1 cup small pasta (shells, elbows, etc.)
salt and pepper

If using bacon, crisp and crumble; set aside. Heat olive oil and butter in large saucepan over medium heat (or use leftover bacon fat) and add onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, beans, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, adding pasta for last 5-10 minutes (based on cooking directions on package). Season with salt and pepper and discard bay leaves.

The trick for cooking main meals from the pantry and freezer, for me, is finding dishes that are not adversely affected by quick-thawing techniques. One of the best ways to do this is by using a crockpot; the other is parboiling (which works best with chicken).

Chicken Fried Rice
1-1/2 cups uncooked sticky rice
3 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 chicken breasts, frozen (can also used canned chicken)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 cups frozen mixed (or stir-fry) vegetables
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 egg, beaten (optional)

Heat water, butter, and salt until boiling. Add rice, cover tightly, and cook 20-25 minutes until tender. Allow to cool. (Can also make ahead of time and keep in fridge until ready to add.) While rice is cooking. place frozen chicken in a deep saucepan and just cover with water. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder and heat until boiling. Boil for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Heat vegetable oil in large skillet or wok, add onion and garlic and stir for several minutes, until fragrant. Add vegetables and continue stirring. When vegetables are partly thawed, add rice and mix well. Pour soy sauce over and mix well. If using egg, pour over and mix well to combine. Add chicken and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly mixed and heated through.

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken

2 to 2-1/2 pounds chicken breasts
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package taco seasoning
Shredded cheese (optional)
Tortilla chips (optional)

Combine all ingredients except cheese in crockpot and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours. Shred chicken with a fork and stir before serving. Top each serving with shredded cheese and tortilla chips, if desired.

When you're stuck in the house all day - or worse, you've been out shoveling snow all day - you could use a little treat, right? Not to mention that baking a yummy dessert is a great way to keep kids from getting cabin fever. So here are some recipes that don't require any fancy ingredients, and are a nice reward for surviving that snow day!

Brownie Pudding
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
2 cups sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter, melted and cool to room temperature

Sift together cocoa powder and flour and set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs on medium-high speed with electric mixer until pale yellow and creamy (5-10 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add vanilla and flour-cocoa mixture and beat just until combined. Slowly add the melted butter and mix on low until just combined. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and scrape the batter into the dish, then place inside a large baking pan and add hot tap water until it reaches halfway up the inner dish. Bake at 325 for 1 hour (center will appear unbaked but will set as it cools). Remove the inner dish and cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box cake mix (any flavor)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate bits (or butterscotch or peanut butter chips, or M&Ms, or rainbow jimmies, etc. - if using chocolate cake mix, you can roll balls of dough in powdered sugar before baking)

Combine mix, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in chocolate bits. Drop by teaspoonsful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes, then allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Happy Snow Day!

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