No Shopping Needed

Thanksgiving is next week.  Since I have to go shopping for that, I didn’t want to have to add a bunch of other foods for the column.  I decided this week I would cook from the pantry and freezer and just see what I could come up with based on ingredients already on hand. This allowed me to not only clean out a little bit, but also saved a bit of money here around the holidays. Luckily, I always have a few things on hand for throwing meals together.

There are a few staples you can keep on hand to make it easy to skip a trip to the store any time you feel like it.  Of course, the actual items you consider must haves are likely different than mine, but I am going to share what I keep in my cupboards/freezer.  For the pantry, keep a couple bags/boxes of pasta and/or rice on hand and sauce to go with it.  I like rotini and bow tie.  For a sauce, I usually keep an Alfredo or 4 cheese blend on hand. This allows me to throw together a quick meal to easily feed the family with little effort.  Tortillas and taco shells are a must, both corn and flour.  We like our Tex-Mex too much. 

I keep frozen ravioli or tortellini in the freezer.  It is even quicker than dry pasta from the pantry.  Boil water, add pasta and give it time to heat and you are ready to eat. I also keep frozen broccoli and green beans on hand.  I think green beans are our favorite side, but broccoli and cheese is a close second.  Tilapia is a staple in my freezer as well.  They come in a large bag but are individually sealed and make it easy to just grab what we need.  They are thin enough they thaw quickly and they cook fairly quickly too.  Frozen shrimp are also easy to add to a dish and cheap enough to keep on hand.  Frozen precooked chicken can be bought as whole breasts, strips, chunks or shredded. I keep this on hand for a quick meal when I don’t want to have to mess with raw chicken.

I like the imitation crab as a snack so I often have it stashed in the fridge.  Shredded cheese is added to almost all our meals. Heavy cream lasts longer than milk and add a rich creaminess to a meal so it tends to my go to. Being a baker, I often have 2 or 3 kinds of flour on hand, but if you want a shortcut, keep Bisquik in the fridge.  It will last longer refrigerated and you can quickly whip up drop biscuits with a little milk and an egg. 

Check your own fridge/pantry.  Do some cleaning out since the end of the year is near and throw something together with minimal effort.  Meet me in the kitchen for some easy meals -- no shopping required!

Crab Ravioli

2 bags frozen ravioli

16oz imitation crab meat, more or less to taste

1 jar pasta sauce of choice, I used a 4 cheese blend

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil large pot of salted water over medium high heat.  Add frozen ravioli and heat for 10 minutes.  While waiting, chop crab meat into smaller 2 inch pieces. Check pasta to see if it’s almost ready.  It will be hot and still be a little tough (al dente).  It should not yet be soft.  Add crab meat.  If pasta is already soft or if you prefer it a little al dente, only cook 2 minutes more.  If you prefer it softer, cook a full 5 minutes. Drain pasta.  Return to pot and add jar of pasta sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. Serve hot with green beans, salad and garlic knots.


Chicken Enchilada Skillet

3 Tbsps. butter

3 Tbsps. flour

2 cups chicken broth

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp oregano

7oz chopped green chiles

1 22oz bag frozen precooked chicken chunks

2 cups sour cream

5 flour tortillas (soft taco size) cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

In large skillet, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Stir in flour, cook for 1 minute and whisk in chicken broth. Continue stirring until smooth and thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir salt, oregano and green chiles into sauce and add chicken to pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until chicken is thawed and heated through.  Stir sour cream into pan along with tortillas. Stir until combined and top with grated cheese. Cover pan and cook for 5-8 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted. We like ours with chips for an added crunch.


Seafood a la King

4 Tbsps. real butter

1 medium onion, diced

3 Tbsps. flour

2 cups milk

½ cup heavy cream

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Optional: Pinch of cayenne pepper

5 tilapia fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces

8oz peeled and deveined cooked shrimp

8oz imitation crab, cut into 2-inch pieces

In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add flour and cook, stirring, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add milk a bit at a time (it will clump if you pour it all at once), whisking or stirring well to incorporate. Add heavy cream and seasonings and cook, stirring every so often, for 2 minutes. Add tilapia pieces in single layer. Spoon sauce over fish and cook for 5 minutes. Flip pieces and cook for another 5 minutes. Add shrimp and crab and lightly stir.  The tilapia will flake apart if you stir too vigorously.  Cook a few more minutes until heated through. Serve hot over cooked rice or pasta.

Recipe adapted from


Cheesy Chicken Soup

1 22oz bag frozen precooked chicken chunks

1 8oz pkg. cream cheese

1 1oz pkg. Ranch Seasoning and Salad Dressing Mix

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup Velveeta Queso Blanco 

Place Crockpot liner in slow cooker. Place chicken, cream cheese, ranch dressing mix and chicken broth in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours depending on your slow cooker or until chicken is heated and cream cheese is melted.  Stir heavy cream and cheese into soup and cook until cheese is melted soup is heated through, about 30-45 minutes.