18 February 2012

Weekend Cooking: Desperation Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


I'm sure this scenario never happens to you: It's 6pm, you've just finished work, and you haven't even thought about what to make for dinner. Your family is hungry, and you really don't want to spend the money to order out. What's a busy cook to do?

I have an arsenal of what we call desperation meals in the BFR household. These are the meals I make when the thought of dirtying up the kitchen, chopping veggies, and waiting for flavors to develop in a simmering pot are just to too much to bear. Today I'll tell you about two of them.

The first one is quick canned chili. It involves opening five cans and one bag, chopping an onion and some garlic, and grating cheese. The second is a soup that involves about the same effort: opening a can, two boxes, and a bag and chopping an onion and garlic. Both put dinner on the table quickly with almost no work and no mess.

I make it a point to always have the ingredients for these meals on hand. Most of them are either canned or frozen, so there is no problem with shelf life.

Desperation Chili

Serves 4
  • 2 cans chili beans (with seasonings)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 2 to 3 good shakes of green sauce
  • grated cheese for serving
  • hot sauce for serving
Put the beans, tomatoes, olives, chiles, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the corn and green sauce and heat through. Ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese and a shake or two of hot sauce.

I usually serve this over rice. Although we normally eat only brown rice, I keep white on hand for desperation evenings because it cooks so quickly in the rice cooker. So I begin this meal by putting the white rice in the cooker, then I start opening cans. Then entire meal is ready in about 20 minutes, or when the rice is done.

Tortellini Soup
Serves 3-4
  • 1.5 quarts chicken broth (boxed, frozen homemade, whatever you have)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce, if that's what you have)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach (not shown, I forget to put it in photo)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few shakes each of oregano and basil
  • a few handfuls of frozen tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving
Put the broth, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spinach in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. When the spinach is mostly thawed, add the frozen vegetables and seasonings and bring the soup back to simmer. (You may have to add more broth or some water, depending on how much liquid is in your spinach and canned tomatoes.) Add the tortellini and cook until they're heated through and floating, or for the amount of time indicated on the package. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a little Parmesan.

Although these are not the versions of chili or soup I'd normally use, I'm happy to know I have some very quick and tasty meals at my disposal when I need them. I'll share some other ideas in future posts.


Rikki 2/18/12, 6:19 AM  

Oh YES, I know this situation very well. Actually, I was thinking just the other day to create a desperation meal recipe collection where I compile all the recipes of meals that we all like and that can be done in a flash. This post comes in handy indeed.

Marg 2/18/12, 6:27 AM  

I will be bookmarking this post as I often find myself if desperation cooking mode!

Amy 2/18/12, 6:57 AM  

Thanks for the recipes. I love the week-end cooking idea.

caite 2/18/12, 7:04 AM  

great minds..
that is just a little too close to my own entry this week..lol

Uniflame 2/18/12, 7:06 AM  

That tprtelini soup sounds great! I will be using vegetable broth myself to make it vegetarian, but nom! I have to try that!

Libby 2/18/12, 8:04 AM  

That situation NEVER happens to me, what with me being perfect and all. Jk! I'm definitely laying in supplies for the tortellini soup. My kids like anything wrapped in pasta - from ravioli to Chinese pot stickers. Thanks for the recipe!

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 2/18/12, 8:23 AM  

Great ideas for desperation dinners. I love homemade but have no problem opening a box or can of anything to get dinner on the table. Both recipes sound delicious and would go over well at my dinner table as well!

jama 2/18/12, 8:27 AM  

Both of these sound like great standby recipes. Will have to stock up on all the ingredients this weekend! Thanks for coming to the rescue :).

JoAnn 2/18/12, 8:31 AM  

I sure could have used this post a few days ago... it was well after 8PM by the time I finally got dinner on the table. My husband actually prefers eating later, but if I wait that long I usually end up snacking too much. Will add a couple items to my pantry and pull one of these recipes out next time. Thanks!!

rhapsodyinbooks 2/18/12, 9:24 AM  

I love "desperation" food! I always keep things on hand for that as well, and it's always good to get new ideas!

Heather S-G 2/18/12, 9:29 AM  

Yup. That definitely happens here, too. I usually call it "kitchen sink soup" or something. Most often, though...I keep pasta on hand and pasta with any veggies we have becomes the meal. Or grilled cheese. Or omelets.

Peggy Ann 2/18/12, 9:30 AM  

I can't wait to make the Tortellini soup!

Anonymous,  2/18/12, 10:02 AM  

Wow this is the story of my life on weeknights. I rarely get home before 7 and unless I've thought to throw something in the crockpot in the morning, I rely on leftovers or easy pasta/baked fish/frozen something or other type meals. It's just me and my hubby, but still. These are great!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 2/18/12, 11:41 AM  

Ohhh! That Tortellini soup sounds so good!! I usually have tortellini on hand--if I'm looking for a quick meal then I'll toss the cooked pasta with pasta sauce, mascarpone, and shakes of seasoning (I love how you use shake as a measurement). Top with mozzarella (smoked if I can find easily) and pop in the oven for 30 minutes. Mmmm.

natalie @ book, line, and sinker 2/18/12, 12:01 PM  

love the desperation meal! we should do a huge feature on despo-recipes! :)

i continue to love this feature--i've been a bit MIA on my blog, but keep coming back to do my weekend cooking posts. thanks.

Kailana 2/18/12, 1:34 PM  

This a great idea for a series of posts. I don't really make chilli, but I bookmarked this recipe for future reference. Or soup for that matter... Maybe it is time to branch out!

Heidenkind 2/18/12, 2:45 PM  

Great recipes! I'm not a big chili fan, but I do like to make soup out of broth and those pre-made tortellinis you can buy in the store. Even without the extra ingredients, it's a good, quick meal.

bermudaonion 2/18/12, 3:28 PM  

I am putting olives in my chili the next time I make it. Those both sound yummy and easy!

Nise' 2/18/12, 4:45 PM  

Love the Desperation Chili. Will keep that on hand

Julie P. 2/18/12, 6:04 PM  

Too funny! I just bought an old cookbook last week called Desperation Dinners!

Shelley Munro 2/18/12, 10:39 PM  

Ah, the standby recipe. The desperation chili sounds delicious. I'll have to try this one.

My favorite standby recipes are rissotto and pasta. I can whip these up in no time :)

Joanna 2/19/12, 10:34 AM  

The tortellini soup recipe ingredients are going on my shopping list! I LOVE quick and easy over gourmet -- unless I have loads of time. Which, as a teacher, is never! Thanks for these two great (fast) recipes.

Nan 2/19/12, 10:52 AM  

Finally, I've put up a Weekend Cooking post. Delicious Fudge Squares!

Anonymous,  2/19/12, 3:25 PM  

Love it! I always have diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, canned beans, pasta and frozen veggies on hand, for those times (which are pretty often) that I am in desperation mode!

Jenn's Bookshelves 2/19/12, 5:04 PM  

Thank you!! Printing out for future use!

Karen White 2/19/12, 5:09 PM  

Great posting and SO useful. I love the tortellini soup idea. Posting my adaptation of APPLE BARS, that Jenn (above) told me about like 6 months ago. I think you could call it a Desperation Dessert. Pretty much everything you need you'll probably have on hand. You could even add chocolate if you were really desperate!

Leslie @ This is the Refrain 2/19/12, 9:53 PM  

Ah yes, the desperation meal! I have a few of these. For me it's just pasta and sauce. The sauce I make is delicious, but it really requires little to no effort. Onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, canned tomato paste and red wine. Simmer. Done. Eat. :)

Anonymous,  2/20/12, 12:07 AM  

Our desperation cooking involves getting in the car and driving to Taco Temple for burritos. And since the burritos are ginormous, we get leftovers for lunch the next day.

Why yes, we ARE lazy.

Boone Brux 2/20/12, 12:35 AM  

It's as if these recipes were written for me. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to plan this weeks meals right now:)

Boone Brux 2/20/12, 12:35 AM  

It's as if these recipes were written for me. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to plan this weeks meals right now:)

carol 2/20/12, 11:23 AM  

I'll have to keep that tortellini soup recipe.

Becky 2/20/12, 12:41 PM  

What a great idea. Since I'm single, I cook on the weekends and then put up food for the week, so in most cases, that is my way around any issues. Although, I think that these items would make a fast, fresh dinner easy for mid week.

Sorry about the late link up! I got sidetracked and didn't get this linked up yesterday. Thankfully, I remembered to come back and add it in. :)

Zibilee 2/20/12, 1:44 PM  

These are the kinds of meals that I need to know about! I have so many days that I just can't get myself together for cooking, and these meals would be perfect for those days. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Heather 2/20/12, 6:03 PM  

We all need to have a few dishes like this that we can whip up. Mine usually involved frozen tortellini and what ever fresh veggies I have on hand.

picky 2/20/12, 8:09 PM  

I don't have a family, but this desperation still hits me. :)

Your chili is really similar to my own. So easy, and I love it. Plus, once I make it, I have meals for a week. Yum.

The tortellini soup is one I'll definitely have to try. Thanks for sharing!

Carole 2/22/12, 7:53 PM  

What a great idea - I will put your blog onto my blogs I follow. Keep up the good work

Viva 2/22/12, 11:01 PM  

Fabulous! I MUST add both of these recipes to my frugal arsenal.
p.s. You are so diligent about keeping up with your book reviews. I need to work on that...

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