Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Desperate Dinners

My friend Janelle at Talk of Tomatoes calls them Default Dinners, sometimes though, I call them Desperate Dinners. The dinners that you make because they're quick and easy. The dinners that come together because you have a bit of this and a bit of that in the fridge, and it's still two days until payday, so you better use what you have on hand. And while I may not be entirely proud of the contents of some of my desperate dinners, sometimes they just fit the bill perfectly- both in taste and in how quick they come together.

Take, for example, what my sister and I affectionately call my "white trash cheese sauce." One can of cheddar cheese soup, undiluted; 1/2 cup of milk; and one small block of Velveeta combine to make a delightfully creamy cheese sauce that works in so many applications. Use it for pasta for a quick mac and cheese. Use it to top vegetables and you have cheesy broccoli that the kids will inhale. You could even use it as a quick sauce to bake some chicken breasts in. It's versatile I tell you- and if you can pretend away the ingredients, it tastes great as well.

My favorite use for this cheese sauce, by the way, is a casserole. Normally, I don't like casseroles. I'm coming around on a few, but for the most part, casseroles are a no-no to me. But this cheese sauce makes miracles. Just the other day I made a casserole that the whole family enjoyed- and accompanied by a fruit salad, we needed nothing else to round out the meal. I had a piece of smoked sausage to use up, so I cut it into chunks and tossed it with some leftover egg noodles. I added a package of frozen broccoli and cauliflower, and then tossed it all with my "white trash cheese sauce" and some black pepper. We could have eaten it freshly tossed, but I opted to bake it up a bit, topped with some crushed potato chips, and that really allowed the cheese to permeate the pasta, sausage, and vegetables. It really was good. Abigail and Zander cleaned their plates, and I think Andy surprised himself by having seconds.

So I want to know today, what's your desperate dinner? Is it a frozen pizza? Is it leftovers? Or is it cereal all around-do share, I'd love to add more options to my desperate dinner repertoire.


Rachel said...

so i had this really long comment all typed up, but when i tried to post it, it said i was signed in as our sister and asked if i wanted to switch accounts. i said yes. and it deleted what i had written.
so now you get the condensed version.
ever since you posted about how easy bechamel is, it's become my go-to. from a cheesey potato bake with ham (or ground beef or bacon or whatever else i have) to stroganof. if i don't have anything to make, i'll figure something out with a bechamel.
i also make beef-broccoli quite often. a little steak and a bag of frozen broccoli tossed with some soy sauce, ginger, garlic (and five-spice if i have it) piled on some rice is more than enough for the two of us.
i've also been trying to use eggs more often - for omelettes or fried rice or something. we almost always have eggs on hand, and they sure do stretch a penny. and i think eggs are too often put in the "breakfast" category that we never think to use them for dinner.

Deborah said...

I have a dish that is my desperate dinner that I still need to post about - the pictures are waiting patiently on my computer at home! It is a layer of frozen hash brown potatoes topped by pork chops -then you cover them in a can of cheddar cheese soup and condensed french onion soup. Top that off with shredded cheese and bake for an hour. Not healthy by ANY means, but the quickest meal to put together, and I almost always have the ingredients on hand!

Anonymous said...

I live alone so if I don't feel like cooking and don't have much in frig ... I might have baked potato with whatever veggies on hand, some cheese.

I do make "Easy Layered Rice and Beans" that I got from CLBB (got tons of good reviews). Can't remember if that is exact name, but basically if entails opening some cans (beans, ch broth), some rice etc. All things in my cabinet --- and only one dish to clean. Easy and cheap! Can't beat that.

Erika W. said...

Rachel, you'll love next week. :-)

Deborah, my dear hubby has informed me that we'll be making your pork chops- and soon I think. ;-)

Anonymous, I've always meant to try those easy layered beans and rice.

janelle said...


Just because you said you cannot stomach the casserole connotation, you will get a good chuckle out of a post I wrote almost a year ago: http://www.talkoftomatoes.com/2007/01/07/italian-layered-dish/

Which, by the way, is one of my FAVORITE desperate dinners... sans the casserole.


janelle said...

BTW I LOVE your profile description:

and can you add household CEO and CLO (CLO is my new term for Chief Logistics Officer, nice eh?) and Transportation Specialist:). Heehee, better than Taxi Mom:).

Happy Cheese-eating!


Erika W. said...

Janelle, we could be related. ;-) And your "not-casserole" sounds delicious as well, I'm copying it down to try sometime.

And I love the ideas for additions! Transportation and Logistics- I love it.