In the midst of COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order, meals can be a little harder to plan.  Grocery stores are working hard to keep the shelves stocked but that doesn’t mean you will find every item on your list.  I think that creates a great opportunity to clean out the pantry and make some meal using existing items on home.  Maybe you have a lot of canned goods or items that are nearing expiration…use them!

I created 5 different pantry meals last week that I’m going to share with you today.  I didn’t use a recipe for any of them.  They all resulted from items found in our pantry, fridge, or freezer.  It was a great way to use the food, especially from the fridge, before it spoiled and a fun way to create some new meals.  I highly suggest doing this at home.  Who knows, you might create something you love, and it will become part of your meal rotation!

My first meal was pasta with tomato sauce.  Simple enough, right?  I used a box of noodles from the pantry, a can of tomato sauce, and a variety of spices from the spice drawer.  Here is what you will need:

  • 8-10oz Pasta Noodles
  • 1 15oz Can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • ½ Tbsp Minced Garlic
  • Parmesan, for topping

 

Cook the noodles according to package instructions then drain and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, add the tomato sauce and seasoning.  Mix well and heat over medium-low heat until warmed through.  Dish up the noodles and spoon the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese and enjoy!  We served ours with a side of garlic toast on the side.

I love how simple and diversified this meal can be.  If you don’t have onion powder, use garlic powder.  If you don’t care for Italian seasoning, use oregano.  Add a combination of spiced that you enjoy and have available at home.  Each time you make this meal it might have a slightly different flavor.

My second meal was pasta with alfredo sauce.  I used a can of store-bought alfredo which is perfectly fine as is, but I wanted to improve the flavor slightly and give the dish a makeover.  I didn’t have fettuccine noodles on hand, so I substituted another shape of noodle I already had in the pantry.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • 8-10oz Pasta Noodles
  • 1 15oz Jar Alfredo Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
  • ¼ Cup Grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tsp Dried Basil
  • ¾ Tsp Black Pepper
  • ¾ Tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 Bag Broccoli, steamed

 

Cook the noodles according to package instructions then drain and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, add the alfredo sauce, butter, heavy cream, garlic, parmesan cheese, and seasonings.  Mix well and heat over medium-low heat until warmed through.  You want the butter to melt and incorporate into the sauce.  Dish up the noodles and spoon the sauce over the top.

I like to have some sliced chicken or steamed veggies in my alfredo, so I used a bag of frozen broccoli from the freezer.  I steamed the bag according to package instructions and spooned a serving on top of each pasta bowl.  Then, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese and enjoy!  We served ours with a side of garlic toast on the side.

Feel free to use the alfredo sauce right out of the jar as is but I think the added ingredients give it a wonderful flavor.  It tastes like a pasta dish you would get at a restaurant.  And we don’t care about added calories during quarantine, right?  🙂

My third meal was a vegetable ramen with peanut sauce.  Think of a simplified version of Thai Peanut noodles that you can make at home.  It’s delicious!  You also have a few options for noodles, based on what you have in your pantry.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • Chinese Noodles or Ramen Noodles
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables, steamed
  • ¼ Cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • 3 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter
  • ½ Tsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tsp Poultry Seasoning

 

I mention Chinese noodles or Ramen noodles because you can use either.  I had Chinese noodles on hand so that is what I used.  The package comes with 3 sheets of noodles and I only used 2.  If you have Ramen noodles on hand you can use the noodles from the package and save the seasoning packet to add to the sauce.

Cook the noodles according to package instructions then drain and set aside.  Steam the vegetables and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, water, creamy peanut butter, sriracha, and poultry seasoning.  If you are using the seasoning packet from a package of Ramen noodles you can omit the poultry seasoning.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the steamed vegetables and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  This crisps them up a bit and makes them nice and tender.  Add the noodles to the skillet and toss to combine with the veggies.  Then pour in the sauce mixture and toss to coat the noodles.  Dish up the noodles, making sure to get some of the veggies in each bowl, and enjoy!

My fourth meal was a Macaroni & Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  It’s full of cheesy goodness and will make your dreams come true.  What’s better than your favorite cheesy pasta stuffed inside of a delicious cheesy sandwich?  Nothing.  Nothing is better.  Here is what you will need:

  • 1 Box Velveeta Shells & Cheese
  • 4 Slices of Bread
  • 4-6 Slices of Velveeta Singles
  • Butter

 

Start by cooking the Velveeta Shells & Cheese according to package instructions.  Make the pasta completely, cheese sauce and all.  Butter one side of 4 slices of bread – you’re going to make 2 sandwiches.  Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Place each slice of bread, butter side down on the griddle.  Place one slice of Velveeta cheese on each slice of bread.  If the bread is larger, you can add a second slice of cheese or break one if half to help cover the bread in cheese.

Continue to cook the bread.  You want the bread to turn a nice golden brown and for the cheese to melt.  Once ready, remove the bread to a cutting board.  Add half of the Velveeta Shells & Cheese to one slice of bread and add the other half to another slice of bread.  Place the other slide of bread on top to make 2 sandwiches.  Slice in half and serve warm.  Enjoy!

You can also serve this with tomato sauce to dip in.  I chose to use Velveeta Shells & Cheese and Velveeta singles because they are the same cheese and would taste great together, but you can use any cheddar or American cheese, and use any type of macaroni and cheese you have in your pantry.  Play around with the flavors!

My fifth and last meal was Santa Fe Chicken in the Crock Pot.  I made this meal into a burrito bowl, but you could easily make it into tacos if you prefer.  Use what you have on hand!  The chicken is tender and has a lovely flavor.  Here’s what you will need:

  • 1 15oz Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Bag Frozen Corn, uncooked
  • 1 Cup Chunky Salsa – used homemade
  • 2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 8oz Cream Cheese, cut into cubes
  • Rice, for serving
  • Taco shells, for serving, optional
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Sour Cream

 

Add the black beans, corn (uncooked), ½ cup salsa and 2 chicken breasts to the crock pot.  Add the other ½ cup salsa on top of the chicken.  I had recently made homemade salsa so that is what I used.  You can use store-bought or homemade.  I wanted to use up what we had in the fridge.  I also added ½ cup water to the crock pot before cooking.  I wanted to have a little moisture in there before covering so none of the food burned and stuck to the bottom.  Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or until the chicken is cooked through.  Feel free to add any additional seasoning you may like, prior to cooking.

Remove the chicken and either shred or cut into cubes and put back in the crock pot.  Stir to combine.  Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and add to the crock pot.  Stir to combine.  Cover can cook on high for another 30 minutes.  This will allow the cream cheese to melt and all the flavors to blend together.

I made about 2 cups of rice, cooking according to package instructions, prior to serving.  I did this in the last 30 minutes of cooking in the crock pot.  Spoon the rice into bowls and top with a heaping spoonful of the chicken mixture.  Top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, avocado or guacamole, and sour cream – use as many or as little toppings as you would like and have on hand.  Again, you can skip the burrito bowl and turn these into tacos if you have shells on hand.

I hope you enjoy these meals and can make them your own or try some of you own pantry meals.  It’s a great time to get the family in the kitchen cooking together and being creative with your culinary choices!

Happy Cooking and Stay Healthy!

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