Friday, August 12, 2011

Pantry Dinners

We all have those days when we think to ourselves "what in the world am I going to make for dinner tonight?" I mean, we can't always be on top of it and have every meal planned a week in advance. I've discovered that with two little boys, I rely on what is already in the cupboards when it comes to dinner. These days I'm either too busy or too tired to go grocery shopping on a consistent weekly basis. So, I am often at the mercy of my freezer and cupboards when it comes to dinner.

So, to me, a pantry meal is a meal that I can throw together where I have either all or nearly all of the ingredients already in my house. If I have to buy more than two of the ingredients (ingredients that I can't keep on hand in my cupboards or freezer), then I don't consider it a pantry recipe.

A lot of your favorite recipes might work as pantry recipes. Keep an eye open for ingredients in your favorite recipes that can be stored in the freezer, fridge, or cupboard so that they will be on hand when you are in a bind and need to throw something together for dinner. Even some perishable ingredients (such as onions, garlic, cheese, favorite fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro, etc.) can be kept on hand if you use them often enough in recipes (meaning, you use them up before they go bad, otherwise it's a waste of time and money to keep them on hand all the time).

At the very bottom of this post, I will include a list (with hyperlinks) of all of our previously posted recipes that can be considered pantry recipes too. Check it out!

So, if anyone is in the same predicament that I usually am, I hope you appreciate these pantry meals. And don't forget to keep certain ingredients on hand so that you can make your favorite recipes whenever you need to!

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy


1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup Original Bisquick mix
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut in half and then sliced
1 jar (4.5 oz) Green Giant sliced mushrooms, drained
1 jar (12 oz) beef gravy


In large bowl, mix beef, egg, 1/4 cup of the Bisquick mix and the pepper. With wet hands, shape beef mixture into 6 oval patties, about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat patties with remaining 1/4 cup Bisquick mix.

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Arrange patties in single layer in skillet. Add onion slices around and on top of patties. Cook 12-16 minutes, turning patties once and stirring onions occasionally, until meat thermometer inserted in center of patties read 160°F.

If necessary, spoon fat from skillet and discard. Add mushrooms and gravy to skillet. Turn patties to coat with gravy. Heat to boiling.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: 250 calories, 14 g fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 600 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 18 g protein.

Source: Betty Crocker website. You can find it here.

Notes: I served this with some instant mashed potatoes. I topped (smothered) the potatoes with the onions and mushrooms.

As for this being a great pantry recipe option...

I almost always have onions on hand (because you use them in almost everything), you can keep ground beef in the freezer, canned mushrooms, beef gravy, Bisquick, and instant potatoes in the pantry...and voila! Throw it all together and dinner is served. The only thing I changed is that I doubled the recipe and added more pepper than what the recipe called for. I also used more Bisquick than 1/4 cup to coat the beef patties with because I hate having to scrape the bottom in order to coat meat.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken


3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 (4 ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
Vegetable cooking spray


Combine first 4 ingredients in a shallow dish. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning chicken occasionally.

Remove chicken from dish, and discard marinade. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 minutes on each side or until done.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 157 calories, 26.2 g protein, 4.6 g fat, 1 g carb, 72 mg cholesterol, 66 mg sodium.


Notes: I didn't change a thing. Super easy!

Pasta with Herbs


8 cups hot cooked pasta (preferably angel hair)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 minced garlic cloves


Combine 8 cups hot cooked pasta (preferably angel hair), 1 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, and 3 minced garlic cloves; toss well.


Notes: If you have fresh basil growing in your garden and you keep a supply of Parmesan cheese in your fridge, then you can have everything on hand without a trip to the grocery store. I used whole wheat angel hair pasta this time around. It was still great! I've used regular spaghetti too and it was fabulous. Sometimes, I like to add some Italian bread crumbs too.

Teriyaki Chicken


12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
3/ cup sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 1/2 teaspoons cold water
Hot cooked rice, optional


Place chicken in a 4 quart slow cooker. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with chicken and rice, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings.

Source: Taste of Home website.

Notes: I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs. Plus, I shredded the chicken rather than serving it whole. I also added the cornstarch to the slow cooker (another reason for shredding the chicken--because then I didn't have to remove it from the slow cooker. Plus, chicken breasts don't yield as much fat, so you don't have to skim the liquid)

Pan Glazed Chicken with Basil


4 (4 ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried basil)


Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn chicken, and cook 6 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in vinegar, honey, and basil; cook 1 additional minute.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 161 calories, 3.7 g fat, 26.2 g protein, 4.6 g carbohydrate, 0.0 g fiber, 66 mg cholesterol, 367 mg sodium.

Notes: Again, if you grow basil then you can keep everything on hand. Or, you can use dried basil.

Lemon Pepper Chicken


Use lemon pepper seasoning or any other lemon-herb seasoning in this recipe. If sodium is a concern, check the ingredient list on the seasoning label. The closer salt is to the beginning of the list, the higher the sodium content. Serve with couscous and snow peas.


Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning


Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add oil, and place over medium-high heat until hot. While pan heats, sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts evenly with lemon pepper seasoning. Add chicken to pan, and cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and keep warm.

Add broth and vinegar to pan; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Spoon sauce over chicken.

Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition information: 138 calories, 2.7 g fat, 26.2 g protein, 0.3 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 55 mg cholesterol, 0.9 mg iron, 233 mg sodium, 13 mg calcium.


Notes: I didn't make the balsamic sauce. I had a bottle of balsamic glaze that I used instead to save time. My boys were going crazy and I knew that I just didn't have time to throw together the sauce. They needed to eat and they needed to eat NOW.

Rice Pilaf


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice; saute 1 minute.

Add 2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley.


Notes: This is such a great recipe to have on hand. I usually use Rice-a-Roni or boxes of couscous. But honestly, this recipe takes about the same amount of time to make as some boxes of Rice-a-Roni. It's a good one to have in your repertoire.

Laurie's Lemon Linguine with Chicken



8 ounces uncooked linguine
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded


4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 tbsp canola oil
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup fat free milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp pepper
4 lemon slices



In saucepan, cook linguine in boiling water for 8-10 minutes. In another saucepan, combine butter, lemon juice, basil, garlic, and lemon pepper. Cook until butter is melted. Drain linguine. Add to butter mixture. Add Parmesan and toss.


Cook chicken in oil until browned. Drain. Combine soup, milk, lemon juice, and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cook a few minutes with chicken. Top with slices of lemon and serve with (preferably over) linguine.

Source: I got this from my sister, Laurie. But I don't know where she got it.

Notes: Here's the mistake I made this time. I made the lemon sauce in the same pan that I cooked the chicken in. That's fine...but make sure to wipe the pan first. I had too many browned bits in the bottom of my pan and it turned into more of a gravy rather than the delicate creamy lemon sauce that it was meant to be. Well, you live, you learn!

Above: And here's what the sauce looks like when you don't screw it up!  :)  Of course, this time I didn't have the lemon slices.  Oh well!

Here is a list of some of our past blog posts/recipes that can be considered as pantry recipes too if your pantry is stocked well and you keep the right ingredients on hand:

Chicken Parmigiana (stuffing mix, chicken, Parmesan, parsley, spices, pasta, marinara sauce)
Homemade Pizza (frozen roll dough, canned pizza sauce, canned olives, pepperoni, mozzarella)
Thai Style Pork Stew (pork, red bell pepper, peanut butter, teriyaki sauce, spices, rice)
Chicken Tenders (chicken tenders, spices, sauces for dipping)
Spanish Spaghetti with Olives (ground beef, spaghetti, marinara sauce, spices, onion, garlic)
Sloppy Joes and Sloppy Giuseppes (ground beef, onion, herbs, spices, marinara sauce, buns/bread--which can be kept in the freezer)
Lemon Horseradish Sole (fish--can be kept in the freezer, lemons, parsley, horseradish, Dijon mustard)
London Broil (steak--can be kept in the freezer, herbs and spices)
Apricot-Glazed Pork Tenderloin (pork--again, can be kept in the freezer, apricot jam, spicy brown mustard)
Linguine Arrabiata (linguine, canned tomatoes, spices, Parmesan cheese, chicken broth)
Easy Barbecue Crispy Chicken Melts (chicken, Bisquick, cheese, barbecue sauce)
Green Chile Chicken Casserole (chicken, tortillas, cheese, canned green chiles, cream of chicken soup, onion, sour cream, spices)
Weight Watcher's Layered Mexican Chicken (chicken, tortillas, sour cream, black beans, cheese, spices, salsa)
Baked Ziti (ziti/penne, ground beef, marinara sauce, onion, spices, mozzarella)
Garlic Basil Tortellini Soup (tortellini--can buy frozen, canned white beans, chicken broth, basil, Parmesan)
Mulligatawny Soup (chicken, chicken broth, onion, garlic, spices, rice, cilantro)
Many of the recipes in my College Eating blog post
Chicken Tortilla Soup (chicken, onion, garlic, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, spices, taco seasoning, frozen corn)
Tortilla Soup with Black Beans (canned black beans, tortilla chips, corn--frozen or canned, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, spices, lime juice)
Creamy Italian Chicken and Linguine (chicken, cream of chicken soup, linguine, dried Italian dressing packet, cream cheese)
Foccacia Bread (frozen roll dough, Parmesan, spices)
Mexican Pork (pork roast, rice, salsa, black beans, canned chopped green chiles, Monterey Jack cheese)
Buffalo Chicken Stromboli (puff pastry--keep it in your freezer, chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese)
Teriyaki Pulled Pork Sandwiches (buns--can be kept in the freezer, pork, Teriyaki sauce, canned pineapples)
Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches (buns, beef, canned pepperoncini peppers, pepper jack cheese)
French Dip Sandwiches (buns, beef, canned soup)
Greek Meatballs (beef, mint--grow your own!, onion, garlic, bread crumbs)
Penne with Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (penne, pork sausage--keep in the freezer, spaghetti sauce, jar of roasted red bell peppers)
Honey Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches (buns, chicken, canned chipotle peppers in adobo, spices, canned tomato)
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches (buns, chicken, spices)
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches (buns, chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese or ranch dressing)
Baked Ravioli (ravioli--buy frozen, marinara sauce, onion, garlic, spices, mozzarella cheese, canned tomatoes)
Tomato Sausage Lasagna (lasagna, sweet Italian sausage--keep frozen, spices, canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese)
Slow Cooker Southern Pulled Pork (pork, buns, onion, garlic, spices, BBQ sauce)
Meaty Calzones (ground beef, refrigerated pizza dough, spices, onion, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese)
Cheese Garlic Biscuits (Bisquick, cheese, garlic powder)
Washburn Flank Steak (flank steak--keep frozen, Kraft Light Zesty Italian Dressing, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, canned mushrooms, instant mashed potatoes)
Southwestern Strudel (puff pastry, chicken, canned corn, cheese, salsa)
Chicken Tamale Casserole (chicken, spices, canned creamed corn, corn muffin mix, canned chopped green chiles, red enchilada sauce, sour cream)
Chicken Chilaquiles (chicken, canned tomatoes, tortilla chips, feta cheese, cilantro, sour cream, canned chipotle chiles in adobo)
Easy Chicken Pot Pie (chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen mixed vegetables, Bisquick)
Chicken Stuffing Bake (chicken cream of mushroom soup, frozen mixed vegetables, Stove Top)
Bacon Tomato Linguine (grape tomatoes--you can grow your own!, linguine, cooked bacon pieces, spices, onion, garlic)
Spaghetti Carbonara (spaghetti, bacon, milk, Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper)


  1. Wow! This was a lot of work. Why weren't you out doing something fun?

    But very, very handy to have as a reference. I need to restock my shelves!

  2. I totally rely on my pantry for quick dinners. In fact I purposefully don't plan dinner one night a week and call it "Pantry Dinner Night" That way, I save money on my grocery bill by just using what I have on hand.

    Thanks for all the handy recipes! I find it interesting what is a pantry staple for some and not others. For example, I never have canned mushrooms or Bisquick on hand!

  3. But you could easily start keeping canned mushrooms or Bisquick on hand. I use Bisquick in a TON of stuff.

    And we always have canned mushrooms on hand because it is one of the key ingredients in my husband's favorite Washburn Flank Steak.

    I think you should do a blog post of your favorite pantry recipes now.

  4. And Mom, I did this after the boys went to bed and my hubbie was watching some of his (though, not my) favorite shows. So, this WAS fun for me! :)