Friday, September 11, 2009

Desperation Dinner

OK, this is my pantry staple dinner. It's the one that I pull out when I'm in one of those situations where I really need to go grocery shopping, or it's been one of those days and I just have no interest or energy in cooking. Sometimes I fall back on this one if James isn't going to be around, and I don't feel like putting a lot of effort into a dinner for just me. It comes in handy if the dinner plan fell through for some reason. By keeping just three little ingredients around, you can save yourself from resorting to that other kind of fast food.

This makes enough for 2 people--you could easily double or triple it for a bigger family.

1 can of chili beans in sauce
1 cup of salsa
1 cup of corn (can be frozen or fresh, or even canned if you drain it)

Pour them all into a pan, stir and heat.

It's that simple. It's not gourmet, but it's better than Taco Bell and just as cheap. I've been making this since I was in college, and I was pretty pleased recently when Kroger started carrying organic chili beans. Since I live in corn country, at this time of year I have plenty of locally grown corn that I cut off the cob and freeze, but I had this floating around the freezer from when last summer's supply ran out, so I wanted to use it up.

You can easily jazz this up, if you like. In this case, I stirred in chopped fresh tomatoes. I like to sprinkle green onions on top, too. You can use any kind of salsa your family likes, and I heartily endorse using homemade. You could add more vegetables or even a side salad to actually make it a balanced meal, if you were so inclined.

Depending on what I have on hand and my level of energy and time constraints, I serve this over baked potatoes, with tortillas (seen here) or tortilla chips. Crackers, rice, couscous, quinoa or biscuits would be fine choices, too. If it's not a fast day, sometimes we eat this with fried corn bread, and top it with cheese or sour cream.

And I really like it with polenta. Polenta only has two ingredients! And one of them is water, which doesn't even really count, so this is great if you're in an Old Mother Hubbard kind of situation with your cupboards.

1/2 cup cornmeal (not a cornmeal mix with flour, just straight up cornmeal)
2 cups water (divided)

Whisk together the corn meal and a 1/2 cup of water. Bring the remaining water to boil, then stir in the cornmeal slurry. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes until it's thick and creamy. Season it any way your heart desires.


  1. Oh yum, that does sound good. I also have some corn in my fridge I need to freeze for this winter.

    I love, love, love polenta, but sadly no one else in my family realy does.

  2. That's too bad your family doesn't really like polenta, Mimi. I like anything that's comforting and starchy! Thankfully my husband like it pretty well, too.

  3. This looks yummy! I'd love it, but my Michigan-born hubby prefers no heat/spice.

    By the way, I see that you're readin gMiddle MArch. It's one of my favorites that I reread every few years. Every now and then, I do skim over some paragraphs that seem overly detailed, in anticipation of getting on to the plot, though, :)

  4. I've been reading through your archives, and was just wondering what in the world I was going to make for dinner before we go grocery shopping. This was delicious! Thanks!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts--I love hearing from you!