Empty Nest Meals, Feeding a Family

Speedy Dinner

Chicken Fajita Soup

I can make this from scratch, but to tell you the truth, it’s just as good from cans.

The fresh ingredients:

Chicken breast – cut bite-sized pieces and cook in a pan with just a little butter, until they are done.

The convenience foods:

Canned diced tomatoes with peppers
Canned black beans
Canned or frozen corn
Canned chicken broth
Diced garlic (I use the stuff in jars)
Cumin, chili powder or a pre-made Mexican spice mix


Tortilla Chips

Dump it all in a pot. Use scissors to mince up the cilantro.  I use a lot of cilantro. I usually put it in a crockpot so I can serve it when it’s convenient, but it can be made at the last minute if necessary.

Serve the chips separately so each person can crumble them into the soup like crackers. 🙂
You don’t need to add salsa unless you want to. I like it spicy.

Empty Nest Meals, Shopping

Stocking for Two

After my last post, I grew somewhat smug about my ability to create real meals in spite of our hectic schedule.  When we got news that we were going to have guests, I assumed that it would be easy. Unfortunately, it was a work-all-day day. I was scheduled to work from 7-8, 10-1, and 3-9. With those brief breaks, it should have been simple to whip up a meal and leave it in the crockpot. I didn’t need anything fancy, so after consultation with my daughter-in-law, I decided that sloppy joes and store-bought potato salad (perhaps with a lettuce-y salad, too), would be ideal.  Between clients #1 and #2, I ran to the store and bought potato salad and ground beef, as well as some chicken breasts and pork chops. I dumped the entire package of ground beef into a pan, cut up some onions and cooked it all up. Drained it. Dumped it in the crockpot. Chili was starting to sound good, though, especially after I realized that I’d forgotten to buy buns. Yep, chili was a much better choice all around. I could make some 5-minute artisan bread to go with it. Normally, I would cook up dry beans, but I didn’t have time for that. I dug through the pantry and found several cans of black beans. No red beans or kidney beans. Well, it looked like I would have to cook some up. If I boiled them hard for a little while, they would finish cooking in the crockpot. But there were no kidney beans and only a handful of red beans. Okay. We like black beans.  I hadn’t yet opened the cans of beans when I realized that I had no tomato sauce. None. I had several cans of diced tomatoes, which would be good to add to tomato sauce for chili, but they really can’t replace ALL of the sauce.  Back to Plan A. I could pick up buns on the way home from client #2. I rummaged through the pantry and refrigerator and found one partial bottle of BBQ sauce. Not enough for sloppy joes.  I could have made more, if only I had some tomato sauce, of course.

It looks like my cupboards are bare of all those “ordinary” things I always took for granted.  The kind of things I picked up and put in the grocery cart from habit. Things I bought in the largest package available. Lately, I’ve just been shopping for things on my immediate horizon.  That sounds sensible, and it goes along with the good habit of using a monthly meal plan, but really… there are some things that I “should” keep on hand.  Many years ago, I used a master grocery list.  That helped me ensure that I had those basics in the cupboard.  Now, even though I rarely use it, I run out of ketchup! On the other hand, I have at least 8 cans of diced tomatoes and even more of refried beans. I keep buying those things because I can’t remember how much I have at home.

On a more important note, I’m nearly out of coffee. You would think that I could remember that. It’s a vital part of my day, but apparently not while I am shopping.

It’s a good time to reinstate that grocery list, ideally in conjunction with the menu planning.  Cooking for two is very different from cooking for a family, but it still requires organized lists! Starting one now: coffee, buns, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, ketchup…

Empty Nest Meals

Fast Food

Sometimes I am surprised by how fast I can throw a meal together. Since I have started working part-time, we have had to adjust our lifestyle to suit an odd schedule. Yesterday afternoon, between clients, I stopped at the grocery store and bought two pork chops. I ran home, popped them into a big cast iron kettle, scrubbed and added a couple potatoes and some baby carrots.  I covered the pot and put it in the oven. I cut an acorn squash in half, scooped out the seeds and put the halves upside down on a cookie sheet. It went in the oven, too. When I got home an hour later, it was all done and we had a lovely meal!! Including the stop at the store, it took less than 20 minutes to prepare.  I served it with some applesauce (home canned) and frozen blueberries. yummmmm…..