Meals from Nothing

What do you make for dinner, when you “don’t have anything” in the house?

You know what I’m talking about. You need to make something for dinner, but you haven’t planned anything, the fridge is looking pretty bare, and you don’t want to go to the store. There must be something you can make from basics you have in your fridge, pantry and freezer, right?

Quiches (usually made crustless) are a good way to use up odds and ends in the fridge, as long as I have the eggs and dairy for them.

Something else I’ve made several times (to rave reviews at the Schumer household) has been the Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw. I usually keep some small flour and/or corn tortillas in the freezer, and almost always have canned beans in the pantry and feta cheese in the fridge.  I don’t usually have cabbage on hand, but these are super when made with Broccoli Slaw, which I do normally have. And I’ve started keeping some dried Cilantro as well – it’s a really poor substitute for fresh, but at least it adds a bit of the flavor.

And Pumpkin Bean Soup is quick and easy.

But hands down, our favorite “Meal from Nothing” is Clam Linguine. It’s a very forgiving recipe that’s easy to modify to suit your taste. I ALWAYS have a few cans of clams in the pantry, just for this.

Clam Linguine

12-16 oz linguine, spaghetti, etc.
2 (6.5 oz) cans minced and/or chopped clams, undrained*
1/4 cup dry white wine, optional*
1/4 cup olive oil OR butter, or a mixture of the two.
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (the stuff in a jar is handy – 1/8 tsp. garlic powder works in a pinch)
1 Tablespoon dried or 3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1/2 Tablespoon fresh chopped basil, optional
salt and pepper to taste

* If you’re using wine, you may want to only use the juice from one can of clams instead of both, especially if you’re using 12 oz of pasta instead of 16. You can always drain the broth from one can into a cup, and then add it to the pasta later if it needs it.

Cook pasta according to package directions, and drain. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan, heat over medium heat until boiling. Serve warm over pasta.

If you have some nice crusty bread to dip into the broth, so much the better.

Serves 4-6

Once upon a time, I had a list of some basic staples to keep on hand for recipes like this, and a list of recipes to go with it. Sadly, I lost it somewhere along the way. Maybe I should try to rebuild it.

How about you? Do you have a “go to” meal when the cupboard is looking pretty bare?

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12 Responses to Meals from Nothing

  1. Chris says:

    Dry roasted unsalted almonds and baby carrots. 🙂

  2. margene says:

    You have a natural talent for putting meals together!

  3. Carole says:

    I usually have stuff in the freezer and I can always throw together American Chop Suey. Or chicken and rice.
    I didn’t know you can freeze tortillas – thanks for that info!

  4. Carrie says:

    Ew, clams.
    When I have nothing to make, I make Taco Bell.
    (Actually, if I have the chicken, I can almost always throw together a pan of open-faced chicken enchiladas, but I tend not to do that when the DH is away. It makes a big pan.)

  5. elizabeth says:

    I’ve recently started buying boxes of Pad Thai mixes (can’t remember the manufacturer, but it has the sauce packet and rice noodles) and bags of mixed frozen vegetables. It takes just a few minutes to cook and is reasonably healthy! I’m going to check out that taco recipe though, it sounds great!

  6. Amy says:

    Pasta is my saving grace. I always have some kind of meat that goes well with pasta–because what meat doesn’t?

    Mmm, black bean tacos…

  7. Cookie says:

    I just boiled eggs for egg salad. Does that count? I even bought a little parsley plant, so I’ll have fresh because dry isn’t the same.

    The last meal before starvation is Mexican Mac&Cheese because I’m a good girl and always have tomato sauce in the pantry.

  8. susan says:

    Cold cereal. And it tastes almost as good even if there’s no milk.

  9. Norma says:

    This is one of my favorite challenges, and one I’m “known far and wide” for. (haha) My sister gets faux angry at me if she comes over with her boys and I start grabbing things from the fridge and pantry, when, as you say, “there’s nothing in the house,” and it turns out to be the “best meal ever.” 🙂

  10. Miss T says:

    Your clam sauce sounds good. I always have pasta on hand, and there’s usually some form of bacon in the freezer, that plus some scavenging in the cupboards will result in dinner!

  11. Nora says:

    I’m making linguini and clams tonight – you reminded me that I have all the ingredients for it!

    We can always make black bean burritos, taco salads using either black beans or ground beef (always in the freezer), or tuna salad.

    Great topic!! (Was your feed acting up? How did I not see this??)

  12. Robby says:

    Two (almost) never fail dinners from nothing at our house are tacos in some shape or form and spaghetti. It’s a rare day I can’t eek out one of these. In warm weather we can always throw together something of a cheese/fruit plate and call us happy. Now, I need to go inspect that taco recipe you had. Another arrow in the quiver is always a good thing.

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