Putting up then, enjoying now

May 4, 2016

A "what's-on-hand" dinner.

A “what’s-on-hand” dinner.

Today’s dinner brought to you by the freezer and pantry.

That was the case for maybe 80 percent of the meals when I was growing up, but much less so today, thanks to Kroger being barely more than a mile down the street and a proliferation of all manner of places to eat within, almost, rock-throwing distance.

But yesterday, I had a taste for chicken and dressing, and fortuitously, I had a dish of same in the freezer, left over from the recent Chicken Challenge. (You may recall that I had the last of my leftover chicken, and made broth. I also had a half-a-pan of leftover cornbread in the freezer. Voila, chicken and dressing.) While I was out in the storage room getting that out of the freezer, I decided it’d go well with squash casserole, so I grabbed a bag of yellow crookneck squash I’d blanched and frozen last summer. I figured I needed a green thing, so I added a jar of green beans I’d canned last summer to my batch of what I was carrying in.

And that was dinner.

I love squash casserole. It’s an easy thing to make; I sauteed some onions and add a little garlic, just til it’s soft, and stirred that into the thawed squash, along with an egg, some sour cream or yogurt, and a healthy portion of grated cheese. A little salt and pepper, and into the oven it went. If you want to be fancy you can top it with a bread crumb and cheese combo, or with French fried onions; I didn’t bother with the one, and I wasn’t making a trip out for t’other. I did drizzle the top with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter.

It went in to bake along with the chicken and dressing, although that took a little longer, particularly it wasn’t as completely thawed. I still had some of the cranberry gastrique I made to go with the chicken challenge when I first did it, that I also put in the freezer. That served as the regular cranberry sauce I didn’t have on hand.

Green beans went in a saucepan with a dollop of bacon grease (how do people COOK without bacon grease, anyway?) and simmered for a long, long time. Like an hour. Maybe more. Corn went on the stove with some butter in a skillet, and when it soaked up the butter, got a dollop of cream and simmered for a few minutes

And the casserole and the chicken and dressing came out of the oven piping hot and smelling fine.

And the only thing remaining needful to knock the evening out of the park, foodwise, was a good dessert. Which, handily enough, I had, having made a Key lime pie earlier in the day.

This is the kind of meal I love. Not because it’s anything special (though it was doggoned good), but because it validates the time I spent in the kitchen last year and earlier this year. It makes me just feel good that I can dive into the freezer and come out with the makings of dinner, and a pretty respectable dinner at that, without going to the grocery or spending an extra penny.

The corn? From that bushel I bought in Georgia last year. I think it was something like $30 for a bushel, and I got 22 pints of corn out of it. I have six left in the freezer. Going to work out about right. The beans? Bought a half-bushel for $25 at the farmers’ market. Canned a dozen or so pints. A pint is plenty for me and Child A for a meal. The squash? Somebody gave me a bunch last summer. Couldn’t eat it all, so I blanched and froze it.

Can you beat it? I submit you cannot, not on a weeknight, not from stuff on hand, most likely, and if you can, I am eagerly awaiting my invite to your house for dinner. C’mon. I invite you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em all the time.





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