Sunday, February 21, 2010


February 28, 2010

In today's environment when everyone seems to have to pinch pennies, it makes sense to try and use up whatever is in the house instead of going out to buy something that's convenient like pizza or Chinese take out. Most people who love to cook, also love to shop for food. So when the pennies are so tight, I tend to buy things that will keep in the pantry or cupboard for a long time. We could probably live out of the pantry/freezers for a few months if we had to.

For example, today I cleaned out my spice cupboard. Everything was mixed up and turned the wrong way. (I'm a little bit of a neat freak, but not freakishly so). When everything is in order, it's much easier to find what you want when you go to cook something. Anyway, while I was making room for some things that should have been in there, I noticed there were also a lot of things in the cupboard above that I'd had in there for a while. I found three cans of smoked salmon. I bought them at Sam's a while back because the price was so good and I thought I'd just figure out what to make with it some time or another. Well today is that day. You would think I found a bag of money! I knew what I would make with it, and it appealed to my taste buds immediately.

I'd never used canned salmon like this before. I've used the kind that comes with the whole bone down the back and skin on to make salmon cakes. We love those. But this salmon comes packed just like a can of tuna. Clean. No bones, no skin, just nice hunks of moist smoked salmon.

I wanted to make salmon salad. You know, just like tuna salad. I got everything together and realized I didn't have enough mayonnaise! Well, I didn't want to run out to the store. I didn't even get dressed yet today. I'd seen mayonnaise made on television before and it just didn't look that hard. 10 minutes later, I am proud to say, I had two cups of pretty darn good mayonnaise! I used this recipe from RecipeZaar.

So now that I could make my salad, here's how I did it. This makes enough salad for 5 or 6 ample sandwiches.


3 7 oz cans of smoked salmon (no bones, no skin),drained of liquid
1/2 c cup mayonnaise
2 stalks of celery, diced very small
1 tsp dried onion flakes
salt/pepper to taste
4 slices whole grain bread of your choice
2 hard cooked eggs, sliced

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix gently until well blended. Try not to mush up the salmon too much. Re-season as necessary.

Toast the bread and top with about 1/2 c to 3/4 c salmon salad, depending on the size of the bread and how much salad you like on your sandwich.

Arrange the sliced egg on top of the salmon, and top with lettuce.

This is a really good sandwich and we both liked it better than tuna salad.

When I make tuna salad, I usually put some finely chopped fresh rosemary in, and even dice the eggs right into the salad. But I don't think that works for the salmon. The salmon would overwhelm the flavor of the eggs too much. And I really prefer the salmon without the herbs. (Although on second thought, I'll bet some dill might taste good in there). I'll try it one of the sandwiches.) I also don't think I would have liked fresh onion in here -- too strong.

So having extras in the pantry can mean that whenever you don't know what to make, and you don't want to spend more money or go out, just root around those cupboards and see what you have. Some other things I ALWAYS keep around:

Canned beans (several kinds; if it's on sale I buy a few for the pantry)
Canned olives
Various kinds of pasta (I buy what's on sale)
Canned tomatoes
Chicken Broth
Canned Mushroom and Chicken soup (low sodium/low fat)
Canned water chestnuts
Sauces - I'm a huge junkie when it comes to sauces in jars - my fridge is full of them and they keep a long time - peanut sauce, chili sauce, hoison, plum sauce, all kinds of grilling sauces, and bottled marinades, etc.

My freezer always has several kinds of frozen veggies, individually wrapped fish fillets, and citrus zest. I never use a lemon or a lime before I zest it to freeze the zest. I keep puff pastry in there, frozen pizza crust (raw) and I keep my sesame seeds in the freezer too.

With just the few ingredients I've listed, you could make a pasta and mushroom casserole. Cook up some pasta, throw in a can of mushroom soup, a little chicken broth, some herbs, a little garlic, and you could even throw in some of the chopped water chestnuts. If you've got some veggies in the fridge or freezer, throw those in too. If you have some mushrooms, slice those and add them to the mix. Toss in a handful of Parmesan cheese if you have it. Bake the whole thing for 20 – 25 minutes and you’ve got a yummy, comforting meal that even the kids will love!

If you have a can of beans and some garlic and olive oil, you can almost instantly make a really good BEAN DIP. Just blend a can of drained/rinsed canellini beans, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Whiz it while you drizzle in some olive oil until it turns into a nice smooth consistency for dipping. That’s it! This also tastes great with some dried thyme or rosemary in it.

I think you get the point. It may sound like a lot to keep around, but If you love to cook, then you’ll find that keeping these things around is essential to creativity. Keep things in the house that last a long time with a mind that you can zip up something, anything, almost right away! And, it's always cheaper to make from scratch. That pasta casserole could feed 4, 5 or even 6 people for just a dollar or two per person. If you go out, you're going to spend at least $5 - $6 or more for each person to eat at a restaurant.

In another post, I'll share some more throw together meals that started out totally unplanned, made from a search of the pantry and the freezer. In the meantime, let me know if you try this salmon salad and how you liked it!


  1. Maggie - you continue to amaze me - I think your blog are entertaining and fun to read. I haven't tried any recipes yet, but thanks for including them - there may come a day....Elaine

  2. HI Maggie! This is SO cool! I'm gonna try the bean dip tonight. Thanks! I just had a new food adventure myself! I made my own sourdough starter! Not only does it make wonderful bread,pancakes and scones (so far), it's just so much fum to watch it come to life!
    If you've got childern around, I think it would be a great learning experience for them. The next one I'm gonna try is a SWEET sourdough starter called "Herman", that you can make cakes and sweet breads with.
    Are you and your neighbors still doing Soup Day?

  3. Maggie,

    Thanks so much! This is the kind of "guidance" I need. I am an "okay" cook when I follow a recipe. My problem is that I'm not creative and I need to organize my pantry and freezer so that the things I have can actually make something edible! I have a pantry that is FULL of STUFF, same with the freezer, but I'm always a couple of ingredients short of being able to make anything useful. I'm trying to work on getting things more organized and figuring out what "staples" I need onhand and what I don't need. Your blog has been helpful and has given me lots to think about. Also, thanks for the tips & recipes. It sounds so simple when you write it, but I wouldn't have thought of it. I think I'll try the salmon salad for Rick. I'm not sure I'd like it (I'm not a big fish person) but Rick loves it!

  4. patriciaciurca@yahoo.comMarch 2, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    Hi Maggie, Nice blog, informative and useful info. Thanks, Pat