“Oh no! Dad’s on his way home, and we don’t have supper started yet!!!”

Although we TRY to keep our menu planned in advance and meals prepared in plenty of time, these words do ring through our house occasionally – normally on days when we’ve been exceptionally busy with school or other projects, such as spring cleaning, produce-preserving, etc. Dad’s commute from work is only about fifteen minutes, so that doesn’t leave much time for food prep, much less checking the pantry to see if we even have all the ingredients! So when a situation like this occurs, what can we do???

For times like this, it’s always good to have a backup plan – easy meals that use staple foods from your pantry.

I’m sure that you have certain “staple” foods at your house – things that you generally always have in the pantry or freezer. Yours are probably different from ours, and ours are different from the next person’s. At our home, we almost ALWAYS have grits, sugar, eggs, cheddar cheese, salt, peanut butter, and “baby” carrots. We also keep milk and flour and pasta, green beans, salsa, and applesauce. Furthermore (for those of you who want to know what REALLY makes the Neelys panic), it is an officially declared State of Emergency when we use up the last of the chocolate chips!!! (Hmmm……maybe I shouldn’t have just admitted that……)

Anyway, back to my point…

Keep a mental (or if you’re more organized, a written) list of “backup meals” – those things that you keep the ingredients for and can efficiently pull out of your barns and storehouses for a quick and delicious repast. We have a few of those, one of which I’m going to share here. It only has three main ingredients – the sauce has a few more – and these items are all staple foods at our house, making this recipe great for a quick fix. (I think it was actually developed on one of those rushed-prep nights…)

Easy Chicken Quesadillas

10 10” flour tortillas

4 c. chopped or shredded cooked chicken*

4 c. grated cheddar cheese

   Hot sauce:** (I invented this while trying to copy a restaurant sauce that I like. I was unsuccessful at duplication, but our people love it anyway!)

3/4 c. sour cream

2 T. salsa

1 t. hot sauce (like Tabasco or Texas Pete)

1/4 t. red pepper

1/4 t. salt (optional)

Lay out five tortillas on baking trays. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of chicken on each tortilla, then sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese on top of the chicken. (Use all the chicken and cheese.) Mix together all hot sauce ingredients; spread the remaining tortillas with sauce (as much or as little as you prefer). Place each tortilla, sauce side down, on chicken tortillas. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden and cheese is melted. Cut and serve with sour cream, salsa, and remaining hot sauce. Enjoy!

 Just the chicken... Add some cheese... Mmmm! Ready to cut!

*Anytime we are cooking chicken in any form – grilled, boiled, baked, etc. – we try to make some extra. Then we chop the leftovers and freeze them in plastic bags, ready for spur-of-the-moment meals like this one. It is also extremely handy for recipes that only call for “1/2 cup of cooked chicken” or some other small increment.

**This makes a mildly hot sauce which our whole family enjoys. You can adjust the amounts of pepper or Tabasco sauce to suit your taste. It also makes a good dip for tortilla chips.