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Meal using ONLY the cans in your cupboard? (spices ok too, and tap water)

I was looking over the can stash in the pantry today, and was mentally ticking off meals I could put together from what was there. The best I could come up with was four-bean chili (turtle beans, kidney beans, garbanzos and cannelini,fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, spices;) cornbread (yup, the mix comes in a can, thanks Costco), served up with some canned pineapple that I'd pan-roast with some cardamom and coriander and sauce with a little dulce de leche. Not half bad. What's yours?

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  1. I bet I could do a black bean and corn salsa - beans, canned corn, jar of salsa to sub for the onion, peppers and tomato, maybe some canned green chilis, cumin, some homemade chili powder for heat. Serve on tortilla chips. (Do bags count?)
    That's a meal, isn't it? Lunch maybe?

    Cooked condensed milk spread on cookies for dessert.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmcarthur8

      For this challenge, I wasn't allowing bags. But your salsa sounds pret' darn good there, jmcarthur8!! If you had canned broth, you'd be good to go for soup, though... ;-)

    2. I could do a sort of backwards vitello tonnato -- I've got a jar of baby food veal and a can of tuna to use as a base. (off to check recipes). Well, I guess not. Too many other components are missing.

      I can make tuna cakes, served with black beans and mustard greens over dirty rice

      4 Replies
      1. re: weezycom

        Hey weezy, that's a good one! Backwards vitello tonnato. I'm guessin' you'd use the babyfood to sauce the tuna? V. inventive. The menu you came up with in it's place is a pretty good one, too. When I was a young thing, I'd feed me boyo jarred babyfood meat (hey, I said I was young!). One day he got picky on me, so I was playing a "bite for you and a bite for me." In swooped the veal babyfood-coated baby spoon! OUT swooped the baby spoon from Mama's mouth - no words to describe what I was tasting. Made homemade babyfood ever since then!! I totally got what was making him so picky!

        1. re: mamachef

          I actually got the veal for my cat, to keep her from running and hiding when the vet came for a visit! I haven't tried it myself. And now I won't have to.

          1. re: weezycom

            I did it for you. You owe me. :-)

      2. We've done this for years: Pretend there was an earthquake. Each of us gets to pick out three cans. Without discussion or coordination.

        Then we decide what else is needed. If we need a protein, something from the freezer. Or something from the counter.

        Gets a lot cleaned up. Always unique. Some items have become 'regular' side dishes.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Cathy

          I love it; three cans without discussion or coordination. That must've had you seriously flying by the seat of your pants, Cathy. Do you mind sharing what things became regulars in your rotation?

          1. re: mamachef

            -Manwich (sorry), chopped green chiles, black olives, kidney beans.

            -slice sweet potatoes into chunks, boil and cool. the skin will then peel off). top with a can of coconut-pecan frosting and heat until frosting melts. This works for tailgates as well as Thanksgiving dinner.

            Frozen fish/shrimp/chicken or canned crab: Melt ~1 stick of butter with one 'tube' of crushed crackers (Saltines or Ritz). Layer some on bottom of smaller casserole, protein on top, top with rest of crackers and pour a half diluted (with milk) can of cream of xx soup over it all. Bake. If protein is cooked, maybe 20 min, if raw, more like 30 min.

            Casserole: Frozen hash browns, stick of melted butter, 2 cans of cream of chicken soup, can of green beans, can of mushrooms, can of artichokes in water, shredded cheese. Mix and put in oven until heated through.

            -(after much experimentation) A can of canned fruit-IN HEAVY SYRUP- put in the freezer. Open both ends and push out into the blender. Refreshing dessert. I now look in Asian markets for 'unusual' canned fruits in heavy syrup. Longan is nice. So are bananas.

            1. re: Cathy

              Cathy, I'd have NEVER thought to use icing in such a way. Freakin' brilliant. I'm passing that one onto Mike and Dan, the brownbelts (they're still young) of the tailgate.
              Please, doll: don't EVER apologize for what you choose to cook and how you choose to prepare it. I've said it before: I'm a Chowhound, not a food snob. I use my share of convenience products. I make my own Sloppy Joe sauce from scratch 'cause I'm too damn cheap to buy Manwich and I find it about as easy, but if I wasn't cheap? I've eaten the stuff, and it was fine with me. I like to come here to find out about other people and what and how they eat, not to sneer at their lifestyle.
              I LOVE THE FRUIT IDEA!! I'M GONNA MAKE IT WITH LITCHIS!! Back in college, I had a friend who'd puree canned peaches and freeze the resuts in ice-cube trays. Then we'd put peach cubes into white wine, or soda, or mixed drinks, and it was pretty damn good. Oh, and your casserole? I could eat the whole thing, I think. Question: you don't mean to add the artichoke-water, right? Only that they shouldn't be the marinated sort?

              1. re: mamachef


                Why am I dinged for rice and pasta and she is using:

                Raw sweet potatoes
                Frozen fish/shrimp/chicken
                Is there canned butter?
                I haven't seen canned saltines...have you?
                Frozen hash browns
                Is there canned shredded cheese? I"ve never seen it.

                1. re: toomuchfat

                  toomuchfat, she's talking:
                  canned sweet potatoes
                  canned fish/shrimp/chicken
                  Yes, there is canned butter.
                  And though I haven't seen saltines per se, I have seen other crackers that came from a cardboard "can" (the kind where you remove the tin top and then use a plastic lid to keep what's inside safe.) Shredded potatoes also can be purchased in their freeze dried state in restaurant-sized cans. And the cheese, though not shredded, is available in a can. These would all be workable pantry-shelf only substitutions. I wasn't trying to ding you, though. I have a job, and it's not to make other people unhappy or feel bad about themselves.
                  Her response was to a question of mine regarding things she makes routinely now after attempting a challenge like this one, not a response to the original question.

                  1. re: mamachef

                    Fair enough.

                    In light of your statement: "I wasn't trying to ding you, though. I have a job, and it's not to make other people unhappy or feel bad about themselves."
                    it seems that you could have cut a little slack...pasta and rice, while not canned, are pantry staples.

                    1. re: toomuchfat

                      But that's not what this thread was intended to be about, toomuchfat!! If I had left it as wide-angled as "pantry items", there's virtually no limit to what people could do - plus, that's a HIGHLY interpretable term, agreed? My interest was in the limitations inherent in the challenge of "cans only." I actually thought I DID slack off when I allowed for water and spices!! : ), but then I figured, well, it would be nice if all this food were semi-tasty. Or had any taste at all. BUT: had my thread been that inclusive, I would pay homage because your ideas were good ones.
                      Have a good evening, friend.

                      1. re: mamachef

                        Why cans only? It's not very realistic. What's realistic is shell stable items.

                        1. re: toomuchfat

                          I was thinking the point is not so much to be realistic as it is to be a challenge.
                          To include shelf stable items would make it too easy a challenge!

                            1. re: mamachef

                              damn. Gotta take the dirty rice off my menu, then. That's a box of Zatarain's.

                  2. re: toomuchfat

                    Sorry, we evolved off into another conversation and I mentioned what my original "earthquake" recipes evolved into. They did all start with only cans though- you can buy canned potatoes (which we used to carry for camping) and used the Velveeta-ish canned cheese from Mac and Cheese. Canned butter is in Asian grocery stores. Canned milk is also used in a lot of the creations.

                    It's just a game we play. In anticipation of an earthquake. That was all my point was. I didn't mean to offshot the original point of the post.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      Notta problem, Cathy. It's clear that you understand the intent behind the post.

                  3. re: mamachef

                    It's more fun if you don't tell anyone how you made the sweet potatoes. They think there are tonsof ingredients and that it is complicated.

                    Originally used canned sweet potatoes, but fresh are so much cheaper and I suppose 'healthier', but also adds to the 'complication' factor to pass on the recipe.

                    I had bought the Manwich in case of an emergency...now it's deliberate.

            2. This post so intrigued me I went home last night and looked in the pantry. I could survive a few days on what's in there.

              I could make: Clam and Sweet Corn Chowder (no potato or onion); Hamburger Helper with TVP instead of beef: Spaghetti Sauce (the kind I used to make before Giada's Italian Cookbook was gifted to me and taught me what real sauce tastes like) with mushrooms - lots of mushrooms; or a Vegetarian Chili with kidney and black beans, and TVP for protein.

              Doesn't sound like we would be eating great gourmet meals, but we could survive a day or two!

              1. dice spam into 1/2" cubes and fry till crisp. add a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can or two of corn, salt and pepper to taste (with the spam, go easy on the salt), thin to desired consistency (either tap water, or better yet canned chicken broth), and simmer for a while (if possible.) Not the best corn chowder I've ever had, but not bad at all. Also done it with canned chicken, but the spam adds more depth of flavor.

                2 Replies
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  I could have a mug of this and go to bed happy as a clam. And I bet this would work with clams thrown in for the Spam, no?

                  1. re: mamachef

                    no doubt it could, but i'm not a big fan of clams. can we compromise on canned shrimp or maybe crab?

                2. Spam musubi
                  Rice with furukake
                  Pasta with any number of simple sauces
                  Campbells soup
                  Saporro Ichiban
                  Ambrosia salad

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: toomuchfat

                    Where in the world do you get rice and pasta in cans, toomuchfat?

                    1. re: mamachef

                      True. I didn't read the challenge carefully enough.

                      No Spam musubi or rice with furukake.

                      If I wanted to be argumentative, I would say that there are plenty of canned pastas although they are unchowish.

                      1. re: toomuchfat

                        And, they're already sauced which devolves from the point of the challenge, although if anyone out there is using canned, sauced pasta in a recipe, I want to know about it!!

                      2. re: mamachef

                        not to interject... but, they sell "green" and other specialty rice at an asian store here in what looks to me like mayonnaise jars. Would that qualify as "canned"? That really opens up the possibilities.
                        (i didn't make this up, i asked about it 2 years ago)

                        Oh, and one more question, can we use canned/jarred stuff from the fridge? ie pickles, olives, mayo? Im guessing no, but want to be sure. And is it just cans or cans and jars? Does peanut butter count?

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Hey Kaimuki Man: if you were cooking dinner, I'd tell you to go ahead. But for the purposes of this thread, no. And p. butter's included in that.

                    2. Hmmmm... Veggie chili for sure. A hundred kinds of dahl, though not as delicious as normal if we're not allowed onions!

                      You've got my brain working now... what shall I make for dinner? :)

                      1. We have a can of red kidney beans, a can of tuna, and some chipotles. We are screwed when the apocalypse comes.

                        Though, we have a huge spice selection, so maybe we could make some kind of survivors' soup?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cachetes

                          Cachetes, you know the story of "stone soup", right?

                        2. Great Thread

                          Chinese corn soup - can creamed corn, can straw mushrooms, can chicken stalk

                          Canned green beans with salty tofu

                          Canned black bean fish heated.

                          Only no rice.

                          There was also this concoction made in girl guides - veg soup, alphabits, corn and chilli. Made an interesting stew.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: juliewong

                            HELL YEAH Juliewong. You got the spirit and intent of the thread!! Thanks!!
                            What kind of fish, with the black beans?
                            Girl Guides. You're a Canadian!! Were' those the only three items in the stew? And do you mean, Alphabet pasta?

                            1. re: mamachef

                              I think the fish is macherel but as the writing is in chinese - I would have to ask my MIL. The stew ingredients changed at times depending on what we had but these were the usually suspects.

                              I forgot dessert - canned lichee with condensed milk - i won't eat it but it is a popular dim sum dish.

                          2. appetizer - jalapenos stuffed with anchovies and tuna
                            soup - chowder with sweet corn and chopped clams
                            main course - baked San Marzano tomatoes stuffed with huitlacoche,
                            topped with green chili and corn
                            side dish - refried black beans with chipotles and salsa ranchera
                            dessert - chopped pineapple

                            1. Shrimp & Vegetable Gumbo - canned shrimp, canned okra & tomatoes, canned mixed veggies, canned tomato sauce, canned broth, can of gravy to sub for roux, spices (I noticed this is a "free item")

                              Spicy Pork & Mixed Bean Chili - canned cooked pork, tomato paste, broth, pinto beans, black beans, chopped green chiles, spices

                              Salmon Cakes- canned salmon, canned panko crumbs, spices, canned egg white powder


                              Canned Mandarin oranges - Can of coconut milk, whisked with five spice powder and reduced in a skillet to thick & creamy; toss in the drained mandarin oranges then serve in parfait cups with a sprinkle of cinnamon

                              I'm somewhat confused on what we are to include here, are we allowed to use jarred items? I noticed some mention of that and if so, it opens up another list for me (lol) Also, I'm going to have to agree re: toomuchfat's comment pertaining to Cathy's use of crackers and butter, etc. You said canned items, yet she didn't indicate canned crackers or canned butter, she said saltines and a stick of butter which would give the impression of crackers from a abox or a stick of butter from the fridge. Also, what cookies come in a can already baked?

                              I'm going to stop here cause I'm thrown off by the thread....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Cherylptw

                                If you *follow* the thread, I was replying directly to the OP, who asked what 'regular' side dishes I have ended up making as a result of my playing the 'let's pretend we had an earthquake and each person pull three cans off the shelf' game.

                                All of those 'recipes' started out as just canned items and then were refined.

                              2. That'd be three bean curry. I use tins of whatever is in - usually black eye, flageolet and butter beans. Tin of tomatoes. Spices. Takes about 15 minutes (with rice or long-life asian bread if that's permitted - it's OK just as it is though). If the OP had allowed the use of onions and garlic, dinner would have been much better.

                                And I can always pull together an Eastern Mediterranean style mezze from the cupboards.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Harters

                                  I've got the olives, Harters: what else do you put on your Mezze plates?

                                  1. re: mamachef

                                    Check out the "What's for dinner" thread tomorrow night and you'll see what's in the cupboard - I currently have no idea. There's always olives. Usually a tin of stuffed vine leaves. Beans (often in a sauce - the middle eastern deli is a good shopping experience). Peppers. And, something we brought back from Cyprus a few weeks back - pickled caper leaves.