Don’t be a chicken about canned meat

Around my house, if I want the family to eat what I cook, there are a few requirements, two of them for me are typically, cheap and easy. While there are some days I love laboring over a complex meal, most days it’s all I can do to get supper done by 6:30 p.m. when my kids are starving.
Canned meats tend to get a bad rap from cooks. Realistically though, they are some of the highest quality, cheapest protein you can feed your family. Canned tuna, salmon, chicken and even ham can be healthy and tasty in the right recipe.
As a kid, I was a little suspicious of meat out of a can. I didn’t mind tuna casserole now and again but my grandma’s favorite, Deviled Ham sandwiches and my uncle’s fried SPAM were a little much for me. But canned chicken? My mom made amazing hot chicken salad with that stuff!
One of the ingredients I try to keep on hand because it is cheap and convenient is canned chicken. Admittedly, we are usually more of a red-meat family, but there are a few favorites we have that do require chicken, and I use canned chicken in all of them. I wanted to share a couple of these recipes because in today’s economy with shortages in the grocery stores of many foods, quick, tasty and cheap dinners need to be on the menu.
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
I don’t know about you but my kids are way more likely to eat almost anything in “mini” form. This includes savory dishes like pot pies. The other beauty of mini pot pies is they cook more evenly and quickly than a full-size one. So here is my fast, cheap and easy chicken pot pie recipe:
1 10.5 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 10 or 12  oz can of mixed vegetables like Veg-all (if you don’t have canned you can use 1.5 cups frozen mixed but we like the potatoes in the canned mixed vegetables)
1 12.5 oz can chunk chicken in water
1/4 cup milk, half and half or heavy cream (whatever you have)
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 single-pastry pie crust (homemade or store bought, doesn’t matter).
Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray a standard muffin tin.
Roll out pie crust 1/4 inch thick and using a biscuit cutter or cup cut into 4.5 inch rounds. Place a round in each muffin cup slot and press down gently making sure the crust fills the cup, it is okay if the sides wrinkle a little. Combine and re-roll and re-cut until all crust has been used up. This should fill 9-10 muffin tins.
Dump all ingredients together in a sauce pan and heat until bubbly. Spoon ingredients into muffin tins. Bake 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is brown and bubbly. I like to serve these with roasted asparagus or a green salad. These can be frozen. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin tins and then place on a cooling rack. Once completely cooled place them on a cookie sheet and flash freeze for 45 minutes then place in a freezer-proof container. To reheat remove from the container and heat in the microwave for 1.5-2 minutes or in the oven at 425 for 10-15.
Creamy chicken-potato soup
Hear me out, this recipe was born of desperation and it was such a hit that I now make it on a pretty regular basis.
3 tablespoons Olive oil
2 12.5 oz cans chunk chicken in water
3 medium sized potatoes (yellow, russet, red, doesn’t matter)
4 carrots
4 celery ribs
1 onion (again, doesn’t matter, whatever you like)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cans cream of chicken soup
3 cups of water (more as needed)
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Slice carrots and celery to your family’s liking. My kids like small pieces so I usually cut in half and slice from there. Dice the onion. Scrub and poke holes in the potatoes. Start cooking in the microwave. Cook on baked potato setting or for about 10 minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or pot over high heat. When the oil is warm, sauté the carrots, celery, onion and a sprinkling of salt until onion begins to soften then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add in herbs and spices except the coriander and cook stirring for another minute or two. This “blooms” the spices and helps your soup be more flavorful. Add in the canned chicken with the canning liquid. Stir and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add in the cream of chicken soup and water. Bring to a boil. By now the potatoes should be done. Allow to cool for a minute or two and cut into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes. Once the soup is boiling add in the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add in coriander and simmer another 5 minutes. Soups done! Again, I serve with bread and sometimes broccoli or a green salad.
Chicken Chalupas
The last recipe is really just an ingredient swap and an unusual addition.
We substitute two cans of chicken, drained, for the typical one pound of beef in the taco recipe. Once the meat and other ingredients (we like fresh pico de gallo and guacamole) are ready, working in batches fry soft flour tortillas (either homemade or the thick ones) until golden brown, flipping once. After they are golden brown but still soft fold in half and place open side down so they are “upside down” on a plate lined with a paper towel. Cool slightly and then fill with cheese, chicken, and any other toppings.
Hope you enjoy these fast and cheap chicken dishes as much as my family does.


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