You ever wake up on a Monday morning and the only thing on your mind is food???

That’s me today.  Und zo….

Although we have house guests (and I am getting a lot of serious work out of derr Major) not too many people, guests or Elaine, seem anxious to get up and hit the floor running at 5AM.

Dinty Moore beef stew to the rescue!

EXCEPT, it’s not exactly up to my tastes…which is why I put a fair amount of thought-space into “How do I repair this meal?”

Dinty Moore is easily fixed with two simple additions.

The first is two tablespoons of red wine. Sometimes, we don’t have any red left over, and a blush works, but then 3-tablespoons. I’ve also used a Chardonnay, a flat champagne , and a half-empty bottle of beer, though with less pleasing results.  Might try a Madeira or a Port some day, too.

The second change is the addition of some diced up toast. The Dinty Moore is a lot more runny than my stews and Elaine’s rare, but delicious pot roasts with gravy. But two or three slices of toast sops up the runny, adds an interesting additional flavor, and makes one can a real “stick-to-the-ribs” meal that will get you to dinner in a pinch.

A couple of notes on the bread: Wonder bread toast is fine. Goes off to a soggy but chewy. Don’t recommend Pumpernickel, even with beer. And toasted French bread is best. In a pinch, you can toss in store-bought croutons, I guess, but I’ve never met anyone that lazy.  Wait!  There was a guy in the mirror this morning….

Point is: There are some canned foods that can be spiced to turn them into really great-tasting meals with little effort.

Another example from George’s 5-Minute Prepper Food Re-Engineering Master Course?

I love it when we have left-over BBQ chicken, KFC, BBQ porl chops, and even some rare roast beef. Because these can be used to turn one of those large “Souper” Chinese noodle bowls into a slice of heaven and still be right around the 5-6 minute cooking time mark.

You start with the regular noodle prep, which takes about 3- minutes depending on how powerful your microwave is.

Now you add the sliced up piece of meat and whatever looks good in the refrigerator in the way of veggies. I like half a cup, or more, out of one of those pre-cut salad bags. Prep time zero. Another great toss-in is a half-cup of sliced mushrooms. And then, to kick-up the flavor a bit, one teaspoon of Hoisin or black bean sauce. Now you’re talking a meal.

Seriously, with sliced up chicken breast, and nuked for another 3-minutes to make sure the lettuce is well cooked and wilted, this is a dish good enough to serve at an Asian joint. Even better – and this is the high-end bonus round: Toss in BBQ pork slices and most of the time I keep a stalk of Bok Choy around for just this purpose although Napa Cabbage is fair a half-measure.

How does this figure into prepping? Ah. More engineering: Have several cans of bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, canned bean sprouts, and boneless canned chicken. If you have some flour tortillas? Toss them in too, after cutting into 1” squares.  Pretend it is Won Ton.

Last, but not least, a short treatise on the all-time favorite firehouse “one-potter.”

The basic ingredient is 16 ounces of Rose Brand Chinese Egg Noodles from Seattle’s International district, about 3-miles from where the major and I grew up. Seattle Weekly write-up here.

You boil about 8-quarts of water on a rolling boil (yeah, big pot) and toss in the noodles.

Cook 12 minutes.


Do not rinse.  Return to hot pan.

Toss in one or two cans of white albacore tuna and one, or two, cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup.

Mix well, let stand 3- minutes to savor up a bit. Then eat like a pig. Large glass of cold milk optional.

So that’s the basic cookery, and that worked for me for about 50 years.

Then one day, the major called and said they were going to dump some microwaved frozen peas in. Sacrilege!  I mean sure, it’s OK, but a different vibe.  That goes off into Casserole Land.  Same with people who mash up potato chips and toss ‘em in.

As a would-be epicurean, and for sure gourmand,  Casserole Land is a terrible place.  Most times, it is like Malt-O-Meal.  Supposedly simple and everyone says they make it right, but no two people make anything the same.

Casseroles are like hiking the Sahara:  No landmarks,  sure is hot, but it’s all very much the same.  It’s like cooking for people who can’t cook so they casserole instead.

So back to this marvelous noodle dish which is NOT A CASSEROLE because we don’t throw it into an oven *ir kleave it in the Sahara) and cook it to death.

My total engineering rework of this one-potter – which is an art form:

Reduce the egg noodles to about 12-14 ounces dry. One can of soup. Largest can of tuna (or boneless chicken) you can find, partially drained.

When the noodles come off the fire and are drained, toss in a tablespoon (or more) of finely chopped tarragon.

A generous teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Quarter to half a teaspoon of nutmeg will bring out more of the mushroom flavor in the soup base. A half teaspoon of white or Cayenne pepper will help give a bit of bite. Not too much, just enough to banish boredom, but not enough to be measured in degrees Kelvin.

The real kicker is putting in one heaping tablespoon of a good Mayo. Not, not a spread. I mean a Real mayo. We used Duke’s here, but Best Foods works, too. Way  I figure it, cheaper mayo means generally cheaper oils and we don’t go there. I would make my own mayo out of vinegar and egg, but let’s be prepped, not crazy!

Even something as simple as the canned cream of mushroom soup (another prepping staple) can be up-scaled with several shakes of nutmeg.

So prep your little heart out on the big stuff. But if the SHTF, I will be the guy with a decent supply of:

  • · Worcestershire sauce
  • · Peppers in grinders
  • · Salt
  • · Soy Sauce
  • · Hoisin
  • · Nutmeg
  • · Cinnamon
  • · Tarragon
  • · Chili powder
  • · Five-Spice powder
  • · Cayenne pepper
  • · And Cardamom· (for emergency Danish Julekaken)

A small spice grate or three is good. Honey stores forever, seems. I don’t know how long canned Canadian pure dark amber maple syrup will last….

I know of people whose idea of prepping is to lay in three hundred cases of Chili with beans. Toss in 300 pounds of flour and sure, Mexican food for life.  But why punish yourself? 

I would MUCH rather have an assortment: Cases of dried Asian instant soups with the seasoning packets that I can add protein to, as it becomes available.

And what about that hundred pounds of the Chinese noodles? I can’t picture a worse ending to life on earth than End Times with only Mexican food.  By week three I would go crazy.  Variety!  Bring on variety!

Give me a small copper still for making distilled spirits, and 1,000 pounds of sugar. Rum and a huge variety of one-potters…and never having to set an alarm clock after keeping the night watch under a full moon.

Hell, almost makes the End sound pretty good, don’t it?  The meaning of days of the week (like Monday, lol) becomes pointless in that world.  Maybe we could get back to the lunar calendar like we’re supposed to live, you think?

It’s something to think about when you are out shopping.  One for now, one for later.  Over time, things pile up.

Later this week (or maybe next)? My new breakfast health sensation I’m working on: I figure I can take two cups of milk, a box Jell-O butterscotch pudding mix, and some instant oatmeal and make a marvelous treat.

Oatmeal for starch and fiber, the sugar/HFCS for energy, and the milk for some protein. Might take a little work getting the proportions dialed in, but sounds like yet-another worthy project for the UrbanSurvival Food Engineering Lab which at other times (when I’m not around) looks like Elaine’s spotlessly clean kitchen.

“Breakfastscotch Meal” is awkward.  Need something a little more commercial sounding.

If it works, I ought to be able to get a doctor to endorse it,since it should lower cholesterol. 

Then write a book about it, and retire filthy rich by selling the “Secrets of Butterscotch Oatmeal Breakfast” on Amazon.

Hell, I can hardly wait.

Want an autographed copy? Only $10 more….

Remember, I’m the guy who took two pieces of toast, three strips of bacon, a slice of American cheese and a scrambled egg and called it “The Breakfast Sandwich” in 1910.  I’m not it Wikipedia for it, but that was long before the burger joints figured it out.

Funny story on the side:  When  I was 10 – which is OMG 1950-something, my dad made me wear a crash helmet on my bike.  No joy to it…everyone (including the major) laughed and pointed.  But today, riding without a helmet on is considered poor form for serious riders.

Point is?  People in my family tend to come up with things well in advance of the herd…so if in 5-years, you hear about an oatmeal-granola healthy flan for breakfast – and it comes in butterscotch, well, that’d be another one for the team.


Write when you get rich,