We were just back from vacation and our wallets and the freezer were pretty empty.

So dinner was a mash-up of a little bit of this from the freezer, a couple of cans and some pasta from the pantry and one item from the refrigerator.

I actually love cooking this way and have been doing it more frequently.

Visiting with Susie the Sister on our recent vacation was an inspiration. Cooking is not her favorite activity, by far, although she is famous for her chocolate chip cookies at her sons’ high school.

And she and her husband regularly host team dinners for an entire basketball team, so like most moms, she does things she doesn’t really enjoy that much for the good of her kids.

She was saying how it seems like all she does is cook, turning massive quantities of ground turkey into taco meat or wraps so the boys will have something to grab before practice in the summer or after practice once school had started.

Her husband is the grill master, and he cooks whole family-sized packages of chicken breasts at a time on the weekend, so she can turn the chicken into quick meals during the week. That’s especially important now that she is taking on more long-term substitute teaching assignments, something she waited to do until both boys had their driver’s licenses.

As I was building this creation, I thought of them, and how it could feed them easily. It’s just too bad that you can’t mail a casserole the same way that you can mail a birthday card.

Keep in mind here that the goal is to eat on the cheap, so feel free to change up ingredients to fit what you have on hand. And because I am a zero-spice girl, this was way enough spice for me.

Spicy Chicken Pasta

Small partial bag of frozen, fully cooked grilled chicken strips

1/3 box penne pasta

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1 can southwest corn with black beans and peppers

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 can cream of chicken soup

Small square (probably less than 6 ounces) processed cheese, (yes, Velveeta), cubed

In large pot, cook pasta according to package directions and drain. In same pot, cook chicken according to package directions. Remove from pan. Add cream of chicken soup, drained corn and undrained tomatoes. Simmer over low heat. Add cubed cheese and stir frequently until cheese is completely melted. Add chicken and drained pasta back to the pot, stir well and increase heat to medium. Simmer until warmed through. Makes 6 huge servings and is great left over.

If you have the ingredients on hand, a green salad will make a well-rounded meal. Otherwise, serve this up in bowls and call it delicious!

Follow community news editor Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @WYOSAS

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