8 Prison Recipes Soldiers at Fort Cavazos Can Use to Make Meals from the Shoppette

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Just because you have to rely on food from a convenience store doesn't mean it can't be good, right?

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By now, you might have heard the Army's Fort Cavazos, formerly Fort Hood, has had some trouble getting junior enlisted troops real food in its dining facilities, forcing soldiers to drive to the nearest open chow hall, even if the round trip takes more than an hour. While base officials say they've remedied the issues, such dire circumstances might leave many soldiers to subsist on whatever snacks they can get from vending machines and shoppettes.

Read Next: Fort Cavazos Soldiers Have Been Without Proper Access to Food for Months

This may seem like a challenge unique to the junior enlisted ranks of the U.S. military, a class of warrior who can survive almost entirely on energy drinks and Copenhagen. But there is another particular group of Americans who have a lot of experience in dealing with inadequate or substandard food and who are forced to rely on junk and packaged foods to supplement their diets: prisoners.

Indeed, America's jails and prisons are filled with low-budget gastronomical geniuses, making the most of everything they can get their hands on from the commissary, which limits what they can actually acquire inside (it's supposed to, anyway). Every once in a while, they manage to share their recipes on websites, TikTok and elsewhere.

Here's just a sample of some of the most ingenious culinary delights ever whipped up in an ad-hoc jailhouse kitchen that are perfect for the spartan delights of barracks life.

1. Jailhouse Tamales

Ingredients:

• One bag Fritos

• One bag Flamin' Hot Cheetos

• Hot water

Hot sauce

If you don't have an electric kettle or other access to boiling water, you can still boil water. Just get a plastic trash can of water, and then follow ex-jewel thief Larry Lawton's instructions on how to make a prison boiler (we recommend you just get an electric kettle).

Finely crunch up the chips and put them together in a single bag. Add only enough water to make a thick dough. Drain off excess liquid and roll the dough up inside the bag in the shape of a tamale. Let it rest for a few minutes, then eat with hot sauce.

Pros: Easy to make

Cons: Hard to get consistency right, still tastes like junk food.

2. Prison Pad Thai

You may never make instant ramen the old way ever again.

Ingredients:

• One package Ramen

Peanut butter

• One package chicken chunks or summer sausage

Hot sauce

Peanuts

This will also require boiling water to prepare the noodles as normal. Drain the noodles and add seasoning. Mix in peanut butter, hot sauce and protein. Garnish with crushed peanuts.

Pros: I would eat this regularly.

Cons: None that I can see.

3. Crabapple Jam

One of the world's most famous ex-cons, Martha Stewart, describes how she made jam using crabapples from the prison grounds at West Virginia's Alderson Federal Prison Camp. If Fort Cavazos has crabapple trees, or if you bought fruit for some reason, you can make it, too.

Ingredients:

• 5 cups crabapples

• 2 cups water

• Around 1.5 cups sugar

Simmer chunks of fruit in water until soft. Strain the water through the closest thing to a cheesecloth you have. It's probably a sock. For every cup of juice, add three-quarters of a cup of sugar to liquid. Bring the liquid and sugar to a boil, until it's at 220 degrees. Remove from heat and pour into jars.

Pros: Seems like a lot of work, but it's probably tasty.

Cons: It is a lot of work. How often do you eat jam, anyway?

4. Burritos

It's basically very filling junk food.

Ingredients:

• One package Ramen

• One 8oz bag popcorn, preferably jalapeño ranch flavor

Cheese spread

Spicy Takis

Tortilla

• Half bag Cheetos

Cheese crackers

• Protein (usually summer sausage)

Hot sauce

Crush the uncooked ramen inside the package, then use hot water to cook the ramen inside its package. Use ramen seasoning on the popped popcorn. Finely crush the cheese crackers and Takis and mix with hot sauce and cheese spread. Mix all ingredients except ramen in the popcorn bag. Spread remaining cheese on the tortilla. Layer drained ramen on the cheese, then the spicy mixture from the popcorn bag, then add protein. Wrap it up.

Pros: Easier to make than it seems.

Cons: Still tastes and feels like junk food.

5. Prison Pizzas

Ingredients:

• One package Ramen

Saltine crackers

• Things you like on your pizza

Boil off the ramen noodles for this one first, then drain the noodles. Crumble up the crackers and add both to a trash bag. The more you use, the bigger your pizza will be. Add more hot water and cracker crumbs until it has a firm texture. Since you're not actually in prison, you can also bake it later.

From there, you can add whatever favorite toppings are available. In prison, they use salsa, cheese spread, summer sausage, actual pepperoni, etc. Your shoppette might even have actual mozzarella string cheese.

Pros: Also a lot of work.

Cons: Making this is a grim reminder of how far you've fallen.

6. Chicken Nuggets

Whomever came up with this is the Oppenheimer of the U.S. prison system.

Ingredients:

• Packaged pre-cooked chicken chunks

• One bag Flamin' Hot Cheetos

• One bag Fritos

Saltine crackers

• Bag of microwave popcorn

While the popcorn is popping as directed, finely crush chips and saltines in a bag. This will be your breading. When the popcorn is finished, discard the popcorn (if you're at Fort Cavazos, you should eat it; you probably need the calories). Wet the chicken with some water. Using a separate bag, bread chicken chunks using the saltine/chip dust.

Add breaded chicken to the microwave popcorn bag, making sure to fold the bag over as you put it in the microwave. Microwave for two minutes, depending on how much chicken you have and how new your microwave is. Actual prisoners use baked chicken from the mess hall and microwave for five minutes.

Pros: I cannot believe this worked, but it did. Use bigger pieces of chicken for more fun.

Cons: The DFAC doesn't make this, but they should.

7. Chi Chi

Apparently, Chi Chi is one of the oldest commissary-only recipes floating around the American prison system, so if you're inclined to pass judgment, remember you're messing with a classic.

Ingredients:

Crush the noodles in the package and add hot water to cook. Break up the Slim Jims and summer sausage and heat the chili. Drain the noodles and add to a garbage bag. Add one flavor pack and jalapeño cheese. Mix well. Add meat and mix again. Add chili and mix again. Pour into a bowl. Or eat from the bag. Whatever, it's your life.

Pros: Tasty, for sure.

Cons: This is the ultimate depression meal, if you're not actually in prison.

8. Orange Porkies

Another timeless prison classic.

Porkies are probably the most experimental of prison cuisine.

Ingredients:

• One package pre-cooked rice

• 4 packets Orange Kool-Aid

• One package Ramen

Pork rinds

Heat rice as directed on package. Crunch up ramen noodles and cook them with hot water. Prep Kool-Aid in a separate container with one tablespoon of hot water to make a sauce. Coat the pork rinds with it until they're completely covered, then microwave for two minutes. Mix rice with cooked and drained ramen. Serve pork rinds on top of the rice and ramen mixture.

Pros: Surprisingly tangy and not bad, guaranteed you've never had anything like it.

Cons: The Kool-Aid is a gimmick and causes the pork rinds to burn if not careful.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

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