I'm back with another Make Ahead Monday post. We eat a lot of chicken in our house, and a lot of times I'll menu plan on using leftover chicken in dishes so that I can just grill an extra breast or whatever. It's a great time saver, especially now that I'm back at work and have an hour between getting home with 2 kids and getting dinner on the table. But, to save even more time, I sometimes like to poach a bunch of chicken on Sunday and chop or shred it for later in the week, or even the freezer. As an added bonus, if you poach it with flavor enhancers like veggies, bay leaves, a little garlic you can use the poaching liquid to make broth. This is also a great way to actually use some of the forgotten veggies on their last legs! It's not quite as flavorful as broth made with bones, but it works, especially for dishes where you don't need a lot of extra flavor from the broth. I love to use it to make rice!
This is great to do when chicken is on sale as well. Just poach some chicken, dice or shred, and save for later in the week, or freeze in 1 cup portions in freezer-weight bags. This way you always have some cooked chicken ready to go. If you have some cheese tortellini or ravioli in the freezer, you can have dinner on the table in 25 minutes (the only time consuming part is boiling water to heat the pasta!) This tortellini is one of my favorite quick recipes. You can toss some frozen veggies in there while the pasta is warming up as well!
You may be asking, can't I just get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Yes, yes you can. I do this often as well, but I like this when there's a sale, or I need chicken for other meals and carving a chicken just won't work!
Here are some great dishes that I often make using pre-cooked chicken.
One Pot Chicken Mudega Pasta Skillet
Chicken Picatta Pasta Toss
Creamy Lemon and Spinach Tortellini
Chicken Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes
Chicken Cordon Bleu Risotto (or any risotto!)
Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken
Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
Water (just enough to cover the chicken by about an inch)
Any fresh herbs you have around
Place chicken in a large enough pot, cover with water by an extra inch. Add carrots, celery, salt, peppercorns and any fresh herbs.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, until it starts to bubble around the edges of the pot. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Remove chicken and allow to cool for a few minutes before chopping or shredding.
Meanwhile, strain the liquid in to a large bowl. Discard vegetables and herbs. Allow poaching liquid/broth to cool before storing in the fridge or freezer.
December 15, 2014
October 20, 2014
I have to admit that I didn't think having a second baby would hinder my kitchen efforts as much as it had. It's not that I don't have time to cook and bake, but it's finding an APPROPRIATE time to cook. With a preschooler running around, and a newborn that LOVES to eat, it seems that the hours between school and bedtime have me running around without any sort of direction trying to cook, keep the kids happy, answer the door of politicians and solicitors, etc. I'm not back at work yet, but I know that day will come quicker than expected, and I need to figure this whole thing out before then.
Enter make ahead meals. I've always done a pretty good job of making extras of certain dishes that freeze well, such as chili, lasagna and seasoned beef for tacos, burritos, etc., however I've never been really good at taking advantage of the rare free moment to prep ahead for the next day or coming week. I admit that I like to be lazy if I can! That being said, I want to stop being so lazy; it'll certainly make dinner time a lot easier. I need to start reinventing leftovers more, prepping for meals on the weekend or the night before while a casserole is in the oven or something, actively making freezer meals, anything I can to get dinner on the table without tearing my hair out, or ignoring my family. There's no point in taking the time to cook for my family if I'm too stressed to enjoy it!
With that in mind I've decided to implement a Make Ahead Monday segment on the blog. On Mondays I will post a meal that can be used to help make cooking in advance a little easier. Whether that's as fully make ahead as prepping a meal from start to just before cooking on night one to pop in the oven on night two, or something to pull out of the freezer before heading to work in the morning, a crockpot meal that's ready when you get home, or even just a way to prep some of the ingredients to save 10 minutes! I'm definitely not promising a weekly post... at least not yet. I do have a newborn at home that loves to eat, so I'm spending A LOT of my time acting as a dairy cow.
Now, without further adieu, my first Make Ahead Monday recipe/tip... the world's easiest tomato sauce.
I have a marinara sauce that I absolutely love, but sometimes it's too much for certain dishes. It's not the lightest sauce known to man. Also, I may not always have ingredients on hand if I get a hankering for a quick spaghetti. But with this sauce, it's literally 3 ingredients that I always have on hand. And it's pretty light for a tomato sauce. And it's E-A-S-Y! Open a can, cut some butter, cut an onion... simmer and serve! You really can't get much easier than that.
This is a great make ahead recipe because you can make a big batch of it and use throughout the week in repurposed dishes, or freeze some of it. For example, when I made this I doubled the recipe. I froze half, and I used just under half to make a baked ravioli. I set aside about a cup for pizza later in the week. Now, I have sauce in the freezer for a night that I don't have time to simmer, and I had sauce ready for pizza in a few days!
Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, in the sauce
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often, breaking up the tomatoes to get the desired texture you want (I like mine smooth smooth smooth!).
Remove the onions and serve!
Note: You can also use tomato puree and simmer a little less. I've done this too when I don't want to deal with breaking up the tomatoes since I do like mine smooth.
Source: The Smitten Kitchen
July 21, 2014
I've been holding out. I'm not sure why it's taken me a little over a year to share this recipe, so I apologize! I first made this recipe about a year ago to feed a small crowd (well, a crowd compared to my normal 3 people, but 8 may not be a crowd to many!), and I've made it many MANY times since, but never got around to taking pictures of it. If you like tacos, enchiladas, eating shredded beef just with a fork from te Tupperware container then you need this recipe in your life.
I generally just do ground beef when I make tacos because it's quick and a taco is always delicious, but the moment I tried this, nothing really compares. I probably make this beef about half the time and ground beef the other half, and we eat tacos quite often in our house.
What I love about this recipe is that it's easy to modify how hot or spicy you want it, but as is, it has a bit of a kick but isn't overly spicy. And you spend like 10 minutes prepping it before throwing it in the slow cooker to do the rest of the work for you!
Mexican Shredded Beef for the Slow Cooker
2lb. boneless beef road
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons chili powder (more for a little extra heat, or use a hot version)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (again, a little more for a little extra heat!)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Liberally season the roast with salt and pepper. Add the roast to the skillet and brown all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Put in your slow cooker.
Add onion to the pan and cook about 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for about another minute. Stir in broth and spices, scrapping up browned bits. Pour the "sauce" over the top of the roast.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred with two forks and allow to cook a few minutes longer. If you need to soak up any of the extra liquid you can put the slow cooker on high for a little bit after shredding the beef.
Source: Elly Says Opa
July 15, 2014
While many people take the opportunity to grill as much as possible during the summer months, personally it's not my favorite. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of food from the grill, but I'm just not a fan of being outside grilling. I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to hot temperatures, and this summer I'm in my 3rd trimester with my baby girl, so I'm really not digging extreme heat. However, I've discovered my love of one-pot and skillet dinners.
One-pot and skillet dinners are quick to prepare, and only require one pot and a few prep utensils, which are easy to clean while the dish is cooking away on the stove. What's not to love?
While menu planning for the week, I was looking through one of my favorite cookbooks, that I've neglected for far too long - The Pasta Revolution by the wonderful people at America's Test Kitchen. I saw a recipe for a Chicken Saltimbocca skillet (one pot dish) that catches my eye every time I open the book. As I was reading it for the 100th time probably, I started thinking about a local favorite of mine - Chicken Mudega, and thought I could easily adapt the recipe in to a chicken mudega dish. Chicken Mudega is a St. Louis based dish, as far as I know, that is a breaded chicken breast topped with Provel Cheese and a madeira wine butter lemon sauce with prosciutto. Delicious! (There's usually mushrooms as well, which I omit because I do not like mushrooms!)
Rob and I were fans, and well, Ty preferred to play with his food. Apparently we've approached the phase where pasta = snakes. This snake fearing mom is not impressed. Plus, I'm the one that cleans the table during bath time, so I'm doubly unimpressed! But what he did eat he liked! But, as for Rob and I, we were fans enough that I'm already planning on making this pretty soon!
One-Pot Chicken Mudega Skillet Dinner (Chicken with Prosciutto and a Lemon Wine Sauce)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped in to 1/2" pieces
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced thin or cubed
Salt and Pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup dry white wine (for a more authentic "Mudega" profile, use Maderia, but I prefer drier wines in pasta dishes)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
12 ounces thin spaghetti, broken in half
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Provel cheese (or a combination of White American and Mozzarella if you are not in the St. Louis area and don't have access to Provel)
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.; Add prosciutto and cook until crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside on a paper towel-lined.
Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and cook without moving for about 1 minute to brown. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until cooked through, about 2-4 minutes depending how thickly you sliced or cubed your chicken. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
Add onion to the skillet with the fat from the meats and oil still in it. Cook over medium heat about 8 minutes until softened and transluscent. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in wine and simmer about a minute until thickend.
Stir in broth, water and pasta. Increase heat to medium-high and cook at a high simmer for about 12-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is tender.
Transfer the entire contents of the chicken bowl, including juices, to the skillet, along with butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese and half of the prosciutto. Stir well to incorporate everything and melt the chicken. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper as desired. Top individual portions with remaining prosciutto.
Source: Heavily adapted from The Pasta Revolution by the editors of America's Test Kitchen