Guest Author - Brandi Brown
With short hours and cold days during the winter, getting an elaborate dinner on the table can feel like a chore. Picking up a few easy dinners can help ease the stress, and often depression, that can rear its head during this time of the year. Use these quick ideas to get you started.
Soup, Salad and Grilled Cheese
Really, this meal is incredibly simple and deceptively filling. When winter is closing in, buy a few cans of store-bought soups. Look for healthier options to keep up with your nutritional needs. Also, toss in a little garlic with any soup for added health benefits. Put the soup on the stovetop to warm while making a quick grilled cheese in a skillet. While those two dishes are cooking, shred some salad greens and whatever toppings you have on hand in a bowl. Within five minutes, a full meal is ready to be served.
Pick up flatbread from your bakery. Bread made in the store should last for several days if sealed. Use this flatbread to concoct a makeshift pizza. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small pan, heat olive oil and garlic until aromatic. Add in a bit of oregano and basil – around one teaspoon – and cook another minute before adding in parsley and a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes. While you let the sauce heat to a simmer, get out cheese and other pizza toppings. Once the sauce simmers, remove from heat and spoon onto the flatbread. Because the bread is cooked, the pizza only needs to warm through in the oven, which should take about five minutes.
Quick Chicken Pasta
Tyson, Valley Foods and other manufacturers make shelf stable chicken available in pouches. This meat is pre-cooked, making it perfect for keeping on hand in cases when you need to throw something together quickly. Put your preferred shape of pasta – though bow-ties work well for this particular recipe – on to boil, which should take 8 to 10 minutes after the water is boiling.
While that’s cooking, place a skillet over medium heat. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet, and if you want a little extra “oomph” to the flavor, add a small dab of butter. Add ¼ cup of finely chopped onion and two cloves of garlic to the skillet. They should cook for about a minute before you add ¾ cup of whipping cream. If you don’t have whipping cream on hand, ½ cup of milk with a bit of cream cheese will work. Once the cream or milk is hot, begin to add Parmesan cheese until the sauce reaches the consistency you prefer. Turn down the heat and toss in the chicken and a handful of frozen peas. Toss to coat and let cook through – about one minute. Drain pasta and combine with the sauce mixture for a complete meal in 10 minutes.