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Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:11

Make meals quick with well-stocked pantry

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Shrimp jambalaya can be a weekday dinner if you keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer. Shrimp jambalaya can be a weekday dinner if you keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer. File photo

There are three things you need to make a quick dinner on a weeknight: First, a well-stocked freezer; second, a well-stocked pantry; and third, enough self-control to get past all those fast-food places on the way home from work.


So, what do you do when you have to get dinner on the table fast? These recipes take maybe an hour from start to finish,  but at least half of that time is cooking time when they do not need to be watched over too closely. So, it’s possible to get home, assemble dinner, get the dog fed and read the mail while your dinner is finishing.

Start by keeping a running list of what you need so that when you do your grocery shopping, you buy what you need instead of what your irrational, emotional brain says you want. I use a chalkboard in the kitchen, which is transposed to a written list on shopping day, but others successfully use notes to themselves on a phone — whatever works.

Learn from your mistakes: If you always seem to be out of onions, keep diced onions in the freezer. Can’t seem to keep mushrooms in the refrigerator when you need them, keep a couple cans in the pantry. Fresh herbs are great, but dried herbs on the shelf will be there when you need them.


Chicken and pasta

Serves 4-6

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, frozen or thawed 

1-3/4 cups chicken stock

1 pkg. (10-oz. size) frozen spinach, run under hot water until thawed

1 pkg. (8-oz size) cream cheese

16 oz. raw penne pasta

Cook penne pasta per box directions. In a large skillet or pot, cook the chicken breasts at a slow simmer in the chicken stock until fully cooked (about 20 minutes). Place the spinach in a colander and run hot water over it until thawed. Remove the breasts from the chicken broth and set aside. Add the cream cheese to the broth and stir until incorporated. Add spinach and cooked pasta, stir to combine. Return chicken breasts to the skillet, cover and let simmer another 10 minutes. 


Sweet and sour meatballs

Serves 2-3

8-12 frozen, cooked meatballs (about 1 lb)

2 Tbsps. olive oil

1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 can (16-19-oz. size) pineapple chunks or tidbits with juice

2 Tbsps. grape jelly

2 Tbsps. soy sauce

2 Tbsps. barbecue sauce

2 Tbsps. cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Remove meatballs from freezer to start to thaw. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onion and green pepper about five minutes on high. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another two to three minutes. Add the can of pineapple with juice, jelly, soy sauce and barbecue sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in cool water and drizzle into the sauce while it is boiling and stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and add the meatballs. Cover and let simmer until meatballs are heated all the way through — about 15 minutes. Serve over cooked rice.


Shrimp jambalaya

Serves 2-4

2 Tbsps. olive oil

1 large onion, diced into 1-inch pieces

1 pepper, diced into 1-inch pieces

1 Tbsp. diced garlic

1 lb. shrimp, raw, cleaned

1 cup raw rice

1-1/2 cups water

1 can (19-oz size) chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped, dried

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. thyme, chopped, dried

2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce

In large skillet or pot, heat olive oil and saute the chopped onion and pepper about five minutes. Add shrimp and saute a few minutes more until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover tightly. Check consistency in 30 minutes. If rice is tender but the jambalaya is too runny, leave the cover off and continue to cook on a simmer until it thickens up to desired consistency. If rice is not done and all the juice has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of water, cover and continue cooking 15 minutes more.



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