Posts Tagged 'Make Ahead Meal Recipes'

Curried Chicken Salad

Dr. O and I finally had our first picnic of the summer last week. ¬†He loves – and I mean loves – ’80s music, so I thought it would be fun for us to check out That Eighties Band (music will play when the window opens – beware! ūüôā ) when they played a free outdoor concert at the Streets of Southglenn. ¬†An outdoor concert definitely equals a picnic event, so I set to planning the perfect menu.

I decided to plan the meal around a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a long time: Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad. ¬†For sides, I went with extremely easy, portable treats: grapes, pepper strips with hummus, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. It was picnic perfection. ¬†I enjoyed the chicken salad so much that I made it again on Monday, but this time I took pictures. ¬†Here’s Ina’s recipe if you’d like to give it a try:

Curried Chicken Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise (recommended: Hellman’s)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chutney (recommended: Major Grey’s)
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 large stalks)
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350¬įF.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.  Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken into large bite-size pieces.

For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process until smooth.

Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well.  Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well.  Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.  Add the cashews and serve at room temperature.

Source: Ina Garten/FoodNetwork.com

Curried Chicken Salad

If you like curry, this chicken salad is simply the best. ¬†It’s creamy (mayo), crunchy (celery and cashews), sweet (raisins), and spicy (curry and scallions). ¬†I could happily eat it at least once a week for the rest of my life, and it’s my new go-to summer recipe. ¬†Yum, yum, yum!

In the interest of full disclosure, I did modify the recipe a bit the second time around since it has three small issues: One, the full-fat mayo and the olive oil are heavy on calories; two, you end up with far more dressing than you need if you make the recipe as written; three, there’s absolutely no need to dirty the food processor in order to make the dressing. ¬†Here’s my lightened, easier version, which is still incredibly delicious:

Lighter Curried Chicken Salad
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad
Makes four 1-cup servings

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
Kosher salt
3/4 cup light mayonnaise (recommended: Hellman’s Light)
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons chutney (recommended: Major Grey’s)
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup medium-diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white and green parts (1 large scallion)
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup whole roasted, salted cashews

Method:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the chicken breast and boil for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.

For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Combine the chicken and the dressing. ¬†(You’ll use most, if not all of it.) ¬†Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well. ¬†Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. ¬†Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of cashews and serve at room temperature.

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High Altitude Update: Breakfast Casserole

I was recently hit with a major influx of bread. ¬†My dad was in town last week and my uncle was joining us for dinner at the house, so I had purchased a package of white bakery buns for barbecued chicken sandwiches. ¬†An hour before dinner, I got a fantastic Foodbuzz-related delivery: three packages of rolls – one white, one wheat, one sesame hoagie – courtesy of Nature’s Pride. ¬†My uncle voted for the wheat rolls that evening and I ended up freezing the white and sesame rolls, but my original package of white buns was left sitting in the pantry.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to keep my groceries bills down and to de-clutter my pantry by using what I have. ¬†What’s one of the best ways to use up extra bread? ¬†Egg casserole, baby. ¬†My mom has a recipe that has been a longstanding family favorite, but I hadn’t tried it since Dallas. ¬†With so many houseguests coming in the next several weeks, I figured it was time to add this one to my high-altitude arsenal.

I followed the recipe exactly as written except that I used some of the Mexican-blend cheese I’ve had in the freezer since the Ocho de Mayo party. ¬†(If anyone wants to come over for quesadillas, let me know. ¬†I still have four pounds of it!) ¬†I also used all of the optional ingredients. ¬†I baked the casserole for the full 60 minutes and let it stand for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Breakfast Casserole

This is such a tasty recipe and it absolutely reminds me of being back home. ¬†When I wrote my original post I swore I’d only use challah bread for egg dishes from that point on, but the hamburger buns did an amazing job of soaking up the egg mixture. ¬†(The casserole sat for 30 minutes at room temperature before I baked it; I didn’t refrigerate it at all this time.) ¬† ¬†I was a bit concerned that it might not quite be done at the hour mark because the center looked slightly juicy; I used my instant-read thermometer to take its temperature, though, and it had reached a more-than-okay 180¬įF. ¬†When I cut it after 10 minutes of resting time, it wasn’t runny at all. ¬†(I might still give it an extra 5 minutes of baking time next time just because.)

If you’re looking for a creamy, cheesy, comforting crowd pleaser, this is your recipe. Give it a try!

Link to original post and recipe: Breakfast Casserole

Lentil Vegetable Soup

When my friend had surgery a few weeks ago, I wanted to bring him some food to make his life a bit easier in the following days. ¬†It seems, though, like so many deliverable foods tend to be heavy: lasagnas, casseroles, enchiladas, etc. ¬†(I should probably mention that my friend’s enchiladas are better than mine anyway!) ¬†I was looking for something healthy and portable that would stand up to reheating; Ina Garten’s Lentil Vegetable Soup was a perfect solution. ¬†It requires considerable prep work and the cooking time is long, but the results are absolutely delicious. ¬†Plus, I nearly filled two 12-cup storage containers with soup when all was said and done. That’s plenty for eating, freezing, or sharing.

Full disclosure: Depending on your knife skills and how quickly you move in the kitchen, you should probably count on 15 – 30 minutes of vegetable prep work before you can really get rolling with the recipe. ¬†I’m going to write about the process as if the vegetables are already ready to go.

To start, I sorted and rinsed 1 pound of green lentils. ¬†(Thank you, Gomez family, for teaching me long ago that this isn’t meant to happen bean by bean!) ¬†The recipe specifically¬†calls for French green lentils; my grocery store had one type of lentil (not French, I’m sure), so I took what I could get. ¬†I put the clean lentils in a large bowl, covered them with boiling water, and let them sit for 15 minutes. ¬†Once the time had passed, I drained the lentils and set them aside.

Meanwhile, I saut√©ed 4 cups of chopped yellow onions (3 large onions), 4 cups of chopped leeks (white part only – I needed 3 large leeks), and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of coarse salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin in a large stockpot over medium heat. ¬†After 20 minutes, I added 3 cups of medium-diced celery (8 stalks) and 3 cups of medium-diced carrots (6 carrots) and saut√©ed everything for 10 more minutes. ¬†Next, I added 3 quarts of chicken stock (three 32-ounce containers), 1/4 cup of tomato paste, and the drained lentils. ¬†I covered the pot, brought the soup to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered the soup uncovered for an hour. ¬†(At this point, the lentils should be cooked through. ¬†Keep simmering if they’re too firm for your taste.) ¬†Once the hour had passed, I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t have to add much) and stirred in 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. ¬†I delivered the soup to my friend with a container of freshly grated Parmesan for sprinkling on top.

Lentil Vegetable Soup

Oh, this soup is yummy. ¬†The cumin and thyme help create a rich flavor profile, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a soup more hearty and comforting. ¬†I simmered mine for the recommended hour, and the lentils were almost al dente – completely cooked, but not even remotely mushy. ¬†The vegetables were crisp-tender (even after an hour of simmering!), which is so much better than the “boiled to mush” vegetables you find in canned soups. ¬†This soup earned the endorsement of my friend, his father, my husband, and my parents (my dad loves lentil soup, so my mom made it the week after I did); it’s definitely going in the “keeper” pile.

TIPS: ¬†I used my 8.5-quart Dutch oven to make the soup; the pot size was just perfect. ¬†Also, if you’ve never worked with leeks, please read this post; grit isn’t good!

Recipe link: Lentil Vegetable Soup

Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

It’s my turn to host gourmet club this month, and I’ve chosen French food as the theme. ¬†(It’s not very original with all the Julia Child buzz from last fall, I know, but I thought it would work well since French food and February are generally known for romance.) ¬†My first test recipe (which I failed to photograph!) was Ina Garten’s Boeuf Bourguignon. ¬†It was absolutely delicious and can be made a day ahead, so I put it on the official menu. ¬†The recipe serves six, though, and while there are only six people in my gourmet club, I wasn’t completely comfortable without a bit of wiggle room in terms of portions. ¬†Rather than make more Boeuf Bourguignon, I thought it would be more interesting to curb appetites a bit with a first course. ¬†I originally thought to serve salad and even tried a recipe, but it just wasn’t fitting with my vision.

Luckily, an Epicurious search turned up fancy, make-ahead food gold: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés.  In my mind, soufflés were always temperamental intermediate- or expert-level dishes that had to be served immediately.  These do take a bit of work for the initial assembly, but you end up with perfect individual portions waiting in the refrigerator.  A bit of seasoned cream and 15 minutes in the oven are all that stand between you and heaven on a plate.

I followed the recipe as written, so I won’t go through the step-by-step here. ¬†I do have a few notes, though, that may be helpful if you want to attempt the recipe:

  • When the recipe says “5 cloves dried garlic,” it’s talking about the garlic we are accustomed to buying in the produce section of American supermarkets. ¬†(Take a bulb, separate and peel five cloves, and chop them.) ¬†I’m not even sure where to buy fresh garlic.
  • I used regular white vinegar, whole milk, and Cantal cheese (which I actually managed to find in the “fancy” cheese section of my regular old grocery store).
  • I brought my eggs to room temperature before using them. ¬†Either let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes or submerge them in a container of warm (not hot!) water for 2 minutes or so.
  • I used my immersion blender to puree the garlic milk; it worked beautifully.
  • My ramekins only had a 1/2-cup capacity (not 3/4 cup as the recipe recommends), but I didn’t have any problems.
  • My first round of baking was 25 minutes at 350F.
  • I wasn’t as thorough as I could have been when I buttered my ramekins, so I struggled just a bit to get my souffl√©s¬†out of the dishes. ¬†Next time, I’ll butter generously. ¬†It doesn’t really matter if they don’t come out perfectly anyway since no one will see the bottoms when the finished product is served.
  • To hold the souffl√©s¬†until the next day, I put them in larger ramekins (as the recipe says), let them cool completely, covered them with plastic wrap, and then placed them in the refrigerator.
  • I put salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in the heavy cream to make my sauce.
  • To serve the souffl√©s, I pulled them out of the refrigerator, removed the plastic wrap, and placed them on a rimmed baking sheet. ¬†I spooned the cream sauce over them, baked them for 15 minutes at 400F, and served them immediately.

Here are the soufflés straight out of the oven after the first round of baking (nice and puffy!):

Garlic Souffles Fresh From the Oven

Here are the cooled soufflés in the larger ramekins before I covered them with plastic wrap:

Cooled Garlic Souffles

And here’s the final product:

Twice-Baked Garlic Souffles

They didn’t puff up quite as much as I had hoped after the second baking, but they were so incredibly delicious! ¬†The savory combination of the garlic, thyme, and Cantal cheese was seriously to die for. ¬†The texture was really light and fluffy, and baking them with the cream sauce creates a flaky, crusty top. ¬†I loved how Dr. O said that he really enjoyed the sauce… ¬†What’s not to like about something that’s 95% heavy cream? ūüėČ

I served the souffl√©s¬†with vegetables as a light dinner the first night; Dr. O liked them so much that he had two more for breakfast the next day (a good sign!). ¬†The recipe only mentions making the souffl√©s¬†one day ahead, but the fact that they were just as delicious that morning tells me that you can easily get away with two days. ¬†I’m just so excited to have found a make-ahead recipe that is flavorful, gorgeous, and perfect for entertaining; this one will definitely be filed as a “keeper.”

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

Quick and Easy Valentine’s Day Recipes

Since I just passed on these recommendations to a certain someone (I won’t give you away!), I thought I might as well share them with the rest of you. ¬†These are recipes that I think are special enough for your sweetie but fast and easy enough for the cook to be able to relax and enjoy the evening.

Chicken with Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes – Juicy chicken with elegant presentation, plus you can assemble it a day ahead.

Goat Cheese “Ravioli” with Parsley Sauce – Use wonton wrappers to make almost-homemade ravioli. ¬†This one can even be made a day ahead (or frozen) to make mealtime that much easier.

Halibut Meuniere РThis is a fast, fresh-tasting fish option.  Love that golden crust!

Pan-Seared Steak РNo grill required.  This is a great way to create a steakhouse-style meal at home.

Pear and Prosciutto “Carpaccio” – This one is more of an appetizer, but it’s gorgeous and easy. ¬†Reduce the balsamic vinegar a day before to get things on the table even faster.

Penne with Vodka Sauce – Pink sauce is so in line with Valentine’s Day, don’t you think?

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Chops – As I said in the original post, this one is AMAZING. ¬†No one will believe it only took 15 minutes to make. ¬†Be sure to get prosciutto di Parma at the deli, though… ¬†The packaged stuff is borderline inedible.

Raisin-and-Bread-Stuffed Pork Chops – It’s comforting and delicious, and it only takes 25 minutes to go from ‘fridge to table (including a side of veggies).

Let me know if you give any of them a try!

Kielbasa Black Bean Chili

I (lightly) catered a party last month for a friend who is involved in the Junior League of Denver, and she gave me a copy of Colorado Classique (the new Junior League of Denver cookbook) as part of my payment.¬† The JLD cookbooks are a well-known source of fantastic recipes, so I was really excited to receive my very first one.¬† I had the pleasure of tasting the peanut butter bars from the book at my friend’s house (absolutely incredible – I’ll be making and posting them soon), but I wanted my first selection from the book to be something well-suited for the winter-like weather we experienced here in Denver last week.¬† I chose to go with the Kielbasa Black Bean Chili, and boy did I choose well.¬† Dr. O and I enjoyed it so much that I have another pot simmering on the stove right now so we’ll have some to enjoy with football tomorrow.

To make the stew, I started off by heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in my 8 1/2-quart Dutch oven.¬† (You could probably get away with one that’s a bit smaller.)¬† Next, I tossed in 1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) of turkey kielbasa (quartered lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces) and cooked it until it started to brown.¬† (This took 10 minutes at my house; the recipe indicated 12 minutes.)

Using a slotted spoon, I transferred the kielbasa to a bowl and set it aside.¬† You need to have to 2 tablespoons of oil in the pot before the next step, so add or subtract from the drippings if necessary.¬† (My turkey kielbasa didn’t render much fat but did soak up some oil, so I had to add oil to the pot.)¬† Still using medium-high heat, I added 2 cups of chopped onions, 1 coarsely chopped red bell pepper, 1 coarsely chopped green bell pepper, and 4 chopped garlic cloves to the pot.¬† I sauteed them until they were beginning to brown (6 minutes at my house, 10 minutes in the recipe).

To the vegetable mixture, I added four 15-ounce cans of black beans (drained and rinsed), a 32-ounce box of chicken broth, a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice (undrained), 3 tablespoons of chili powder, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 3 small bay leaves, 1 1/2 tablespoons of dried oregano, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin.  I brought the chili to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduced the heat to medium, covered it, and simmered it for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I returned the kielbasa to the pot and reduced the heat to low.  I simmered the chili, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When it was nice and thick, I seasoned it with salt and pepper to taste and served it with sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.

Kielbasa Black Bean Chili

I could happily eat this once a week through the end of winter…¬† It’s amazingly delicious, warm, and comforting.¬† Plus, the recipe yields 8 servings, so we were able to have dinner twice plus a lunch for Dr. O on one night’s worth of cooking.¬† It was wonderful the first night, but a tip included with the recipe was spot on: The chili really was even better the next day.¬† This makes it perfect for casual entertaining; I’m going to put the chili, Dutch oven and all, into the refrigerator and then just gently reheat it tomorrow for the game.

TIPS:¬† The bottom of my Dutch oven got pretty brown when I was browning the kielbasa, and the onions picked up the color when they were sauteeing.¬† It didn’t cause any problems with the chili in terms of flavor or appearance, so don’t worry if this happens to you.

Kielbasa Black Bean Chili
Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
1 1/2 pounds turkey or beef kielbasa or Canino’s Bratwurst, quartered lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups chopped onions
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
4 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 32-ounce box organic chicken broth
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
3 – 4 tablespoons chili powder, depending on desired spiciness
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 small bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons salt, or more to taste
Sour cream and chopped green onions for topping

Method:

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add kielbasa or bratwurst and saute 12 minutes or until beginning to brown.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer kielbasa or bratwurst to a bowl.  If necessary, add more olive oil to drippings in pot to measure 2 tablespoons, or discard all but 2 tablespoons of drippings.  Add onions, both bell peppers, and garlic.  Saute 10 minutes or until beginning to brown.  Add beans, broth, tomatoes with juice, chili powder, sugar, vinegar, bay leaves, oregano, and cumin.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.  Return kielbasa or bratwurst to pot.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until chili is thick, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.

Chili can be made a day ahead.  Cool slightly; cover, and chill.  Rewarm before serving.

Source: Colorado Classique

Gazpacho

Summer is officially here and I am absolutely loving the produce.¬† It was my turn to host the Gourmet Club meeting this month, so in honor of summer and all of its bounty, I decided the theme would be “farmer’s market fresh.”¬† The goal was to use ingredients that might be found in a farmer’s market at this time of the year and also for the dishes to have a fresh edge – light, crisp, not cheese-laden, etc.

My fellow foodies brought the appetizers and desserts (they were fantastic!), and I handled the main part of the meal since I was hostessing.¬† After much (and I mean way, way too much) thought, I decided on Gazpacho with Grilled Ciabatta as our first course and Emeril’s Fish Provencal with Orzo and Zucchini Salad as the main.¬† I’m going to share the Gazpacho with you today (mostly because I had a chance to snap a photo of it before we ate it!).¬† It’s a bit time-consuming to prep all of the produce, but this is a fantastic dish for entertaining because it actually tastes *better* if you let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving it.¬† It’s great for summer too because there’s no heat involved; what sounds more refreshing than a chilled summer soup on a warm evening?

To start, I roughly chopped 1 hothouse cucumber (halved and seeded but not peeled), 2 red bell peppers (cored and seeded), 4 plum tomatoes (cored), and 1 red onion into 1-inch cubes.¬† (They don’t have to be perfect because everything ends up in the food processor anyway.)¬† I put each ingredient separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulsed until it was coarsely chopped.¬† The recipe cautions you not to overprocess the ingredients, and the exclamation point in the recipe is for good reason.¬† During my test run of the recipe, I think I pulsed each ingredient about seven times; Dr. O suggested the soup would make a nice salsa.¬† When I made it for Gourmet Club, I pulsed each ingredient about four times, which gave me just the right amount of chunkiness.¬† (I did process the red onion until it was pretty finely chopped, though.¬† Few people enjoy a big bite of raw red onion.)

After each ingredient was processed, I transferred it to a large bowl.  I added 3 minced garlic cloves, 3 cups of packaged tomato juice, 1/4 cup of white-wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of kosher (coarse) salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  I thoroughly mixed everything together, covered the bowl, and chilled the gazpacho in the refrigerator until I was ready to serve it (about 8 hours, though you can chill it for far less time if necessary).

Gazpacho

This soup is super delish; it’s light, fresh, and flavorful.¬† I adore this recipe even more because it lets me make and clean up my mess long before company arrives.¬† This is another case, though, where the soup can only be as good as what you put into it.¬† Make sure you get the freshest possible produce and use top-quality olive oil – the flavor difference will be worth it!

TIPS:¬† If you’ve never specifically used a hothouse (or English) cucumber, they typically come in a plastic wrapper at the grocery store.¬† They have thinner skin, less conspicuous seeds, and milder flavor than a regular cucumber.

Recipe link: Gazpacho




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