Posts Tagged 'Make Ahead Meals'

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

Hi, all! Long time, no post. Since my husband and I started eating a mostly Paleo diet last year, I just haven’t been as inclined to write. Most meals are simple foods, simply prepared (but delicious!). I definitely repeat recipes a lot these days, whereas I used to try something new almost every day. Still, I had a friend request dinner ideas recently, so I’ll try to get back into the swing of things. (And I make no promise that absolutely everything I post will be healthy. A girl’s gotta live a little!)

Since we’re having another snow day here in Denver, I thought it would be the perfect time to post Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food. This recipe – like so many of my favorites these days – is what I like to call “accidentally Paleo.” It wasn’t created with the Paleo diet in mind, but the ingredients comply perfectly.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 min. | Total time: 55 min.

Ingredients:
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (boneless, skinless will work fine too)
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and diced medium
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water (I use Costco’s organic chicken stock)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 425°. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, squash, onion, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until squash and chicken are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and add broth, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. (I just give it a few pulses with my immersion blender.) Discard skin and bones from chicken; cut meat into small pieces and add to soup. Stir in lemon juice; season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh cilantro, if desired.

roasted_chicken_and_butternut_soup

I do love this soup. It’s hearty and filling thanks to the chicken, but it certainly isn’t heavy; the squash and lemon create a light texture and bright flavor. This one of several recipes I make in big batches and then freeze individual portions for future lunches. (I’m no longer a Lean Cuisine addict – hooray!)

Recipe link: Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

Thai Vegetable Curry

Today’s dish is one I was sure was on the blog already, based on how many times I’ve made it: Food & Wine‘s recipe for Thai Vegetable Curry. I first made it for a Thai-themed gourmet club meeting back in June of 2011 (along with this fantastic recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil). I typically make the curry every couple of months or so because it’s absolutely delicious, comforting, and incredibly easy.

This particular recipe is great for weeknights or entertaining. When I’m cooking for just the two of us, I serve it right away with a pot of rice. The curry is perfect for dinner parties, though, because it actually tastes a little bit better when it’s made a day ahead. I throw mine together in a Dutch oven, refrigerate it overnight for optimal flavor blending, and then gently reheat it on the stove while we enjoy appetizers with our guests.

Thai Vegetable Curry
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste (I used red curry paste)
1 2/3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (one 15-ounce can)
1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup drained canned bamboo shoots, halved
1 pound boiling potatoes (about 2), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound broccoli, thick stems removed, tops cut into small florets (1 quart) (I used cauliflower)
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/3 cup thin-sliced basil leaves

Method:
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and fry, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, bamboo shoots, potatoes, and broccoli. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomato and heat through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and basil.

Variations: Other vegetables that would taste good in place of the broccoli include carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, green beans, and canned baby corn. Try your favorite, or use a combination of vegetables.

Source: Food & Wine

Thai Vegetable Curry

Yum, yum, yum.  Maybe I just love curry and coconut, but this dish is simply delicious.  There’s good textural contrast in the vegetables, and I adore the warm, creamy broth.  My version is very mild since I use red curry paste; try green curry paste instead if you can’t get enough heat.

Earlier, I mentioned that I usually serve the dish immediately when it’s just the two of us and a day later when we’re entertaining.  One other modification I make is that I’ll use light coconut milk for us and regular coconut milk when we have guests.  Light coconut milk makes the dish super healthy (only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving, without rice).  Regular coconut milk doesn’t make it a nutritional disaster, but it certainly adds a richness to the broth that elevates the dish for company.

Recipe link: Thai Vegetable Curry

Vegetarian Chili

After enjoying glorious temperatures for the past couple of weeks, we’re back to comfort food weather here in Denver. (82° to 42° in 24 hours?  So Colorado.) Today’s recipe is one of my favorite recent discoveries: Vegetarian Chili from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food. It’s quick and easy, but it’s also hearty and has great depth of flavor (thank you, chipotle chile powder!). I made it last month up in the mountains for a group of friends that included a vegetarian and several meat eaters. While my sassy meat-eating friends refused to call it chili since it’s meatless, one of them also said it was in his top five “soups” of all time. I’ll take it!

Vegetarian Chili
Total time: 35 min. | Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

Method:
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes. Add cumin and chile powder, season with salt and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add zucchini and tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is deep brick red, 3 minutes. Stir in black beans, pinto beans, and both cans diced tomatoes. Add 2 cups water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook until zucchini is tender and liquid reduces slightly, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2010

Vegetarian Chili

I’ve been on the hunt for a good vegetarian chili recipe, and I have to tell you, this is IT. I love the smokiness of the chipotle chile powder (it makes the dish!), the sweetness of the tomatoes, and the crisp-tender texture of the zucchini. The chili is chunky, hearty, filling, and delicious. Since the flavor is actually better than most meat chilis I’ve tried or made, it’s perfect for entertaining vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

My only warning: If you don’t enjoy spicy food, you’ll want to cut the amount of chipotle chile powder considerably. As it’s written, the chili is quite warm (but certainly not unbearable), and that’s if you use canned tomatoes with mild green chiles. As a person who has been working to increase my tolerance for spicy foods, it pushes my boundaries just a bit. Our friends loved the amount of heat, but they did notice that it built up as they ate. Sour cream will offer some relief if you need it.

Recipe link: Vegetarian Chili

TIPS:  I was shocked to see the cheapest option for chipotle chile powder at my usual grocery store was $8.19. Yikes. Thankfully, I was able to find a jar at SuperTarget for $4.99. Even better if you have time: Go to a local spice store (Savory Spice Shop is my favorite!) and buy an even smaller (and less expensive) quantity.

Dueling Veggie Burgers

I’m having a vegetarian dinner guest again this weekend, and my tried-and-true options (a) have been done before, and (b) aren’t seeming super appropriate at this moment with this gorgeous weather.  What does seem appropriate?  Grilling! Burgers and side salads make an easy entertaining menu, so I decided to try two very different vegetarian burger recipes: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.

My use of the word “dueling” in the title might suggest that there was actually some hot competition between the recipes.  There wasn’t.  One recipe was leaps and bounds (truly!) above the other.  I wanted to include both, though, to help anyone who might be having their own veggie burger debate.

I’ll start with the Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers since I made them first.  The patties were made of quinoa, carrots, scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, and egg; they were seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper.  The patties came together easily and without too much mess, and I liked that they could be assembled a day ahead and held (uncooked) in the refrigerator.  The recipe called for the patties to be cooked on the stove, but I decided to use my outdoor grill since it would create less mess when I was entertaining my guests.  They cooked up easily (I did 8 minutes per side over medium heat) and didn’t stick to the grill at all.

The problem?  Despite all those delicious ingredients, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  They were also super dry when we reheated the leftovers the next day.  The yogurt-lemon-scallion sauce helped quite a bit, but the experience really should be about the burger, right?  Carnivores would never trade a beef or turkey burger for one of these, but I figured the quinoa burger would be a not-amazing-but-good-enough backyard barbecue option for vegetarians.

Greek Style Quinoa Burgers

That was, until I tasted the Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.  Oh.  Mah.  Gawd.  They were just as easy to make as the quinoa burgers (maybe easier) and still had make-ahead convenience factor, but I would actually choose this over meat from time to time.  Portobellos are a meaty mushroom to begin with, and they soaked up the marinade so beautifully.  You know that wonderfully messy, juicy dribble you get when you bite into a fantastic burger? You get it here.  With roasted red peppers and goat cheese (two of my favorite ingredients!) on a grill-toasted bun, this was absolute heaven.

Balsamic Portobello Burger with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

My only note is that you’ll use either one or two mushrooms per burger depending on the size of your portobellos.  Just make sure you get at least the weight recommended by the recipe (1 pound).  Consider making extras…  You won’t regret it!

Recipe links: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

I have two dilemmas on the grocery front this week.  One, I have so many beers in my refrigerator right now (party leftovers!) that I barely have room for anything else. Two, I have significant quantities of strawberries and grapes that I need to use.  I was able to respect the space issue and make use of some of the grapes with today’s recipe: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad from the June 2002 issue of Cooking Light.  Luckily, I had both green and red grapes left over from the party, and I had all of the other ingredients on hand except for the chicken breast (minimal fridge space needed) and the red onion (pantry storage).

Here’s the recipe:

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad
Serves 4 (approximately 1 1/4 cups per serving)

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle over chicken.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Wrap handle of skillet in foil; bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; refrigerate until chilled. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, green grapes, and next 6 ingredients (green grapes through orange juice) in a large bowl. Add chopped chicken, and toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with walnuts.

Source: Cooking Light, June 2002

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

This salad is soooooo good.  So good!  It’s super fresh tasting (the grapes), kicky (the red onion, paprika, and chili powder), and bright (the orange juice and vinegar).  The crunch of the toasted walnuts and the celery is fantastic as well.  I was initially a bit nervous about my chicken because my spices ended up blackening on the stove instead of browning, but the end result was flavorful, juicy meat.

Not that I advocate trickery, but I think this is one of those salads you could get away with serving to people who claim to hate mayonnaise.  There’s such a small quantity of it and it’s so diluted by the orange juice and the vinegar that you can’t even tell it’s in there.  Evil, I know.  What isn’t so evil is the nutritional value of the salad: only 7 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving!

Anyway, I acknowledge that I made this today because I already had most of the ingredients, but I would absolutely go out of my way to get the ingredients in order to make this again.  It’s definitely going into the book club/casual lunch/barbecue buffet recipe cache.

Recipe link: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

I initially hesitated to post this recipe because I knew it wouldn’t photograph very well, but what the heck?  It’s too yummy not to share.

I’m not usually one for recipe repeats (unless I’m entertaining), but I’ve made this dish twice in the past couple of weeks.  Both times, I was motivated by the need to use an excess amount of spinach in my refrigerator.  (I can’t pass up organic baby spinach at Costco since, at under $4, it’s less than the tiny containers I would get at the regular grocery store.  A pound of spinach is a lot of spinach, though!)  The first time was a test; the second time, I knew I’d be making something absolutely delicious.

What do I like about this recipe (besides the flavor, obviously)?  I like that it uses fresh spinach instead of the frozen stuff, since I think fresh tastes so much better. I like that it incorporates the convenience of rotisserie chicken.  I also appreciate that there isn’t much prep work, since the only ingredient that requires chopping is one onion.  (I used jarred minced garlic.)  I love that it can be made ahead, though I haven’t taken advantage of that option just yet.  Here’s the dish after Dr. O and I had devoured half of it:

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Think of this dish as creamed spinach with shredded chicken and fabulous, salty toasted bread on top.  If that appeals to you (and it does to me!), you’ll love this dish.  I also enjoy that I get something super creamy that isn’t completely nutritionally devastating because the base is made with half-and-half instead of cream.

Note:  I baked this in a 1 1/2-quart Corningware dish, and I’ll admit that the amount of food the recipe produces isn’t huge.  This is perfect for Dr. O and me to have dinner with enough left over for one person’s lunch the next day.  If you wanted to serve four (or even six) adults, I would double the recipe.  Also, be generous with seasoning during the cooking process.  It makes all the difference.

Recipe link: Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Football party season is upon us (Dr. O is out enjoying one as I write), which means it’s time to break out our very best game day recipes.  I found one this past week that is easy, perfect for entertaining (slow cooker!), and is actually pretty healthy: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches from the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food.  The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so I’ll share it with you here.

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
Serves 8 | Active time: 25 min. | Total time: 4 hr. 25 min.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup hot-pepper sauce, such as Frank’s (I used Cholula)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
8 hamburger buns

Method:
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until meat is golden brown, 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer to a slow cooker, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Repeat with chicken breasts.

To skillet, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent, 6 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet, 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to slow cooker.

To slow cooker, add crushed tomatoes, hot-pepper sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, and molasses; stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high until chicken is very tender, 4 hours.  Shred chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve on buns.

Note: Refrigerate the finished dish in an airtight container, up to 5 days, or freeze, up to 3 months.

Nutrition per serving: 358 cal; 10 g fat (3 g sat fat); 35 g protein; 31 g carb; 3 g fiber

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

These sandwiches were SO good!  I have a basic barbecued chicken sandwich recipe that I’ve been using for years, but this recipe has so much more depth of flavor. Unless I’m short on time, I’ll take this sandwich any day.  I should note, though, that the inclusion of the word “spicy” in the recipe title isn’t a joke.  I was cautious and cut the hot sauce to 3 tablespoons instead of 4; the heat was still enough to make our noses run.  (Our New Mexico and Arizona friends joke that we’re still “in training” when it comes to eating spicy food…  Somehow, I think this will be a lifelong process!)  Anyway, if you like it hot, go with the full 1/4 cup; if you don’t do spicy food, you might still get a hint of heat if you cut the hot sauce to 2 tablespoons.

Since I’m used to cooking fattier cuts of meat (like pork shoulder or chuck roast) in the slow cooker, I was a bit skeptical about how well the chicken breast would shred.  It was amazingly easy!  I guess that just goes to show that the slow cooker can do amazing things with meat, lean or not.

I won’t be cooking on Super Bowl Sunday, but I’m absolutely putting these sandwiches in my game day arsenal.  Give them a try the next time you need to make a casual supper for a crowd.




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