Thursday, March 5, 2009

Planning one dish meals

2/18/09 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

There’s nothing like a cold winter’s day to hunker down in a warm kitchen and bake all day long. Winter cooking feeds both body and soul. So many recipes and so little time!

 I compare the search for recipes and the finished product to a treasure hunt. First you rummage through the recipe file to find just the right map. After you find the map you gather your tools (ingredients, pots and pans) together. Then it’s time to follow the directions and turn on the heat in the oven.  The treasure is about to be revealed.

Of course, when working in the kitchen, there are always little side trails to explore and treasures to be revealed. Searching in the back of a cupboard can be an adventure in itself. Last week I found a favorite (formerly lost) roasting pan hiding under a soup kettle!

So what do you do if you like to eat but you don’t like to cook? Or maybe you like to cook but you’re a busy working mom or dad and there’s just no time at the end of your day. Still, your family has to eat and you’ve got to get dinner on the table with a minimum of time and effort. If you can’t stay home all day rummaging through the pantry and simmering sauces, you’ve got to have a plan.

We all know that hunger happens but dinner doesn’t. Every cook’s treasured goal should be a well-stocked pantry, closely followed by a basic menu plan posted on the refrigerator or bulletin board.

So set aside some time this weekend for meal planning. If you’re new to this, start small and just plan for the week ahead. You can get more ambitious later. Planning will not only save you time but money. No one knows your family’s tastes better than you do.

Write down several main dish ideas that your family enjoys. Pair them with a vegetable, green salad or coleslaw. Be sure and add bread or rolls for those growing teens. Post the menu and voila! You have the beginnings of easy, nutritious meals.

Grocery store ads can be the source of another treasure hunt. Don’t pay full price when you can shop for your list according to their specials. If chicken is on sale, stock up and substitute it for the more expensive pork chops. Next week pork may be on sale and you can do the same. And don’t forget that shrimp freezes well and makes a quick pasta dinner more appealing and delicious.

The following recipes are mostly one-dish meals from the clever people at Kraft.  Check them out to jumpstart your cooking juices. It’s amazing the ways that you can use a simple jar of spaghetti sauce but adding a can of tomatoes will transform the taste. Potatoes and noodles are great with chicken and pork but boxed stuffing mixes are also tasty.

And speaking of one-dish meals, fellow journalist Andrea Hummel suggests that we share some of our favorite potluck dishes. Great idea! If you have a tried and true salad, dessert or ‘hot dish’ recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Send it to me at 32253 Wilson Creek Rd., C.G. 97424 or via email (see below).

Ravioli and Cheese Bake

2 (19-ounce) packages fresh cheese filled ravioli
1 jar (16 ounce) spaghetti sauce
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (10 ounces) reduced sodium beef broth
¼ cup Italian dressing
1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Combine spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, beef broth and dressing in 13X9-inch baking dish. Add ravioli; mix lightly and cover with foil.

Bake 50 min. or until ravioli are tender. Remove foil; stir. Sprinkle with cheese. Let stand 5 min. or until cheese melts. Serves 6

Chicken and Potato Bake

4 bone-in chicken pieces
4 large potatoes, cut into wedges
¼ cup Italian dressing
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Place chicken and potatoes in 13X9-inch baking dish. Pour dressing over chicken and potatoes; sprinkle with cheese.

Bake one hour or until chicken is coked through (180° F.). Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, if desired. Serves 4

Note: To switch up the flavor, replace potato wedges with sweet potatoes or acorn squash.

Shrimp Pomodoro Pasta

½ cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups penne pasta, uncooked
1 pound cooked cleaned shrimp
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add dressing, onions and garlic; cook 2 min. Stir in tomatoes, cook 12 min., stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on package.

Add shrimp to sauce; cook 2 min. or until heated through. Drain pasta; toss with shrimp and sauce mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

1 package (16 ounce) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 (14-1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 cup reduced fat Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 400° F.
Mix stuffing mix with tomatoes, water and garlic until stuffing mix is just moistened. Layer chicken, basil, cheese and stuffing in 13X9-inch or 3-quart baking dish. Bake 30 min. or until chicken is cooked through.

Enjoy now or cover and refrigerate. To reheat, microwave each serving 2-3 min.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. Contact her at 942-1317 or email

No comments: