One Pot Can Do a Lot

chicken one pot
I much prefer cooking to doing the dishes so I’m lucky that one pot can do a lot! I don’t mind chopping, slicing, measuring, whisking, stirring, beating, boiling, and baking, but when it comes to washing the dishes, I’d rather not. If you’re like me, cooking dinner can put you at odds with yourself if the preparation generates lots of pots and pans.

Reducing the amount of pot scrubbing required is one of the reasons I love a one pot meal, but it’s not the only one. One pot meals are a good way to make sure the kids get some vegetables on their plates. Hidden in a mountain of rice and cheese, a stray green pea can find its way onto a spoon without inciting protest from the picky eater.

There’s also something comforting about a hearty bite that combines meat, vegetables and a starch. Chicken, rice, and green peas with curry seasoning or ground beef, rice and black beans with taco seasoning is filling and satisfying whether you grab a bowl on the run or sit down and pair it with fruit and a green salad.
green one pot
And of course, the starch doesn’t have to be rice. I use potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, quinoa, and pasta in one pot meals. When the kids were little, I used to call our one pot meals “stuff”. There were many versions of stuff depending on what was in the fridge at any given moment. With corn I might use ground beef, with Polish sausage I’d choose pasta, and with sweet potatoes, we’d enjoy breakfast sausage.

Most often my one pot meals begin by sautéing an onion. Once the onion is clear, I add fresh vegetables or meat if I have leftover vegetables that are already cooked. While I don’t really make a sauce, I sometimes add sour cream, cheese and RO*TEL tomatoes, or cream cheese and season accordingly. Stuff is never exactly the same, but it is always good!

I always use an oversize pot and fill it with a one pot meal. That means leftovers galore. I may not eat them for several meals in a row, but they become my go-to quick meal throughout the week. I can dish some out into a bowl and microwave it for lunch, or put the pot back on the stove and heat it up for family dinner. Having something ready that I can eat when my schedule suddenly changes means I feel confident that I can keep going full speed ahead because I know I have nutritious gluten-free food available at a moment’s notice.
beef one pot
I love making one pot meals because they reduce the amount of pots and pans I have to wash. They make it easy to get the kids to eat more vegetables. They help me clean out the refrigerator. And best of all, they provide hearty, delicious leftovers that are ready with just one minute of microwaving so I always feel confident to go full speed ahead with my crazy, busy schedule.

I’m so grateful that one pot can do a lot!

Save Time and Money When You Use These Tips

eggshellsLast week, I let the chicken I was baking make cream of mushroom soup, and this week I will save even more time and money by using these tips. Of course, you can do this too!

It’s not really that I’m getting lazy these days, it’s that I have an overwhelming number of additional tasks that were unexpectedly added to my already full plate. When my mother had a stroke in December, I took over the management of my 95-year-old cousin’s affairs. While she’s in great health, able to live in her own home, and to get out and play dominoes with friends on Saturdays, she can no longer deal with her mail, manage her financial obligations, schedule her own appointments, or transport herself.

Then a few weeks ago, my mother passed away and I became a co-trustee of her trust and co-executrix of her will. While co-executrix is a pretty cool word, it also means lots of extra research, forms, sorting & filing, meetings, phone calls, and decisions to make.

These real life storms happen to all of us. At the time, it always feels like they occur at an inconvenient time. The truth is, that there’s never a convenient time for sadness, grief, loss, or extra caregiving duties. If there were, it would mean we aren’t living very full lives. We’d most likely be failing to pursue the challenging job we desire, the degree we want, our next athletic achievement, or the dream vacation we can finally afford.

Knowing that the ebb and flow of life will always deliver intermittent difficult times, it’s good to have a few tricks handy that make things easier on the budget and your schedule when times get tough. Here are a few tricks I rely on regularly:

1)Cook 2 things in the same pot or pan at the same time that can be later mixed and matched for 2 or 3 different meals.

Baked Chicken and Cream of Mushroom Soup
Last week’s chicken spaghetti blog featured a perfect example of this trick. I made cream of mushroom soup in the bottom of the pan while baking chicken. Later, I used both in chicken spaghetti. Then I took the leftover mushroom soup, added some cubed potatoes, and ate potato mushroom soup for a couple of meals.

Pork Chops and Polenta
I like to cook polenta in the bottom of a casserole dish when I bake pork chops. It’s probably the easiest way ever to prepare polenta and later I can use some of it to make grilled polenta cakes with tomato and kale. The pork chops cut into thin strips or cubes can be made into tacos or added to macaroni and cheese.


2)Save pot likker to use in other dishes or one pot meals.

Traditional pot likker is the broth produced when you cook greens, but I like to save the broth from boiling black eyed peas, beans, and broccoli as well. Seasoned, it can be used as a base for a soup or sauce. It can also be used in place of chicken broth to cook rice or to add flavor to a one pot meal. Storing vegetable broth in the refrigerator has saved me more than one trip to the store.
pulled pork
3)Remake leftovers into something new.

When I began to tire of the aforementioned chicken spaghetti, I sautéd some onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, then added the leftover chicken spaghetti and some extra cheese to the pan. The chicken spaghetti was transformed into pasta primavera…with chicken. It tasted fresh and new and took less than 20 minutes to prepare.

I sometimes make pulled pork enchiladas with leftover smoked pork. Roasted chicken becomes chicken salad, chicken quesadillas, or chicken and rice. Leftover veggies fill my frittatas or get added to browned turkey for a one pot meal.

James flew in hungry late the night I baked chicken for chicken spaghetti. He topped one of the chicken breasts with mushroom, potato soup and a piece of pepper jack cheese, then popped it in the microwave for a quick and filling meal.

4)Boil some eggs and store them in the refrigerator (they’ll last a week).

Boiled eggs are an easy protein to grab when you’ve waited too long to eat. Just add a little salt and pepper and they’re good to go. They’re also easy to carry in the car or on airplane trip.

Boiled eggs can become egg salad or a great addition to tuna salad, chicken salad, or pasta with sausage and peas.
dates
5)Keep nuts in the freezer and dried fruit in the pantry.

I always have raw almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews in my freezer. I use them for desserts, meatloaf, meatballs, and salads. At any given moment, I’ll also have a variety of dried fruit in the pantry. I like the ones without added sugar – dates, papaya, mango, pears, figs, and raisins.

My standard breakfast is Greek yogurt with raw almonds and golden raisins. When I travel, I carry nuts and raisins with me. Sometimes I throw in a few chocolate chips. It’s like extra simple trail mix.

In order for me to deal with added stress, it’s important to keep my eating, sleeping, and exercise routine fairly constant. While it might be easy to rely on fast or overly processed foods when I’m overbooked, doing so makes me feel bad so I try to keep it to a minimum. Using a few tricks in the kitchen helps keep me stay on track and have time for the rest and exercise I need to remain resilient.

Let the Food do the Work

chicken spaghettiWhen you’re tired and overwhelmed, don’t do more shopping, let the food do the work! The past few weeks have held multiple family gatherings. I decided to make chicken spaghetti for one of them. That was always my mom’s go-to for a dinner party when I was small and I’ve been wanting to make it for a while.

Most chicken spaghetti recipes contain cream of mushroom soup and most readily available cream of mushroom soups contain wheat flour. That may work for most of the family, but there are several of us who can’t tolerate gluten. Rather than driving from store to store in search of an acceptable soup brand or taking the extra step of making soup, I simply let the chicken make soup for me!

To make chicken spaghetti, I needed to cook some chicken to cube up. I decided it would be easy to make soup while I cooked the chicken. I started by spraying an extra large roasting pan with olive oil spray. I then covered the bottom of the pan with rough chopped white button mushrooms and topped the mushrooms with 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and 6 thighs liberally seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

The next addition was a 32 oz box of gluten-free chicken broth that I always keep in the pantry. I poured it around the chicken. I did the same with a pint of heavy whipping cream and enough milk to reach the top of all but the largest chicken breasts. I dotted any exposed chicken with butter.

From that point, all I had to do was bake the chicken for 50 minutes at 350º. While the chicken baked, a delicious cream of mushroom soup formed in the bottom of the pan. After the cooked chicken cooled, I removed each piece, scraped the mushrooms may have that stuck to them back into the broth and then placed the mushroom soup into a sauce pan. Before simmering the soup to reduce it a bit while I assembled the spaghetti, I gave it a quick taste test and added a bit more salt, pepper, and garlic.

The resulting soup was rich from the cream, full of flavor from the chicken and mushrooms, and the only additional time required was the time it took to chop the mushrooms. That’s much less time than it would have taken to drive to the store and I’ve never had packaged cream of mushroom soup that I couldn’t stop eating because it was so delicious.

Another bonus to this approach was that I had more than enough soup for the chicken spaghetti. I added some cubed potatoes to the left-overs for a hearty lunch the next day.

The idea for this cream of mushroom soup may have come from a desire to let the food do the work, but the result convinced me there’s no reason to make it any other way. And knowing I don’t have to travel from store to store gathering ingredients makes it more likely that I’ll make chicken spaghetti again soon!

Super Bowl Snacks – Variations on a Theme

Keep your Super Bowl snacks simple by serving variations on a theme. The 50th Super Bowl is upon us and everyone I know is invited to a Super Bowl party. Of course, every Super Bowl party includes snacks. If you’re hosting, you can make it easy on yourself by limiting the variety of offerings to a few variations on a theme. Your guests will likely welcome the novel approach and you’ll minimize your prep time while still serving a little something special.

My family can’t seem to make it 4 hours on snacks alone, so I’m leaning toward a hearty chili themed party. I’ll start with my grandmother’s chili recipe and then serve it as bowls of chili, Frito® pies, and chili mac with gluten-free pasta. Once the chili is made, I only need some chips, cheese, pasta, and jalapeños to complete the menu. That’s it, make some chili, cook some pasta, and I’m pretty much done. I suppose if I get really ambitious, I may make some guacamole to serve on the side and I’ll probably pick up some Red Mango taro flavored frozen yogurt or a variety of mini Häagen-Dazs flavors.
chili
My sister loves potatoes, so I also considered a potato themed party. My plan was to serve 3 varieties of potato salad: A favorite Cooking2Thrive version (recipe below), plus Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad and Dilled Potato Salad with Feta. Also in the running to make the menu were potato soup and potato skins topped with sour cream, cheese, bacon, and chives. Of course you could include various flavors of potato chips, twice baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, or French fries. And that’s barely scratching the surface of potato possibilities!
potato salad
Potato Salad
Serves 6 – 8

13 baby Yukon gold potatoes
Water to cover
Sprinkle of salt
1/3 cup Bulgarian yogurt
1/3 cup real mayonnaise
2 tbsp spicy hot mustard
3/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs, hard boiled
1 small onion, peeled and chopped

Peel potatoes and place in large pot. Cover with water and add a sprinkle of salt, then bring to a boil. Boil for 12 – 15 minutes or until just tender. Drain in colander. Place colander back over pan, cover with dish towel, and allow to steam for another 10 – 15 minutes. Place potatoes in refrigerator to cool.

In small bowl, mix yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, relish, and salt to make a dressing. Place mixture in refrigerator.

When all items have cooled for at least 2 hours, cut potatoes into small cubes. Peel the eggs and rough chop. Place potatoes, eggs, and onion in large bowl and pour the dressing mixture over them. Lightly mix and place back in refrigerator until ready to serve.
pigs
There was some conversation about featuring cocktail wieners as our Super Bowl centerpiece – using them for pigs-in-blankets, corn dog bites, and covering them with BBQ sauce and grape jelly in the crock pot.

Another possible theme includes the most common Super Bowl food of all – chicken. You can’t go wrong with wings, tenders, chicken nachos, BBQ chicken, or chicken enchiladas.
chicken
Whether you watch for the football, commercials or halftime show, the Super Bowl will be the biggest show in town this week, so choose a theme, buy some paper plates in your favorite team’s colors, and have a great time watching the game with your guests!

http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/50

http://www.redmangousa.com/

http://www.haagendazs.us/

http://www.southernliving.com/food/holidays-occasions/potato-salad-recipes