If you’re like me, your schedule is looking pretty nightmarish over the next couple of weeks in terms of all the stuff you still need to do. Cleaning, shopping, baking, wrapping, traveling…. oh, my! It is always a fun season, but also very busy and a little stressful.
That’s why I’m always looking for something quick and easy to make for dinner, particularly on those nights when my kitchen is a disaster area from baking or trying out a new recipe (like the eggnog I made last night for next week’s column – ohhh, boy is it good! I’ll share that recipe soon).
Sometimes, it can be as easy as buying a rotisserie chicken and having a cold tossed salad with chunks of chicken on top. Sometimes, a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup is a warm, hearty, simple go-to meal. But I thought it might be nice to have some other ideas, so I went to my quick-meal cookbooks and found some recipes I wanted to share.
Do you have a favorite quick meal for a busy night?
Thai Chicken Larb
The toasted, ground rice adds an interesting texture to this dish. If you do not want to use the toasted rice powder, you can substitute crushed peanuts. Fish sauce is available in the ethnic section of your grocery store or in Asian markets.
1 Tbsp. white rice
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. cooked chicken, shredded
2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 Boston lettuce leaves
Sticky rice, to serve (optional)
5 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1. Put 1 Tbsp. rice in a skillet and toast until golden. Grind in a coffee mill until very fine.
2. To make dressing, combine lime juice, fish sauce, a touch of sugar and garlic. Taste and add more sugar to your liking.
3. Mix celery, onion, and chicken in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Just before serving, stir in the mint, cilantro, tomatoes, cayenne pepper and rice powder. Transfer to bowls lined with lettuce leaves and serve with sticky rice, if desired.
Chickpea, Tomato and Chorizo Soup
6 oz. chorizo, roughly chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 (14-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 (14-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 qt. vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Put chorizo in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook until it starts to release its oil. Continue to cook, 4 to 5 minutes, until it is brown and crisp.
2. Add red onion and garlic and turn heat down to allow them to soften in the chorizo oil. After 6 to 7 minutes the vegetables should be translucent and glossy. Add tomatoes and thyme and turn heat back up, bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes to intensify the flavor, then add chickpeas and stock. Return to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the thyme. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer for a further 10 minutes to allow the flavors to melt. Transfer to bowls and serve.
Source for the two recipes above: “One-Bowl Meals” by Tonia George.
Shrimp Mac and Queso
12 oz. penne pasta
12 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
2 oz. cotija cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup prepared salsa
1 can (4 oz.) tiny shrimp, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cook penne as directed for 12 to 15 minutes, or until barely al dente.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, toss flour with Monterey Jack cheese.
4. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until shimmery. Add green onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until wilted. Add stock and Jack cheese mixture. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in milk, then stir in cotija, salsa and shrimp. Heat for 1 minute. Stir in cilantro, parsley and hot pepper sauce to taste. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt.
5. Stir pasta into sauce, then scrape mixture into baking dish.
6. Combine melted butter, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl until crumbs are all moistened. Spread over the top of the casserole and bake.