The key to always having dinner available on a busy weeknight?
Frozen chicken breasts + pantry staples.
They’ll get you through anything!
This delicious chicken & rice dinner was the result of an effort to clean out the fridge & pantry, and it’s freaking amazing.
First pantry staples? Rice and broth.
Cooking rice in broth gives it WAY more flavor, and allows it to form the base of a pilaf without being boring.
Next up: carrots, celery, and onion.
Simply sauté over medium heat for like 30 minutes, until the carrots and onions are nicely caramelized and FULL of flavor.
Add frozen peas and minced garlic.
(Two more ingredients that are almost always on hand)
Dump in a large bowl & toss with the warm rice.
Stir in: lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley.
This mixture alone is SO yummy, and makes a great side dish, but you can turn it into an easy meal by adding sautéed chicken pieces.
Enter, frozen chicken breasts.
I always always have a bag of these in the freezer. They are a LIFESAVER on busy weeknights
Simply defrost, cut into cubes, season with salt, pepper, and a little dried oregano, and dredge with a light coating of flour. Pan fry until golden and crispy, and toss into the rice pilaf.
When it’s all said and done, you’ve got a well balanced meal in a bowl. Protein + veggies + grains + healthy fats. Yum.
- 1 1/2 cups long grain white or brown rice
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 extra large carrots, diced
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
- 1 medium bunch parsley, minced
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons fat or oil of your choice (I used leftover olive oil from turkey confit, but regular olive oil, lard, or other animal fat would work as well)
Add the rice and broth to a rice cooker and cook until done. Let sit on “warm” while you prep the rest of the dinner. (Alternatively, cook the rice in a saucepan according to package directions until tender, if done early, keep warm by storing in the oven or microwave).
As the rice cooks, add the carrots, celery, and onion to a large nonstick skillet along with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each). Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are nicely caramelized and golden brown.
Add the frozen peas and garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the peas are defrosted. Transfer the entire mixture to a large serving bowl. Add the cooked rice, chopped parsley, fresh lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside. (I put mine in the microwave to keep it warm, but putting it in a turned-off oven works too).
Next, sprinkle the cubed chicken with the flour and season with about 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Sprinkle with the dried oregano and toss to coat the chicken evenly.
Add the 2 tablespoons fat or oil of your choice to the same skillet that you browned the vegetables in. Warm over medium-high heat and add the chicken (don’t add any of the extra flour from the plate, as it will burn). Cook, stirring occasionally, until well golden brown on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.
Add the golden chicken pieces to the rice mixture and toss to combine. Spoon into bowls, and serve.
Before last year, I had never made a risotto at home.
Risotto is one of those dishes you hear horror stories about. Everyone comments on how it requires so much stirring and it’s easy to accidentally burn or have stick to the bottom of the pot.
These scare tactics had kept me away from homemade risotto deliciousness for far too long.
Then, one day, Aaron beat me to it.
We have this thing we like to do, where Aaron cooks dinner for us once or twice a week. He usually picks something at random from one of the bazillion cookbooks
we I own, and surprises me with some deliciousness.
And he said it was EASY!
Whaaaat?? Had I been deceived all these years??? (The answer is yes)
Sigh. Now it was my turn to conquer risotto.
In all honesty, it IS actually really easy. Yes, it requires patient stirring, but really, how hard is stirring?? Use a nonstick pan and you don’t even have to worry about sticking. Winning.
Here’s the basic framework for a risotto:
- Saute some onions. In a little butter or oil. But don’t let them caramelize, you just want them to soften and become translucent.
- Add the arborio rice. Sauté for a couple minutes with the onions to give each grain of rice some texture.
- Evaporate off some alcohol. Add a generous splash of white wine or vermouth for depth of flavor, and wait till it’s pretty much cooked off.
- Ladle in warm broth, 1 scoop at a time. This is the part everyone trips over, but it’s actually so easy. You just scoop some broth into the rice pan and continue to stir until it is absorbed. Repeat until you’ve added all the broth and the rice is tender.
- Stir in your mix-ins. This is where you get to add tons of salty savory cheese, roasted veggies, browned meats, fresh herbs, etc. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done!
Okay really, how simple is that?
And the best part? The endless combinations of flavors you can riff on. Basic risotto with just butter and cheese is basically a blank canvas, waiting for deliciousness. And it’s an easy gluten-free Italian option that everyone can enjoy at dinner.
Since it’s just become fall, and squash is everywhere, I went classic with the classic pairing of butternut squash and sage.
Roasted butternut squash is naturally creamy, so it blends right in with the smooth rich texture of risotto. Its subtle sweetness pairs well with the richness of the cheesy buttery rice, and the sage is just the right pop of freshness to round it out.
Give this recipe a try this week. Promise you can do it, and you won’t be disappointed w. the results.
- One 2 1/2 pound butternut squash, ends removed, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for finishing
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1 lb arborio rice
- 10 fresh sage leaves, minced, plus 1 additional tablespoon minced fresh sage, reserved
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup dry white wine, like chardonnay
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, or parmesan romano blend
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Put the tray in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. When it is done cooking, remove from the oven and set aside.
Next, add 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a large nonstick skillet. Warm over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and translucent but not at all browned. If they start to get any color, turn down the heat and continue cooking until softened. This should only take a few minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the chicken or vegetable stock into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Once the onions are softened, add the arborio rice, sage, and garlic to the pan. Increase the heat to medium & sauté for a minute or two, until the garlic and sage are fragrant and the rice is coated with the butter and spices.
Add the white wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Next, add one ladle of warm stock to the pot and stir until the rice has absorbed most of it. Continue adding the stock, one or two ladles at a time,stirring until it has been absorbed by the rice before adding more. Continue until all the broth has been added and absorbed and the rice is tender but still has a little bite, about 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and stir in 1 additional tablespoon of butter, the parmesan cheese, and additional 1 tablespoon fresh minced sage. Stir to combine well, the gently fold in the roasted butternut squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy right away.
If I’m being honest with you guys, my lunches are typically pretty basic.
Sandwiches, salads, and leftovers are on constant rotation. I cook so much in the morning and evening, that lunches are my slap-something-together meal.
But every so often, I go rogue.
I’ll get a little extra creative and whip up something new.
This is one of those creations.
The (lazy person’s) Spicy Tuna Bowl!
No fresh sourced ahi tuna here. Although that would be absolutely divine, it’s not an ingredient typically sitting in my fridge on a weekday.
But CANNED tuna, yep, that’s always in my pantry.
Hey, who says you can’t make a spicy tuna bowl with canned tuna?
Well, I went there. I tried it. And it was AWESOME.
Basically, instead of just mixing your tuna w. mayo or yogurt like you would for a classic tuna fish sandwich, you tszuj it up with some rice vinegar and spicy sriracha. This little swap makes it suddenly taste fancy and worthy of being the star of a dish.
I’m sort of addicted to the spicy tuna bowls at Bristol Farms, so I followed their basic bowl framework.
- Start with a base of baby greens. This helps add some lightness and texture to the bowl that contrasts nicely with the cooked rice.
- Add a portion of leftover brown rice. Drizzle with soy sauce for extra flavor, and sprinkle with sesame seeds (I used black sesame seeds because that’s what I had on hand).
- Top with your spicy tuna. (and an extra drizzle of sriracha if you like things spicy)
- Deck it out with fresh and flavorful toppings. I included all the essentials, like avocado, cucumber, green onion, micro greens, and pickled sushi ginger. No wasabi needed on this guy, since you’ve already doused it in sriracha!
That’s it! Then you can dig in and enjoy all the flavors of a spicy tuna roll, but in a different form. It’s great for lunch, but also awesome for an easy weeknight dinner. Enjoy!
- Large handful of mixed baby greens
- Scoop of leftover cooked brown rice
- Drizzle of low sodium soy sauce, or tamari for gluten free, coconut aminos for soy-free
- Sprinkle of sesame seeds
- 1 can tuna in water, drained
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 green onions, dark and light green parts, chopped
- 1/2 avocado, sliced
- Pickled sushi ginger, optional
- Sprinkle of micro greens
- 1/4 English cucumber, julienned
In a serving bowl, place a handful of baby greens and top with a scoop of leftover brown rice. Drizzle with soy sauce, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
In a separate bowl, place the tuna, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, rice vinegar, and Sriracha hot sauce. Mix well with a fork, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Scoop the tuna on top of the rice and drizzle with more Sriracha if you like things spicy. Add the green onion, avocado, sushi ginger, micro greens, and cucumber as garnishes. Dig in!