Tag Archives: weeknight meal

Broccoli Rice Chicken Pesto Casserole

Sundays are usually a day where I take my time in the kitchen, but with the arrival of not-winter (as it’s not really spring here in Anchorage yet but the snow is mostly melted), we spent most of our day playing outside. I left very little time to prepare dinner.

This recipe was a clean-out-the-fridge type of meal. I had pesto, broccoli, chicken and pre-cooked rice hanging out in my fridge so I put them all together and it was delicious and comforting. It’s a one-stop shop for flavor and nutrients.

Broccoli Rice Chicken Pesto Casserole | A weeknight meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

I used my spinach pesto recipe but feel free to use the regular kind instead.

Broccoli rice chicken pesto casserole

Serves 6

For the marinade:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 7 chicken tenderloins or 2 small chicken breasts

For the casserole:

  • 3.5 cups warmed cooked rice (white, brown, farro, whatever grain you want really)
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1.5-2 cups pesto
  • zest of one lemon
  • shredded mozzarella and pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)

Broccoli Rice Chicken Pesto Casserole | A weeknight meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Mix the marinade together in a zip top bag. Pound the chicken breasts lightly and place in bag. Marinate for 15-30 minutes.

Place the rice in a large casserole dish and set aside. Steam the broccoli until tender, about 5 minutes, and add to the rice along with the lemon zest.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high flame and add a little drizzle of cooking oil. When pan is hot add the chicken with the marinade. Cook chicken until caramelizes and deep brown on both sides, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the casserole dish.

Add in the pesto and stir until everything is well combined. Smooth out the mixture with the back of a spoon and sprinkle lightly with cheeses. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Broccoli Rice Chicken Pesto Casserole | A weeknight meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

Poor Man’s Pesto

Pesto was a staple in our household growing up. I had a love for garlic at an early age and there was no better dinner than linguine with pesto.

My dad is a pesto purist, as you can read on his verbose website entry on the matter. I followed in my dad’s footsteps – basil and pine nuts was the ONLY way – until I started paying my own bills and realizing how expensive pine nuts and real Parmesan cheese are.

Years ago I started using pistachios instead of pine nuts for my basil-only pesto recipe, which I had adapted from Marcella Hazan’s blender pesto. I really can’t tell the difference. I realized last year that I’m not alone with this thought. Maya Wilson of Alaska From Scratch also uses pistachios instead of pine nuts for her pesto recipe.

Then last summer, Julia O’Malley invited me over to test out an Alaska greens super pesto. It was then that I realized you don’t have to stick to only fresh basil to achieve that delicious pesto-y flavor.

Enter the giant Costco bag of spinach. You know the one – it’s like $4 and you tell yourself you’re totally going to get through the whole thing before it gets slimy? My husband fell for it again this week and bought the gigantic bag of greens and it’s my mission to get through it before it goes bad.

Last night I decided to try pesto using what I had on hand: a giant bag of spinach, pistachios, pecorino Romano cheese, lemon and the other usual pesto cast of characters. What I discovered is basil doesn’t matter a bit to me when it comes to pesto. It’s the garlic, cheese and olive oil that my tastebuds crave.

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

This recipe was everything I wanted and so much cheaper than the recipe I grew up with. Adding melted butter makes up for the oils in the pine nuts that the pistachios lack. And including fresh lemon juice brightens up the pesto in a similar way the basil does.

I eyeballed all the ingredients, but this is a good place to start. Follow your tastebuds. If the mixture is too thick, add more olive oil. If it doesn’t have enough bite, add some more lemon juice or salt. If it’s too thin, add more cheese. You could also reserve some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Spinach and Pistachio Pesto – a less expensive way to enjoy pesto bliss

Enough sauce for 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil (plus more if needed)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 big handfuls fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (about 3.5-4 oz.)
  • 3/4 cups pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

In a small food processor or blender, purée the pistachios, olive oil and garlic until smooth. Add in the spinach and blend until everything is evenly blended – about 20-30 seconds.

Place contents into a medium mixing bowl and add the cheese, lemon juice and butter. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. If pesto is too thin, add more cheese. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil. Serve with long thin pasta cooked al dente.

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Hearty Italian bean and pasta soup: Pasta e Fagioli

It’s officially fall and after an unusually sunny early September, the weather finally settled into the typical cool, windy Alaska autumn.

It’s perfect soup weather. There’s something so satisfying about making soup from scratch. Usually I have all the ingredients I need and it’s a therapeutic process to chop, sauté and simmer until you have a meal that warms you through and through.

The recent issue of Cook’s Country magazine has a simple recipe for Pasta e Fagioli. I made it this week and added my own flair to the recipe.

Pasta e Fagioli | An easy weeknight meal from alaskaknitnat.com

Hearty Italian Pasta and Bean Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2, 15-ounce cans of white beans such as cannellini, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots, washed and chopped fine
  • 2.5-3 oz. pancetta, chopped fine
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 ounces mini pasta shapes such as shells or ditalini
  • 3 handfuls baby super greens, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Pasta e Fagioli | An easy weeknight meal from alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Place one can of rinsed beans and the water in a blender and blend till smooth.

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, add a glug of olive oil and heat until oil is shimmering. Add the onion, celery, carrot, pancetta, salt and pepper and cook until veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, basil, other can of beans, and pureed beans. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.

Add the pasta and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When pasta has cooked for 5 minutes, stir in the greens and increase heat if needs be to remain at a boil. When pasta is al dente, remove pot from heat and stir in the cheese.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of cheese.

Weeknight alphabet vegetable soup

When was the last time you had alphabet soup? Now that I think of it, I can’t remember ever having it, yet I always see the cute bag of dried alphabet pasta at the grocery store and think about making it.

My 5-year-old son has been showing an interest in cooking lately so we went to the library last week to check out kids cookbooks. One of the recipes was a tomato-based alphabet soup. He really wanted me to make it.

Fast forward to 4:30 p.m. today when I was driving home with zero plans for dinner. Thankfully I had already done the shopping for this meal. It came together in a jiffy!

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

This soup is packed with flavor and nutrition. The reason for the flavor? Pancetta and parmesan rind. Both add wonderful depth to the soup.

I also made chicken meatballs and dropped those in while cooking. I didn’t include the recipe for those, but you could use Italian sausage or any meatball recipe you prefer.

The verdict? My son and husband gobbled up this soup! Plus, we all had fun trying to spell words in our bowls. So much fun.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Alphabet soup with vegetables

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 oz. pancetta, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced small
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4-5 leaves of swiss chard, chopped
  • 1, 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups frozen green beans
  • 1 chunk of parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can of canellini beans, liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 oz. dried alphabet pasta, or small pasta of your choice
  • 1 pound of meatballs or Italian sausage

Directions:

Add a little olive oil to a large dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the pancetta and sauté until cooked but not browned. Add the onion, carrots, chard and celery and cook till onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, beef stock, chicken stock, bay leaf, garlic powder, oregano, basil pepper flakes, parmesan rind and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Cover, bring to a simmer and turn heat to medium-low. Add raw sausage or meatballs and simmer, partially uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add the frozen green beans and return to a simmer for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the beans and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid. Whisk the flour into the bean liquid and add this to the soup to thicken it slightly.

Add the beans and pasta to the soup and simmer for 7 minutes or until pasta is done.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Serve with generous amounts of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Alphabet vegetable soup is a crowdpleaser - and it's good for you too! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

 

Quick weeknight meal: green coconut curry

Being unwell and a parent is like an uphill battle sometimes. You still have to get food on the table whether you feel like roses or crap. On my really down days, I’ve been known to order a pizza or three. But sometimes I can muster up the strength to make something healthy and tasty in a relatively short amount of time.

This green curry recipe is adapted from one I found in Cook’s Illustrated. I’ve made it three times in the past month and have added my own flair to it. The problem is, I don’t remember what that flair is, which is why I’m sharing it here.

It’s quick, flavorful and has vegetable(s) in it! A winner in my recipe book.

Quick meal: green coconut curry with tofu, chicken & peas | a tasty weeknight meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

Green coconut curry with tofu, chicken and peas

Serves 4

Marinade ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon green curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

For the curry:

  • 6 chicken tenders (about a pound)
  • 1 brick of extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 can of coconut milk (found in the Asian cooking aisle)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
  • 1 lime

Directions:

Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a gallon Ziploc. Add the chicken. I marinate the chicken tenders the night before when they are still frozen so they are thawed and marinated the next evening, but if you have time, marinate for an hour before cooking.

Start on the rice as you prepare the rest of the meal.

Add 1 tablespoon cooking oil to a large nonstick pan over high heat. When oil is hot add the tofu cubes and brown them on as many sides as you have patience for. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Cook the chicken in the same pan, browning on both sides. Set aside.

Pour out the remaining oil and wipe out pan with a paper towel. Add the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce and sugar and whisk till combined. Add the frozen peas and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low until peas are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Chop up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the curry sauce with the tofu.

Serve over jasmine rice with a squeeze of lime juice.

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce

My husband travels for work so I’m frequently “solo parenting.” Working full time, picking up our son and getting dinner on the table by 6 or 6:30 can be a struggle. Tonight was really tricky since we got home late, but thanks to my rare meal planning this week I was able to put together a wholesome pasta dish in under 30 minutes.

By marinating the frozen chicken in the fridge overnight I didn’t have to make a mad dash to thaw it out and flavor it right before preparing the dish. I felt like a winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce | Make this wholesome meal in under 30 minutes! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce

Serves 4

For the chicken marinade:

  • 5 frozen chicken tenders
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper

For the pasta:

  • 3/4 pounds pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 5 oz. baby spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

The night before, place the frozen chicken in a large Ziploc bag with all the marinade ingredients. Let sit overnight in the fridge. It’ll be delicious by tomorrow.

Place a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Cook the noodles according to packaging.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet with a tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, cook the chicken tenders till browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside. When cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce | Make this wholesome meal in under 30 minutes! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Clean out the pan with a paper towel and add the rest of the oil and the butter. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook spinach till it’s wilted. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. When pasta is drained, add it to the pan with the chicken, Parmesan and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Pasta with chicken and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce | Make this wholesome meal in under 30 minutes! Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Weeknight chicken scallopini with asparagus

Now that I work full time I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy meals. Sometimes I rely on tradition and make this simple chicken dish inspired by my favorite Italian cook, Marcella Hazan.

Weeknight chicken scallopine with asparagus | a 40-minute meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

Every member of my family has her own copy of this fabulous cookbook. Her recipes are not overly complicated. They are realistic and wholesome.

Several years ago my mother adapted her veal scallopini with asparagus recipe to include chicken instead of veal. It has become one of my family’s favorite chicken dishes. And it’s just perfect for hectic weeknights.

Weeknight chicken scallopine with asparagus | a 40-minute meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

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