How do you decide what to have for dinner? Do you go by what you are in the mood for or what is the quickest meal you can come up with for tonight? If I don’t plan ahead for specific dinners, I usually find myself looking at what is in the refrigerator/freezer/pantry for ideas. That is how the meals below came together – no recipes – just what makes a good match. Chicken breasts and flank steak were in the freezer. The asparagus and salad ingredients were in the refrigerator. I also had a little cream and the mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator. Chicken broth, corn meal and the ingredients for the soup were in the pantry. So they became dinner for 3 nights in the true Italian frugal way. They all passed the test for delicious, according to my husband. If you are looking for something different to make, try the recipes below.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
If you have leftover chicken, as I did, it makes a delicious chicken salad.
- 2 whole jarred roasted red peppers, divided
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
- 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs, divided
- Chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Heat oven to 375°F.
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound until evenly thin.
Cut the roasted red peppers to fit the flattened chicken breasts. Place the peppers on the chicken and sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese on top of each breast. Fold in the sides of each breast and roll the breasts up, jelly roll style.
Place the chicken rolls in a small baking dish (just large enough to fit the chicken rolls) and sprinkle with the Italian bread crumbs and parsley.
Pour the broth around the chicken rolls and bake for about 45 – 60 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts) or until the chicken registers 165 degrees F on an instant meat thermometer. Slice the chicken rolls into half-inch slices to serve.
Oven Roasted Asparagus With Lemon Shallot Sauce
If you are making the asparagus without the chicken dish above, then preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the asparagus until tender for 15 to 20 minutes. If making the asparagus with the chicken, then use the directions below.
- 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 scant teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Toss the asparagus with oil and a sprinkling of salt in a large bowl. Spread on a baking sheet or a baking dish.
After the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes, put the asparagus in the oven with the chicken and roast, stirring once halfway through, until tender, about 25-30 minutes.
Place the asparagus on a serving plate.
To make the sauce:
Combine the cornstarch and broth.
In a small saucepan, heat the broth, shallot, zest, turmeric and cream to boiling. Boil until thickened and slightly reduced, whisking the entire time.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice.
Season with salt to taste and keep warm. (Makes 1/2 cup.)
Pour the sauce over the roasted asparagus on the serving plate.
Grilled Flank Steak
For the flank steaks marinade:
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
To marinate the flank steaks
Combine all the ingredients except the steak in a glass baking dish. Add the steak and turn to coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Grill the steaks
Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking.
Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grates.
Remove the flank steak from the marinade and grill the steaks, covered, until grill marks form and the steaks have a nice brown sear, 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn the steaks and continue grilling until grill marks form on the other side and the steak is cooked to medium rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a steak should read 130-135°F), 3 to 4 minutes more.
Let the steak rest 10 minutes loosely covered with foil. Cut the flank steak across the grain and serve with the Greek Salad.
- 1/2 medium head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces, washed, and dried
- 1 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 medium English cucumber, diced
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives
- 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 oz peperoncini (Tuscan peppers), drained & sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Place the lettuce in a large bowl and add the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, olives and onion.
Place the oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste in a small, nonreactive bowl and whisk to combine.
Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the feta and serve with pita bread.
Black Bean Soup
Makes about 9 cups
- 1 pound dried black beans (2 cups), rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large onions, chopped fine (about 3 cups)
- 2 large carrots, chopped fine
- 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- One 10 oz can Rotel chunky diced tomatoes with mild chilies
- 1 teaspoon table salt
Early in the morning, place the beans with water to cover in a large bowl and let soak for a couple of hours. Drain and rinse the bean.s
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add onions, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic and spices; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vegetable broth.
Add enough water to keep the liquid just covering the beans. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.
Stir in the salt. Continue to cook until the soup thickens and the beans are cooked but not mushy, about 30 to 60 minutes more.
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1⁄4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Butter a regular muffin pan.
In large bowl thoroughly combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the milk and melted butter.
Combine with the dry ingredients until just evenly moistened. Do not overmix.
Stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Immediately spoon the batter into the muffin pan.
Evenly sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the muffins.
Bake 18 -20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.
March 9, 2016 at 7:22 am
Great ideas. I often look in the fridge and wonder what to have. Often experiment too but have been known to regret it 😉
March 9, 2016 at 7:23 am
Thankfully, these turned out well.
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
March 9, 2016 at 2:22 pm
Great ideas!! Now, how do we come up with ideas? Hmmmm! It all depends on how much time we have. Sometimes hubby is fishing and we get back late — can’t get too creative there. If I’m planning something special or for the blog I start thinking ahead of time about the ingredients and the time involved. I like looking for different recipes — I think our most repetitive dish is our salad. Hubby has to have his salad and he likes certain ingredients. Last night I did make a different salad that I plan on posting. He ate it without complaining — in fact he liked it for a change. Fishing is still blah 🙁
March 9, 2016 at 2:32 pm
So sorry about the fishing. Salads are so refreshing and can add a lot to a meal.
For the Love of Cooking
March 9, 2016 at 2:35 pm
I love it when I can throw together a delicious meal from ingredients I have on hand. All three meals look terrific and I am certain my family would love them. The chicken is calling my name!
March 9, 2016 at 3:27 pm
Sometimes I get to plan ahead for meals but mostly it depends on what’s around. I keep a list of meat on the fridge so I know what I can work with. Your recipes look good. I especially like the chicken one.
Mary Louise Tucker
March 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm
In our house, my husband does most of the cooking so I don’t have this problem. I’m full of ideas(!) and he has skill. A suggestion to vamp up that Flank steak – Thai Beef Salad.
Peel and slice some cucumber (halved lengthways then angled slices) , halve some cherry tomatoes, chop some spring onion, slice a hot red chilli, then throw in a bowl with some fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves and a little ripped mint and or basil (thai basil if you can get it). Make a dressing of fish sauce, brown sugar, fresh lime juice and a drop of sesame oil. Once beef has rested and been sliced put all ingredients in a bowl together and toss. To serve top with some crushed roasted peanuts. This is a great summer quick meal at our house. And we almost always have all of the ingredients in house or garden during summer.
For fish, if he can filet the fish, just warm up some stock (store bought if there’s none in the freezer) and add a few threads of Saffron and some frozen or drained can of peas. Pan fry the fillets then place in a soup plate. (If you have a bulb of Fennel on hand, pan fry slices of that too.) Pour the hot stock and vegetables over the filet of fish (fennel under fish if you have it) and serve with some crusty bread. Voila!
March 9, 2016 at 6:46 pm
Thank you for your wonderful suggestions.
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March 10, 2016 at 1:47 pm
The Greek Salad is great. Best thing about it, beyond the simplicity of the dressing, is that the ingredients go well enough together that varying the quantities of each a little doesn’t detract from the result.
March 10, 2016 at 1:52 pm
Thank you so much Rex. I have worked on this recipe for a while until I got it to taste the way my husband and I like Greek Salad. And, you are so right, you can vary the ingredients a bit without notice. I love the way the ingredients come together for the salad’s unique taste.
Our Growing Paynes
March 13, 2016 at 11:48 am
The flank steak looks delicious. Sometimes I plan and sometimes I’m limited by what is in the fridge or by what time I have.
March 14, 2016 at 10:38 am
Great ideas. I love cobbling things together based on what I find in the fridge and sometimes it leads to something quite surprising 🙂