dinnermenucover

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.

Dinner One

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Stuffed Chicken Breasts 

If you have leftover chicken, as I did, it makes a delicious chicken salad.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F.

Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound until evenly thin.

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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.

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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.

asparagus

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.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt

Sauce

  • 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

Directions

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.)

To serve:

Pour the sauce over the roasted asparagus on the serving plate.

Dinner Two

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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.

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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.

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Greek Salad

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Dinner Three

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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
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Directions

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.

cornmuffins1

Corn Muffins

12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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