Simple Pantry Cooking

Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

Frozen Broccoli Made Tasty

So often I come to dinner-fixing time, a salad seems like so much work, and so does any other vegetable side dish preparation. Frozen broccoli is a staple in our home, as I’m sure it is in many others, for just this reason. It doesn’t taste as good as fresh, of course, but it’s just so handy.

Frozen broccoli that actually tastes good

But, how to prepare it to at least make it palatable? I ate it microwaved growing up. You can boil or steam it, too. I’ve tried stir-frying it, but that’s another dirty pot and the effect is not worth the effort. And, I might serve it to kids, but I’m not excited about eating soggy, mushy broccoli myself.

Enter, my desperation move that paid off:

roasted frozen broccoli

roast frozen broccoli

Roast the frozen broccoli!

  1. Open up the bag.
  2. Spread it on a cookie sheet (doing it on a baking mat makes it even more simple to clean up!)
  3. Sprinkle with cheese, salt, and a bit of garlic powder.
  4. Roast at 375-425 (anything in that range will work; I use whatever my other dinner dish requires and bake them at the same time) for 20-25 minutes.

Toasty. Cheesy. Not soggy.

roasted cheesy broccoli recipe

Perfect.

An Ad-Lib Dinner: Turkey Pizza Melts

When, the other day, my son came into the kitchen and asked, “What’s for dinner?” while I stood with the fridge open, I replied, “I don’t know. I was just going to make something up.”

In less than an hour we were at the table eating dinner.

As soon as I said, “I was just going to make something up,” I realized I should grab the camera so I could blog about how I went about it.

Earlier that week I had cooked a turkey that had been in the freezer since Thanksgiving, so I had a dish full of cooked turkey meat.

I had already made a broccoli-rice-turkey the night before, so I needed something different.

Earlier I had thought about making a white pizza with turkey instead of chicken, with the directions in Simplified Dinners (yes, it really is the method and resource I do use a majority of the time myself). But, I hadn’t started early enough to get a pizza dough going. However, I did have some flatbread I’d made a few weeks before and frozen. So I pulled those out of the freezer.

Turkey. Flatbread. Pizza lurking in my mind. Pre-grated mozzerella cheese and a red pepper in the fridge. Let’s just run with it.

turkey pizza

turkey pizza

I made a quick white sauce, because I knew the flatbread and turkey would be dry with only cheese. I used the recipe for pizza white sauce in Simplified Dinners, and chopping the onion was the longest step.

While I made the sauce, I set that inquisitive son to slicing a red pepper.

I set out the breads on a baking sheet with a Silpat, layered the ingredients like a pizza, and stuck it in the oven on broil.

turkey pizza

I had an extra tomato, so I diced that up for a garnish.

I forgot to set a timer.

turkey pizza

I smelled something about 5 minutes later and ran to pull out dinner before it was completely burnt!

The family all liked them, and said I could add that as a normal dinner plan and not only an “Ack, what can I pull together?!” meal. I love it when that happens.

turkey pizza

Cooking Without Recipes: Turkey-Rice-Cheese Casserole

A narrative non-recipe from 2010.

I felt uninspired for dinner yesterday, which is not a good thing when all you have in the house is ingredients, yet not all the ingredients necessary for recipes. Of course, I don’t follow recipes to begin with, so it bodes ill when inspiration is low. Yet, this lack of inspiration and decision to just toss together what I had without trying to dress it up yielded a very satisfying dinner. No longer will I search for a recipe for a turkey or chicken rice and broccoli casserole.

Now I know I can just toss one together with minimal ingredients that was better than any I’ve tried to make from a recipe.

In the fridge I had turkey meat cut off the carcass, bone broth made from the turkey carcass, milk, and cheese. In the freezer I had a package of frozen broccoli. I had onions and garlic, but I had no other vegetables (except cabbage and spinach for salads). I could have made a white sauce to substitute for a cream-of-something-soup to bind my meat and rice and broccoli, but I felt like I couldn’t be trusted with that process in my mental state.

So, I simply cooked 2 1/2 cups of brown rice in 2 cups broth and 2 cups water. When that was almost done, I tossed the turkey meat (about 5-6 cups) into a large skillet, then scooped in 1 or 2 cups of broth and simmered it until the broth was reduced and the meat was shredding itself (i.e. I didn’t bother cutting the meat to bite-size chunks and I tossed the stuff on the heat and then checked my email — no, I meant for the broth to reduce, I really did). None of the herbs jumped out at me, so I shook some salt and pepper over it.

Then I dumped in the entire package of cut broccoli spears and dumped the cooked rice on top. I tossed it around to combine it and let the liquid cook down until it was mostly gone, then cast about for something to top it off. Cheese! Cheese to the rescue! I tossed in several handfuls of shredded cheddar and a couple handfuls of shredded Parmesan. I then mixed it around a bit instead of leaving the cheese as a topping, so the melting cheese became the binding “sauce.” It was lovely. And it was tasty. And I put half of it in a casserole dish and froze it, and everyone gobbled up the half I served.

I will be making that again.

Yummy, Easy Low-Carb Snack: Ants-on-a-Log for Grown-Ups

cranberry celery recipe

As I attempt to shed my baby weight this year, here is one yummy snack or lunch I’ve discovered: Grown-Up Ants-on-a-Log

cranberry celery recipe

  1. Wash and cut celery sticks.
  2. Spread with cream cheese.
  3. Dot with a few Craisins.

The end.

Eat.

These also make a fast, easy, and healthy appetizer for parties!

cranberry celery recipe

Chicken Pasta Salad for a Crowd

This is a great meal to make if you’re serving a crowd or if you’re taking a meal to another family. I have served it for birthday dinners when our extended families gather and just recently I made it when I was asked to take a meal to two families who had just had babies. A meal for 12 adults and a handful of kids? A meal for three families that can be transported in disposable containers? This recipe is the ticket. It is easily scaled to whatever quantity you need.

Of course, I don’t have precise measurements, but you want your ratios to suit your tastes anyway, right?

The great thing about this meal is that it can be put together in batches. Some boiling in the morning, some chopping at noon, some assembly during quiet time — or make it all the day before. Or, better still, make it the day before in batches.

Poach several chicken breasts & boil some penne or rotini pasta until just al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta. Drain & chop the chicken.

While those boil away, dice some jack or pepperjack cheese. I used an amount about equal in volume to the chicken.

Vegetable chopping: open one or two cans of black olives and halve the olives; halve grape or cherry tomatoes (about equal to either the cheese or the olives); dice a red or yellow or orange bell pepper or two; dice a zucchini or two or a zucchini and a summer squash.

Toss all your chopped foods into a gigantic mixing bowl or two, and add italian dressing. Last time I cheated and used a Kraft bottle, but Italian dressing is fairly simple to make.

It’s good if it sits for a couple hours in the fridge before serving. If you let it sit overnight it might need a touch more dressing when you serve it (the noodles will absorb the liquid, which is why you want to be careful to not overcook them). It seems to hold well for about two days, but after that the noodles are less than appealing.

Of course, another option — either a no-carb or a gluten-free version, however you want to look at it — is to simply leave out the noodles, maybe adding another zucchini and some more tomatoes. I made a bowl for myself without the pasta, and it was delicious. I made another such salad the next week, and it held strong in the fridge for three days. It might have lasted longer, but the children polished it off for me on the third day. Even they loved it without the pasta.

To take it to other families, I packaged it in a gallon ziplock and added bread and cookies and cut up watermelon.

I think this salad will become a staple around here.