Guest Post: Five Recipes That Are Short on Time but Huge on Flavor

It’s no secret: When it comes to cooking, especially when you’re doing it every night of the week, it can be easy to get into a rut. At the end of a busy day filled with work, school, sports, errands and all of the other stuff you have to do, sometimes the last thing on your mind is trying out new recipes.

But sometimes the rut gets to you, leading to hours poring through obscure foodie blogs and cookbooks with no pictures but lots of steps and weird-sounding ingredients. This, of course, is followed by a trip to the gourmet market, where you purchase several imported – i.e. expensive -- jars of spices that will then sit, barely used, in your pantry for years before you finally throw them out. Then, after hours of chopping, marinating, braising and roasting, the meal is finally done!

And your family’s response to all of this? They’d rather have just have mac and cheese...

So there’s an easier way to branch out! By seeking out seasonal produce – it tends to be more flavorful, not to mention less expensive -- and using pantry staples in new combinations, you can spice up your dinner menu without breaking the bank or spending all day in the kitchen.

These five simple recipes – none require more than 20 minutes of prep time! -- all focus on fresh flavors, use panty-ready ingredients, and employ simple techniques to create innovative meals that your family will enjoy.

New Orleans-Style Jambalaya

 It's a party in your mouth, and everyone's invited! This slightly spicy rendition of a New Orleans classic is sure to please.
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp.dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. each ground red pepper (cayenne) and black pepper
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs (2-1/2 lb.), skinned
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 oz.) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 pkg. (9 oz.) fully cooked andouille sausage, sliced
  • 3 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 lb. uncooked deveined peeled large shrimp
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Make it:
Mix flour and seasonings in shallow dish. Add chicken; turn to coat both sides of each thigh. Heat oil in Dutch oven or deep large skillet on medium heat. Add 4 chicken thighs; cook 4 min. on each side or until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to plate, reserving drippings in pan; set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Add onions, green peppers and garlic to drippings in pan; cook and stir 5 min. Stir in tomatoes, barbecue sauce and sausage. Return chicken and any juices from plate to tomato mixture; simmer 25 min. or until chicken is done (165ºF), stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, bring broth to boil in medium saucepan. Stir in rice; cover. Simmer on medium-low heat 20 min. or until broth is absorbed and rice is tender.
Add shrimp to tomato mixture; simmer 8 min. or until shrimp are done.
Spoon rice into shallow bowls; top with chicken mixture and parsley.

Hearty Black Bean Soup

 Perfect for a chilly fall evening, this easy-to-make soup is rich in flavor. Best of all, it tastes even better the next day! Dress it up with some chopped scallions and lime wedges.
  • 3 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, undrained, divided
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) chunky salsa
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Make it:
Blend 1 can of beans and half the broth in blender until smooth. Cook and stir onions, garlic and cumin in hot oil in large saucepan on medium heat 3 min. Add bean puree; mix well.
Add second can of beans and broth to blender; blend until smooth. Add to bean mixture in saucepan with remaining can of beans and salsa; mix well. Bring to boil on medium-high heat; simmer on low heat 15 min., stirring occasionally.
Serve topped with sour cream. 

Stir Fried Chicken With Vegetables and Almonds

There’s nothing quite as colorful as a stir fry loaded with crisp, delicious veggies! Get out the wok and fry up this simple dish that’s packed full of Chinese flavors. Serve with a side of chili-garlic sauce for those that like it hot!
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 cup diagonally sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 3/4 cup red bell pepper strips
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil, divided
  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 cups hot cooked rice
Make it:
Mix broth, soy sauce, cornstarch and ginger until well blended; set aside.
Cook and stir celery, onions and peppers in 2 Tbsp. of the oil in large skillet on medium-high heat until vegetables are crisp-tender; remove from skillet. Cover to keep warm; set aside. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet. Add chicken; cook and stir until chicken is cooked through. Stir in the broth mixture; cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring occasionally.
Add vegetables and almonds; mix well. Serve over the rice.

Easy, Delicious Ratatouille

For nights when only vegetarian will do, throw together this updated – i.e. simpler –  version of a classic French dish. Your kids will be so happy about all of the ooey, gooey cheese that they won’t even notice how many vegetables they’re eating!
  • 1 eggplant, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomato vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced fat parmesan style grated topping
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk shredded mozzarella cheese
Make it:
Heat oven to 350°F.
Cook and stir first 5 ingredients in large skillet on medium-high heat 6 to 8 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender and lightly browned.
Add tomatoes; cook 15 min., stirring occasionally. Spoon into casserole; top with grated topping and mozzarella.
Bake 15 min. or until mozzarella is melted and vegetable mixture is heated through.

Lemon Roast Chicken

Inspired by the sunny islands of the Aegean, this tangy, bright dish only takes 10 minutes to prepare! To get the most juice from your lemons, microwave them for 30 seconds before squeezing.
  • 1 whole roasting chicken (3-1/2 lb.)
  • 1 lemon, washed, halved
  • 1/2 cup Greek vinaigrette dressing
Make it:
Heat oven to 350°F.
Place chicken in 13x9-inch baking dish.
Squeeze juice from lemon into small bowl; place squeezed halves in chicken cavity. Mix dressing with juice; drizzle over chicken.
Bake 1-1/2 hours or until chicken is done (165°F), basting occasionally with pan juices.
These simple recipes may not take long to make, but they’re packed full of flavor, making them the perfect choice for evenings when you’re short on time but craving scrumptious new tastes. If you want to save even more time, double the recipes and eat the leftovers the next day.

By: Jennifer Williams, Nap Time is My Time

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