With the birth of a new year, and the passing of the holiday season, we often look at our wallets and wonder how to fill them back up again. The new year is the season of fresh ideas, and a good time to give that tried and true recipe collection an update to ward off kitchen fatigue. Kitchen fatigue? You know, it's that feeling you get when you don't want to eat your own cooking yet again, but you are determined to stick to your budget (so pizza or Chinese takeout are off the menu). Fear not! All that's
needed to cure kitchen fatigue for good is some new flavors and a couple of new tricks to liven things up in the kitchen.
The first order of the day is a makeover of your current recipes. On busy days when I can't cook a full entrée, I use the fallback plan of "wonder chicken," so named because, when the clock turns to five, I am often still wondering what's going to be for dinner. Readily available at just about any grocery store, rotisserie chicken or, as I like to call it, wonder chicken, comes to the rescue as a quick solution for a healthy menu option. It gives me the night off from cooking, and often there are leftovers which can easily pull double-duty the next day
with a quick makeover. I keep on hand a file of new chicken recipes that fit the bill. They inspire me and keep me from getting the leftover blues.
Local Registered Dietitian/Certified Culinary Professional Paula Tsufis prefers the "nutty" flavor of whole grain pasta paired with Asian
flavors of garlic, soy and ginger for a quick lunch box salad made with leftover chicken. Enriched regular and whole grain pastas are
fortified with folic acid, an important B vitamin which helps the body build new cells. This salad is made from common items in your pantry
and freezer, to which you can add other flavorful ingredients on hand. Make a batch on the weekend and wow your co-workers with a packed lunch
entrée that is quick to fix, highly nutritious and rich with flavor.
8 oz dry whole grain angel hair pasta
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or ½ tsp dried ground)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
2 cups leftover chicken, large dice or strips
Other flavorful additions (optional): 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, ¼ tsp dark sesame oil, ¼ cup finely chopped peanuts, ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or fresh basil, 1 tsp fish sauce, ½ tsp red pepper flakes or hot sauce, ½ cup each julienne carrot, grape tomatoes, diced cucumber or red pepper.
Prepare the pasta as directed on the package, adding the frozen
broccoli during the last minute of cooking. Drain well. Mix together
the ginger, garlic, orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, vegetable oil,
brown sugar, pepper and salt and toss with the warm pasta, broccoli
Refrigerate until served.
Serve warm or cold.
In Louisiana, we say it's the State Soup that cooks with Jazz! Make a big
pot and freeze some for another meal. Serve with a baked sweet potato
and green salad for an authentic Cajun meal.
4 oz margarine or oil
4 oz flour (or enough to make a smooth paste)
1 c fresh yellow onions, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 oz fresh garlic, minced
½ gallon chicken stock
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
8 oz Andouille sausage
1 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning
1 Tsp Kitchen Bouquet
2 C Leftover Chicken
2 Tbsp L&P
1 lb sliced okra, thawed and drained
½ oz white vinegar
4 C cooked rice
filé powder (optional)
Tabasco hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1. Use a black iron skillet. With a wooden spoon, mix the oil and flour
to make a medium brown roux, stirring constantly about 20 minutes.
It should be the color of peanut butter when finished. Let cool 10
2. Transfer roux to Dutch oven and add vegetables and seasonings.
Cook until glazed over with roux. Slowly add chicken stock. In the black
iron skillet cook andouille sausage and add to stock. Heat chicken in
Cajun seasoning, add to stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally.
3. Cook okra in a separate pan to remove slime. Cook until okra starts to
break down, about 10-15 minutes. Add vinegar and continue cooking
until almost dry. Add cooked okra to gumbo and cook one hour over
4. Serve gumbo over hot rice placed in bowl with a dash of filé powder
and a splash of Tabasco.
5. Yields one half-gallon and can be increased easily .
6. Chef's note - Rice is always served separately in the bowl first; do not
add rice to the soup, as it will expand.
Arlene Coco Buscome is the owner of Prairie Kitchen Specialty Foods and makes hand-made food products on the shores of Lake Superior.