pasta primaveraKENTUCKY (4/12/14) — This week on Biscuits & Bacon - Food Column for the Hungry, Curious Mind, Maureen dishes what to cook for a crowd of teens and offers time-saving tips for mid-week meals.

Dear Maureen,

I’m hosting dinner for my son’s fishing team next week. These boys are not the appetizer crowd ̶ they are hungry. Help!

Hungry Boys in Bowling Green

Dear Hungry,

I’ve got three words for you.

Pasta. Salad. Cookies.

Make a large pan of ziti (add chicken for a balanced meal), serve a large bowl of salad (or add vegetables to the ziti) and have a mongo plate of chocolate chip cookies on hand. Or if you’re stretched for time (like the mom in the next question), order several cheese pizzas instead, (but don't forget the cookies).

Have plenty of water, sports drinks, or fresh lemonade on hand too. And once the food is ready, make yourself scarce for a while.

Maureen


Dear Maureen,

I took a full time job and still have two teens at home. I need hot meals during the week, but I'm tired when I come home and don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Mom in Madisonville

Dear Mom,

First, congrats on your new full time job. And let me add, I know the I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking song.

Preparing meals ahead is your solution to quick, easy mid-week meals. When you have foods already prepared, or partially prepared, making mid-week meals is a snap.

For instance, prepare your sides dishes ahead. Chop vegetables, clean lettuce (in a spinner - which is a great storage unit also), and cook pastas on Sunday. Place cut vegetables in a container with a little water water and keep pasta in a cover container in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to save a cup of the starchy, salty pasta water for the reheat, too.

Later in the week, these ingredients will make a healthy primavera salad, served either hot or cold. Place cut vegetables and pasta in a large bowl, add fresh greens, drizzle a salad dressing or vinaigrette (try my Pear & Tarragon Vinaigrette recipe below), toss and serve.

Another recipe to make that offers several uses for mid-week meals is a simple red sauce. The easiest, most versatile, and my ultimate favorite red sauce is Marcella Hazan's Butter, Tomato, and Onion Sauce.

Later in the week, toss pre-made pasta with already made red sauce. For a ten-minute flatbread, smear a few spoonfuls of red sauce on raw pizza dough, or a pre-made crust, add vegetables (broccoli, asparagus and fennel are your go-to vegetables this time of year) and bake. How about another idea for the pre-made red sauce? Sear chicken breasts and thighs in a skillet with onions, add several shakes of sweet papkika to your red sauce, add the sauce to the skillet, cover and simmer until the chicken is done (time will vary based on size) to an internal temperature of 165. Serve chicken paprika with a plop of sour cream and a side mixed green salad for a balanced meal.

One-dish casseroles and pots of soup are the ultimate time saver and don’t require a lot of Sunday time either. Cook, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to reheat and eat. Think tuna noodle casserole, chicken and white bean chili, potato and leek soup, whole roasted chicken (or two), even a simple quiche or an asparagus tart can be made ahead.

Good luck and let me know what works for you.

Maureen

Pears 003 1024x617(Photo Maureen C. Berry)

Pear & Tarragon Vinaigrette

Cook notes: To save time, make the vinaigrette ahead a few days, but don’t add the oil until you’re ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons of pear simple syrup, or juice from a can of pear
  • 1 tablespoon of champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • Dash Kosher salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + or - for taste
  • A handful of chopped toasted pecans (optional)

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients except the oil and nuts.
  2. Just before serving, drizzle the oil in as you whisk to create a smooth emulsion.
  3. Add the nuts to the vinaigrette and stir to coat.
  4. Spoon nuts and vinaigrette over salad greens. Top with grilled chicken breast, salmon filet or shrimp.
  5. Serve immediately.

Appetite required.

Got a food-related question? Send Maureen an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or leave a comment on the SurfKY Facebook page.

Maureen C. Berry is the copyeditor and food writer at SurfKY.com. When she’s not writing or cooking, she’s photographing wildlife in her backyard. Maureen founded Center Street Writers' Guild in conjunction with Hopkins County Public Library. CSWG offers free writing/critique workshops. She lives in Western Kentucky with her husband and wire fox terrier, Reagan. Follow her on Twitter @seafoodladyorl.

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Posted on 2/2/14
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