CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's that time again. Back to school, back to the dinner rush and back to the search for fast, healthy recipes.
We want healthy meals that come together quickly without extensive ingredient lists. And we want them now. There are so many cookbooks, articles, blogs and discussions on this very topic, that the search can be overwhelming.
My recipe collection contains a few favorites that survived the rotation through many years of fall weeknight dinners squeezed between school, work and evening sports practices. Some feature inexpensive seasonal produce, such as the sweet red bell peppers in the sausage and pasta dish. I make this often in the fall when the normally pricey peppers are offered two for $1 at farmers markets.
Chicken-Tortilla Pie and Blackened Salmon with Pineapple Rice both qualify as five-ingredient fixes. Technically, the salmon and rice dish has six, but one is a seasoning.
The Chicken Tortilla Pie requires only cooked chicken, salsa, bean dip, tortillas and cheese. This kid-friendly recipe is quickly assembled with shredded rotisserie, or leftover, chicken, and prepared salsa and bean dip. When I have time, I make Southwest Bean Dip (recipe follows) to use instead of the store bought variety. It's supposed to be an appetizer served with tortilla chips, but any leftover dip also makes a filling snack wrapped in a soft tortilla.
Basil, another seasonal favorite, stars in Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta Toss and in Chicken and Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto. If you don't have fresh basil, or you just want to cut preparation time, prepared pesto saves a step or two.
The gingery, hoisin-turkey filling for Turkey and Lettuce Wraps can be prepared, then reheated as needed and stuffed into fresh lettuce leaves for staggered dinner times.
If you fix it, they will come. If they don't, serve them leftovers.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta Toss
1 package Italian turkey sausage, peeled
1 clove garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon oregano
15 fresh basil leaves, chiffon cut (or 2 tablespoons prepared pesto)
1 pound whole wheat penne or bowtie pasta
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup asiago cheese, shredded
PREPARE pasta according to package directions, drain and place in large bowl.
BROWN sausage links, breaking into small pieces while they cook.
ADD garlic and peppers to pan with sausage. Stir and cook on medium heat for five minutes.
ADD chicken stock, oregano and pesto, if using, and simmer two minutes.
ADD basil and toss mixture with pasta in large bowl. Sprinkle pepper and cheese to serve.
Blackened Salmon with Pineapple Rice
1 cup long-grain white rice
8 ounces fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoon blackening spice mix or Cajun seasoning (no salt added)
COOK the rice according to package directions. Fluff with a fork and fold in the pineapple, jalapeños and cilantro.
HEAT in a large skillet over medium heat. Coat both sides of the salmon with the seasoning mix and cook, covered, until opaque throughout and blackened, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
SERVE with the rice.
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/4 cup fresh salsa
1 cup spicy black bean dip
4 (8-inch) multigrain flour tortillas
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
HEAT oven to 450 degrees.
COMBINE chicken and salsa in a medium bowl.
SPREAD 1/4 cup black bean dip over each tortilla. Top each evenly with chicken mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese. Stack tortillas in bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray.
BAKE at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese melts.
REMOVE sides of pan. Cut pie into 4 wedges. Serve immediately.
Southwest Bean Dip
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion