CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's that time of year when vans and pickup trucks overloaded with household goods and laundry baskets heaped with clothes replace carrier-topped vehicles of vacationing families on the highways.
College kids are headed to campus. If they aren't living in the dormitories where the cafeteria staff provides three squares, they might be venturing into an apartment and their first shot at truly independent living.
That's right. They'll have to feed themselves. If their only cooking efforts to date have involved the microwave and toaster, they're soon going to be hungry. Eventually, take out pizza and burgers, frozen dinners, cereal and that old college staple, ramen noodles, get old.
So here are a few quick and easy meals that require minimal preparation and use relatively inexpensive ingredients. The Spinach Ravioli Lasagna would work just as well with healthier marina sauce in place of the Alfredo sauce. Several recipes include spinach in an attempt to slip a few vitamins into the meals.
A couple of tips:
* Check the grocery store fliers and plan menus around what's on sale. Especially meat, usually a high ticket item.
* Give store brands a try. Choosy mothers might chose JIF, but it can be twice the price of off-brand peanut butter.
* Buy bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or thighs when they're on sale, and roast in the oven until done. Remove meat from bones, chop meat and seal in freezer plastic bags. Freeze for use later to toss into recipes calling for chopped, cooked chicken, like Chicken Tortilla Stack, Barbecue Chicken Pizza or Caesar Chicken Salad recipes listed below
* Use low-fat and whole-wheat ingredients whenever possible to avoid packing on the pounds.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/4 cup 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
MIX chicken and salsa in a medium bowl.
SPREAD 1/4 cup black bean dip over each tortilla. Top each evenly with about 1/4 of the chicken mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese. Stack tortillas in bottom of a 9-inch pan coated with cooking spray.
BAKE at 450° for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese melts.
CUT pie into 4 wedges. Serve immediately.
Tuna Spinach Linguine
1/2 16-ounce box linguine
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 12-ounce can chunk tuna, drained
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 6-ounce bag spinach, coarsely chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated
PREPARE linguine according to package directions
HEAT oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent. Stir in tuna and seasonings and cook several minutes.
ADD undrained tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer five minutes. Just before serving, fold spinach into tuna mixture.
SERVE over cooked linguine and sprinkle with cheese, if desired.
Sausage Pepper Pasta
1 pound bowtie pasta
1 20-ounce package Italian turkey sausage links
1 red pepper, diced in 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup jarred pesto sauce
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
Pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper, if desired
COOK pasta in large pot according to directions on box. Drain and return pasta to pot.
REMOVE casings from sausage. Cook over medium heat in skillet, breaking the sausage into pieces, until no pink remains.
ADD diced red pepper to skillet and cook 3 minutes.
ADD cooked sausage and red pepper mixture to pasta. Mix in pesto sauce and toss with a cup of chicken broth. Add pepper and crushed red pepper if desired.
PLATE and sprinkle with cheese.
Easy Chicken Salad
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon pepper, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Diced celery, nuts, pickles, halved grapes or dried cranberries, as desired.
MIX mayonnaise and seasonings. Fold in chicken and other desired ingredients.
SERVE over mixed greens to make a meal.
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced