Skillet Chicken and Orzo

Skillet Chicken and Orzo

Weeknight cooking can be hard!

You forgot to take something out of the freezer, the fridge is empty, and you only have an hour to get something on the table. This is just a few of the hurtles busy families face daily in the quest to enjoy a family meal together. Skillet Chicken and Orzo is a great weeknight meal that’s easy to prepare, dirties only one pot and can be on the table in about an hour. It’s also super delicious with minimal effort.

Tips to easier weeknight meals

1. Make a meal plan for the week which can be as simple as writing down what meals you intend to prepare. Have fun with it by including the family in your choices. Including others helps to identify preferences and dishes that everyone likes.

 2. Make only one trip to the grocery store by purchasing the ingredients needed for each meal in advance.

3. Take items out of the freezer to have completely thawed and ready for use.

4. Make simple dishes that can be on the table within an hour or so.

5. Make dishes that other family members can help with such as washing and chopping vegetables.

6. Make only one meal that everyone can/will eat. So if you have a dish that everyone loves except the “onion” hater, then make the dish without onions and therefore suitable for everyone.

7. Don’t be afraid to settle for something as simple as eggs on toast for supper.  Eggs are very nutritious and quick to prepare. Make them a great meal by simply sauteeing up a few greens, sausage and/or vegetables.  Top with olives, cheese, breadcrumbs, or chives for a great weeknight meal.

8. If you gotta give your 5-year-old a “grilled cheese night” in exchange for eating other meals later in the week, then everyone eats grilled cheese, making it about balance and compromise.  Besides, who doesn’t like grilled cheese!!

9. Stick mostly to recipes/dishes you are comfortable and familiar with making during your busiest days.  No one wants to fumble around with a new recipe when time is tight.

10. Make extra when you can and freeze for use later, either as a leftover lunch or a meal for someone who gets home late.

The key to Skillet Chicken and Orzo is to give the chicken and mushrooms a good sear. The mushrooms need a very hot pan and should not be overcrowded. Resist the urge to stir them and you will hear them “squeak”. That is a sign that they are becoming golden on the bottom and starting to release some of their liquid. The chicken also benefits from a good sear that helps to render the fat and crisp up the skin. Taking the time to brown both ingredients lends to a more flavourful dish that you’ll want to make again and again. Enjoy!

Want more great weeknight options like Skillet Chicken and Orzo?  Here are a few of my favourites.

Tarragon Chicken Cutlets

Red Curry Coconut Shrimp

Mushroom and Arugula Quinoa Bowls

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Meaty Baked Pasta

Meaty Baked Pasta

Well, baked pasta is far from anything new.  This little version is my own yet very similar to many that are out there.  It’s more of a reminder of how wonderful a baked pasta can be.  There are a few steps involved so I wouldn’t call it the best weeknight meal.  However, Meaty Baked Pasta is just what the family calls for on the weekend.  

With this pasta casserole, you will find a meaty sauce that includes ground beef and Italian sausage, a light and creamy ricotta cheese layer that helps to balance the acid in the tomato sauce.  More sauce hugged pasta with chunks of tomato that is broiled oozy with mozzarella and parmesan.  It’s the kind of dish you know you should stop eating, but just can’t.

It serves many with even a few leftovers.  If planning ahead, you may want to assemble in two casserole dishes, bake one and freeze the other for a later meal when time is not your friend. 

Meaty Baked Pasta is homey, satisfying and best of all cheesy!  It’s not diet friendly, so I won’t pretend that it is.  Everything in moderation, right?  Enjoy!

Meaty Baked Pasta is hot and cheesy from the oven in a blue casserole dish with handles. There is a serving spoon half tucked into the pasta. The dish rests on a cork pot holder that is draped with a white and navy towel. Fresh basil sits in the background.
Meaty Baked Pasta
Print Recipe
    Servings Prep Time
    8-10 people 40 minutes
    Cook Time Passive Time
    40 minutes 5 minutes
    Servings Prep Time
    8-10 people 40 minutes
    Cook Time Passive Time
    40 minutes 5 minutes
    Meaty Baked Pasta is hot and cheesy from the oven in a blue casserole dish with handles. There is a serving spoon half tucked into the pasta. The dish rests on a cork pot holder that is draped with a white and navy towel. Fresh basil sits in the background.
    Meaty Baked Pasta
    Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      8-10 people 40 minutes
      Cook Time Passive Time
      40 minutes 5 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      8-10 people 40 minutes
      Cook Time Passive Time
      40 minutes 5 minutes
      Ingredients
      Servings: people
      Instructions
      1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften, stirring often.
      2. Add ground beef and Italian sausage. Cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking apart any large chunks and stirring often. Dab out any excess fat with a paper towel.
      3. To the meat add marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and chili flakes.
      4. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 20- 25 minutes to meld flavours.
      5. While meat sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions using well-salted water. (about 1 tbsp regular salt to 4 litres of water). Drain pasta and set aside.
      6. Preheat oven to 350℉.
      7. In a small bowl stir together ricotta, half of the mozzarella, half of the parmesan, dried basil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
      8. Lightly spray a 9"x13" casserole dish with non stick spray. Add half the cooked pasta and half of the meat sauce to the casserole dish. Stir to combine. Spread with ricotta cheese mixture.
      9. To the pot with the remaining pasta add remaining meat sauce. Stir to combine and pour over ricotta cheese layer. Top with remaining half of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
      10. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until bubbly. Broil for 2-3 to blister the cheese. Remove and allow to rest 3-5 minutes prior to serving.

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      One Pot Turkey Mushroom Pasta

      One Pot Turkey Mushroom Pasta

      Bring on the leftovers!

      Get ready for the inevitable week of turkey leftovers with this creamy and delicious One Pot Turkey Mushroom Pasta.  It will gobble up 2 cups of leftover turkey while being quick, easy and perfect for the whole family.  This one tastes a little like turkey pot pie, without the pie.  One of the ways I make sure there’s added flavour is to brown the mushrooms nicely.  The trick here is to start with a hot oiled pan, don’t overcrowd the mushrooms and allow them to cook on one side until golden before stirring.  It’s a great way to maximize flavour.  I also like to use flavoured cream cheese for added flavour.  For this recipe, I used a garden vegetable cream cheese, however, herb and garlic would also work well. 

      While this post is geared at using up leftover turkey, you could also use leftover chicken, purchased rotisserie chicken or even frozen cooked cubed chicken. The whole premise is minimal cooking involvement but great tasting creamy pasta cooked in one pot.  

      Being a shift worker, I’m a big, big fan of one pot dinners.  Working nights, I still cook dinner prior to leaving for work, so easy and relatively convenient is a must when it comes to getting dinner on the table. One Pot Turkey Mushroom Pasta is just one of my go-to meals to make my work week easier. 

      Author:  Compelled to Cook

      One Pot Turkey Mushroom Pasta
      Print Recipe
        Servings Prep Time
        4 people 20 minutes
        Cook Time
        25 minutes
        Servings Prep Time
        4 people 20 minutes
        Cook Time
        25 minutes
        One Pot Turkey Mushroom Pasta
        Print Recipe
          Servings Prep Time
          4 people 20 minutes
          Cook Time
          25 minutes
          Servings Prep Time
          4 people 20 minutes
          Cook Time
          25 minutes
          Instructions
          1. In a large skillet heat oil over high heat. Add sliced mushrooms and allow to cook until golden on one side and moisture is starting to evaporate. Stir mushrooms and cook for an additional minute. Add chopped onion and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until starting to soften, 3-5 minutes.
          2. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes until most of the wine has cooked out. Stir in 3 cups of chicken broth, pasta, thyme and parsley. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low, stirring once.
          3. Whisk cornstarch into remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Stir into pasta and allow to come to a full simmer to reach full thickness. Stir in cream cheese, turkey, peas, salt and pepper. Allow to cook 1-2 minutes to heat turkey and peas. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

          Shrimp and Pesto Pasta

          Shrimp and Pesto Pasta

          Recently I treated myself with a 3 piece pasta attachment set for my Kitchenaid stand mixer, and I’m wondering why it took me so long. Let’s start by saying I have the tendency to be on the frugal side and there always seemed to be something more important to spend a couple hundred bucks on. I did give some consideration to the less expensive counter top hand roller for a fraction of the price, but I’m also on the fussy side. I wanted what I wanted, so this little item on my wish list sat on the back burner. But now I have it, and I’m thrilled to share with you Shrimp and Pesto Pasta.

          Of course you can make pasta by hand, and that’s a blog post in itself, but the convenience and ease of the roller and cutters is undeniably great! It makes having fresh pasta simple and easy. One of the first dishes to get pumped out of my new set is a simple and delicious Shrimp and Pesto Pasta. Certainly not a unique combination, but worthy of being a regular on your weeknight plate because of how quick it comes together once the pasta has been rolled.

          Once you get the feel for making fresh pasta, you can experiment with different flavours, flours and shapes. It’s so much fun to be creative and even better when you get to savour the results.

          Recipe source for Shrimp and Pesto Pasta:  Compelled To Cook

          Shrimp and Pesto Pasta
          Print Recipe
            Servings Prep Time
            2 people 15 minutes
            Cook Time
            10-20 minutes
            Servings Prep Time
            2 people 15 minutes
            Cook Time
            10-20 minutes
            Shrimp and Pesto Pasta
            Print Recipe
              Servings Prep Time
              2 people 15 minutes
              Cook Time
              10-20 minutes
              Servings Prep Time
              2 people 15 minutes
              Cook Time
              10-20 minutes
              Ingredients
              Servings: people
              Instructions
              1. Season 3 litres of water with 1 1/2 tbsps of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. If using fresh pasta, cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of cooking liquid.
              2. Dab shrimp dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. In a medium sauté pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shrimp and garlic and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side until shrimp curl and turn opaque. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
              3. Add pesto and 2-3 tbsp of pasta cooking liquid to the same skillet over low heat just to warm, stirring once or twice. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat. Toss in shrimp to warm and combine. Serve immediately, garnishing with parmesan cheese.
              Recipe Notes

              Fresh pesto and pasta is best, however store bought may be used if desired.  You'll find recipes below for fresh Classic Pesto and fresh fettuccini pasta.

              Classic Pesto

              Fresh Fettuccini

               

              Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles

              Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles

              Did you ever eat celery with peanut butter as a kid? Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles combines this great flavour combination with a touch of spice, tender chicken, and saucy noodles. It’s a quick and delicious weeknight meal that the whole family will enjoy!

              You’ll love how the peanut butter virtually creates a creamy sauce on its own as it warms and coats the noodles and everything else that’s all tangled up in them. Along with the peanuts, the celery brings its inherent crunch to the dish, enhancing its texture and flavour. Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles is a fantastic combination of flavours and textures but you don’t have to stop there. Celery is also great stir fried with beef, so next time you grab the wok be sure to reach for that crisp bundle of fresh celery to add to your veggie mix.

              Recipe source for Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles:  Compelled To Cook

               

              Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles
              Print Recipe
                Servings Prep Time
                4 people 20 minutes
                Cook Time
                15 minutes
                Servings Prep Time
                4 people 20 minutes
                Cook Time
                15 minutes
                Chicken and Celery Peanut Noodles
                Print Recipe
                  Servings Prep Time
                  4 people 20 minutes
                  Cook Time
                  15 minutes
                  Servings Prep Time
                  4 people 20 minutes
                  Cook Time
                  15 minutes
                  Ingredients
                  Servings: people
                  Instructions
                  1. Cutting against the grain, slice chicken breast into thin strips. Set aside.
                  2. In a small bowl whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar and chill paste.
                  3. Cook noodles as per package directions and allow to drain in colander while proceeding.
                  4. Heat approximately 1 tbsp of oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet with sides. Once hot add half the chicken and cook, stirring once or twice for 3-5 minutes until chicken is no longer pink and starts to brown. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.
                  5. Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté garlic for 1 minute, stirring often. Add chicken broth and celery. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes until most of the broth has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Stir in red peppers and sauté for 1 minute. Reduce heat and stir in peanut sauce, chicken, noodles, half of the peanuts and half of the green onion. Toss to combine, adding a little more chicken broth if needed. Divide among serving dishes and top with peanuts and green onion. Serve immediately.
                  Recipe Notes

                  I used thick noodles for this recipe, but feel free to use your favourite size.  Fresh Chinese noodles can be found in the produce section of most supermarkets.