When your husband says, “THIS belongs in a cookbook!” you know you’ve hit a homerun with dinner. Not only is it great to have your other half’s approval, but it’s even more of a winner in my book when half the dinner is already taken care of before you step into the kitchen.
When you’re pressed for time, how often to you rely on pre-cut or pre-cooked items? Seeking out shortcuts in the kitchen does not make you LAZY, it makes you SMART! If a ready-made or prepped ingredient helps you to actually cook at home, rather than getting take-out, then I say that’s the smartest move you can do for your health. Food companies are picking up on this trend and catering to the busy mom/dad/young adult professional by creating unique ways to serve and package these convenience items, especially for vegetables. Check to see if your local stores carry items from Mann’s or CeCe’s Veggie Co– they carry some of my favorite dinner savers (p.s. this is totally unsolicted, I just like ‘em!).
Some of my favorite pre-prepped ingredients are:
shredded brussels sprouts
squash or sweet potato zig zags
roasted red peppers
peeled shrimp, rotisserie chicken, canned beans, and tinned fish
The other night I was ready to throw in the towel and not cook a thing. I was exhausted and had random ingredients at home that were not inspiring me; however, on the other hand, I wanted to use up those ingredients and also couldn’t pinpoint a place I wanted to get food from instead. Classic Casey situation that my husband just looooves. So, a quick decision was made to pick up a rotisserie chicken and the rest was going to figure itself out.
As I got into the kitchen though, the stress from the day melted away. Usually chopping brings me some calm, but my butternut squash zig zags didn’t need much breaking down and the baby kale was pre-bagged from either in the week. So all I had to set about doing was removing the meat from the chicken, and then tend to stirring the risotto. It was nice. Cooking was peaceful. And in the end, my stress from the day was taken care of by something that could’ve caused a world of worry had it not been for my ingredient shortcuts. Plus, this dinner was dang delicious and definitely something I can agree to cook much more often.
1/2 cup arborio risotto rice
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
2 cups butternut squash zig zags or small diced squash
6 oz. shredded rotisserie chicken
2 large handfuls of baby kale
1/4 cup Parmesan grated and more for garnish
Olive oil as needed
In a medium saucepan add stock and bring to low simmer, then lower the heat to keep the broth hot as you cook the risotto.
In another large, heavy-bottom saucepan add a drizzle of olive oil and once heated add diced onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and rice. Briskly stir with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated in the oil, then continue to cook for a minute or two so the grains begin to toast but not burn.
Add a ladle of heated broth to the rice and stir until liquid becomes fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry add another ladle, and continue the process one ladle at a time until rice softens, but grains are not crunchy. You’ll want to continue stiring as you add the stock, and the full cooking process takes about 15-20 minutes. Once cooked turn off the heat and set rice aside while you prepare everything else.
To a cast iron skillet add a small amount of olive oil and squash. Saute for about 10-15 minutes until squash softens and browns a bit- the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will cook through.
To the cooked squash add shredded chicken and kale. Mix everything with a wooden spoon to heat chicken and wilt kale. Once everything is cooked and heated through add risotto and grated parmesan to the skillet. Give everything a few turns to combine together. To serve, divide into bowls and top with extra parmesan.