Once upon a time during my early years of teaching, I would prepare this recipe on a school night solely for the purpose of having leftovers to bring with me for lunch at school the next day. My first teaching teammate loved this dish, and I always brought enough to share with her. I visited my original “teacher wife” last week. The pasta dish came up during my visit, and she talked about how it is one of her grandson’s favorite meals. I had not thought about this recipe in years.
The dish is an easy weeknight meal, can be cooked in one pot, and works well reheated the next day. It is also a good alternative to one of my other favorite pasta dishes– Pasta with Pesto and Peas.
- 2 T. pine nuts, toasted
- 1 bunch of broccoli cut into bite sized pieces (~3 cups)
- 1 family sized package of cheese filled tortellini (~20 oz.)
- 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1 – 1 1/2 c. pesto (purchased or homemade)
- grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the broccoil and cook until crisp-tender, ~3-5 minutes. Remove broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon (save the broccoli water!) and drain in a colander. Set to the side.
- Return broccoli water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions. Drain well and set to the side.
- Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
- In the empty pot that cooked the broccoli and tortellini, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook through, ~3-4 minutes. Remove some of the excess cooking juice before continuing.
- Add the broccoli and tortellini to the chicken, tossing until heated through. Remove from heat and add the pesto to taste. Stir gently until the tortellini, chicken, and broccoli are coated with pesto.
- Garnish with pine nuts and grated Parmesan. Serve hot.
- Can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave. It is a great teacher lunch or meal at the office.
Yes, we have returned to the school schedule along with many families across the country. It is the time of year when I go from minimal attempts at making my family dinner to hardly ever. I would be OK with cereal and peanut butter every night; TheRoomDad is not. It is perplexing to him the lack of interest I have for preparing food during the school year. Preparing meals is such a time suck, and I am not up for it after a day of teaching.
There is a quick meal that I will cook when I have the ingredients. My kids love the recipe I have for Italian Chicken Soup. It is a lot like chicken noodle soup but with a twist. Any time we have a leftover cooked chicken breast, there is a good chance I am making Italian Chicken Soup for an easy weeknight dinner.
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 T. dried basil
- 2 t. fennel seeds
- 1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper
- 6 c. canned chicken broth
- 2 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
- ~9-oz. pasta (egg noodles, mini penne, mini bow ties, macaroni…)
- 1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, diced
- Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add red bell pepper, onion, carrot, garlic basil, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper. Saute until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add broth.
- Cover pot and simmer 10 minutes.
- Add zucchini (if using), cover, and simmer about 5 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Add pasta and boil until pasta is tender.
- Add chicken and cook until heated through about 1 more minute.
- Season soup to taste with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls, and serve.
- You can replace the zucchini with yellow squash (and probably celery, but I have not tried it). Red bell pepper can be replaced with green bell pepper.
- The original recipe called for cheese ravioli, but my family likes non-stuffed pasta better.
- The recipes makes 4-5 servings, so we usually don’t have many leftovers.
My weeknight dinner efforts are fair at best. Everybody is worn out by the time we make it home and roll through the door. We have many cereal and scrambled eggs nights (much to TheRoomDad’s frustration). One weeknight dinner I can handle is tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I usually have all of the ingredients on hand even if I have not been to the grocery store, and it takes minimal effort and time to prepare. We ate tomato soup twice last week with toasted sandwiches in the panini maker.
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 c. canned, diced tomatoes
- 1 T. fresh basil leaves, minced (or 1 t. dried)
- 1-2 c. chicken stock
- Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften (~5 minutes).
- Add the diced tomatoes and basil. Simmer about 10 minutes.
- Add 1 c. of chicken stock. Return to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), puree carefully until smooth.
- Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Reheat if needed before serving.
- If you do not have whole carrots, dice a handful of pre-cut carrots sticks if you have a bag of the snack carrots in your refrigerator.
- You can replace the basil with thyme.
- We like the soup with grilled cheese strips and/or Goldfish.
I so enjoy making party food, cooking a big dish for a group, or assembling appetizers and class snack foods, but I avoid the daily grind of cooking family dinner that will be eaten in 3.7 minutes followed by kitchen clean-up like the plague (and don’t even get me started on packing school lunches).
If TheRoomDad has taken care of the grocery shopping, I can be persuaded to make fast dinners during the week that have minimal clean up. I have a recipe for turkey apple quesadillas that is acceptable as a mid-week meal. It is an odd combination of ingredients, but the adults and children at my house love them. The other nice thing about the recipe is the fact that all of the key food groups are in one bite, so I don’t have the pressure of having to come up with a side dish TOO. Utensils are not required to eat this “meal”, and we really don’t have to have plates either, so clean-up is a breeze.
Have you developed a resistance to making weeknight dinners night after night after night, or is it just me?
- Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
- flour tortillas (any size– I like large then folded in half when heating)
- Munster cheese slices (our grocery’s deli section has pre-sliced packs. Cut or break each slice into halves or thirds when assembling the quesadilla)
- Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced (or another tart, green apple)
- deli turkey, thinly sliced
- Mix equal parts honey and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. I start with 1 tablespoon each of mustard and honey. That is usually enough for 4 quesadillas (4 large tortillas folded in half).
- If using the large tortillas, spread the honey mustard on half of the tortilla.
- Layer 1 1/2 slices of Munster on the honey mustard spread. Since I cut the deli slices into smaller strips, I place ~3 1/2-slices across the half of the tortilla with the honey mustard.
- Add 1-2 slices of turkey on top of the cheese.
- Place several apple slices on the turkey.
- Top the apple slices with 1/2 to 1 cheese slice.
- Fold the tortilla in half to close.
- Spray a skillet with Pam and using medium heat, cook the quesadilla on both sides until the cheese is melted, and the tortilla is browned.
- Remove from heat, cut in thirds or quarters, and serve immediately.
- You can purchase a “brick” of Munster cheese and grate the cheese instead of using slices.