Simple, Quick & Good

On one of those nights when you’re tired and want something kind of light, it helps to have a few simple ingredients in the fridge and pantry. First, cook up some packaged fresh tortellini in boiling water in a medium saucepan. Drain, quickly run cool water over it and transfer to a glass serving bowl. Heat about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a nonstick frying pan on over a high flame. When it’s good and hot, add 2-3 sections of sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons of capers, and a can of drained, pitted California olives. Stir rapidly and allow all to get warm, for about a minute or two. Add sea salt to taste as you’re stirring. The idea is just to warm the ingredients enough to where the flavors are released and blended–don’t allow anything to burn or get crispy. During the last several seconds, add sliced baby tomatoes. Pour the heated mixture over the tortellini.

Serve warm with steamed asparagus. Yum.

This can be paired with a delectable salad made of fresh baby lettuce, pear tomatoes, sliced Persian cucumbers, and blueberries (I found all of thes ingredients at Trader Joe’s.). This salad is so good, it doesn’t need dressing. Or, you can add a scant tablespoon of your favorite vinaigrette. A tangy variation is to add tangerine slices to the mix. In addition to being delicious, these dishes are very nutritious and low in fat. Again, yum.

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Chicken Leek “Pot Pie”

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OK, for all you foodies out there, here is one of my inspirations. I created it a few nights ago, and my family has been raving about it since. This works best if you already have left-over cooked chicken, but you can bake the chicken breasts right before you make this, if you have time. The sweetness of the cranberries combined with the leek give a lighter taste to this traditionally hearty meal. The Bisquick topping adds texture, as well as saving time.

(Makes 2 chicken pies; serves 8-10)

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Filling:
2 T butter
1 large, fresh whole leek, chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
half of a medium head of celery (about 6 stalks)
¼ c olive oil
1 can chicken broth (15 oz)
½ cup flour
¾ cup sour cream
cooked skinless, boneless chicken half-breasts, chopped into half-inch cubes
¼ to 1/3 cup dried cranberries (chopped roughly into halves)
2/3 c grated carrots, spinach, or other leftover veggies
8 oz. frozen mixed vegetables or succotash
1 ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (best when crushed in a mortar & pestle)
salt and pepper to taste
¼ c parsley (optional)

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Crust Topping:
2 cups of Bisquick mix,
2 large eggs
1-3/4 c milk

Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add the butter and as it begins to melt, add the chopped leeks and let them start to soften. Add the olive oil and celery, stirring often. After the celery turns bright green, add the chicken broth, and let it begin to simmer (about 1 minute). Next, add the flour and stir until absorbed. Then, one at a time, add the sour cream, chicken, dried cranberries, leftover vegetables, and frozen mixed vegetables, stirring after each is added. Season with the fennel seed, salt and pepper; let it simmer on medium for a few minutes on the stovetop, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped parsley if desired.

While the mixture is simmering, in a medium bowl, combine the Bisquick, milk, and eggs, and stir until mixed and smooth. Transfer the contents of the skillet into two medium casserole pans. Pour half of the topping over each, and bake uncovered on separate oven racks at 350 degrees F and check after 20-30 minutes. When the topping is golden brown and the liquid is bubbling, remove the casseroles and allow to cool for 20 minutes or more.

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