Weekday dinner inspirations: Chinese Chicken and Noodle Salad and more

Mon | Penne for your thoughts

Make Caprese Penne with nearly the same ingredients as the ubiquitous salad. Cook the totally tubular pasta, drain it and drizzle with olive oil and a bit of butter. Add chunks of fresh mozzarella, minced garlic, grape tomatoes and ribbons of basil. The residual heat will slightly melt the cheese and bring out the tomatoes' sweetness. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a salad or as a side dish for grilled anything.

Tues | Cinco celebration

Salute the mighty-but-tiny Mexican army that defeated French forces in the Battle of Puebla with margaritas and tacos. Make your own tacos or buy one of those kits and follow the directions. Sure, it's cheating, but time isn't on your side on this busy Tuesday. Doesn't someone have a science project due?

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Chicken and Rice Soup is a quick fix for hump day. Bring 2 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of rice and carrot and celery slices. While rice and veggies cook, shred chicken. Add chicken to broth along with a few shakes of dried tarragon or Italian seasoning. Bake biscuits (we like Sister Schubert's; look for them in the frozen food aisle) and toss a green salad.

Thurs | Stir it fast

An easy Beef Vegetable Stir Fry starts with a pound of skirt steak cut into thin strips. Heat oil in a skillet and add strips to hot pan. Let cook for about five minutes, stirring. Stir in a 1-pound bag of frozen veggies (whatever mixture you like as long as it's not succotash) plus a 1/2 cup of bottled teriyaki sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook another five minutes. Serve with rice.

Fri | Chicken crunch

Chinese Chicken and Noodle Salad (recipe below) may involve a lot of chopping for a Friday night, but the editors at Cooking Light mag offer these tips: "Refrigerate the vegetables, toasted noodle mixture, chicken and dressing in separate containers for up to 1 day. Toss together just before serving." No excuses.

Read Stir Crazy online at www.blogs.tampabay.com/food. Submit your ideas for quick weeknight meals to jkeeler@sptimes.com.

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Chinese Chicken and Noodle Salad

1 (3-ounce) package low-fat ramen-noodle soup mix

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

3 slices fresh ginger, each

1/4 inch thick

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

5 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

5 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups shredded green cabbage

1 medium carrot, shredded

3 scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble ramen noodles onto a large rimmed baking sheet (discard seasoning packet or save for another use). Add almonds, sesame seeds and canola oil; toss to coat. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir, then bake until the noodles are golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Let cool on the pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, place chicken in a medium skillet or saucepan with water to cover. Add ginger and salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until no longer pink in the center, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board to cool. Using forks, shred into bite-sized pieces. (Discard the poaching liquid.)

Meanwhile, combine orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a small bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Whisk or shake until the sugar has dissolved.

Just before serving, combine the shredded chicken, cabbage, carrot and scallions in a large bowl. Add the toasted noodle mixture and the dressing; mix well.

Serves 4.

Source: Eating Well magazine

Weekday dinner inspirations: Chinese Chicken and Noodle Salad and more 04/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 4:30am]

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