Thursday, September 27, 2012

A big ol' dish of delicious...

Hello!

Time for a lighthearted post from this girl. (yay, finally! right?)
:)

As you know, I am expecting our third daughter. Like literally, expecting her any minute! She is due a week from today, although it doesn't seem possible...and neither does it feel like she is going to make her appearance any time soon. lol

As a result, my amazing husband has been assisting me in working diligently at stocking our freezer for those first few weeks after she arrives. Lasagnas, pasta sauces, different types of soups and soup bases, veggies for serving as well as including in dishes, etc. You name it, if it can be or make easier the preparation of dinner, we've either gotten it done or are planning on finishing it up in the next few days. {Thank goodness we have an extra freezer, because we're both the 'better to be safe than sorry' type and it's possible we might have gone a little overboard in our quest. haha}

Knowing we were doing this, my awesome mother-in-law loaned me a cookbook that is specifically about learning to prepare meals now to serve later. It's called "Dream Dinners" by Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna (you can get it on Amazon here) and I have just absolutely loved reading through it - finding new recipes to try as well as learning tips for preparing dinners. For example, they teach in the cookbook that it's just as easy to prepare three dinners as it is one when you're using the same ingredients. Kind of like a triple batch. Then you cook one for dinner that day and freeze the other two. Do this twice a week and at the end of a month you have 16 meals in your freezer ready to go, whether for your table or that of someone else who might need dinner (i.e. if they just had a baby! lol).

I couldn't believe how practical and simple that was! We've really gotten into meal planning as a method of making each dinner time as well as grocery shopping trip less stressful, and have found that it's really stretched our food budget a lot further as well. Now having this little gem dropped in my lap, I'm VERY excited to take that practice to the next level!

This book is awesome, it doesn't just cover dinners, but lunches, breakfasts, desserts, as well as all kinds of side dishes...and there's something in there for just about everyone's dietary preferences too! I'd encourage you to check it out if you're into having your family table be graced with a great meal as often as possible but don't necessarily have 1-3 hours EVERY DAY to prep for it...which is how long I sometimes spend in the kitchen working on dinner when I'm not big pregnant, because frankly to me (and to my husband!), the family table matters that much.

Now here's the fun part, the real reason for this post. The other day I was working on a recipe from out of here and fell. in. love. with it! So I bragged about it on Facebook and everyone wanted me to share of course! I figured out the simplest way to do that would be to share it here-easily referenced if you need to come back later! The recipe is for a Baked Pesto Ravioli with Chicken dish, and it was amazing. Now truth be told I didn't follow the recipe entirely, as we don't eat a lot of extra meat in our meals if there are other ways of putting protein in the dish. As a general rule, I rarely follow a recipe to the last detail anyway, my father taught me they're just launching points and so that's what they've always been. :)

Anyway, here is the recipe as given in the book. I'll just give you the basic recipe rather than the tripled version, as it's pretty easy to do the math, and I'll add my comments as to what I did differently as well. Any way you slice it - or bake it - it is delicious, and oh-so-simple to make. Enjoy!


BAKED PESTO RAVIOLI with CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2 lbs cheese-filled ravioli, fresh or frozen (<---here is where I made a change. I prefer spinach raviolis, or a chicken/spinach blend, so that's what I used. A LOT less cheese that way! The great thing is that it's really any ravioli, so possibilites are as endless as the selection you have available!)

1 lb cooked chicken breasts in 1/2-in slices (we omitted this since there was already chicken in the ravioli)

2/3 cup chicken broth (we used a low-sodium, organic, free-range variety that has proven to be very tasty and give just enough "under-flavor" for lack of better term. And you know, so we feel like it's healthy rather than comforting. lol)

2 cups zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped scallions (we used green onions, simply out of preference)

1/2 cup basil pesto sauce (the recipe says just use store-bought, but I prefer to make my own pesto, so I made a fresh batch instead and used it!)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper (I used more, but I'm a pepper-lover so this is a pretty common occurrence)

1 cup (4 oz) grated Parmesan cheese


Directions:

Spray 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the ravioli, chicken, chicken broth, zucchini, bell pepper, scallions, pesto, salt, pepper, and Parmesan in a large bowl. Stir gently to mix the ingredients. {If you are preparing a triple batch, divide the remainder equally between two resealable freezer bags}

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly.

{If you're wanting to freeze, just label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. That at room temperature before baking as directed above.}



Voila!! Dinner is ready in about an hour and a half total and did I mention your house will smell amazing? The great thing is that the hour before dinner, which is usually always stressful and chaotic, can really become a fun time with you and your family. My daughters LOVE to help set the table, and this gives us time to do so in a fun, learning way, as well as getting salad, bread, and beverages on the table too. Then when it comes out, you just sit and serve!

I hope you get the opportunity to try it out, I'm sure it'll become a family favorite in your house the way it has in ours! If you have any questions, just ask and I'll do my best to answer.

And of course, until next time, I'll still be laughing. :)
Crystle

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