Whether I was dashing about from gig to gig or spending long hours in a cubicle, I was too busy to spend time cooking elaborate meals. Out of necessity, I prepared meals with limited time and budget because, after all, even boozy people need to eat. Before Rachael Ray had her 30 Minute Meals show on the Food Network, I was becoming well-practiced in the art of a quick and semi-nutritious meal.
To eat well with limited time, energy, and money, and without eating out all the time, we stocked up on easy to prepare foods. Our freezer was the miniature version of the Costco frozen food aisle jam-packed with a 10-pound bag of Purdue chicken breast, Mrs. DiFillippo’s cocktail-sized meatballs, Michelangelo’s stuffed manicotti and shells, ready-cooked chicken wings, and a large bag of pre-cooked shrimp. From the local supermarket, we picked up packages of frozen vegetables and fresh meats that I packaged into serving sizes and froze.
Staples of the pantry included Uncle Ben’s rice, a variety of Goya beans, Lipton Onion Soup Mix, jars of tomato sauce, and various cans of soup. To stock the refrigerator, we added a few simple salad ingredients to the weekly run for eggs, milk, cheese and cold cuts. Our meals were not very exciting but enough to keep our bellies full on a frugal budget.
Many of the quick and easy dishes we prepared evolved into tastier and more complex recipes as time and opportunity allowed. Chicken breasts that were barely seasoned and thrown in a pan or on the barbecue now have a myriad of options for cooking styles, seasonings, sauces, and accoutrements. One of our favorites is Chicken Marsala. If we need a shortcut for this recipe, it’s better to use a jar or package of brown gravy mix than to forego fresh mushrooms.
- 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10 ounce package of white mushrooms, sliced
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 Teaspoons poultry seasoning
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup of brown gravy
- 1/3 cup Marsala
|In a large skillet, cook the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat. Fit as many as possible in contact with the pan and let one side brown before stirring. The mushrooms should be fairly dry when they are done. Use a couple of splashes of the Marsala to clean up the brown bits and remove from the pan.|
Make a coating for the chicken pieces by mixing the flour, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper in a dish. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag, add the coating mixture, and shake.
In the same large skillet (less dishes to wash) heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Brown the chicken pieces. The chicken doesn’t need to be fully cooked at this point, it can finish in the gravy.
Add the mushrooms and gravy. Cover and simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining Marsala and cook for an additional minute or two.
Serve over rice.