Quick Cooking For A Busy Lifestyle

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The cover story of this week’s Rim Review is about the many events and activities coming up over the next several weeks. There are also the celebrations associated with Mother’s Day, graduations, and all those June weddings, plus Father’s Day.

So, there may be a need to get a good meal on the table in record time. To help meet that need, here is a guide and recipe for making the most of a freezer to work ahead, plus some meal-worthy salad suggestions.

Make now, bake later: Meals in a pinch The refrigerator and freezer are wonderful kitchen tools if you use them to your advantage. Go-to dishes have never been easier, thanks to the classic preservation methods of refrigeration and freezing. With one stop at the grocery store you can have all the ingredients you need to create a variety of wholesome meals in a snap.

Know the storage basics. — Heavy-duty freezer bags are perfect for keeping sauces, marinades and soups for up to one month, whereas glass containers can provide simple portion control for already assembled dishes. Well-wrapped, double-sealed meals will be less likely to get freezer burn and can be stored for up to two to three months. Make sure to clearly label and date your freezer meals for easy reference.

Thaw with care. — There are several ways to thaw out your freezer meals, but only a couple of safe ones. You can place smaller containers in the refrigerator in the morning, and then pop them in the oven in the evening. If you are in a hurry, do a quick thaw by immersing the container in cold water or defrosting it on a low setting in the microwave.

Go 50-50. — Serve half to your family now, half later. This Fiesta Chicken, Rice and Bean Casserole made with the classic Mexican flavors of jalapeño, cumin, corn and black beans can be enjoyed more than once. The addition of instant chicken bouillon granules and evaporated milk give it an especially savory and creamy flavor.

For more make-ahead recipe ideas, visit www.meals.com.

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Family Features photo

Fiesta Chicken, Rice and Bean Casserole

Fiesta Chicken, Rice and Bean Casserole

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 cups water

2 teaspoons Maggi Instant Chicken Flavor Bouillon (or similar)

3/4 cup long-grain white rice

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 bell pepper, any color, chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (12 fluid ounces) Nestlé Carnation Evaporated Milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups cooked, chopped or shredded chicken breast meat (about 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves)

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed well and drained

1-1/2 cups frozen, thawed corn, drained

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 13-inch-by-9-inch or 3-quart casserole dish.

Bring water and bouillon to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice; cover. Reduce heat to low; cook for 15 to 18 minutes or until rice is almost tender and most of liquid is absorbed (the rice will continue to cook in the casserole).

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic; cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Whisk together evaporated milk and eggs; stir into saucepan along with prepared rice, chicken, cheese, beans and corn. Spoon into prepared dish.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until bubbly and edges are golden. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

For freeze ahead dish:

Prepare as above using two, 2-quart casserole dishes; do not bake or sprinkle with cilantro. Allow casserole to cool to room temperature. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil; freeze for up to two months.

Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Uncover. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Source: Nestlé Kitchens

Meal-worthy salads

Eating well doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself and your family of delicious meals that everyone will enjoy. There are plenty of well-balanced options that won’t compromise flavor. It starts with foods that are made with a minimal number of all-natural, simple ingredients — like these satisfying salads.

If you think of salads as just meal starters with a few greens and a handful of veggies, it’s time to think again. When done right, salads can be full of satisfying flavor — and greens aren’t always required.

Salad Greens 101

When you want to create a great-tasting salad with greens, go beyond the usual Iceberg lettuce. Here’s what you need to know about some tasty greens and what types of dressings pair well with them:

• Arugula - Delicately textured leaves with a sharp, peppery bite. Goes well with balsamic and fruit flavored dressings.

• Bibb - Delicate leaves with a creamy texture. Mild flavor goes well with poppyseed and champagne dressings.

• Frisee - Coarsely textured with lacy, curly leaves. A mildly flavored green with a slightly bitter bite. Goes well with fruit flavored, balsamic, ranch and blue cheese dressings.

• Mesclun - A blend of multi-textured greens that range from delicate to crispy. Leaf colors range from pale to dark green, and deep reds. Mixtures range from sweet to sharply flavored lettuces. Goes well with Greek dressings, as well as classic ranch and light balsamic dressings.

• Romaine - Crisp leaves with a firm texture. A mildly flavored green with a crunchy texture. Goes well with blue cheese, thousand island and ranch dressings.

Salads Without Greens

Salads can be based on pasta, grains, meats, seafood or a variety of delicious vegetables. Here are some combinations to try for your next family dinner:

• Chickpea Salad — Roasted cauliflower, beets, cucumber, chickpeas and olives combine with red onion, feta cheese, cumin and Greek feta salad dressing for an exciting addition to the menu.

• Chilled Asiago Rice Salad — This colorful salad is filled with brown rice, red peppers, garbanzo beans, peas, red onions and balsamic dressing.

• Asparagus Salad — Grilled asparagus is topped with hard boiled eggs, lemon zest, spicy radishes, savory Parmesan cheese and creamy Caesar salad dressing.

When choosing dressings, look in the produce section for products made with all-natural ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, canola oil (source of omega-3 ALA) and sea salt, like Marzetti Simply Dressed and new Marzetti Simply Dressed & Light (with less fat and calories) refrigerated salad dressings. They are all made with simple, back to basics ingredients, no preservatives, trans fats, MSG, high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors, and are fresh, flavorful additions to any salad or recipe.

For additional tasty recipes and product information, visit www.marzetti.com.

Asparagus Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup Marzetti Simply Dressed Caesar Salad Dressing

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shavings

8 radishes, cut into matchsticks

Prepare a grill to medium-high heat, or preheat an oven to 400 F.

Toss asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill asparagus 2 to 4 minutes, turning spears frequently, until the spears are bright green and lightly charred. If roasting, arrange spears on a sheet pan, place on top rack of oven and roast for 4 to 5 minutes (shake pan once or twice during cooking time).

Transfer asparagus to a platter, drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with eggs, lemon zest, cheese and radishes. Serve.

Tips: For a lighter alternative, try Marzetti Simply Dressed & Light Caesar.

Watercress Arugula Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

1 bunch watercress, stems removed

3 cups arugula leaves

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/3 cup chopped pistachios

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 tart apple, cored and sliced thinly

2 tablespoons Marzetti Simply Dressed Balsamic Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup Marzetti Simply Dressed Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

3 ounces prosciutto, cooked and crumbled

Arrange salad leaves on a large platter; sprinkle top with onion, nuts and blue cheese. In a small bowl, combine apple slices, balsamic dressing and parsley. Add apples to salad. Drizzle blue cheese dressing over top of salad and top with crumbled prosciutto. Serve.

Tips: For a lighter alternative, try Marzetti Simply Dressed & Light Blue Cheese.

White Bean Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

3/4 cup Marzetti Simply Dressed Ranch Salad Dressing

1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, drained

1 shallot, minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

6 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup cooked bacon, crumbled

Combine dressing in a large mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and gently toss. Arrange on a serving plate and serve immediately. Serve salad with toasted French bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.

Tips: For a lighter alternative, try Marzetti Simply Dressed & Light Ranch.

Source: T. Marzetti Company

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