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Don’t know what to cook? Me neither

I don’t know about you, but my Monday was awful. One thing after another went wrong. I’m lucky that we had leftovers for dinner, because I don’t have one idea in my head.

And it’s a good thing my retired husband loves to cook.

But what do you do after a long day of frustration and it’s up to you to feed a set of hungry mouths? The temptation, of course, is take-out, but there’s been so much bad news about prepared food lately, and so many recalls that even takeout from a trusted place is a little questionable. It’s full of salt and sugar and it gets expensive fast.

Think about what’s in your pantry, your freezer, your refrigerator. It’s not that hard to come up with some sort of combination.

Tomatoes are coming in, and fresh squash and zucchini are available. You can find new  potatoes, fresh cabbage. Green beans are available, too.

If you have chicken legs or thighs in your freezer, zap them to thaw and try this colorful and tasty sheet-pan meal.

Sheet Pan Orange-Apricot Drumsticks

1 pound multicolor fingerling potatoes, halved (or new potatoes cut in quarters)

1 pound green beans, trimmed

1 cup thinly sliced onion

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

4 large chicken legs, skin removed (or thighs)

1 orange

3 Tbsp. apricot preserves

1 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place potatoes, green beans and onion on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp.pepper. Nestle chicken into vegetables.

Grate 1/2 tsp. zest from the orange and squeeze it to get 2 Tbsp. juice. Combine zest, juice, preserves, soy sauce, garlic and remaining salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush the chicken with the glaze. Note: With that amount of soy sauce, you may not need additional salt.

Roast the chicken and vegetables for 15 minutes. Stir the vegetables and turn the chicken and brush with remaining glaze. Cook until chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

If you’re watching sodium and sugar, use sugar free fruit preserves and omit the added salt. The soy sauce, pepper and garlic will be very flavorful.

Eating Well

This pasta salad would make a light, fast meal or a great side dish.

Lemon Feta Pasta Salad

8 ounces dried short pasta, such as rotini or bowties

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, minced

Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon

Juice of 1 medium lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving (can use dried dill)

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

1/2 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup) plus more for serving

Bring two quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.

Whisk mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Add pasta, onion, roasted red peppers, cucumber and feta cheese and toss to combine. Garnish with more feta and dill before serving.

Note: If you don’t like or don’t have roasted peppers, use cherry tomatoes or cut up a large tomato into small chunks. To up the veggie content, add fresh or frozen green peas or some broccoli florets.

Delish

Got beans? Turn a couple of cans of black beans into a spicy soup that will fill you up for the night.

Black Bean Soup

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. minced jalapeño

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

3 (15 oz.) can black beans

1 quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

Sour cream, avocado and fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and add onion, cooking until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeño and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add tomato paste and stir, cooking 1 more minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, with chili powder and cumin.

Add black beans and 1 cup water. Stir, add bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender or blender, blend some of the soup to thicken, but leave some of the beans whole.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, sliced avocado and cilantro.

With this recipe, you can take an evening to prep this, and freeze half for one of the nights like I’m having.

Spaghetti Pie

1 pound dry spaghetti, broken in half

2 large eggs

3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese, divided

1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan

1 cup chopped scallions (about 4)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small zucchini or yellow squash, quartered and sliced

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Brush one, 9-inch pie plate with olive oil and set aside. Repeat with a second pie pan. If you’re going to freeze the second one, line the pan with 2 pieces of foil to completely cover it with an overhang of 3-4 inches.

Bring two quarts of water to a boil and add the pasta, cooking 8-10 minutes. Do not cook until done, since it will cook a second time. Drain.

Mix the eggs, ricotta, 1 cup of the cheese blend, pepper and up to 1 tsp. of salt in large bowl. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the scallions and a pinch of salt and cook until bright green and beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in zucchini and tomatoes and cook until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 10-12 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil.

Mix the vegetables with the cheese mixture. Add the spaghetti and toss to combine. Divide between the two pie plates. Sprinkle with remaining Italian-blend cheese.

If freezing the second pie, fold the foil over the top of the pie to completely cover. Label and freeze solid, then remove pie pan.

Bake the other pie 25-30 minutes, until heated through and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.

To use the frozen pie, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking.

The kitchn

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