Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dinner on the fly: Quinoa and Chicken

Most weeks I'm pretty good about making a menu plan and sticking to it. This week though, with the 4th of July holiday and our time spent at the lake with my parents... well, I didn't manage to get my meal plan made. And I'll be honest: I was just too lazy to go into my household files to reuse an old one.

Sooooo, I spent the afternoon today organizing, cleaning, and changing out wardrobes. And planning Vacation Bible Camp at our church, which I am running this year. This was all useful, exciting stuff (for me, anyway), but can you guess what happened? At about five o'clock the kids were wild and my tummy started to rumble. I hadn't even given a thought to dinner! To make matters worse, Garrett was out tending to the bees, so I had three little children expecting food with no plan, no groceries, no back up and little time before bed.

Not the greatest situation.

But a little inginuity and a Google search later, I came up with something. I pulled out some veggies from our CSA distribution yesterday, pulled some cooked chicken and chicken stock from the freezer (it's times like these that I am so thankful that I make and freeze ahead), and some quinoa from the pantry. The result? Dinner!

If you're interested, we made Lime Chicken, Feta and Quinoa Salad.

Here are the ingredients I had:
That's 2 heads of bok choy, 1 small summer squash, 2 small turnips, 2 scallions, a handful of garlic scapes (maybe 4?), a tomato, and an avocado. In the freezer bag I have 2 breasts of organic chicken, already cooked, sliced and frozen, and a jar of quinoa from my pantry. Not pictured are some lime juice, olive oil, salt, and chicken stock.

Here's what I did:

I thawed some frozen chicken stock I'd previously made, and added water to make it 2 cups. (You can use water, but cooking the quinoa in stock will make the taste richer.)
 I pulled one cup of quinoa from the pantry.
 I heated the chicken stock to a boil and added the cup of quinoa.
 Then I stirred it all together to prevent quinoa from settling on the bottom and burning. I kept stirring throughout the cooking process at regular (ahem- semi-regular) intervals.
 Meanwhile, I chopped the turnip, scallion, and garlic scapes.
Then I added them to a frying pan with a bit of olive oil.
 While the quinoa was cooking and the turnip, scallion and garlic scape mixture was sauteing, I chopped the tomato, bok choy, and summer squash.
 Quinoa cooks quickly- in about 12 minutes- so I had to pull the quinoa from the stove. When it's cooked it shows these small white flecks inside the grain (and it will have absorbed all the stock or water it's been cooked in).
 I defrosted and chopped the cooked chicken from the freezer.
 By then the turnip, scallion and garlic scape mix was done (turnips were tender and a bit browned, while scallion and garlic scapes were tender), so I added them to the quinoa pot.
Next, I warmed the cooked chicken in the pan with the tiniest touch of olive oil, adding a couple tablespoons of lime juice and a dash of salt and a dash of dried basil as well. I left the chicken in the pan only long enough to heat it through, since it was already thoroughly cooked.
 I briefly sauteed the bok choy, tomato and squash in a bit of olive oil. These are delicate veggies and don't need much time on the heat- just a few minutes at most- so the rest of the meal stayed warm while I cooked these last ingredients.
When they were tender and the greens were slightly wilted, I transferred them to the quinoa pot as well.
 Last, I chopped an avocado into the salad (I had one on hand and it sounded yummy), and crumbled some feta cheese over the whole thing.
 Done, and delicious!

What have you made from "on-hand" ingredients lately?


  1. Great recipe I will try soon. Can you tell me how you defrosted the chicken quickly? I would love to know for those times when I forget to put the chicken in the frig the night before for a recipe.

    1. I defrost in the microwave when I need it done in just a few minutes, but just know if you do it that way you need to cook the food right away. If I have a couple hours I might do it in a cold water bath (hot water is not safe), but it takes about an hour for a pound or less, and 3 or 4 hours to defrost larger cuts of meat. And you have to change the water every 30 minutes or so. Hope that helps!

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