The title doesn’t leave a whole lot to your imagination, but I was going for easy to procure ingredients with lots of wiggle room to customize! This was also an fun way to use a smaller portion of chicken, or I’d totally make it again with meatless chicken, which I love too. I forget about paninis but now that we’re all home for quarantine, they’re a great and easy meal and can easily be a dinner. There are 4 food groups in here!
I hope some of these easy ideas give you something to look forward to. We all need that right now, right? Paninis are also so great to be build your own if you have a crowd too!
Crispy Chicken Panini with Maple Dijon Arugula
Ingredients: (for 1 panini)
2 breaded chicken tenders
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon mayo
1 slice provolone
1 small roll
Bake the chicken until crispy and fully cooked through. (Mine came frozen or use meatless tenders or make your own). Then slice in half width-wise.
Mix together the dijon, maple syrup, and mayo.
Heat a panini press or grill pan or heavy skillet.
Toss the arugula in some of the maple dijon. Reserve some to spread onto the roll.
Assemble the panini with a little maple dijon on the roll (if desired), arugula then chicken then cheese.
Press or grill or pop into a toaster oven (or skip and enjoy immediately!), as you wish, until warmed through and until the cheese melts.
Slice and enjoy!
Ohh so good, and simple. Making a little maple dijon gives it an easy special touch that I think is totally worth it- esp since I was using otherwise prepared ingredients, but substitute honey mustard dressing and call it a day.
I know not everyone can get every ingredient right now, so here are some substitution ideas:
roll – use bread, or make it a wrap!
provolone – any sliced cheese: swiss/cheddar/gouda/monterey jack
arugula – any greens: spinach/collards/swiss chard/kale
Whatever you do with it, add a panini or melt into your menu for a fun but quick lunch or a dinner.
These flavors are great on their own, but better together. That’s like all of us, right? These weird times we’re all navigating need meals to connect over. I don’t pretend all meals are perfect though at our house, most of us loved this. T was mostly into the bacon and didn’t go for the chicken. C ate some of all of it, but LOVED the chicken.
Chicken was hard to come by on some of our digital grocery orders at one point. I had a few frozen chicken thighs and some panko breaded chicken tenders that were also formal residents of our freezer. However you like/whatever you can get! Risotto or any rice or whatever grain is kicking around your pantry. Any rice, or farro, or couscous, or quinoa, or lentils, or even beans would be good! Adding ranch flavor and cheddar and bacon will make the world seem better- or at least it’ll make dinner seem better!
Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar and Ranch Risotto
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 chicken broth (or liquid ratio according to the method)
2 teaspoons dried Ranch powder mix
1 cup shredded cheddar
4 strips of bacon
4 chicken thighs grilled or pan seared or ~6 chicken tenders breaded and fried or baked
4 tablespoons ranch dressing (optional)
Prepare the risotto according to the package (or method – I used the pressure cooker so I use the liquid ratio for that 1 cup arborio to 1 1/2 cups liquid) with the dried ranch mix.
While the risotto is cooking, chop the bacon and pan fry it until crisp, then remove from the grease but save a tablespoon or two.
Add in the tablespoon or two of bacon grease into the risotto when it is fully cooked, and mix in the cheddar cheese and bacon.
Bake or grill or sear the chicken.
Spoon some risotto into bowls or plates, slice chicken on top, and lastly add a drizzle of ranch dressing.
The first time I made this I roasted some grape tomatoes for this too. Stirring in some fresh spinach would be good for a complete bowl meal. I tossed some salad stuff together on the side. Or green beans would go nicely with this too!
I have all the short cuts & cheats to make ramen! It is a little spicy and perfect for a slow lunch or to clear out a stuffy head from those dang winter colds that just won’t quit. While it is pretty quick to make, this was a nice slow food. This isn’t a Saturday lunch I eat over the cutting board while instructing my cherubs to focus before naptime. This ramen is a spoon and fork bowl to linger over.
Easy Homemade Ramen
Ingredients: (serves 2)
4 chicken tenders (or 2 chicken breasts, or ~1 cup rotisserie chicken, shredded)
1/2 Thai flavor seasoning (I used this or substitute with 3 cups vegetable/mushroom/chicken broth with a dash of soy sauce)
1 cup baby bella mushrooms
3 green onions
1 package of instant ramen, seasoning discarded)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
black sesame seeds (or substitute by toasting white sesame seeds)
Bring 1 cup of of broth (I used ~1/4 of the seasoning cube + 1 cup water) to a simmer and lightly poach the chicken for ~8-10 minutes until cooked through.
While the chicken cooks, saute the mushrooms for ~3 minutes in a skillet over medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil.
Remove the chicken and let cool, then shred with 2 forks.
Add the rest of the Thai seasoning cube with 3 cups of water (or add in the broth + soy sauce) and cook over low heat.
Add in the chicken, mushrooms, 2/3 of the green onions, and sesame oil to cook for 5 minutes.
Bring a separate small pot of water to a boil. Reduce to medium-high and cook the eggs, covered, for 6 minutes.
Add in the noodles to the large pot with the chicken, mushrooms, green onions and broth for 2 minutes.
Remove the eggs from the water and immediately put into a bowl of ice water for 1 minute. Then carefully peal under running water.
Scoop the noodles, chicken, and mushrooms into bowls. Add an egg into each bowl.
Pour broth into each bowl, top with sesame seeds and remaining green onions.
The flavors were so great. I found it a bit spicy (I’m reducing the seasoning for the recipe above) so I added in a little chicken broth. The spice cubes were in the spice section at my grocery store but might also be near the bullion/broth. It is on Amazon too. Ramen – straight out of the pack- is my guilty pleasure but this was such a fun heightened version! I probably make regular ramen ~6 times a year but this being real food, makes me want it more.
This week weather may have been upper 50s & into the 60s in New England, but stuffed shells are a faster-than-lasagna winter comfort dinner. These got a slight twist with flavor of chicken parm we love. Plus, I love ricotta more than the average person, so this hit the spot. Make one big pan or 2 smaller ones with one to freeze!
Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells
1/2 box jumbo shells
~4 breaded chicken tenders (or ~1 cup popcorn chicken)
15 oz ricotta
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 1/2 cup mozzarella
1 1/2 cup tomato sauce (I use Pastene canned Kitchen Ready Tomatoes)
Bake the chicken until cooked through and crisp, according to the package. Then chop into bite-sized pieces. Lower oven heat to 350-degrees.
Boil salted water for the jumbo shells and cook until al dente.
Mix the ricotta with 1/2 cup mozzarella, Italian seasoning, and salt.
Fill a ziplock bag with the ricotta. Use a tall drinking glass to hold the bag while spooning the ricotta into the bag.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. (I made 2- 9×9 pans or this would fit one 9×13). Spoon about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce onto the bottom.
Snip the bottom corner off the ziplock bag to pipe the ricotta into the shells and place the shells into the baking dish.
Add chicken on top of the ricotta.
Spoon tomato sauce on top.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Then uncover, top with remaining mozzarella, and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
I loved this. Leftovers packed up really well to be lunch the next day! I love these flavors and was reminded just how easy it was to pop this together. Another fun twist is to skip the chicken, and stir in creamed spinach into the ricotta mixture for my Better Than Usual Stuffed Shells.
I believe everyone needs some crowd-pleasers or make-ahead meals in their arsenal! This chicken pot pie would fit the bill for each of those categories! Here’s the first of some winter comfort food staples!
…unless you ask a certain pre-schooler. Kids’ tastes are so weird. He ate all of the Winter Veggie Grain Bowl on another night with farro, roasted veggies and dried cranberries- he even had more of the roasted butternut squash – prob not be every kid’s preference. He was hesitant to try the chicken pot pie, and then pretty indifferent after having a few bites of each component. While he likes all these things separately, he’s not super into foods all cooked together, but he needs to encounter foods that way. He doesn’t get an alternative so he ate some tomatoes on the side and then just a few bites and was confident in his decision that it was all he would have for the night. To each their own, right? Our toddler loved the chicken pot pie though!
Chicken Pot Pie (serves ~5)
~2 cups of roasted chicken (I used ~1/3 of a Costco roasted chicken)
1 cup frozen corn (or substitute peas)
1 cup chicken broth
2/3 can cream of chicken soup
salt & pepper
1 pie crust (frozen, rolled up)
Cut the roasted chicken off the bones and chop into ~1″ pieces. If possible, simmer the bones & skin with ~2 cups of water for 15 minutes to make broth.
Cook the potatoes and carrots and add with the chicken to a pie plate sprayed with non-stick spray.
Mix the broth with the cream of chicken soup. Gently stir that liquid mixture into the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and corn.
Unroll the pie crust and cut some slits into it to vent.
Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350-degrees. Rest for 5 minutes before serving. (Or bake for 20 minutes, cool and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator over night and bake for 20-30 minutes before serving.)
It freezes well, or could be prepped and cooked in advance and warmed when eating. I made 1 big one, but it also easily doubles or could become mini individual ones! If you’re passionate about crust make your own but using a pre-roasted chicken and frozen crust brought this together so quickly!
Days later both kids had mul-ti-ple servings of lasagna so- life lesson: don’t count ‘em out, kids can always surprise you and eat something all cooked together!
What do you get when you cross a dinner timesaver with all the fall flavors? Answer: crispy chicken sandwiches with gouda, apple, mustard, and arugula. These were so quick for dinner one night – then again for lunch another day annnnd they use some of the bajillion apples we have.
Crispy Chicken Sandwiches with Gouda & Apples
Ingredients: (for 4, serves 2-3 people)
4 pieces of breaded chicken (I used frozen chicken tenders, or make your own)
3 tablespoons dijon mustard or honey mustard
1 large apple
4 rolls (I used finger rolls, shoot for the same size as your chicken)
1-2 cups arugula
4 slices of smoked gouda
Bake the chicken (until cooked through, or as the package instructs).
Slice the apple into thin slices.
Spread the mustard onto the rolls then add arugula, and apple slices.
Lay the gouda onto the chicken to melt the last minute of cooking.
Add the chicken onto the sandwiches.
I also like reminding the little ones that foods can be different all the time. We don’t just eat the apples off the core, here they are with other food!
Winner winner, chicken
dinner lunch! This was SO good and perfect if you’re packing lunches! Our pre-schooler loves honey mustard so he was my inspiration! I made a batch for a few servings – one decadently in a croissant, and some another time as a lettuce wrap.
If you’re thinking you don’t do chicken salad, I urge you to try this one. The honey mustard and lettuce make it seem like a salad and it is such a great use of leftover chicken or to liven up lunch! It is a great use for dark meat if that’s not your fav- at our house, we seek leftover options for white meat since that’s often dried out & has less flavor.
Honey Mustard Chicken Salad
Ingredients: (for 3-4 servings)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup yellow mustard
3 tablespoons mayo
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
salt & pepper
1/2 roasted chicken, torn or forked apart (~2 cups of chicken)
Whisk together the honey, mustard, mayo, and garlic- or shake together in a jar.
(If using as a salad dressing – add a splash of olive oil whisked in. It’ll be too thick otherwise!)
Add the chicken into the bowl and gently mix.
Sprinkle in salt & pepper and mix.
Refrigerate until serving, or enjoy immediately on a sandwich, salad, open-faced on toast, or in a lettuce wrap!
This is so easy, can be made in advance, and eat it all different ways. I packed some separately and spooned it onto romaine lettuce as a lettuce wrap at work. That worked out really well.
Remember that part of This is Us with the nachos? Beth and Randall are sleep-deprived new parents eating nachos and Randall inadvertently eats all the best chips? I felt deeply for Beth – for her wanting to have somebody who will save a best bite for her- literally and metaphorically. The bottom of the plate of nachos can be such a letdown so, I’m here to tell you to make it in layers. LAY-ERS. Nacho unevenness can be cured. This is precisely why I like to make them at home and rarely order them out!
Buffalo Chicken Nachos
Ingredients (for 1 meal-2 appetizer servings)
2 breaded chicken tenders or popcorn chicken
~4 cups of chips (seriously, how do you measure chips? eyeball it)
1/4 cup salsa con queso sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup hot sauce
~2 green onions
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing
Bake the chicken tenders until cooked through & crisp (according to the package, unless making your own).
While chicken is cooking, lay ~1/2 the chips onto a baking pan and drizzle half the salsa con queso sauce, half the shredded cheese, and half the tomatoes. Bake for ~5 minutes to melt the cheese.
Chop the chicken and toss with hot sauce. Add about half onto the first layer that baked.
Then top with remaining chips, remaining queso, shredded cheese, tomatoes, and chicken.
Bake for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with green onions.
Drizzle with blue cheese dressing.
I love nachos fully loaded- lots of stuff on every bite. These were a fun twist with some favorite flavors and a great use for some leftover taco-night ingredients for something totally different!
The tomatoes are for juiciness and to get a little veg in there. I abhor celery but you could always add that. Add avocado, shredded lettuce, shredded carrots, or whatever you like on top at the end- just make sure every bite has a little something on it!
One little box of orzo pasta seems to have about 10 lives. Soup felt like a good idea to make in advance and to pack for lunch. This one was ohh-so-amazing despite seeming ordinary so I might need to whip it up again. At first I thought about a small batch but then I added in the remainder of my box of orzo and kept adding broth to keep it soupy. I absolutely loved the lemon and found it really comforting.
Greek Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup
Ingredients: (for ~5 servings)
~1 1/2 cups roasted chicken (~1/3 of a roasted chicken)
4 cups water (to make chicken broth from the roasted chicken bones, or 4 cups broth)
2 large carrots, chopped (or 2 cups baby carrots)
1 cup orzo
2 tablespoons (~8 sprigs) of fresh oregano
Remove the roasted chicken from the bone and reserve 1/3 of the chicken for this soup. (I froze the rest & used some in enchiladas and some became chicken salad.)
Place the chicken bones, chicken skin, the carrot ends, onion peal, and oregano sprigs into a large pot with 4-5 cups of water. Heat to medium high heat and cook for 15 minutes.
While making the broth (homemade broth is really good and so worth it), in a heavy pot saute the onion in olive oil for 10 minutes over medium heat, then add the carrots when the onion is getting clear.
Strain the bones and veggie remains and put the chicken broth into the pot with the onions and carrots.
Add in the chicken and juice from the lemon and cook for about 5 minutes.
Pour the orzo into the pot and cover the pot to cook for 10 minutes.
Add in the oregano, stir well, and enjoy!
The lemon makessss this soup. It is so flavorful from the lemon and the oregano to instantly transport you to the Mediterranean. I made mine super thick so I added water just before heating come lunchtime at work. Baby carrots are a little bit funny but they’re so perfectly all the same size!
It feels very Barefoot-Contessa to say “if you don’t make your own, pre-made broth is OK too”. This is just an easy time to use a roasted chicken and make some broth with the bones, carrot tops, onion peal, and oregano sprigs. I froze some and it tasted great but some of the orzo broke down a bit in the freezing/defrosting/warming and stirring. I can deal with that though.
Happy new year! I’m the only chicken salad eater at home but it is so great to make for 1 or 2! Make as little or as much as you like! I made this for a weekend lunch but I’ll definitely repeat this one for packing my lunch too. I poached chicken which is the trick for chicken salad and added in dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. It has good mix of crunch- without celery, which is my nemesis.
Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad (for 2)
3 chicken tenders
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
2 tablespoons mayo
1 tablespoon Italian dressing
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
salt & pepper
Poach the chicken in a medium pot, just with the chicken covered with water and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes. Let cool completely before chopping/shredding.
Mix together the chicken, mayo, dressing, walnuts and cranberries.
Refrigerate until serving, or serve immediately.
Assemble sandwiches and enjoy!
I loved this! I made a sandwich with arugula on wheat toast or it would be good on salad too. The add-ins are great to bulk it up with less chicken. I was wishing I had pecans around…that would have been a fun twist from the walnuts!