For Busy Cooks

apricot chickenmujaderrasquash kugel

In the run up to Thanksgiving dinner, busy cooks look for simple meals. Even if your guest list is drastically reduced, Thanksgiving dinner takes extra effort. Included in this recipe column are some simple weeknight meals and some which are suitable for the holiday.

I don’t use a lot of prepared food, but I just rediscovered this super simple chicken recipe from the ‘70s that packs lots of flavor. You may even have the ingredients on hand. This is a very forgiving recipe that begs for your own personal touch.

apricot chickenBaked Apricot Chicken (serves 8-10 depending on size of pieces)

INGEDIENTS
12 chicken thighs
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup French dressing
1 (1 ounce) package dry onion soup mix

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line large baking sheet with foil for easier clean-up.
  2. In a medium, bowl combine the preserves, dressing and soup mix. Mix together.
  3. Place chicken pieces on a baking dish. Pour apricot mixture over chicken and bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes.
  4. Serve with a hearty grain like brown rice or farro.

NOTES: Orange marmalade or other fruit preserves canIf substitute for the apricot.

Marinate the chicken in the mixture as long as overnight for deeper flavor.

Add some dried cranberries to sauce before baking or bake with orange slices.

Substitute Catalina or Italian dressing. Add rosemary or grated ginger.

Use leg quarters, separated. If using chicken breasts, adjust the time and marinate beforehand for flavor.

Speaking of hearty grains, try this Middle-Eastern lentil dish. Perhaps this is what Esau craved when he came home famished from his hunting. Lentils are one of the oldest farmed crops and are a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. Do not omit the onions. They are they crowning glory of this dish. It makes an excellent side dish but is hearty enough to for a main course. Recipe courtesy of My Jewish Learning.

mujaderraMujaderra (serves 4-6)

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. + 2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c.  brown lentils, sorted and rinsed.
1 c. brown rice
2 1/2 c. water
2 large white onions, sliced in thin rings
paprika to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine water, salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Add rice and lentils. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes until cooked through. Put in a serving bowl.
  3. While the lentil-rice mixture cooks, prepare onions. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a skillet over medium high heat until the oil glistens and coats the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the onions and cook for at least 20 minutes or until desired color is reached, stirring as needed. Add a little salt and pepper to the onions as they cook.Sprinkle with
  5. Put the onions on top of the lentil-rice mixture. 

NOTES: Add freshly ground pepper and salt  to onions as they cook.

For an authentic Middle Eastern taste, add cumin or cinnamon sticks for flavor.

Top with pine nuts. No pine nuts? Substitute chopped cashews.

The onions may take as long as 40 minutes to cook. The key is to cook the onions slowly at low heat so that they caramelize and don’t burn.

White rice can be substituted for brown rice. Adjust cooking time.

I love all the 2 or 3 ingredient recipes circulating on the internet. Every one I’ve tried has been successful. Here’s another to experiment with just in time for Thanksgiving.

Two-Ingredient-Pumpkin-Muffins-1Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins (Makes 12)

INGREDIENTS
1 15 ounce box spice cake mix (or chocolate)
1 15 ounce can pumpkin  puree
optional add-ins: chopped nuts, chocolate chips, cranberries
brown sugar for tops of muffins

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or spray with baking spray.
  2. Dump cake mix into a bowl and break up any clumps
  3. Using an electric mixer, mix together cake mix and canned pumpkin until smooth. Batter will be thick.
  4. Add in any optional ingredients.
  5. Divide evenly among muffin cups. Smooth tops. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar if desired.
  6. Bake 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

NOTES: If using nuts, toss them with a little of the dry cake mix before adding to batter.

Don’t omit the baking spray.

Lastly is this side dish that I am making for Thanksgiving dinner. Jewish cuisine meets Thanksgiving tradition in this noodle kugel. Courtesy of My Jewish Learning

squash kugelCranberry and Squash Noodle Kugel  (Serves 9)

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 c. orange or cranberry juice
5 tablespoons vegetable oil or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
2 cup diced butternut squash (buy precut squash; it’s worth the extra cost)
12 ounces thin or medium noodles
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 c sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Lightly oil a 9×9 or 11×7 baking pan
  3. Place cranberries in bowl, pour juice over them and toss. Let rest 15 minutes.

4.Heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

  1. Add diced squash. Stir a few times and cook another minute. Set aside.
  2. Cook and drain noodles and put in large bowl.
  3. Add squash mixture and cranberries with the liquid and mix all together. Stir in remaining oil or margarine (softened) and eggs.
  4. Add sugar, salt, cinnamon, and optional cayenne. Mx well.

9.Spoon into prepared pan. Bake 45-50 minutes until lightly browned and crispy on top.

NOTES: If using precut squash, cut the larger pieces into bite sized.

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Aileen Grossberg

Aileen Grossberg

Aileen Grossberg, a professional librarian, is a long-time congregant and serves as volunteer librarian for Shomrei's Lampert Library. The library, one of the best-kept secrets at Shomrei is used by the Rabbi, congregants, students and teachers of the JLC (Hebrew School) and Preschool. It's a tremendous resource completely supported by your donations and gifts. Aileen also heads the Shomrei Caterers, the in-house food preparation group. Can there be any better combination…good food and good books!
Aileen Grossberg

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