As we went for our morning walk one day this week, Hubby Bryan beat me to the punch in asking the perennial question: “What are we having for supper tonight?”
Ah, yes. What ARE we having for supper?
Meal planning seems to be a constant struggle. Bryan is usually better at it than I — thinking ahead for the upcoming week and devising a strategy. I, on the other hand, tend to play it more by ear. We generally share cooking duties, and it was indeed my turn to come up with some sort of plan for that day’s dining.
I began to mentally peruse the contents of our refrigerator and freezer and began firing off a list of possibilities, none of which triggered an immediate reaction from either one of us. As we neared home, we decided to thaw out some chicken breasts and see what developed.
I would guess that chicken is the fallback plan in many households. It’s easy to throw on the grill during the summertime, and just about any cookbook yields a plethora of recipes.
One of my favorites for this time of year is called Chicken in the Garden, from my mother’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” It is packet cooking at its best — combining protein, seasonable vegetables, some sort of starch and seasonings in a pouch that can be cooked on the grill or in the oven.
We make two versions of the “Garden.” The original contains both diced potato and rice. Our revision is made on top of a bed of ramen noodles — you know, the kind that are a staple in college students’ diets.
I’m sure I have shared both before, but they bear repeating. Here’s the original, updated to our specifications, with notes about the revision below it. The beauty of this recipe is that you can take whatever ingredients you have on hand and use them in the packets, so feel free to experiment using seasonal veggies. We like to use fresh green beans when they are in season.
Chicken in the Garden
For each person:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ potato, peeled and diced
½ medium tomato, diced
¼ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced red or green pepper
2 mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons rice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
Tear off a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil; coat with cooking spray.
On the foil, place the chicken breast. Top with the vegetables, then sprinkle with rice. Pour Worcestershire sauce over top of all (I’m usually generous with the Worcestershire and add a bit of water or chicken broth to ensure the rice cooks), add seasonings and top with a pat of butter.
Fold foil to encase the food, sealing tightly. Bake in 400 degree oven or on the grill for 45 minutes (longer if using larger pieces of meat), turning packet halfway through the cooking time.
RAMEN VARIATION: Prepare foil as above. Remove ramen noodles from package and break each noodle cake in half. Place a noodle half on each piece of foil. Sprinkle sparingly with the seasoning packet. Add a tablespoon of water or chicken broth over the top of the noodles, then top with chicken breast and vegetables and Worcestershire. (Omit the rice and potato.) Sprinkle a bit more of the seasoning over top of all, along with some pepper. Cook as directed above.