COOK'S CORNER: Fast meal prep is an art

Published 7:07 am Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
Readers of this column probably have figured out by now that I'm a big fan of The Food Network. You can bet I know an awful lot about Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, Giada DeLaurentis, Alton Brown and Bobby Flay.
Some of the shows I like better than others, but I do like the ones that help me plan meals that can be cooked, served and devoured in under an hour. That type of meal preparation gives me a chance to sit down for a few minutes after dinner to get more ideas from my friends at The Food Network.
Although she is not my favorite cook on the network, I do enjoy watching Rachael Ray. She gives some pretty good ideas for quick meals on her show. She keeps telling me that I can make a great meal in 30 minutes or less. I've tried a couple of times but haven't had complete success yet. One of the meals she suggested took me about 45 minutes to get to the table. I think my slowness may have had something to do with the fact that I didn't have hidden helpers who had pre-washed and pre-chopped everything or had my cabinet straight enough that I could just reach in and magically find exactly what I needed. Go figure.
Anyway, I though if I could come that close with her recipes, I might be able to get even closer with some other recipes I've found. The ones you'll find here today boast that they can be prepared and be ready for the table in about a half hour. You can give it a try if you want, but don't be surprised if it takes you a little longer. That is, of course, unless you have secret washers and choppers hiding in your pantry.
You may not have all of the seasonings called for in this recipe, but it would be worth the cost to get them and have them on hand. Caribbean jerk seasoning is great on many different kinds of meat.
Pineapple Macadamia Chicken
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon Caribbean jerk seasoning
1/8 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1 tablespoon apricot preserves, warmed
Lettuce Leaves
Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. In a shallow bowl, combine the nits, seasoned salt, jerk seasoning, minced onion, onion powder and pepper. Place egg in another shallow bowl. Dip chicken in egg; coat with nut mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a skillet, cook chicken in oil for 3-4 minutes on each side or until chicken juices run clear.
In a small bowl, combine pineapple and apricot preserves. Place lettuce on each plate; top with chicken and pineapple mixture.
If you like pineapple, you'd probably like this next recipe as well. This recipe calls for cooked chicken. That's one way to cut down the amount of time required to prepare a dish. I love leftovers that can be turned into something new, so this recipe is a doozie.
Coconut Pineapple Chicken
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 medium green pepper, julienned
1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, divided
1 teaspoon rum extract
Drain pineapple, reserving juice; set the pineapple aside. In a large skillet, combine the cornstarch, sugar, broth, lemon juice, salt and reserved juice until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in the chicken, green pepper, coconut, pineapple, 1/4 cup almonds and extract.
Cook for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
I hope that you get a chance to try these recipes. Chicken is always a good choice and is enjoyed by most every member of the family.
Next week, I plan to share some dessert recipes with you. I made a wonderful cake over the weekend and it was a hit with everyone who tried it.
If you have a recipe you'd like to share with me, give me a call or drop me a line. You can call me at the office at 867-4876 or drop me a line by e-mail at
Until next week, Happy Cooking!

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