Organizing Dinner is dedicated to helping people get more homemade dinners to the table with fewer trips to the store. We offer you recipes here on our blog and in our cookbooks, strategies for organized dinner success on our website, and in-home cooking classes.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One Good Pan

One Good Pan

Even though you may have 10 pairs of shoes ready to wear, do you find that you reach for the same, tried and true, comfortable, versatile, go-with-anything pair? Perhaps you have a favorite handbag that fits everything just right? Having one good pan that can be used for so many dishes in the kitchen can make cooking so much more of a pleasurable event. I get asked often what is my favorite item to use in my kitchen. It is, hands down, my electric frying pan. Not only is it my favorite item to use in my own kitchen, but it's my favorite thing to use in other people's kitchens when I do cooking demos and classes. 

Why the electric fryer? 

There are two main reasons why I love this piece:

1. It can be used anywhere. Not just anywhere as in at anyone's house, but anywhere in the kitchen where there's an outlet. In the dining room in fact, or on any surface. If counter space is an issue in the kitchen.... be creative. It frees up the stovetop to be used for other things, or allows you to not be confined to cooking in one spot. I move it closer to where the kids are doing homework to "multitask". You could move it closer to where you can see the tv, or look out a window if that increases your dinnermaking pleasure.  

2. Its size. A 5-quart frying pan with a lid can double as a stock pot for soups, chilis, larger portions, sloppy joes, etc. And as opposed to a stock pot that has tall sides, the frying pan's heat is more evenly distributed with more "bottom" space. 

What do I use my electric frying pan to cook? Breakfast lunch and dinner mostly. I can fit eight pancakes, five grilled cheese sandwiches, 6 - 8 pieces of meat.. you get the idea. I also love it for simmering, and below give you two great dinner recipes from 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store that work great in this pan. 

I find that many people don't like to cook a lot because the kitchen is not a place they like to be. Well if your shoes were uncomfortable, you wouldn't want to walk in them either. Buying one good reliable piece for the kitchen can be all that it takes to get you excited about showing up ready to cook. Even better, the money spent on kitchenware makes up for itself in approximately two uses when you calculate the money you've saved by dining in.

For a limited time, I am offering 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store (retail value $16.00) and a beautiful electric frying pan (retail value $50.00)  for $49.99. Together these items can save you a great amount of stress and money at dinnertime. Click here to buy now, and start cooking. 

Grecian Chicken


4 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 can marinated artichoke hearts

1 can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 cups cooked rice

Cook rice according to package directions. In electric frying pan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add chicken seasoned with Italian seasoning and cook until just browned on both sides, but not cooked through. Add artichoke hearts, tomatoes with their liquids, and chicken. Reduce heat to high simmer, and cook uncovered in oven for 45 minutes. Serve over rice. 

Salisbury Steak 


1 lb. ground beef
3 tablespoons flour

1 can mushrooms, drained

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, sliced

1  cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Form beef into four patties. Season with salt and pepper and then coat in flour. In a large pan, heat butter and brown patties on both sides. Add mushrooms and onions to skillet and stir until just warmed. Then add broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix through, spooning sauce onto patties. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for additional 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Smart" Ingredients

At my cooking classes and cooking demos, and in 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store, I talk about the concept of how less = more. Specifically, how fewer ingredients can lead to more mealtime success. The key is knowing what ingredients to buy. To start, you have to learn your family's "Smart" ingredients. 

In our house, if I have a can of diced tomatoes on hand or some chicken broth (and I always try), dinner is a breeze. These two simple (and cheap!) ingredients are the base of so many sure-fire dishes for my family. If I have rice, I know I can use the broth, any veggies I have on hand and some shrimp out of the freezer to make an easy weeknight risotto. If I have some leftover rotisserie chicken, the broth will help me make a delicious pot pie. If I have pasta, the can of tomatoes opens up a world of options. If I have fish fillets, or chicken breasts, I know the tomatoes combined with some frozen spinach or jarred artichokes will make a nice sautee.   

Tortillas are another item I buy every time I go to the store. Why? Because I know my family will eat anything wrapped up in a good quality flour tortilla. Chicken combined with lettuce and caesar dressing for caesar wraps, ground beef browned with taco seasoning for soft shell tacos, chicken fajitas... you get the idea.  

Pay attention to the common themes in the your family's sure-fire dinners, and make it a habit of stocking up on those ingredients or buying them every time you go to the store. It will save you time and energy wondering what to make for dinner and lead you to greater dinner success. In the meanwhile, try stocking up on my two top picks and see if they don't bring you some needed relief. Following are some recipes that use my smart ingredients. 

Chicken Pot Pie


  • Leftover roasted chicken, 2 cups
  • Leftover roasted potatoes, 1 cup diced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups mixed veggies (peas, carrots and corn)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 14 oz chicken broth

Heat oven to 425°F. Bring refrigerated pie crusts to room temperature. Place one crust in bottom of a 9-inch pie pan.

In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened. Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

Basic Risotto Recipe

*Note: Arborio rice is the "recommended" rice for making risotto as it best provides the chewy texture risotto is known for. If you're looking for a quick weeknight meal with ingredients you have at home, any rice will do. If you're using quick-cook rice, the cooking time will be a bit less.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the rice, and stir until the rice is coated in oil and has started to brown. Add the broth one cup at a time, pausing between cups, and stirring constantly. Reduce heat and continue stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Add additional ingredients as desired*. Add the Parmesan cheese and pepper. Stir to blend, and serve.

*Additional ingredients to risotto can include cooked chicken or shrimp, and almost any kind of vegetable already cooked or steamed. Some of the most popular variations include mushrooms sauteed in butter, and sauteed spinach, tomatoes or asparagus.

Italian-Style Chicken with Spinach and Tomatoes


4    chicken breasts
2    tablespoons olive oil
1    teaspoon diced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
1    can diced tomatoes
1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1    teaspoon Italian seasoning
2    tablespoon balsamic vinegar
8    oz. spaghetti noodles
4    tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile sauté onions and garlic in oil in large pan for 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add chicken, balsamic vinegar and Italian seasoning and cook over medium high heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes each side. Add diced tomatoes and spinach to the pan. Cook until fully heated and some liquid evaporates. Serve over pasta, and top each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.