Stir Crazy: Looking for ways to keep dinner from being boring

News-DemocratMarch 17, 2014 

I am in such a slump! I come home from work, grab whatever meat we've taken out of the freezer that morning, slap some marinade or rub on it and throw it under the broiler.

I am madly bored with it all, but when you don't get home until 7, anything elaborate and time-consuming goes out the window. I know, I'm preaching to the choirs. I'm not alone.

So, I've been searching for simple ways to liven up dinner. I want to stick with using the broiler or outdoor grill because they're not only a healthier way to cook, but I can set the timer, leave the kitchen and go change my clothes, set the table, etc., without worrying about burning something on the stovetop. Here is a recipe I adapted from Better Homes & Gardens.

Turkey Tenderloin with Spinach, Pears, & Blue Cheese

1 turkey breast tenderloin (less than 1 pound)

1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoons butter

6 ounces fresh baby spinach

1 large pear, cored and thinly sliced

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese or gorganzola

Put turkey in an oven-proof pan; an alumnium one will work well. Turn on broiler and move rack to top position in oven.

Spray tenderloin with nonstick cooking spray (or use olive oil mister) on top side. Sprinkle with half the sage, then salt and pepper; pat meat with fingers. Flip tenderloin and repeat.

Broil meat about 7-8 minutes, adding more time if meat isn't sufficiently browned. Turn turkey and broil about 5-6 minutes.

When both sides are browned, turn broiler to bake and set to 300 degrees. Cover pan with foil and let meat cook in oven another 15-20 minutes. (This is a dense piece of turkey, so a little extra time is needed to cooking it to 170 degrees; but it will be moist and tender with this method.)

This time in the oven will give you time to prepare rice, pasta or a vegetable to go with your meal.

When turkey is done and resting on a cutting board, covered, add 1 tablespoon butter to a skillet and over medium to medium-high heat cook pear slices, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.

Remove pears and keep warm. Add spinach to warm skillet and cook and stir until just wilted.

Slice tenderloin in half or medallions and serve (juices from pan can be added to top of meat) with spinach and pears. Top with blue cheese.

Serves 2, each with 240 calories, 9 grams fat, 92 mg cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 31 grams protein, 380 mg potassium.

Editor's note: This nutritional information is based on the original recipe, which called for cooking the turkey in a skillet with a tablespoon of butter. So, I'm assuming the fat content would be a bit lower overall.

What busy cook doesn't like a skillet dinner? This one uses what I typically have in my pantry. Two substitutions I would make would be to use reduced-fat, smoked turkey sausage (the kielbasa is especially good) and broccoli instead of broccolini. Broccolini can be hard to find, expensive and I find its taste a bit bitter.

Spicy Chicken Sausage Pasta and Greens

8 ounces medium shell pasta (3 cups)

1 bunch broccolini or broccoli, cut into 1-inch pieces (3 cups)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (12-ounce) package fully cooked spicy chicken sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup arugula

1/4 cup snipped fresh dill, optional

1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Olive oil (optional)

Crushed red pepper (optional)

In a Dutch oven, cook pasta according to package directions, adding the broccolini for the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain; rinse with cold water and drain again. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken sausage, onion and garlic. Cook, turning occasionally, until sausage is browned, about 3 minutes. Add pasta mixture, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Heat through. Add arugula and dill. Remove from heat; toss to wilt greens.

Divide among shallow bowls. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with crushed red pepper, if desired.

Serves 4, each with 432 calories, 13 grams fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 52 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 28 grams protein, 847 mg sodium.

Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail,; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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