Promptly exiting the office at 5 p.m., I had to make a choice between two important tasks causing scheduling conflicts: going grocery shopping or working out. The local gym, free to the neighborhood, is open for two hours on three weekdays. Although, I’ve recently discovered running in cold weather is a refreshing activity, the gym is still needed on snowy days when the streets are icy. That free gym saves the budget from a yearly membership expense, because it is not needed in the summer. The recent snowstorm had enough power to close the gym, in which a few days of running were missed. It also delayed grocery shopping, and the fridge is looking bare. The eggs and the flour are gone, the pale bottoms of the drawers in the fridge are visible, and eating out is beginning to take a toll on the budget.
It could be said that a person can go grocery shopping and running in one evening. The hours are scarce when the transportation time between work, the grocery store and the apartment takes two hours. The gym’s hours and days are limited. Prepping and cooking a quick meal takes at least 30 minutes. The goal of not eating within the two hours before bedtime is a lifestyle change (Notice the word “diet” is not used). Did I mention, the computer is shutting down around 9 p.m.? It seems one task of the evening needs to be sacrificed. Running will wait another day. Grocery shopping and cooking a dinner that will be “brown bagged” for tomorrow’s lunch on a busy work day is the winning choice. At least the snow is melting and in a couple of months, the temperatures will hover around the 50’s as the days become longer.
This pasta with creamy pesto sauce, peas, zucchini and chicken is quick to make. It is the last meal made with the few ingredients available in my fridge. The basil pesto was made a couple months ago and placed in the freezer for moments like now. The peas are a freezer staple in my household. They have the ability to fool the taste buds into thinking it’s spring. The chicken breast was brought out of the freezer a couple days earlier, because I knew a meal was needed in the middle of the week. As for penne pasta, that is a “must have” pantry staple. A bechamel sauce could’ve been made, but cream is simpler to add. It’s a luxurious choice.
Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce, Peas, Zucchini and Chicken
8 to 10 oz. of penne pasta
1 chicken breast, sliced .25” thick
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 zucchini, roughly chopped
2 cups of peas; defrost if frozen
1 oz. cream (add more to personal taste)
½ to 1 cup basil pesto*
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garnish with roughly chopped basil and grated Parmesan
1. According to the packaging’s directions, cook pasta al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain. Drizzle and mix with olive oil. Set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add chicken and stir until lightly golden/done. Remove from skillet and place over a paper towel lined plate.
3. In the same skillet, add onions. Cook for three to five minutes. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add zucchini and peas. Stir for two to three minutes Do not overcook vegetables. Return chicken to the skillet to reheat.
4. Add salt, pepper, basil pesto and cream. Bring to a boil and mix in pasta.
5. Spoon pasta into bowls. Garnish with basil and Parmesan cheese.
*Basil Pesto: Either buy it or puree basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, toasted pine nuts/walnuts, salt, pepper, white wine, vinegar, and lemon juice with a food processor.