I found out at about 2pm yesterday that my sister was going to be dropping by for dinner last night. Score! I'm always happy to see Colby. But that meant I had to plan a last minute dinner for four and a half people (Colby, Nate, Brian, Some Boy and I), instead of my previous plan of scrounging around with leftovers. She's a starving college student, afterall, and Colby deserves a little bit better than that when she comes to see her big sister.
Last Minute Dinner Made Easy
I keep these McCormick Gourmet spice packets on hand for occasions just like these. They're super-flavorful so they make everyday meals and last minute dinner a breeze. I don't even have to think about spices or what flavors go well with what ingredients. They have a recipe on the back with the a full list of suggested meat, veggies and liquids such as butter, olive oil, cream, etc to complete your meal. I was going to make two separate chicken dishes for Colby's visit, Chicken Penne and Bruschetta Chicken, but I ran out of time to go to the grocery store (Some Boy had a full-blown teething meltdown that severely cut into our afternoon). I wound up winging it and combining the two sauce packets along with random stuff I found in our refrigerator for my own McCormick last minute dinner. It was a huge hit!
- McCormick Gourmet Chicken Penne spice packet
- McCormick Gourmet Bruschetta Chicken spice packet
- 1 pound package Rotelle pasta
- 4 chicken breasts sliced into short strips
- 8 oz whipped cream cheese
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup powdered parmesan cheese
- 15 cherry tomatoes cubed
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
Cook the pasta in boiling water approximately 8-10 minutes until soft. Drain.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add chicken and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, approximately 7 minutes until lightly browned.
Add both spice packets, tomatoes, cream cheese, milk and parmesan to chicken. Stir and simmer on medium-low approximately 5 minutes. Add more milk to thin the mixture if it thickens too much.
Stir chicken mixture into pasta and serve immediately.
One of the key essentials to a last minute dinner: pasta!
The packets called for me to heat butter in a pan and cook sliced chicken in that, but I didn't even have butter in the refrigerator. I really, really need to go shopping. Olive oil is a healthier substitute, anyway.
The McCormick packets both called for canned tomatoes, another thing I didn't have. Instead, I used cherry tomatoes that were leftover from a veggie platter we had earlier in the week.
I didn't have cream, so I added cream cheese and milk with the tomatoes and spice packets for a rich, saucy chicken mixture.
I've found that powdered parmesan cheese works fine as a stand-in for freshly grated parmesan cheese. Seriously. It does make the sauce a little thicker and doesn't quite have that authentic parmesan taste, but milk can thin down any sauce that gets too thick. Last minute dinner at its finest.
Nate snapped a photo of me cooking. He thought it was hilarious that I totally fit the stereotype “pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen.” How cute is this apron that McCormick sent over? It barely fits around my gigantic belly right now, but is seriously one of the cutest aprons I've ever seen.
While the pasta finished cooking and the chicken simmered, Colby and I played with these hilarious question cards from our new Not Your Mom's Dinner Party Table Topics set.
When the chicken mixture and past were done, I threw them together. Easy peasy, last minute dinner.
It was a big hit, with no leftovers to speak of. Brian, Nate and Colby all raved and went back for seconds. I love it when a refrigerator meal becomes a family favorite.