Do you stand in front of your closet thinking I have nothing to wear even though its full of clothes? I do this all.the.time. It drives my husband crazy because my closet seems like clothes are exploding from it half the time and my dresser drawers are way too full when all the laundry is clean. Its frustrating to him, but he does the same thing when he looks through the kitchen, he always says there is nothing to eat. Its true that I keep very few packaged foods on hand these days; there is usually a box of crackers and some granola bars for lunches but other than that, its pretty much pantry staples. Not exactly nothing to eat, but since he doesn't cook, he doesn't see the potential. Evidently I need a fashion consultant or something, so I can start seeing some potential in my closet. Or a new wardrobe - shopping would probably be more fun.
Keeping a well-stocked pantry makes it much easier to always have something to make for dinner. You won't need to run to the store 3 nights a week to pick up something or call for pizza. At a minimum, I try to always keep canned tomatoes, dried pasta in several varieties, vinegars, oils, mustard, chicken stock, garlic, rice, flour, and sugar. In addition, I always have frozen vegetables in the freezer, lemons and limes, and onions. I also grow fresh herbs so I can add oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro, or parsley to add more flavor. And of course, there is always wine on hand.
For this pasta dish, the sauce is a simple cheese sauce, similar to any macaroni and cheese recipe, started with a roux made with flour and butter. A little white wine, onion, garlic, Dijon mustard and then the delicious sharp white cheddar cheese. Add some chicken, some thyme and oregano and sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and you'll have a great meal in just a few minutes.
White Cheddar Chicken Pasta
For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp dry mustard
1 T fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T olive oil
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix together mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle over chicken pieces. When pan is hot, add chicken and brown about 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
For the pasta:
1 pound rotini or other short cut pasta
2 T butter
2 T flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 T Dijon mustard
8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups milk (I used skim milk but mixed in about 2 T heavy cream)
1 T fresh thyme
1 T fresh oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
Heat water to boil in a large stock pot for pasta, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente and drain according to directions. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add wine, garlic, onions, and mustard. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Reduce heat to low and slowly add milk, stirring to combine. Cook about 5-7 minutes more until mixture begins to thicken. Add cheese and stir to melt. Add chicken and pasta and toss to incorporate sauce. Add thyme and oregano and serve topped with crushed red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese.