Perfect One-Dish Dinners: all you need for easy get-togethers

by Pam Anderson

Chicken Potpie

RATING: 4 out of 5 (uniquely updated classic with best biscuits ever!)

THE TEST: I was stressing out the night I prepared this recipe as I was short on time with a house full of hungry little critters. Kicking myself for not having started the cooking process earlier, I have to admit I considered take-out but in the end forged ahead as planned. Luckily for me I was in the middle of testing a cookbook written by Pam Anderson and not Julia Child, so it should not come as any surprise that dinner got on the table before things turned ugly with the above mentioned little critters.

Using a store bought rotisserie chicken obviously speeds up the cooking time, but the recipe itself (similar to others I’ve tried from this book) is clearly laid out with no unnecessary steps. This means faster prep times and less dishes.

I ended up simmering the stock and evaporated milk mixture on the stovetop as we don’t have a microwave, and I substituted dried basil for the sage as I couldn’t find any at the store. The biscuits came together quickly and easily, although grating a stick of frozen butter truly freaked me out and caused concern for the safety of my digits. But I am happy to report that I managed to complete the task with all fingers still intact!

THE RESULTS: This recipe turned out well. Mr. Spock and I both enjoyed the tartness of the granny smith apples which were sliced thinly enough not to be intrusive, while the children got a kick out of the fact that dinner included the addition of one of their favourite snacks.

By far the biggest hit of the dish were the biscuits, which turned out light and flakey and oh-so-delicious. I will definitely be using this recipe for biscuits of the future; they would be heavenly with a bowl of chili. (Note: next time I would double the amount of biscuits as I ran out of dough before filling the entire pan).

For a copy of the recipe for Chicken Pot Pie, please click HERE

Shells & Cheese for Everyone

RATING: 4 out of 5 (tasty with great assortment of chesses)

THE TEST: The thing I loved most about this recipe is how quickly and easily it all came together! Compared to my usual recipe that involves making a béchamel sauce and a caramelized onion and bacon topper, this dish was a cinch to prepare and therefore perfect for a busy weeknight. Honestly, the most labour intensive aspect of this recipe was grating the cheese. Quality mac n’ cheese made from scratch in under an hour? Sign me up!

THE RESULTS: In my mind, if a macaroni and cheese dish is to be classified as a keeper it must be properly seasoned, full of an insane amount of cheesy goodness, and topped with a deliciously crunchy crust. But hey – that’s just me!

So does this recipe deliver in terms of my above stated criteria? While I found the seasoning a tad plain (not sure how one can really jazz this up?) the variety of cheeses were well thought out choices that resulted in the perfect amount of creaminess. In particular, the addition of cottage cheese made the dish moist and gooey without tasting at all like cheese curds. Talk about an unassuming secret weapon!

Where I found the recipe could use improvement is with the topper, which simply combined plain bread crumbs, parsley and butter. Using fresh breadcrumbs from flavoured bread (think rosemary and garlic French loaf) would go far in terms of increasing the overall flavour impact. Fresh breadcrumbs are definitely more work, but I find they are less stale and crisp up better in the oven. Also, despite the fact that it would increase prep time I think the addition of sautéed onions would be a wonderful and tasty way to finish off this dish.

Spicy Chicken Enchiladas Verde

RATING: 3 out of 5 (nice & easy but too bland)

THE TEST: This recipe basically gives you a three for one deal, with options provided for Spicy Chicken Enchiladas Verde with Sour Cream and Cilantro, Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Red Sauce, or Creamy Seafood Enchiladas with Chiles and Green Olives. All three sounded good, but in the end I opted for the chicken version.

The chicken mixture was super easy to prepare and tasted so good we could have eaten it by itself as a salad! It would also make a delicious filling for quesadillas.

THE RESULTS: Because the chicken mixture had tasted so incredible before being stuffed into tortillas, expectations were running high for the dish and unfortunately we were disappointed.

Somehow the fresh flavours disappeared and everything tasted rather flat. I would consider making these again with some changes; including using more salsa verde, adding some hot peppers or pickled jalapenos for kick, and maybe even adding sour cream to the filling to help keep it from drying out too much.