Momma Told Me: Cooking for 2 or 4, is still a chore!
Momma was never shy about reminding us of all the roles she assumed in our family. Though we were just a small unit of 3, to a great extent, the majority of the household's responsibilities were on her. Papa worked full time and, while he helped out where he could, Momma was home with me. She wore many hats, from seamstress and entertainer to nurse and teacher; and a good 85/90 meals a month were made by her. I wish I could say I appreciated this at the time but she'll recall, just as well as I, all of the fights over food untouched; often ending in plea bargains for TV Time per Bite. Ironically, I make many of her go-to dishes today, in my own home. I'm sure part of it has to do with the comfort of memories past, and childhood dishes, but the majority is simply because Momma cooked smart. I used to peer over the kitchen counter, watching her bake large batches of meals, freezing leftovers in pre-portioned containers.
I'd always wonder why Momma spent so much effort making so much food, at once, for just 3 people. Time and again she'd remind me, 'Dinner for 400 can be just as tricky as dinner for 2!' It's not something I really understood until I was out on my own in college, and more recently cohabiting with the other half. Yet to start our own (human) family, Jeremy and I know all too well just how tricky budgeting time and money can be when you're cooking dinner for two. For starters, it's hard to eat healthy. We both have active schedules, and coordinating who will do the grocery shopping, and when we'll be able to sit down together can be a hassle. The temptation to grab greasy fast food on the way home, or late at night, is constantly there. Then there's the the issue with controlling portions for 2. I'll admit, I'm awful about leftovers; I don't care for them, and Jeremy always forgets about them. Because we usually try to eat at the same time, him eating leftovers means I'm left foraging. And, as much as I love cooking and baking from scratch, our lives roll with ebbs and flows that don't always allow 2 hours of prep and cooking. I need to have meal solutions on hand for unexpected time crunches and last minute meals.
I first discovered Campbell's new Skillet Sauces during a soft launch a few months back. I know my demographic was one of the first to get these bad boys in stock because so few of my online friends had heard about them, let alone seen them. Since the release, the concept is one that's been highly imitated by competitor and private brands but, in my opinion, poorly executed. What I love about Campbell's Skillet Sauces, other than the fact they come from a trusted brand name I grew up with, is the engaging variety in each of the 6 flavor profiles; Fire Roasted Tomato, Marsala, Creamy Chipotle, Toasted Sesame, Thia Green Curry, and Scampi. These hearty sauces, much like my favorite Campbell's Soups, are hearty in texture and big on flavor, and sold at my local Alberstons. I love that I can bring so many International flavor profiles to my table without slaving over spices and sauces all day. It's as simple as choosing a matching protein, adding a dash of oil (for cooking the protein), tossing in the sauce, and topping over your desired carb (or try dicing your protein and wrapping the mixture in lettuce wraps!) It could not be easier to put a full portion for 2 (and a little extra) on the table in 15 minutes!
Aside from Jeremy's work, we have schedule issues on Sundays and Tuesdays (and soon Wednesdays), when we bowl league around 6 PM. Dinner typically hits the table around 8 in our home, so these days are especially tricky because everything has to be moved up 2-3 hours to allow for travel time to the alley. On Sundays Jeremy will get off work at 3, arriving home around 3:30 PM, and we have to be out the door by 5:15 PM. It's a short turnaround that used to see us grabbing tacos and fast food. Recently I've discovered a habit much better. Not only do I have the chance to try an entirely new recipe each bowling day, but I've even got the other half helping out. That's right, cooking with Campbell's Skillet Sauces is so easy, Jeremy tackles the chore joyfully. (And when we cook together it goes by even quicker!) He loves the freedom of being able to piece together a simple, yet healthy meal without the frustration of measurements, boiling points, and simmer levels, and I love spending the extra time with him. This past weekend we made #Dinnerin15 with Campbells's Toasted Sesame Chicken on Udon Noodles, with Stir Fry.
Calling our main dish a 'recipe' almost feels like cheating with one of these sauce pouches by my side. I saved enough time that I could successfully create a vegetable stir fry side, while preparing the Skillet Sauces creation. Of course, all of the ingredients in our stir fry could easily be scaled down in portion and incorporated with the main dish, if desired. I've been rotating between wild whole grain rice, and various pastas as a base; though we've also had great success with the Marsala flavor and garlic mashed potatoes (which can be whipped up from a box in less than 8 minutes). For this recipe, I boiled some authentic Japanese Udon noodles, known for their quick cooking time. Udon noodles are perfect for twirling, have a minimal starch aftertaste, and cook in 4 minutes or less. They can be found in the International aisle of your local grocer. You'll also find special displays for Skillet Sauces including special $1/Off coupons, as well as limited print discounts through the Campbell's Facebook page, in January. Look for these sauces on special display end caps, or near the gravy in the soups aisle. The easy #Dinnerin15 steps are really as simple as:
Toasted Sesame Chicken
*Campbell's Skillet Sauce, Toasted Sesame
*1lb Protein of Choice (In this case, 5-6 chicken tenderloins, or 2-3 breasts)
*2 TBS Vegetable Oil
1.) Heat Oil in Skillet over Medium/High Heat
2.) Add Protein/Vegetables of Choice, and Cook Until Browned
3.) Stir in Sauce and Heat to a Boil. Reduce Heat and Cover for 5 Mins, until protein is cooked/vegetables are tender. Serve alone, or atop your carb of choice. (Or see wrap suggestion above)
I'll admit, during my first attempt, I was very skeptical of just how far the Skillet Sauces could go. The pouch is 9oz (and about 40 calories/serving- 1/4 C), and the mixture can be seen through the bottom thanks to clear packaging. These sauces dispense quite thick, and some 'rolling' between the fingers is helpful to dislodge all of the product. Just think of it as a roll of savory toothpaste! Because of the texture, which in all of my encounters so far have included hearty chunks of key ingredients, I was also afraid the sauce might burn up quickly on the wide surface of my pan. Our stove also runs high, so I've had good success preparing these meals in a literal (electric) skillet, where I can control the temperature. However, despite a little additional thickening in cooking, on the stove top has been fine as well. Not only does the pouch coat all of our protein, but there is useally a little leftover to drizzle over the noodles/rice/potatoes. Unfortunately, there are often a few squabbles about who gets those extra teaspoons of sauce!
Making a delicious Stir Fry to compliment this Campbell's Toasted Sesame Chicken is as easy as picking your veggies of choice and tossing them in oil over Medium-High heat. Okay, you have to wash and cut the veggies- but you can get away with most of that if you really want to, and use canned or pre-sliced produce. Our local Albertsons has a plethora of local and seasonal produce available for purchase by weight, so buying for 2 is never an issue. I love that, if I'm in the mood for bean sprouts, I can but 2oz of bean sprouts, without wasting money or food. Adding a stir fry to your meal is a great way to incorporate a lot of variety, since there really are no rules, and leftover vegetables can easily be transitioned into a salad or meal the following night. Best of all, these 'stir fry' ingredients can just as easily by mixed in with your Campbell's Skillet Sauce creation! I even added a handful of cooked bay shrimp for extra protein. Here's what I whipped up this past Sunday;
Simple and Savory Stir Fry
*1/2 Yellow Squash
*2oz Bean Sprouts
*2 Small Carrots
*1/2 C Broccoli Florets
*3/4 C Baby Bella, Sliced, Mushrooms
*1/4 Yellow Onion
*1/4 C Sliced Baby Corn (Canned)
*1/4lb Cooked Bay Shrimp
*3 TBSP Garlic Olive Oil
*Kikkoman Stir Fry Seasoning Packet (Optional, Soy and Teriyaki maybe added to taste instead)
1.) Add Olive Oil to Skillet and Heat to Medium-High Heat.
2.) Add Vegetables, adding broccoli first for most tender results. Gently toss in oil to coat.
3.) Stir and 'toss' vegetables regularly to avoid searing and encourage even cooking.
4.) Prepare desired seasoning and add cooked protein. Add desired seasoning and cook until vegetables have reached desired texture.
While I won't be winning any awards for culinary ingenuity, Campbell's Skillet Sauces help bring complicated flavor profiles to my plate with minimal time and effort. In doing so they encourage creativity, but also allow for more time spent with my other half- which is priceless. Not to mention, when I spend less time focusing on simmering sauces and spicing things to perfection I can give more thought to building a well rounded meal for us. I've tried all but one of the Skillet Sauces varieties (and believe me, that one is on our shelf), and can't give enough praise for the quality and ease this collection brings to my daily cooking. I'll still be hitting the stove with wild and zany 'from scratch' creations, but I'm also glad to have Campbell's on hand for the days when cooking for 2 is just a little less complicated. See more of our journey from pouch to table in our Google + album.
What Daughter Says: Cooking a quick meal for two can be just as rewarding as going all out.
What Daughter Says: Cooking a quick meal for two can be just as rewarding as going all out.
I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Campbell's. #CBias #SocialFabric.