Feta Pesto Pasta

This meal is so simple I’m a little embarrassed to even make a blog post out of it. I wouldn’t, except it’s become a family favorite and my husband would happily eat it every night of the week if it were up to him. These days I’m feeling less than inspired to be ambitious in the kitchen, being 33 weeks pregnant and sporting a significant waddle. Honestly, all I want to do is sit on the couch with my feet up, eating my fetus’ weight in Butterfingers, and work on various craft projects for the nursery. 

What Butterfingers do to ya.
This meal is almost exclusively from Costco (everything but the pasta), but can easily be done with ingredients from a regular grocery store. You just won’t be able to brag that you made 8 meals out of a $9 jar of (the best ever) pesto sauce! Considering a small 4 oz jar at the grocery store is about $5, that’s a very good deal. This dish is so quick to prepare that it is literally done by the time you boil the pasta.

A great use for leftover rotisserie chicken.

My method is to start my pot of water to boil, roughly chop leftover cold chicken (don’t forget to save the carcass for chicken broth), and dice the onion before adding the pasta to the boiling water. Next I throw the onions in a hot skillet to sauté, then add the sun dried tomatoes and chicken just long enough to heat them through. The results look like this:

Onions, sun dried tomatoes, chicken.

When I strain the pasta, I add the cold pesto sauce to the hot pot and dump the pasta in on top of it. This is referred to as “Being Too Lazy To Dirty Another Pan.” Next I simply combine all the ingredients and stir, topping with feta. Voila!

This is probably the tastiest 15 minute meal I know how to make. I have bags of Costco rotisserie chicken in my freezer that will make this meal even easier (as if that’s possible) after this baby comes. The onions and sun dried tomatoes are completely optional, and I’ve substituted fresh chopped tomatoes, broccoli, goat cheese, and other frozen veggies in the past. 

Feta pesto pasta

Feta Pesto Pasta

  • 1 box pasta (penne or rotini works best IMO)
  • 1-2 cups diced cooked chicken (rotisserie works great)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons pesto
  • feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package. In the meantime, chop onions and chicken. Saute onions, adding chicken and tomatoes and stir until heated through, then remove from heat. When you strain the pasta, add the pesto sauce to the hot pan and cover with hot pasta. Stir all ingredients together and top with desired amount of feta. Serve with garlic bread for best results (and maximum carb overload).


Make Your Own Bouillon

It is very easy to make your own homemade bouillon if you are already making chicken stock (or any other kind, for that matter).  (I would not recommend that you use the purchased broth.)  Since I discovered how to do this, I no longer have multiple jars of broth in my freezer, and also don’t have to remember to take a jar out and let it defrost before I can use it.
Plan on starting with a generous amount of broth, because it cooks way down.  I started with a little over 3 quarts of broth (because that’s all my pot would hold).  Add the broth to the pot and bring to a boil, uncovered, then continue to boil until it starts to thicken a bit.  (Mine took about 2 hours from start to finish.)  If a scum forms on the top, skim it off. After the first hour or so, keep a close eye on it because you don’t want it to burn. When it coats the back of a spoon, it is done. As you can see, although mine is chicken broth, it is fairly dark in color.  This is because I always roast my chicken bones before making the broth, although that is not necessary.  I feel it gives a richer flavor.

The first time I did it, I poured it out on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, but this time I used a parchment paper lined 9″ x 9″ casserole dish to keep the final product in a more uniform shape. You can also use plastic wrap instead of parchment paper, but you will want to cool the broth down until it is just barely warm before transferring it.  Put it in the refrigerator to let it cool completely, and then turn out of pan, peel off parchment paper, and cut into cubes (it should have gelled to a consistency of Jello).  I cut mine into quarters one way and then quarters again the other way, ending up with 16 cubes.  After doing the math, that worked out well to make each cube the equivalent of approximately 1 cup. To use, add cube to one cup of hot water to reconstitute.  It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month, but I chose to freeze mine, separating the cubes slightly, and put in freezer bag and return to freezer.
If yours didn’t gel, you may not have boiled it quite long enough, or your original broth didn’t have much collagen in it. A great way to add collagen (which is super healthy) is to add chicken feet to the bones – I get mine from a local Asian market.  Even if yours didn’t gel, it is really good stuff.  Pour into ice cube trays, freeze and then transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen.  It takes up much less room to store and is ready to use on short notice.

What I Ate Last Week … Meals On The Cheap

While I absolutely love to take a meal out of my freezer and pop it into the pressure cooker or slow cooker and walk away, then come back to something hot and delicious…I do also really enjoy cooking. These BBQ ribs were pretty much the bomb. They were super easy. Pre-cooked in a pressure cooker, then broiled following Mrs. Vickie’s recipe. We ate them with some costco Cesar salad, and asparagus and butternut squash. . Both of these veggies came from my freezer stock pile, at less than $1 each! (and that is Why I Coupon).

I tend to save my freezer meals for crazy days, or when I am working, particularly since we have a baby coming. Menu planning works best, when there some predictability to your schedule. Between traveling, family visits, and pre-term labor scares, life has been far from predictable for me lately. That is when a stocked pantry and freezer, and the means to bulk buy comes in handy!

At the beginning of last week I stopped at Kroger, purchased some fresh groceries and stocked up on a fantastic meat deal: Pork Shoulder was only $1.99/lb. This was a great stock up price! I purchased two 8 lbs pork shoulders, but you’ll have to check back later to see what I did with it. I also got the rack of ribs at a great stock up price.

After this I stopped at Costco and purchased a Costco Rotisserie Chicken ($4.99) and a Prepackaged Cesar Salad ($8.99). I’ve already written about my love for the rotisserie chicken, though I often forget how much I really do love it until its in my possession. This wonderful blog post, breaks down the cost of making one’s own chicken vs costco chicken – honestly, the price and convenience can’t be beat! We had chicken salad sandwiches, chicken Cesar salad, chicken quesadillas. My kiddo had some quesadillas, and dipped chopped up chicken in BBQ sauce.We always have shredded Mexican cheese, BBQ sauce, sour cream, and tortillas on hand. This chicken fed two adults and a toddler for more than 3 meals! The salad was used for one of those meals, and a side for two others. We easily spent less than $5 a meal for all of those meals.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

This is a family favorite and a good freezer meal. I ran across a great chicken sale, and stocked up. This was one of the recipes that I chose to make with all that chicken. It makes a lot, but I doubled it anyway. One serving makes enough for us to all eat at one meal, and then have left overs the next day. I split the other half between two pans to freezer for later use. I’ll just be able to pop the frozen pans (or defrosted pans) or pasta into the oven for dinner.
This recipe comes from Pearls, Handcuffs & Happy Hour. I used rotini and penne pasta because it is what I had on hand. Both were “veggie” pastas – in case you were wondering about the funky colors. You’ll have to click the link for the full recipe, but here are some pictures of the steps.

First you saute onions, then add peppers and garlic. Add chicken, green enchilada sauce, regular (red) enchilada sauce, salt and some spices. Let that simmer. Add cheese, then sour cream, and then add the pasta in. Be prepared to be amazed. Once done, I used half for our dinner and dumped the remainder into two small square pans lined with foil. I’ll let these “flash freeze” over night, and then pop out of the pans, then into a ziploc bag and into the freezer. (This means my pans are always free). 
Stay tuned for more posts on freezer friendly meals, and how to stock your freezer.