What should I do with the left-overs? …Grilled chicken and smokey vegetables

I had about half of my smokey vegetables left over from my first grilling session of the season. I often have left-overs from the dinners that I make. I am really only cooking for two (me and Dan) and I usually portion out dinners to feed at least four people. I do this for two reasons; I like to have an easy lunch the next day or I like to create an easy dinner the next night.

If you grilled the chicken and veggies from my last post, you can easily prep for tomorrow’s dinner as you are packing up your left-overs to stash in the refrigerator. Just a few simple extra steps makes the next day easier.

As I was getting ready to store my extra grilled chicken, I pulled all the meat off the bones. This is a much easier task when the chicken is still warm. You can even cut it into cubes if you are going to make this recipe. You can prep the veggies as you clean up that night too, but it is just as easy to get them ready the next day. I just took the veggies off the skewers and put them all into a container to go into the refrigerator.

Here’s what I came up with to use up my left-overs:

Creamy Chicken and Veggie Pasta

4 pieces grilled chicken, meat removed from the bones and cubed.

about 2 cups left over grilled veggies (onions, artichokes, small sweet peppers)

1 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp. flour

4 cups milk

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

16 oz. mini penne or shell pasta

For the sauce: Heat up the olive oil in a large deep pan or sauce pot. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, melt in the butter and add the flour, whisking to make a golden-colored roux. Whisk in 1 cup of the milk at a time until it is all incorporated and your sauce is thick and creamy. Add in the Parmesan and parsley and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare you vegetables (if you haven’t already last night). Cut the onions in half because we cut them a little big to fit on the skewers the first time. Cut the peppers into smaller pieces and remove the stem and small amount of seed that are inside. If you decide to cut the artichokes in half, only cut the larger size ones and cut them carefully because they will fall apart easily.

While the pasta cooks, mix the chicken and vegetables into the sauce to heat them through. Cook you pasta to al dente. Save a little of the pasta water when you drain the pasta in case your sauce is too thick. This is how I like to thin the sauce out, it is better than just adding cold water to your sauce because the pasta water is seasoned a little with salt.

Mix you pasta with your sauce, chicken and veggies. If the sauce is too thick, add the pasta water a little bit at a time to thin it out. Serve the pasta dish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper on top.

I used whole wheat shells for this dish but I think it would be better with just regular pasta. I like whole wheat pasta with tomato-based sauces and regular pasta with creamy sauces. Either way, it was pretty good!

I also had a great idea for a pasta dish that you can eat at room temperature. Just add the chicken and veggies into cooked pasta and mix it up with a vinaigrette dressing – you could use olive oil and the garlic vinaigrette that we used for the marinade and add some fresh basil. It would be a great dinner for a summer night.

Leftovers! Couscous

I asked Dan to take chicken out of the freezer during the day so it could defrost by the time I got home from work. I wanted to make barbecue chicken on the grill but that required a bunch of pieces of bone-in chicken thighs and legs. Dan only took out two small boneless skinless chicken thighs. Oops, I probably should have been more specific about the chicken…

So what was I going to make for dinner now?

I had about 1 1/2 cups of cooked couscous left over from my summer fish in a pouch.

I also had some nice big peppers from market. They are in season right now and they are really cheap! I decided to make stuffed peppers with chicken and couscous filling.

Here how to do it:

Couscous Stuffed Peppers

1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked couscous (I used my lemon parsley left over couscous but you could use any kind you have)

1 medium yellow squash

1/2 small red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chicken stock

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs

handful of basil leaves, chopped

4 large peppers (any color)

Cut the tops off the peppers, remove the seeds and place them in a 9×9 inch baking dish.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. Coat a deep saute pan with olive oil and saute the chicken thighs until a nice golden crust forms – don’t remove all of the excess fat from the thighs, you want a little bit to render in the pan to give it a deeper flavor.

Saute the onion and garlic with the chicken for about two minutes. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the pan – the chicken stock will help you deglaze the pan – so scrape up all those good little brown bits, they have lots of flavor in them!

Add the tomatoes into the pan, season with salt and pepper and cover. Bring the mixture up to a bubble and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Pull out the chicken thighs and shred them.

Small dice your yellow squash and mix it into the left over couscous. Make sure you break up the couscous because sometimes is gets clumped together in the refrigerator.

Mix the chicken, basil, and the tomato mixture into the couscous. divide the mixture and spoon it into each of the peppers. You may have to push down and mound it in the peppers. Use it all! It’s ok if the peppers are overflowing.

Pour the other 1/2 cup chicken stock into the bottom of the baking dish. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the tops of the mounds of couscous. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The couscous filling won’t look that much different once it is baked, but the peppers will be soft and juicy. The chicken stock that we added to the bottom of the dish before baking keeps everything nice and moist.

This is a great all in one dinner, no sides needed… and you used your leftovers!