How to Eat for Cheap: Bachelor’s Chicken Parmesan

Fact: I am incapable of cooking for two. Also, conveniently, a fact: I love leftovers.

When we had Gail and Jerry here and we knew we would be traveling, I had to go light on the groceries. The whole situation posed quite a few cooking problems that ended in eating out. No big deal, we wanted to share with J+G our favorite places, anyway.

With the parents on their way home and us with what appears to be a bare fridge, Nick is back at work, and the chef  is at a loss for what to do for lunch. This is where my over-cooking comes in handy and a new favorite (almost) gourmet meal is born:

Bachelor’s Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • Leftover whole wheat pasta
  • “Expanded” Pasta Sauce, pulled from the freezer in the morning (recipe below)
  • Leftover take-out breaded/fried chicken tenders
  • The last of my shredded Parmesan

Put in a small pan over medium-low heat the chicken tenders, sliced into rounds as uniformly as possible. Do not add oil to the pan people, the grease from the tenders is plenty. Toss every once in a while. In a sauce pan, or any pan with higher sides, put your thawed pasta sauce, cheese, and leftover noodles, cover, and heat over medium-low heat. Slow-low is the way to go with this meal and when reheating leftovers. I cooked the chicken until crispy, tossing often, and the noodles and sauce until it was thoroughly heated. Here’s my food-safety plug: always reheat food thoroughly, until it’s 165°F to be exact, to reduce the risk of food borne illness. Put the noodles in a bowl, top with chicken, and voila! You’re set and your fridge is cleaned out.

No photos because we ate it all. Fast. It’s that good.

Now the sauce, this will save you a lot of money if you don’t like making your own from scratch. I always add vegetables to regular pasta sauce to increase it’s nutritional value and make it go a bit further. Strech that dollar! Any vegetables will work, just vary their cooking time in the sauce accordingly. It’s a great recipe to ‘sneak’ vegetable into; grated carrots, zucchini, chopped green leafy veggies, all go unnoticed.

“Expanded” Pasta Sauce Recipe

My favorites have included:

  • onions and garlic
  • grated carrots
  • grilled zucchini
  • kale
  • chard
  • spinach
  • green beans
  • anything that is about to go bad and needs to be used

Put your sauce in a pot and add the veggies in order of requiring most to least cooking. Definitely add some salt, maybe some cayenne, pepper, red pepper flakes, whatever you wish but it will need a little ‘oomph’ of flavor. To really build up the flavor start by sauteing onions and garlic, but it’s not necessary, especially if you’re tight on time. Sometimes I add water if it’s getting too thick. Cool and portion into freezer-safe containers based on how the sauce will be used. I put about two-four meals worth per container. Pull out of the freezer, put it into the refrigerator the night or morning before, and BAM! You got sauce.

Eat it, love it, and feel good about it. – Jes

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