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Chicken dishes come in handy on busy days.

Byline: QUICK FIX By Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Living miles out of town appeals to Melinda Kletzok, public information officer for Lane County. But add the driving time it takes to the often long hours she puts in on her job, and dinner can end up being a late-evening affair that quickly loses its luster if the menu includes a lot of preparation time.

So, like many busy working folk, Kletzok is always on the lookout for quick and easy recipes that still satisfy like a menu that takes hours to prepare.

"I'm always attracted to the 20-minute recipe books at the checkout stand at the supermarket," Kletzok admits. "And I've found some good ones there - in fact, `20-minute Chicken' from Land O Lakes is one of my favorites, especially their recipe for Calico Chicken with Penne."

The only thing she does differently from the recipe as written "is that I sometimes ask my husband (Scott) to barbecue the chicken while I'm getting the rest of the meal together," Kletzok says. "And I usually use olive oil instead of butter, because olive oil is so healthful. But even though it's so simple, this recipe tastes delicious."

She keeps her favorite recipes in a utilitarian gray metal box that her mother-in-law gave her when she and Scott married.

"She had it all set up - she even wrote the (categories) on all the green index cards," Kletzok says. "But I have to give credit for my cooking ability also to my mom, who had me helping in the kitchen from an early age."

She's become quite adept at re-creating especially tasty dishes she encounters at restaurants - through a combination of ferreting out flavors and cross-checking other recipes for similar foods, especially those she finds on the Internet - as well as "designing" recipes of her own, such as her Clam and Mushroom Fettucine.

"I made that one up myself," Kletzok says proudly. "It just seems to work."

It's a trait that apparently runs in the family. Her sister, Kristy Dady, showed up last Thanksgiving with a simple frozen-fruit dessert that everyone went wild over, she says.

"It was sitting out before dinner, so everybody was tasting it," she recalls. "It was so good that Scott wouldn't let me sit down at the table until I had written the whole recipe down. Now we make it all the time and eat it every night for dessert, instead of ice cream."

While it takes time to prepare and freeze, once it's done, the dessert lasts for days and provides every dinner - however late the hour - with a light, healthful and tasty finale, Kletzok says.

Calico Chicken With Penne

8 to 12 ounces (about 2 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups) uncooked dried penne pasta

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips

1/2 large green pepper (1 cup), cut into thin strips

1 small onion, sliced

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

6 Roma (Italian plum) tomatoes, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes. Drain and return to cooking pan; cover to keep warm.

In a 10-inch skillet, melt butter until sizzling. Add chicken strips and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until chicken is lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add green pepper and onion. Cover and continue cooking until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and cream. Cover again and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in cheese, tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Preparation time: About 20 minutes.

Source: "20-Minute Chicken," from the Land O Lakes Company.

Clam and Mushroom Fettucine

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 3/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic

1/4 teaspoon each marjoram, rosemary, tarragon, thyme or other favorite herbs

3/4 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1 can (6 to 8 ounces) baby clams, drained

1/2 tablespoon onion flakes

5 medium mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup wine, sherry or water

1/2 stalk celery, chopped fine

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

4 ounces (about 1 cup) dried fettucine or egg noodle pasta

Melt the butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan. Add flour and stir until bubbly. Add milk and stir constantly over medium heat until the white sauce boils and thickens.

Reduce heat; add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic cloves, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and stir well. Add drained clams and onion flakes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water, according to directions, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate sauce or saute pan, cook mushrooms and celery in olive oil and wine, sherry or water until tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic powder and lemon juice. Combine with the white sauce mixture.

Drain pasta and pour into serving bowl. Drizzle the sauce over the top and serve.

Serves 2.

Preparation time: About 25 minutes.

Source: Melinda Kletzok.

Chicken Rellenos

Stuffed Peppers

2 large green bell peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded and stemmed

2 cups cooked rice

1 cup cooked chicken, cubed

1/2 cup sour cream

4 ounces (1 cup) Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon finely chopped green chili pepper (optional)

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 cup salsa

The speed of this recipe depends on leftover chicken and rice; it will take 20 to 30 minutes longer if ingredients must be cooked.

Place green peppers, skin side up, in a glass 9-inch baking dish or pie plate. Cover with vented plastic food wrap or paper towel; microwave on high until partially cooked, 4 to 5 minutes.

Or, place green peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes; remove and drain.

Place peppers skin side down in the baking dish.

Meanwhile, combine rice, chicken, sour cream, cheese, egg, chilies and chili powder in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well. Spoon mixture into pepper halves.

To microwave, cover loosely with waxed paper or paper towel and heat on high 5 to 6 minutes. Or, heat in a conventional oven preheated to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Let stand 2 minutes, then spoon 1 tablespoon salsa onto each pepper and serve.

Serves 4.

Preparation time: About 20 minutes.

Source: `20-Minute Chicken," from the Land O Lakes Company.

Icy Fruit Dessert

1 can (15 ounces) crushed pineapple, with juice

1/2 bag mini marshmallows

1 tub Cool Whip or other whipped cream substitute

3 bananas, sliced into disks

2 tubs of sliced strawberries in sugar

1 bag frozen peaches, chopped

1 cup seedless grapes, chopped

1/2 cup blueberries

Mix marshmallows and crushed pineapple with juice in a large bowl; marinate all day or overnight in the refrigerator.

Add whipped cream substitute, bananas, strawberries, peaches, grapes and blueberries and mix thoroughly. Pour into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan. Freeze for several hours until hardened.

To serve, cut desired number of squares and remove to plates. Let sit until slightly softened or put in microwave about 1 minute on defrost setting.

Source: Melinda Kletzok's sister, Kristy Dady.

Do you have quick-and-easy - but still delicious and nutritious - recipes that help get your family to the dinner table after a busy workday? If you'd like to share them, write to Quick Fix, P.O. Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440; fax 683-7631; contact Randi Bjornstad at 338-2321 or (800) 377-7428, Ext. 2321; or e-mail rbjornstad@guardnet.com. Be sure to include your name and telephone number.
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Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 6, 2005
Words:1271
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