Quick & Easy Recipes for Busy Schedules

This week, we are back to some quick recipes to accommodate busy schedules.

Let us know if there is something you would like us to put in our column, or if you have a recipe to share, please submit to ads@thedrummer.com.

Butternut Squash-Stuffed Shells


Level: Easy

Total: 1 hr 30 min

(includes cooling time)

Active: 30 min

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


10 oz. diced butternut squash (about 2-1/2 c.)

1 sm. shallot, halved

1 clove garlic, unpeeled

2 tsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 lg. leaf fresh sage, finely chopped, plus more for serving

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

30 jumbo pasta shells (about 10 oz.)

1/4 c. vegetable broth or water

2 (10 oz.) pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained & squeezed dry 

1 lb. cream cheese, at room temp.

2 c. whole-milk ricotta 

2 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 c. grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

2 c. heavy cream 

2 T. unsalted butter

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 c. freshly grated mozzarella 


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Add the squash, shallot and garlic to a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the thyme, sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper and toss again. Roast until the squash is tender and light golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Add the pasta shells and cook until al dente according to the package directions. Drain and let cool.

Squeeze the roasted garlic into a small food processor or blender, add the squash, shallot and vegetable broth and puree until smooth.

Mix together the spinach, cream cheese, ricotta, red pepper flakes, 2/3 cup of the Parmesan and 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl. Stuff about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture into each shell; set aside.

Add the pureed squash mixture, heavy cream and butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the nutmeg, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and the remaining 1-1/3 cups Parmesan.

Spread the cheese sauce into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stuffed shells in the baking dish seam-side up, shingling them so they all fit (you should have 5 shells along the short side and 6 shells along the long side). Top with the mozzarella. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Top with more Parmesan and sage before serving.


Chicken Pot Hotdish


Level: Easy

Total: 1 hr 10 min

Active: 25 min

Yield: 4 to 5 servings


3 T. unsalted butter

3 carrots, chopped into 1/2” pcs.

1 lg. onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt

6 T. all-purpose flour

3 c. whole milk

Chicken soup mix for 3 c. broth (about 1 T.)

1-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 1/2-by-3/4” pcs.

3/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 lbs. frozen tater tots

Ketchup, for serving, opt.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the carrots, onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour until combined and then cook for 1 minute. Add half the milk and cook, whisking continuously, until thickened, about 5 minutes; repeat with the remaining milk. Stir in the chicken soup mix and then add the chicken, peas, thyme and a few turns of pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if desired.

Transfer the mixture to an 8-by-11-inch baking dish (or other 3-quart oven safe dish) and then cover with the tater tots. Make them snuggly and neat. Bake until the tots are golden brown; begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with ketchup, if desired.


Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage and Peppers


Level: Easy

Total: 35 min

Active: 15 min

Yield: 4 servings


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 sm. green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 sm. red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 sm. yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 sm. red onion, thinly sliced

2 T. olive oil

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 (14 oz.) cans cherry tomatoes

1 (17.5 oz.) pkg. potato gnocchi

1/4 c. grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

1/4 c. fresh parsley leaves, chopped  


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss together the sausage, oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic, bell peppers, onion, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper on a sheet pan. Pour the cherry tomatoes over top and gently shake the pan a few times to evenly distribute. Bake until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are soft, 18 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the gnocchi with the Parmesan, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Turn the oven to broil. Sprinkle the gnocchi over the sausage and vegetables and broil until dark golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide among 4 plates and sprinkle with the parsley and more Parmesan.


Healthy Grilled Chicken-and-Rice Foil Packs


Level: Easy

Total: 30 min

Active: 25 min

Yield: 4 servings


4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2” chunks

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained & rinsed

1 c. converted rice

1 c. salsa

2 T. pickled jalapeno slices, finely chopped

1 T. tomato paste

1 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. turmeric

Kosher salt

2 c. low-sodium chicken broth

2 scallions, thinly sliced


Prepare a grill for medium heat.

Put the chicken, beans, rice, salsa, pickled jalapenos, tomato paste, chili powder, turmeric and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and toss to combine. Divide the chicken-rice mixture evenly among the pie pans, spreading it out in an even layer. Pour 1/2 cup of chicken broth into each pie pan.

Cover each pan tightly with foil. Put the pans on the grill, close the grill lid and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest for a few minutes.

Carefully remove the foil from each pan (hot steam will escape). The liquid should be absorbed, the rice tender and the chicken cooked through. Sprinkle each with some scallions.


One-Pot Bucatini Bolognese


Level: Easy

Total: 50 min

Active: 45 min

Yield: 4 servings


2 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1 med. onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 med. carrots, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

Kosher salt

2 T. tomato paste

1 lb. ground beef chuck (80%-85% lean)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes

12 oz. bucatini, broken in half (see Cook’s Note)

1/4 c. grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley, plus additional for serving


Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, thyme, carrots, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the beef, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes, bucatini, 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to ensure the pasta is submerged in liquid. Bring to a boil and continue to cook, stirring frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce has thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs. Stir in the Parmesan and parsley and season with salt to taste. Divide among 4 bowls and serve with additional parsley and Parmesan.

Cook’s Note: The success of this recipe is dependent upon the specific pasta shape suggested, so we don’t recommend substitutions.


Sheet Pan Sausage Supper


Level: Easy

Total: 1 hr

Active: 15 min

Yield: 6 servings


1 lb. trimmed whole Brussels sprouts

3 parsnips, cut into 1/4” slices

3 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges

2 red onions, cut into quarters

3 T. olive oil

1/2 tsp. dried sage

Sprinkle of kosher salt

Sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper

12 Italian sausages


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the Brussels sprouts, parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions to a baking sheet. Add the olive oil, sage, salt and pepper and toss. Put the sausages in and around the vegetables.

Bake until the sausages are cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve.


Fudgy One-Pot Brownies


Level: Easy

Total: 35 min

Prep: 5 min

Cook: 30 min

Yield: 12 large or 24 regular brownies


1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus butter for greasing the baking pan (opt.)

Nonstick cooking spray (opt.)

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

2-1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. kosher or coarse salt

1 T. pure vanilla extract

3 lg. eggs

1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the butter and chocolate in a medium-size saucepan over low heat and let melt together, stirring until smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, then blend in the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring to mix quickly so they don’t have a chance to cook at all before they are blended in. Blend in the flour.

Scrape the thick batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the brownies cool in the pan on a wire rack. When completely cool, cut them into 12 or 24 squares.


Maple-Oatmeal Scones


Level: Easy

Total: 50 min

Prep: 30 min

Cook: 20 min

Yield: 14 servings


For the Scones:

3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. whole-wheat flour

1 c. quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling

2 T. baking powder

2 T. granulated sugar

2 tsp. salt

1 lb. cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 c. cold buttermilk

1/2 c. pure maple syrup

4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1 egg beaten w/1 T. milk or water, for egg wash


For the Glaze:

1-1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/2 c. pure maple syrup

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough may be sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 to 1 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze. I like to sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top, for garnish. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be.


Quote of the Week:

  “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”     

- Marcel Proust



The Drummer and The Wright County Journal Press

PO Box 159
108 Central Ave.
Buffalo MN 55313


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