I like to think of myself as a fairly okay cook and used to really enjoy braving new recipes, hosting elaborate dinners for friends and of course, making dishes from scratch.  However over the past couple of years my culinary prowess has somewhat waned.  The reason?  Two words ...'Jake' and 'Olivia'.  Now I am occasionally a cheater, like many of my fellow mum friends and actually quite proud of the fact that I no longer NEED to spend hours in the kitchen...it's all a matter of perception and having a few 'shortcuts' up your sleeve for those really busy days.  Oh, and having the wonderful Trader Joes [apologies to anyone outside the US] within an 8 minute drive is also not a bad thing!

Now I like to cook Coq au Vin as much as the next foodie, but really, would rather spend my time sitting and drinking the 'vin' than slaving away over a hot oven for 2 plus hours.  Around the birth of my second child [colic, reflux and general chaos occurred constantly during dinner preparation], I had a culinary epiphany when a friend introduced me to 'the Maggi way' ...and after that I was a convert.  Now this isn't the story of a religious conversion(although Maggi does have a holy ring to it...Magi??), I'm talking about shhhhhh... packet meal mixesMaggi being the company name.  In NZ, Australia and parts of Europe there are undoubtedly millions of families that have been fed, divorces prevented and mothers' sanity preserved by their fabulous inventions ; 'meal bases' - brilliant.

My personal favourite is the Chicken Chasseur 'Cook in the Pot' which literally takes 10 minutes to prepare - basically just throw chicken pieces and the sauce and a few veges in a big casserole pot and cook in the oven for an hour or so.  I sometimes bling the recipe up a bit by adding extras like real wine (as I firmly believe cooking and a glass of wine in hand are a great, not to be missed combo) fancy mushrooms and black olives but feel free to add your own surprises.  This recipe has even fooled  a few friends and rellies over the years.

For my North American friends, I haven't discovered a substitute for Maggi bases [though I'm sure there are probably hundreds] so I hadn't made this dish for months until I was reminded of it tonight and just 'happened' to find a packet hiding in the back of my pantry...!

Easy Chicken with Wine (or Chicken Chasseur a la Maggi if you're feeling fancy)

1 whole chicken or 6 chicken pieces (bone in)
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms (any type)
1/4 cup black olives
2/3 glass wine (white or red...whatever's on hand)
2 Tblpns tomato paste 
1/3 cup water
1 packet Maggi Chicken Chasseur*

Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit (180 C)
Cut up chicken or throw pieces in large casserole dish with lid.  Add sliced onion, garlic, mushrooms and olives.  Mix tomato paste, water and Chicken Chasseur packet to a smooth paste and pour over chicken and mushrooms.  Finally pour over wine and mix all together.
Cook in a low-moderate oven (or better yet, slow cooker) for 1  1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it becomes too gluggy.
Serve with mashed potatoes, pasta or your favourite grain.

PS Don't forget to hide the packet mix evidence after use!