Post Vacation Scramble

24 Sep

I know I have no right to complain, but we are back from our last hurrah of summer and I am totally overwhelmed with the prospect of getting back to work, school, daycare, and a schedule. I guess a week on the beach in the Outer Banks will do that to you. So forgive me if all of my dinners for the next two weeks are recycled. Tried and true, they’re all easy and quick and I know I have half the ingredients in my pantry already and I won’t get a lot of eye rolling from the peanut gallery. At least I had some good beach time to catch up on my magazine reading and have lots of new recipes tagged to try out once I get back in the swing of things. In the meantime, I love having a handful of easy go-to recipes in my arsenal to whip out when life is crazy.

1) 20 Minute Skinny Sesame Chicken with roasted broccoli and rice

2) Light Chicken piccata with roasted cauliflower

3) Slow cooker pork tenderloin with black beans over rice

4) Greek shrimp scampi with linguine

5) Slow cooker chicken makhani

6) Spaghetti with meat sauce

7) Slow cooker moussaka

8) Kale with sausage and white beans over mashed potatoes

9) Turkey meatball subs with oven sweet potato fries

Michael’s Choice

2 Sep

Tomorrow is Labor Day and we have spent the weekend in true tradition, grilling, diving into pools, and eating crabs with friends. But of course, the day after Labor Day is just a plain old Tuesday, which means back to work (and school). But to extend my extended weekend a little longer, I let Michael pick all the meals, with the exception of one new dish that I’m looking forward to trying. It may not seem like much of a reprieve, but it was nice not having to think about “will the kids like this” and “what’s in the pantry” and “what ingredients will work in multiple dishes” etc etc. It’s also interesting to see what his favorite meals are (no surprise – a lot of meat and potato type meals, but at the same time, I was surprised to see the two fish dishes). The first meal listed below is the new one – I found it on a Food & Wine slide show of easy chicken dinners. And since I’m originally a Philly girl, I have to love anything with pretzels, so I think it will be a nice alternative to our standard baked breaded chicken tenders. In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying their time off and transitioning easily back to the real world.

1. Mustard-Baked Chicken with a Pretzel Crust, with Roasted Broccoli and Farro Risotto
To my surprise, the boys really liked the Farro Risotto. Now we’ll see if Michael is on board too.

2. Cheeseburger Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and peas and carrots
Comfort food at its easiest.

3. Lemon Dill Tilapia with Sabzi Polo (Persian Green Rice) and sauteed spinach
This is very similar to a Persian meal typically eaten on the first day of Spring, but it is easy and healthy and still great to eat during the last stretch of Summer.

4. Turkey Stroganoff
Possibly B & K’s favorite dish out of all of these. Little boys can, luckily, sometimes be really easy to please.

5. Shepherd’s Pie
We ended up not using the frozen dish that I made a few weeks ago, so luckily we have a pre-made dinner ready to go. But even if you don’t make one in advance, this is an easy enough dish that you can throw it together in just over 30 minutes.

6. Pork Tenderloin with Preserves with mashed potatoes and Roasted Brussel Sprouts
The brussel sprouts with apple give just enough of a feeling of fall to feel right at home in early September.

7. Baked Fish Tacos with Rice-Cooker Black Beans and Rice
This fish is so easy to make and can be cooked on the grill or in the oven. My boys love it, and you can spice it up as much (or as little) as you like. And then pick as many fun toppings as you like!

8. Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna
This is what I call a “pantry dinner” – with the exception of the cheese (which we always have in the fridge), it is a great dinner to make when you haven’t been to the store in a while. Everything you need is probably in your cabinets already, and if not, it is so easy to substitute whatever you have available.

9. Turkey Chili with Corn Bread
Again, I think I’m feeling the Fall creep up on us, because I’m looking forward to a big bowl of chili. Of course, I’m hoping it’s not 90 degrees the day I make this!


Make Ahead Meals and Back to School

21 Aug

So this is officially our last week of summer vacation before B starts Kindergarten and we enter a whole new world of adhering to a school schedule.  I’m honestly not sure who is more nervous, me or B – but I’m sure once we get through a couple of weeks we’ll hit a routine.  In the meantime, to curtail some of my anxiety, I spent some time this past weekend making a few dishes to stick in my freezer and heat up later.  This way if our new routine hits a snag, dinner at least will be covered.  At the same time, a very good friend just had a new baby (yay! Congrats MN!) and I was lucky enoughto be  a) baby’s first visitor at home and b) the recipient of their CSA vegetables this week.  So the next two dinners are a combo of make-ahead meals and various attempts to use up all the yummy fresh corn, tomatoes, cabbage, and mini-eggplants that are in my fridge.  In the meantime, I’m always on the look out for more dishes that can be made ahead of time, and reheated easily, so feel free to share them!

1. Tomato Pie with grilled chicken sausage and corn on the cob
This tomato pie, adapted from Simply Recipes, is so super easy to make and is not like anything you’d expect (hint – it’s not a pizza pie!) 

2.  Pasta with Slow Cooker Eggplant Ragu
This is an easy alternative to spaghetti with meat sauce. 

3. Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
This is one of the dishes I made last weekend and froze.  I’ll pull it out the night before to defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat it for 45 minutes in the oven.

4. Cabbage, Turkey Kielbasa, and Pierogies
At some point I’d like to branch out on cabbage recipes, but for a busy weeknight this is a quick fix. 

5. Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
This will use up the last of the fresh tomatoes and I’ll add the leftover corn too.

6.  Fiesta Chicken and Rice Bake
This is the second dinner I made ahead to freeze.

7. Pasta with Tuna and Tomato Sauce
This is pretty much a pantry supper, with the exception of ricotta cheese which is easy to keep around. 

8. Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Preserves with Onion Soup Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli
While I love making pork tenderloins in the slow cooker, they’re really easy and quick to make in the oven too.   I make it with mustard and whatever preserves we have on hand.

9. Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese
The Ultimate comfort food from Rachael Ray – but I make it with 1/2 the butter, skim milk, 2% cheese and ground turkey so it’s comfort without the guilt.  Another make-ahead dinner.

10. Pasta Primavera
In case I have any leftover vegetables, this recipe should do the trick.  Use whatever you have about, and in whatever amount you have.  It’s very forgiving and delicious.

August Already??

3 Aug

I know it’s a cliche, but I really cannot believe it is August already.  Another two weeks are done – this summer is really flying by.  Not much to report here – I’m hoping to have a couple dinners done on the grill so Michael can take over and I can take it easy.  This last stretch of summer is always so bitter-sweet.  I find myself starting to stress over the impending fall rather than enjoying one last month of pool time, sunshine, and relaxation (well, relative to other times of the year anyway).  At least I don’t have to stress about dinner every night!

  1. Curried Chicken Penne with Mango Chutney

My kids love fresh mango – and this Cooking Light recipe looks like an interesting twist to regular old chicken curry.

  1. Easy Chicken Lo Mein

They had me at “Easy”. 

  1. Slow Cooker Meatball Subs with Roasted Sesame and Honey Carrots 

I made a big batch of meatballs in the oven a couple weeks ago and froze them.  Now I’ll just heat them up in the slow cooker and voila – easiest dinner ever!

  1. Everything Grilled Chicken Salad

This isn’t your typical grilled chicken salad – this whole thing is grilled, lettuce and all – and it’s delicious!

  1. Baked Parmesan and Panko Tilapia with Onion Soup Potatoes

Since I never got around to making these potatoes last week, they’re getting a second chance.

  1. Salsa Verde Chicken Bake with Black Beans and Rice

Quite possibly one of the easiest dinners to throw together, from one of my favorite websites.

  1. Slow Cooker Eggplant Moussaka

When I’m trying lots of new recipes at home, I find it’s a good idea to throw in something I know the kids love and are familiar with too. 

  1. Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole

Sounds like a funny name – but it’s from the genius Gina at SkinnyTaste.   I’ll make it with Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage. 

  1. Tomato Pie and Grilled Chicken Sausages

Another Simply Recipes dish that I wanted to try last summer and never had a chance to.  I’ll see if Michael can pick up tomatoes from the farmer’s market for this one and then make it with low-fat mayo.

There’s An App For That

23 Jul

I’ve got to be honest, sometimes the last thing I want to do is plan out our dinners and make a grocery list. It’s a double edged sword – on one hand planning out two weeks at a time means I don’t have to think about it again for a long time. But on the other hand, it also means it’s a bigger endeavor when I do sit down to do it. Luckily I’ve recently discovered a couple different apps that help me make it all more manageable. The one I use the most is called Wunderlist and it is a real life saver. It allows me to create tons of different lists that I can share with Michael. What makes this different than most list sharing devices is that either of us can update it at any time and it will automatically synch on our iPads, iPhones, and desktop. I keep a running list of ideas for dinners, as the week goes on I just keep adding to it. Usually when it’s time to put the next two week’s worth of dinners together I’ve got a decent list going already. I’ve also currently got a grocery list, a Costco list and a Target list – all of which Michael and I update whenever we pick anything up at the store. Another great app that I discovered is Evernote. Evernote allows me to capture webpages of things that interest me for access anytime. It’s the 21st Century equivalent of clipping articles out of the newspaper.  If I see a recipe on a blog that piques my curiosity or an article that I think is helpful but I don’t have time to read it right away I “clip” it to Evernote for later. And of course I have the WordPress app too – which not only let’s me edit and post here but also let’s me read all the blogs I follow in one easy place.
Anyway, I definitely used both of these for putting together this latest installment of meals, but I’m always on the look out for more useful apps and websites for organizing and planning. Anyone have any other suggestions to share?

P.S. If you’ve noticed we’re a little short on dinners this time around – it’s because a certain little man is turning 5 this week so we’ll be doing lots of celebrating out with him!

1. One pot salmon with snap peas and rice
A Real Simple recipe I’m looking forward to making – especially as I love anything “one pot”.

2. Kale with chicken sausage and white beans over mashed potatoes
This is easy and quick and delish.

3. Pasta with tuna and ricotta cheese
I have to admit, I think this sounds a little weird but her recipes have never steered me wrong.

4. Baked chicken tenders with steamed asparagus and Onion Soup Potatoes
These potatoes are so easy to make and make a really yummy side dish that requires only three ingredients.

5. Greek turkey picadillo over rice
A favorite with the kids and grown ups.  Plus, I have olives and capers burning a hole in my pocket.

6. Slow cooker Asian-style pork tenderloin with jasmine rice and roasted green beans
We like lean pork tenderloin for a change from turkey and chicken. This is just a new spin on it.

7. Slow cooker Thai lettuce wraps
I love lettuce wraps so I’m going to give these from the queen of slow cooking a try.  But I think I’ll add carrots and water chestnuts towards the end of the cooking time to give them a little crunch.

Power Outages and Restocking the Freezer

6 Jul

For those of you in our area, hopefully you have all  had your power (and sanity) restored from the storms that hit just before the Fourth of July.  We were relatively lucky in that we were on vacation for the storms and only had to live at home without power for about a day.  But I know many of you weren’t so lucky.  Also not as lucky: all of the food in our refridgerator and two freezers.  Since we were on vacation, there wasn’t that much in the fridge, but our freezers were stocked.  I’m not sure what I’m more heartbroken over, the tray of spanokopita I had been saving for a rainy day, the dozen or so single-serving tupperware containers filled with frozen leftovers that I take for lunch, or the 2 packages of ridiculously expensive special diet dog food – all of which had to be thrown out.  Of course, it is still sweltering out there, so I’m leaning towards quick cooking, lighter dishes these days.  But I will probably try to make a little more each night so I can restock my back-up lunches.  And putting the menus together have helped me figure out what staples we now need to stock up on again (could I have saved the Worscteshire sauce?  Possibly, but why risk it?).   In the meantime, stay cool!

1. Tuna, Tomatoes, White Beans and Pasta

An easy Rachael Ray inspired 30-minute meal.

2. Grilled Cilantro Chicken over Lemon Linguine

Found this recipe while browsing my fave website: FoodGawker!  Looks delish and I can’t wait to try it.

3. Baked Panko Breaded Chicken Tenders with Farro Risotto

Easy, peasy chicken tenders that the kids will love and hopefully distract them enough that they’ll give Farro Risotto (which I intend to make with some pumpkin puree) a try🙂

4. Spaghetti with Edamame, Tomato, and Parsley Pistou

Don’t be frightened by the pistou – it’s a super easy sauce and you can easily substitute pesto if you want!

5. Roasted Tilapia with Potatoes and Lemons

Do you love Real Simple Magazine as much as I do?  This is one of their recipes that I’m excited to try.

6. Easiest Ever Baked Mac and Cheese

Maybe with chicken sausage.  Maybe without.  It’s really good either way.

7. Chicken and Chickpeas over Rice

Another superfast, one pot (well, I guess one pot and one rice cooker) dinner.

8. Leftover Rice Salad with Shrimp, Sugar Snap Peas, and Tomatoes

What do you do when you have leftover rice?  Make a rice salad! 

9. Dinner on the grill with chicken, corn on the cob, and Grilled Salad.

You haven’t tried a grilled salad yet?  What are you waiting for?  No recipe here – just brush a little olive oil on some romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and red onions and grill away – it is delicious!  And best of all, for me, it means Michael is cooking dinner!

Sweet Treat: Strawberry Banana Baked Oatmeal Muffins

22 Jun


If you have been on Pinterest lately, or on Facebook, or Foodgawker (Oh how I LOVE Foodgawker!) or pretty much anywhere on the internet that has to do with food, you have no doubt seen recipes for baked oatmeal. Intrigued, I decided to give it a whirl, and I have to say I was quite pleased with how it turned out. These aren’t cake-like in consistency – they’re kind of teethier, exactly like you’d expect of baked oatmeal. But it is pretty delicious and really healthy – no added fat, except for the eggs, and very little sugar that doesn’t come from fruit. I used strawberries because I had a ton in my fridge, but blueberries, raspberries, or just about any other fruit you could think of would be great too.  Just don’t omit the banana – it helps keep it all together.  And did I mention how easy they are to make? I baked a whole big batch one afternoon and then after they cooled (and after we sampled quite a few) I froze them. Now I just pop one in the fridge the night before and have it for breakfast the next morning!


1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 bananas, mushed
1 c. no sugar added apple sauce
2 c. skim milk
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 TBSP vanilla
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5 c. old fashioned oats
2 cups strawberries, sliced


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whisk all wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Add the dry ingredients and incorporate well.
  • Spray muffin tins well (seriously – this suckers stick!) or use muffin liners.
  • Pour mixture into muffin tins – filling all the way. This batch made about 18 muffins.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes.  
  • Allow to cool fully prior to freezing.
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