Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Family Dinner Inspiration

I was making dinner last night to the sound of the children giggling in the next room (the giggling isn't relevant, but it's very crystallized in the memory, though I'm not sure why because they are always together and almost always giggling. The meal was going to be BBQ chicken enchiladas with the leftover crockpot BBQ shredded chicken I'd made as sandwiches the night before; the enchiladas were a new creation and mostly successful, though the "mostly" can mostly be blamed on the new enchilada sauce I tried. It appears that Trader Joe's can occasionally let me down. Anyway, exiting the parenthetical-), and I realized I was tired of most of the things I've been making. I'm in a recipe rut. And this is just the time when I should be blazing new trails of deliciousness. I have the time, the desire, and the necessity, I just need a few new ideas. So I thought I'd ask you all- what are your favorite, fool-proof midweek meals? Or your favorite weekend meals (mine is this Bourguignon because it takes forever, smells amazing, and makes me feel like a cooking wizard).

A few of our fail-safes are:

- Pasta with homemade Tomato Cream Sauce. I love this recipe. It's quick, delicious, and tastes good on any pasta or ravioli. Plus, the only fresh ingredients you need to have on hand is some onion and minced garlic (we always have a 12 pack of organic tomato sauce from Costco on the floor of the pantry; I go through those cans quicker than my 12-pack of diet coke that sits right next door).

- Chicken Barley Chili. Delicious, different, healthy, and hearty. A JP favorite.

- Stir fry and rice, usually vegetarian because we do it later in the week and I'm out of fresh meat but not yet out of fresh veggies with the sauce from this recipe (sometimes we make the whole recipe, steak and all and it is delicious), plus whatever random Trader Joe Asian food appetizers we have in the fridge (love their shu mai and gyoza).

- Tomato soup with grilled cheese. This recipe is fantastic and so easy.

- Chili, several varieties. I have three chili recipes that I like- a beefy one, a turkey one with lots of veggies, and a vegetarian bean one. I make whatever sounds best at the moment and serve it with cornbread. I often eat more cornbread than chili.

- Chicken verde enchiladas and variations of the same. I have two recipes I love, and the rise of the supermarket rotisserie chicken has made it a much quicker meal to make. Also a good make-on-Sunday-for-Monday meal.

- Black beans and rice. Microwave steam a bag of frozen rice (usually brown, sometimes jasmine), warm a can of black beans, preferably with some onion and garlic sauteed in the pan first, but we're flexible. Top with whatever you have in the fridge- diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, etc. The kids love this.

- Breakfast tacos. A "Thursday" meal (when you're out of everything fresh you bought on Saturday) that requires only tortillas, scrambled eggs, cheese, and an extra whatever- turkey sausage (we usually have some frozen), bacon (though never for us because JP hates bacon; I know, it's weird, and even weirder, over the years I've lost my taste for it as well), diced tomato, hash browns or other potato product, and salsa. If you have leftover stale tortillas chips, you can turn the scrambled eggs into migas and put those in the tacos too. Put it all on the table and have everyone make their own. And now your fridge is really empty.

- Pizza. Most Fridays. This dough recipe (or refrigerated dough from Trader Joe's if the thought of cleaning my kitchen aid mixing bowl just seems like too much on that particular evening) with marinara sauce (usually TJ's, sometimes leftover homemade), and whatever I can dig up in the meat and cheese drawer. My favorite is sliced meatball and black olive. JP is a cheese purist. The kids love everything.

the source of the giggling I heard while making the above-mentioned bbq chicken enchiladas

What about you? I feel like I'm missing some regulars that could be in the rotation. I don't mind cooking- I've really come to enjoy it actually, but sitting down with a piece of paper on Sunday wracking my brain to think of meals for the week has become my last favorite part of the weekend. I should add that I have two meaty spaghetti sauce recipes I adore but I wouldn't call them "regulars" because they feel special when I go through the effort (and we really don't eat much meat, so they tend to fill the meat quota for the week). And there's this chicken and wild rice soup recipe that is fabulous (I add a bunch of vegetables to it), and there's an oven jambalaya recipe from a family friend that Claire inhales, but those aren't what I'd call "regulars." I need something new to add to Wednesday and Thursday nights when my inspiration from the weekend is starting to wear out.

(And not that your ideas need to conform with my personal food guidelines, but I am at peace with my status as a picky eater and feel only a small amount of shame in noting that we have a few dietary restrictions: no shrimp or other shellfish (shrimp is like coffee to me- I want to like it, I feel as an adult I should like it, and yet, I can't even muster the will to put it in my mouth to try it), absolutely no curry (even the smell makes me feel nauseated, I have no idea why), and nothing too rich (I've never had a fettucine alfredo that didn't leave me writhing in pain, though admittedly, it's probably been 10 or 15 years since I've had any for that exact reason). There are others, but I can work around pretty much anything except the above three. Landon is not a big fan of meat, JP does not like ham, bacon, or any fatty meats, and Claire thinks we're all crazy and will eat absolutely anything.)

I look forward to your ideas! And now, off to bed. Probably to dream about food.


  1. This is what our weekly schedule was this week - Monday was Baked Ziti w/ salad. Tuesday was pulled pork (made in the crockpot) with mashed sweet potatoes. Wednesday was Challah French Toast (one of our busier nights so needed something quick). Tomorrow is Chicken Parm. Friday is Falafel w/ hummus and pita. Saturday is Beef Roast w/ roast potatoes. Sunday is shopping day so I will see what is on sale as far as protein. We buy organic meat, so many things count on what is on special. Every meal includes at least one vegetable or a salad. My kids are not picky at all and we live in NYS.

    1. Ooh, yes, chicken parm! I used to make that frequently and now it's probably been a year. That's exactly what I was hoping to be reminded of- the sort of everyday meals that you don't see featured as a recipe of the week in my favorite food blogs because they're something everyone already has in their regular meal list :). Mashed sweet potatoes with pulled pork is a good idea too, I hadn't thought to make that combo. Thanks!

    2. Long time reader, rare (if ever) commenter. Do you follow the blog Lots of inspiration there and she's a big fan of TJ's too.

    3. I don't, but I'll add her to my list- TJ's opened its first store in Texas right after we moved here (who would have thought they'd come to Fort Worth before Austin?) and it provides the starter ingredients for a lot of my cooking!

  2. I love my I Love Trader Joe's cookbook-- new ways to serve fave products.

    We eat the same kind of stuff you do, with the addition of lots of slow cooker meals in the winter-- white chicken chili, pulled chicken,beef stew, etc. We also eat tons of grilled chicken on top of mixed green salads. When in doubt, I grab something from the Whole Foods deli :)

    1. They have a cook book?? And I need a new crockpot- the crack at the bottom of mine finally got so big it was leaking out of the bowl. And oddly enough, while we have the first TJ's in Texas (there's now one in Houston too), we do not have a local Whole Foods!

  3. Do you like salmon cakes? This is one of my favorite super-easy recipes. I make this a lot when we go on vacation (somewhere with a kitchen) because it only requires a few simple ingredients and it is extremely quick, so I don't miss out on anything fun while I'm cooking.

    1. I'm adding that to next week's menu. I lament that I don't cook more with fish. It's partly a cost thing, partly a "it goes back quickly thing," and mostly a "I just forget to throw it in the rotation." thing.

  4. I have been on a quest for crockpot recipes. Among my favorites is a recipe I found for peppered beef tips. I think it's a pound of beef tips, cut into bite size pieces, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 can of french onion soup, onions, and pepper. I cook it on low all day and then serve it over egg noodles or rice and a frozen veggies on the side and you've got a meal!

    1. Thanks! I love beef in a crockpot recipes because you can use cheap cuts and they get so tender and delicious. I have a burgundy beef stew crock pot recipe that is great, but I think we were getting burned out on it. I'll try this one next.

  5. One of my go-to recipes is a lemon-basil pasta w/chicken. You can use any pasta you have on-hand; I like it best w/ bow-tie or angel hair. So boil that, and while it's boiling, put 1/4c olive oil+ (eyeball it), the juice of 2-3 lemons (or if you only have refrigerated use that), a couple of handfuls of shredded parm, and 2-3 leaves of basil chopped (or dried, a couple TBSPs, into a large bowl. Salt and pepper if you like. Whisk it up. When the pasta's done, pour it over the top and mix it with the sauce. You can sprinkle more cheese and more basil over the top.

    I usually grill chicken breasts w/garlic salt and oil, on the George Foreman! LOL. Slice those up over the top of the pasta.

    Family favorite. If the kids don't do basil (green! ew!), just leave some noodles out for them and serve them with olive oil/garlic. Sorry so long!

    1. That sounds fabulous-- it's joining next week's menu with elizabeth's salmon cakes!

  6. An easy 30 minute meal that I made recently -
    So good. We used kidney instead of black beans and cooked peppers and onions in with the chicken, and didnt have fire roasted tomatoes so did half tomato sauce, half salsa. So delicious and so easy

    1. We always have all of those ingredients on hand- thanks!

  7. One of my favorites is called Moravian Chicken Pie. It's easy to make ahead so you can just pop in the oven. I'm at work and going from memory here so...
    3 cups cooked chicken diced small, poultry seasoning to taste, 1/4 cup flour. Mix together and then add in 1 can of chicken broth. Pour into a pie plate (with pie crust on bottom), cut up 2 tbs of butter and put on top, cover with 2nd pie crust and bake (I think it's 350 for 45-1hour). I always add leftover veggies or a bag of frozen veggies so it's more like a chicken pot pie but the real recipe is just the chicken. I serve with a green salad and/or fruit salad (my Mom says there should always be something green and/or fresh on the plate and I can't break the habit). I make this a lot and freeze and then give to friends with new babies or just have ready for a busy night. My husband it not good in the kitchen so I like putting this together on the weekend and then he can just throw it in the oven when I'm on my way home from work and dinner is ready. I have some other go to recipes but this entry is long enough. I'll try to remember and add more later.

    1. Yum, oddly enough, while I don't like dessert pies, I LOVE pie crusts on any savory meal. Sometimes I'm tempted just to make up a flaky crust to eat alongside something completely non-pie related.

    2. I don't like dessert pies much either. It's a texture issue for me. Soggy, cooked fruit makes me want to gag. The pie crust can also get sort of soggy...YUCK! I love that the pie crust on this gets nice and brown and has a good solid texture.

  8. After a string of Pinterst recipe FAILS I finally tried some that I liked: (I used fresh broccoli, an immersion blender is handy) (I served over potatoes so it's probably not technically stroganoff anymore but whatever :) Also, adding a bit of cream cheese at the end makes it extra good) (I will never make another white chili again. So. GOOD!)

    1. Ooh I don't have a white chili recipe in my collection- thanks!

    2. My husband was an exchange student in Russia and insists that the only way to eat stroganoff is over french fries. So, potatoes sounds good to me!

      - Shannon

  9. I found this very easy and very yummy beef stroganoff crockpot recipe on Pinterest, and have used it several times now. I substitute the sour cream with Plain Greek Yogurt to decrease calories and increase healthiness, but otherwise, follow it pretty exactly: Oh, also, while some of the comments discuss cooking the noodles in the crockpot, I tried that once and they got pretty gummy. Though it is tempting to do to avoid that extra pot, cook the noodles separately, then throw them in for about 10-15 minutes at the end to soak up the juice. Delish.

    1. Thanks! I have fond memories of beef stronanoff that my mom made for family dinners growing up.

  10. A standard here is beef with beer. You get a beef round bottom round roast and throw it in the crock pot. Cover it 3/4 way with beer and add in either a couple beef bullion cubes or dry french onion soup mix. Cook until the beef falls apart and serve on sandwiches. We normally pair this with roasted potatoes and a salad. The alcohol burns off, so no worries about serving it to the kids.

    We have a new favorite chicken recipe too:

    If you want to make it healthier, get rid of the butter and use egg whites. We all love this recipe- the kids call it "Cereal Chicken"!

    Happy cooking!

    1. Ooh that's how I cook pork butt (pork + beer + crockpot for many hours --> shred and serve), but I'd never thought to do it with beef. JP can never decide if he really likes pork (though he does love a good pork tenderloin), so I'll try it with beef next. And thanks for the chicken recipe- that looks like something he and the kids would love.

  11. Here are a few of our "regulars":
    Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken (also, a crowd-pleaser, I've served this one often for parties and dinners)

    I also love this quick, Thai stir-fry called Pad Prik Kai. I usually have the ingredients laying around and this is a dish that I often make on the fly:

    Another staple around here is a Chicken, Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato bake. The balsamic vinegar reduction gives it a richness, but then I slam it with hot sauce which takes it over the top. YUM.

  12. Also, I finally get to try your beef bourguignon! We recently decided to start cooking beef occasionally, so this recipe is definitely getting a try (I normally don't cook beef at home because we try to limit our red meat consumption)

  13. Some of our family favorites:

    Pesto chicken with pasta (typically cheese tortallini topped with more pesto) I just bake chicken breasts topped with pesto. Add cheese on top for the last few minutes.

    Tuna patties with rice and peas. I used canned tuna, bread crumbs and an egg, then add green onion, jalepeno, sometimes cheese to the adults. Mix all together, form patties and cook in a skillet.

    Tilapia tacos--coat tilapia in blackening seasoning, cook in skillet, eat in corn tortillas with cabbage, sour cream, guacamole, etc.... usually have black beans on the side.

    Chicken tacos--already cooked rotisserie chicken, corn tortillas, salsa, cheese, guacamole, tomato, etc. Pinto beans on the side.

    Eggplant parm, portobello mushroom fajitas (or sometimes steak too), brown sugar glazed salmon with asparagus.

  14. We keep kosher so a lot of the recipes I find in cookbooks or online we can't do. However, a few of our most common dinners:

    Pot roast/beef stew in the slow cooker. I still haven't figured out the difference between the two--some beef, some vegetables, some broth, cook on low heat for a long time. I guess the beef cuts are different?

    Keema Matar--ground beef with tomato sauce, cumin, and a few other spices, with peas, over rice. Not a curry, but still Indian food. Yum.

    Tofu fried rice= frozen mixed veggies, old rice, tofu, soy sauce, rice vinegar.

    Salmon patties = canned salmon, breadcrumbs or matzoh meal, egg, salt and pepper, mixed together and formed into patties, baked.

    Tilapia with pesto on top. (baked)

    Tilapia with a mix of yogurt and parmesan cheese on top. (baked).

    Chicken noodle soup. This one is a pain--I take the carcasses of a few old rotisseries chickens and I make broth from them in the slow cooker. Then I remove all of the bones (the painful part) and I add lots of veggies and water, then eventually add noodles.

    English muffin pizzas--with trader joes tomato sauce and costco shredded cheese.

    I don't know the name for this one, but I love it--you pour a can of beans and a jar of salsa into a pan, heat them, then crack a few eggs over the top. The eggs cook quickly.

  15. Have you checked out the I don't do the big batch cooking thing, but they have some good idea. I also love several recipes from

    Would you/JP or your kids eat stuffed peppers? Red beans and rice is a big one for our house, too.

  16. My default recipe is this tofu and brussel sprouts one, though not sure if it is very kid-friendly:

    My low on supplies recipe is this loaded sweet potato, (I always seem to have a can of black beans on hand. Thanks, Texas.):

    And this is the best thing I've made in a crockpot:

    I hope these comments help shake up your menu-planning. I am looking forward to trying out some of your staples!

  17. I'll second salmon burgers. We actually used the recipe on the back of the can.
    And a great easy fish dish is TJs "white ruffy" - here's a pic of pkg -

    Take out of freezer and put im fridge in morning. Coat w flour, pan fry w a little evoo, and serve w TJs buttered mixed veggies. Also good in fish tacos.

  18. My husband is forced to deal with my super picky tastes. I won't eat onion on/in/with anything, and I don't eat any kind of meat (beef, chicken, pork, etc) with any kind of carb (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes). Really cuts down on the number casseroles/lasagna type dishes! Our top 2, super easy, super good, pretty quick dinners are:

    Broiled lemon parmesan tilapia (recipe here:

    We have it with broccoli and some kind of pasta tossed in either pesto or a lemon cream sauce (depends on how rough my day was!)

    My other quick and easy meal is chicken breast, marinated in Ken's Lite Ceasar dressing (the vinaigrette, not the creamy dressing). I chop the chicken into bite size pieces, and toss into a frying pan with all of the dressing from the marinade (about 2 tbsp per breast). Cook until golden brown and serve with jasmine rice and asparagus. YUM.

    The tip that saves me the most time (and money) is that whenever boneless skinless chicken breasts go on sale, I buy a bunch and then I spend 15 minutes in my kitchen rinsing them and putting them in ziploc freezer bags. I put one chicken breast in each bag, so when I'm in a hurry in the morning, I just have to pull out a chicken breast, squirt some dressing/marinade in the bag and throw it in the fridge!

  19. This is one of my staples, because I get home from work around 630 and need something FAST:

    We buy a big bag of cheese ravioli at Costco (though I have found some from Trader Joe's that I really like as well) and the rest of the stuff I have on hand. Ready in 15 minutes!

    One word of warning...I let the butter cool a full 5 minutes before adding the balsamic vinegar. Otherwise the butter can "pop" and scare the bejeezus out of you. (or maybe that's just me!)Also, the butter doesn't really turn a golden brown color...if it looks rusty you've done it correctly. :-)

    I'm loving all the recipe sharing. I'm in a big rut as well and because of our work schedules, I don't have a lot of prep time in the evenings. Good luck!

  20. Our dinners are totally different from yours, given our family's preferences and restrictions. But one thing we used to rely on frequently was eggs (pre-X, since he's allergic). Frittata (sounds fancy but super-easy and you can pack it with veggies), fried rice (leftover rice + veggies + scrambled eggs + soy sauce/sesame oil), and scrambled eggs with peas were all quick and easy dinner staples. These days our quick go-tos are spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, and rotisserie chicken with steamed broccoli and bread (great for a weekend when you have time to go shopping OR cook but not both).

  21. (dinner sausages and meatballs) - Sold at Costco and Sam's Club as well as at grocery stores.


    All good for freezing and/or making and freezing extras.


  22. My weekly rotation always includes a one pan fish meal--usually a bunch of asparagus and some salmon, sometimes I drizzle a little honey on the asparagus for fun--it originally started as this WF recipe, but eventually I have pared it down and prefer salmon:

    I also just tried this really easy and flavorful pork chop recipe (again, one pan! and I think this will work itself into my regular rotation)

    I like to use rotisserie chicken to make a cheat "tortilla" soup or chicken "noodle" soup (no tortilla chips, use sliced zucchini as noodles). Very quick and yummy.

    Ellie Krieger's turkey meatloaf is a good standby to get us through a busy week (instead of mashed potatoes, I steam a head of cauliflower and mash that down to a rice consistency--with butter/salt/pepper it's super similar to potatoes and can be used whenever you'd otherwise use rice or potatoes):

    Based on the recipes you posted that you love, I think you would really enjoy her arugula/caramelized onion/cheese "pizza" (vegetarian!):

    Another quick/easy/cheap recipe is this asian lettuce wrap (I use ground chicken)--I usually skip the "wrap" part and use a bag of frozen stir fry veggies, mix the cooked veggies with the cooked meat and call it a day:

    This has fallen out of my rotation as my husband got tired of it and we don't eat bread at home anymore, but another easy/affordable vegetarian meal is Whole Foods' portobello sandwich:

    Ok last one: this is a make on Sunday meal as it takes a little longer. It's a paleo gumbo, but don't worry about the paleo part--I use regular flour instead of special paleo-approved flours, and instead of using file powder (not a paleo concern, just hard to find at least for me) I use a cup or two of frozen okra for its thickening action. I also skip the crab meat and boil and shred a frozen Costco chicken breast instead (for ease and cost savings). You won't taste the bacon grease, but it's pretty necessary to make your roux (maybe there is an alternative way to whip up a roux?).

  23. White Chicken Chili
    (really easy and delicious)

    3 cans white kidney beans (cannelini)
    1 jar salsa verde
    1 box chicken stock
    1-4 cloves of minced garlic
    tsp to a tbs of cumin
    shredded chicken (small rotisserie chicken, or 3-4 breasts)
    2 c pepperjack (for spicy) or plain jack cheese

    Put everything into a crock-pot or soup pot and simmer. (8h low, 4h high, or about 30-45 min)

    Then crush up a handful or two of tortilla chips, and simmer till it thickens. Serve with more chips!

    Tortellini Soup
    (takes no time, I usually have most of this in my kitchen)

    1 small onion
    1-4 cloves garlic
    red pepper flake to taste (optional)
    1 12 oz bag or 10 oz box of frozen spinach
    1-2 boxes of chicken stock (depending on how much broth you like)
    1 family size pkg of tortellini (like Buitoni)
    Grated or shredded parm

    In a soup pot, saute onion and garlic. Add red pepper flake, then spinach. Pour stock into pot, and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook to package directions. Serve with cheese, if desired.

    3 (8 oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts, fat removed
    3 (1.5 oz) slices thin ham
    3 slices of Provolone or swiss cheese
    1/4 cup flour
    Olive oil
    salt and fresh pepper
    Cut each breast into two cutlets to make a total of 6. Pound each one to about 1/4".

    Season chicken with pepper. Lay provolone and ham on top, fold over and lightly pound ends of chicken to seal. (Use toothpicks to hold it together if necessary).

    Place flour in a shallow bowl and lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

    Heat a nonstick frying pan. When hot, spray or pour olive oil (spraying is obviously healthier). Sauté chicken on each side until brown (and inside is cooked).

    Serves 6 (or 3 if it's Jack). 5 WW points each. Easy and definitely worth making again.

    Buffalo Hot Wing Dip
    (It's supposed to be dip but we cheat and eat it for dinner sometimes. I like to add extra chicken and use bread or veggies to dip instead of salty crackers.)

    PER SERVING (1/15th of recipe, about 1/4 cup): 68 calories, 1.5g fat, 616mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 1g sugars, 10g protein -- POINTS® value 1*

    Two 9.75-oz. (or 10-oz.) cans 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained
    One 8-oz. tub fat-free cream cheese, softened
    1/2 cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
    1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
    1/4 cup fat-free ranch dressing
    1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (Fage 0% is the best!)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Mix in Frank's RedHot, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, and yogurt. Stir in chicken until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture evenly into a deep 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish.

    Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until mixture is heated through. Stir well and enjoy!

    P.S. We love dipping carrot sticks and red bell pepper chunks into this dip, but we've also dunked baked tortilla chips into it and used it as a sandwich spread!


    HG Alternative! To make this dish FAST, skip the oven altogether. Prepare dip according to the directions, but in a microwave-safe dish. Then microwave uncovered on high for 5 minutes (stopping and stirring halfway through cooking), or until hot.

  24. I can't wait to peruse these suggestions - but I haven't yet, so forgive me if this repeats anything.

    Firstly, we always buy Morningstar Farms black bean burgers or fake chicken burgers. If you are not a fan of MF fake meat, you can always get regular burgers or chicken patties. A meal of chicken patties on a hamburger bun with a side of some frozen veg and a starch (frozen sweet potato fries are a fave, as well as box mac and cheese) makes a nice change from the typical casserole or pasta + salad lineup at our house. WE aren't vegetarians, but I like some of MF's stuff and it's healthier. This one is super easy and flexible, because everything comes from the freezer/pantry. I like to keep freezer stuff around for those days when the fresh food is all gone, but you can't make it to the store, and this is a perfect meal for that.

    Another possibility is homemade mac and cheese with different mix-ins. I use the Pioneer Woman's base recipe for mac and cheese, using 1/3 Velveeta, 1/3 Muenster, and 1/3 mozzarella. (
    Amazeballs cheese combo - I've tried a bunch and this is my favorite mix. Then the mix-ins - I'll do a garden one, in which I typically throw whatever veg is leftover and going bad, or just whatever I have on hand (usually broccoli, asparagus, carrots, and tomatoes - cut up super small. Tomatoes can make it watery, though.) Sometimes I put in canned chicken or tuna, peas, and put a crunchy parm/breadcrumbs crust on top. Sometimes I throw in sausage and green peppers and pepperoni - pizza style. Soemtimes it's a side, but more often it's the whole meal, which is why I like to put the mix-ins in it. WW pasta removes some of the guilt - and mixing up the pasta shape also makes it feel different.

    This chicken pot pie is a reg in my rotation. (
    The gravy is just beyond awesome. My husband's grandmother once told me this pot pie was the best meal she'd ever eaten in 82 years. For real. Freezes well, too. I use a store bought crust.

    This quiche is another fave, again variable by using diff fillings, again with a store bought crust. (
    Salmon and chevre, ham/sausage and green pepper, asparagus and cheddar . . . lots of choices. I usually make four at a time and freeze. Bonus points because it can also be breakfast in a pinch.

    1. It made me break this up . . . so here's the other half.

      WE love omelettes, too. Chop up some potatoes into hash brown size and put them in a big skillet, cover with water, and boil until cooked but still pretty firm. (I often make this recipe if we have leftover baked potatoes, it's a good one for them - then you can skip the boiling step). Drain, melt some butter or olive oil in the same pan, return potatoes to pan on high heat. Stir fry til potatoes are crispy, add asparagus that has been blanched. Cover in a mixture of whisked eggs with a bit of cream and salt and pepper, cook til egg is mostly solid (lifting sides occasionally to let uncooked egg get contact with the pan). Sprinkle on cheese of choice, then fold in half and cook a few minutes on one side - flip and do a few minutes on the other. When you serve it, throw on diced fresh tomato - it's much better that way. Don't cook the tomato though - makes it all runny with juices. This is delish with a salad, or crusty bread.

      This soup is tasty, and another "throw it all in there' recipe.

      An easy fave - smoked salmon and cream cheese pasta.

      Finally, a tasty shake up of the Mexican meal might be poblano, mango, and black bean enchiladas.

      As you can see we don't eat a lot of non-seafood meat in my house, but any of these can have a bit of rotisserie chicken added easily.

      Foodgawker is a great website for inspiration - kind of like pinterest for recipes, and you can search based on ingredients you have on hand.

  25. I don't have any suggestions at the moment, but those all sound delicious!

  26. These are not authentic at all (please do not tell my grandmother I adore them) but they are easy and delicious meatless enchiladas.

  27. Here's a nice easy one -- fettuccine with creme fraiche, lemon, and arugula. While the pasta is boiling, combine 2-3 handfuls of arugula, lemon zest, a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, and a nice big dose of shredded parmesan cheese in a bowl. When the pasta's done -- HOT -- pour it over the arugula, add a scoop (1/2 c?) of creme fraiche and a bit of pasta water, and toss. The arugula will wilt, the creme fraiche and cheese will make a light slurpy cream sauce. Add freshly ground pepper and more cheese to serve. Use a meyer lemon if you can find it!

  28. I love these types of posts, got some good ideas from your comments! I love meals that stretch. One of our faves is mexican and so I will brown a lot of hamburger meat and season with taco seasoning. Then, tosada's one night (beans, meat, tomatos, the usual toppings), then a couple days later I make a taco braid, see recipe at, then, I will freeze the rest of the meat. Later, I will use that meat to make a taco pizza. easy as pie.

  29. I second mwc liz's tortelini soup. I've made a similar recipe and I love it because it's sooooo easy and fast. It's a perfect weeknight meal.

    If you guys like sweet potatoes I'd really recommend both of these recipes. I don't like sweet sweet potato dishes - I much prefer spicy/savory/southwestern sweet potato dishes. I love both of these (though I recommend black rather than kidney beans for the burritos).

    Sweet potato burritos:

    Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes:

  30. I'm a big fan of "everything salad in the bowl with rice". Basically just make a big pot of white rice. Put a big steaming scoop in everyone's bowl. Then add baby spinach (the heat of the rice will wilt the spinach), and slivers of whatever raw vegetables you have: bell pepper, cucumber, carrot, or add cooked corn or peas. Toss in a protein (shredded leftover chicken, tofu, etc.). Throw in sliced toasted almonds from Trader Joe's. You can also throw in sesame seeds or croutons or pita chips. Pour over a salad dressing (balsamic vinaigrette or a sesame dressing) with garnish with sea salt and the pepper from the grinder. Mix together. Great mix of comfort (hot rice), healthy (raw, crunch vegetables), proteins and textures (nuts and/or croutons or seeds) AND it gets rid of stuff in your fridge (well, my fridge at least). Not everyone's cup of tea but I think it's delcious.

  31. Check out URB's chicken tikka masala -- -- I love it every time, and it's far simpler than it seems. AND the grilled/baked chicken is good enough to eat on its own.

    Also check out the Culinary Institute of America's 'Collection of Recipes for the Home Chef.' Their chicken mole is a one dish meal and always goes over well. Really, the whole cookbook is solid and can be got used for cheap.

    Lastly, Barefoot Contessa's Baked Mac n Cheese. Never fails, and is now a staple for the holidays and for this skinny baby. I prefer it without the bread crumb topping and 1/2 to 3/4 of the salt called for.

  32. Naturally, I'm not sure how my suggestions fit in with the family restrictions.. basically, the source material is sound. Browse URB's recipe log or the CIA cookbooks and you're sure to find something that amazes.

    If you're not into rich dishes, Barefoot Contessa is probably out. The woman likes her dairy.

  33. I also do not eat or cook any type of fish. I can barely deal with tuna out of a can..and the only reason i ate it was because i was on weight watchers and it was low points. I tend to be scared of cooking meat but have recently started marinated tri tip in Yoshida sauce and having my husband bbq it on weekends. Tri tip can be expensive but we get lots of left overs from it.

    My favorite crockpot meal is salsa chicken. I put in 2 of the large chicken breasts from costco, salsa, packet of taco seasoning, and water. the end. low for 6-8 hours. it shreds beautifully. great for tacos or burritos. and have receipes i've used before. skinny kitchen has a great tamale pie you would love since you like corn bread. she puts it on top of the casserole. its really good.

    i also do a "baked" fried chicken my kids love. chicken breasts cut into strips. dip into egg and italian salad dressing to coat. dip into italian bread crumbs. bake 20 min at 400-420. close enough to chicken nuggets but better for you. i usually serve with rice and a veggie. my husband grew up with college roommates that ate rice with almost every meal so we eat a lot of it here. my other side is potatoes, peeled and cut. toss with italian dressing and microwave or bake.

    beef and rice caserole is something i stumbled across when i was making lasagna and realized i had no noodles. cook 1 lb hamburger, drain. add fire roasted tomatoes, green chilies, olives, chili powder...anything. then 1 cup of rice and 1/2 cup water. bake. 350 for 30 min. put more cheese on top.

  34. This isn't so much a recipie (no seasoning, etc.) but more a quick way to prepare a dinner. My husband makes this about twice a month -- its the only time we eat potatoes. Arrange thinly sliced potatoes on a sheet pan with sliced onions (we omit because of baby/nursing/gas issues), put chicken thighs on a wire rack and put the rack over the potatoes. Bake for an hour. Chicken and potatoes done. (We usually make a veg stovetop separately.)

    Inspired by this Alton Brown recipe, which looks awesome but we don't do the olive mixture or the onions...

    (We have a food processor to chop the potatoes

  35. They all sounds so yummy!

    The Darjeeling Darlings

  36. Easy fish dish that we call "the french fish one" or "fish provencale." It is great because it relies primarily on pantry staples. Also, because the fish is steamed in a hearty sauce, frozen fish is a-ok. We tend to use frozen white fish, like cod.

    heat olive oil in saute pan
    add sliced shallot (1 big or 2 small), saute until fragrant
    add can of diced tomatoes and big pinch of herbs de provence (or fresh herbs if you have any)
    cook a few minutes until everyone becomes friends
    add fish of choice (thawed) and some roughly chopped french olives (optional)
    cover with lid until fish is cooked (maybe 6-8 minutes?)

    can be made more ratatouille-like by adding eggplant or zucchini (before tomatoes)

    serve with roasted potatoes or crusty bread.

    p.s. add salt and pepper throughout cooking process.

  37. Oh, I love offering recipe suggestions! One of our favorite super-quick recipes is peanut sesame noodles. Don't be intimidated by the sauce ingredient list. All are easily available in any large supermarket, including in western Wisconsin, which is always my litmus test for recipe accessibility.
    1 pound linguine or spaghetti
    2 red peppers, thinly sliced
    4 green onions, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
    3 T sesame seeds
    Put water on to boil for the pasta and start chopping veggies. Then make the sauce:
    1/2 cup peanut butter
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/3 cup warm water
    2 T coarsely chopped fresh ginger
    2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    2 T red wine vinegar
    1 tsp. honey or sugar
    1 1/2 T sesame oil
    hot red pepper flakes to taste
    Put all the sauce ingredients together in a blender (if you have a hand blender, the large cup it comes with works well) and blend till smooth.

    Cook the noodles, drain, and mix well with the sauce, peppers, onions, and 3 T sesame seeds.