Tag Archives: dinner

Creamy Spring Pasta

Even though we are spending more time at home, I don’t find that personally translates into wanting to cook long, complicated dishes. I especially don’t want to make 5 pans dirty that I then have to clean up. Any one else?

This creamy spring pasta is quick, easy, and doesn’t make a ton of pans dirty. I could even lie to my children and say it was like mac and cheese, so they ate it. Wins all around. It LOOKS there is alfredo, but this is a mornay sauce. What is the difference? Mornay sauce is a béchamel sauce with cheese added to it. Béchamel is a roux based sauce, so like how this macaroni and cheese starts. Alfredo sauce is technically a sauce made by reducing cream, but many recipes start with a basic béchamel recipe. All of that was a convoluted way of explaining why I didn’t call this alfredo. Hope you enjoy it no matter what you call it!

Creamy Spring Pasta (Serves 4-6)

Creamy Spring Pasta

1 lb pasta (any medium shape would work, penne, rigatoni, bowties)
1 bunch asparagus, chopped (about 1 – 1 ½ cups chopped)
¾ cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons flour
2 cups skim milk
1 can chopped artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well, chopped
½ cup parmesan, divided
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Boil pasta without salt or oil according to time on package. With 6 minutes left, add asparagus to pot with pasta. With 2 minutes left, add peas. Drain all well.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan. Add garlic, cook stirring, for about 1 minute. Add flour. Whisk together for 1-2 minutes. Stir in milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until desired thickness, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in ¼ cup parmesan cheese.

3. Add pasta, asparagus, peas, and artichoke hearts to cooked sauce. Stir well. Top with parmesan. Serve with extra parmesan at the table.

Nutritional Information: (Amount per serving)

Calories: 437
Protein: 18 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 19 mg
Carbohydrates: 74 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 275 mg

Recipe notes: You could mix up the vegetables here with whatever you have on hand and like. These were just nice spring flavors.

Source: Adapted from Food Network and NYT Cooking (recipe was free but now is behind paywall, so no link, sorry!).

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Meal Planning Tips

A common complaint I hear from many people is that meal planning is hard/time consuming/frustrating/boring, etc. I told someone I didn’t love meal planning either, and she seemed shocked. “Isn’t that what you do for a living?” It’s true that I did learn a lot about meal planning in school. In ways, that only makes it harder for me, since I can think of more “rules”.

While I don’t always love meal planning, I don’t hate it. Usually my problem is having the right ideas to fit my schedule and budget at the time. Here are some tips I try to follow to make meal planning easier.

1) Don’t try to plan too much at one time. For me, a week is plenty. I plan to grocery shop once a week. Produce doesn’t last much longer that anyway. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have more ideas than one week worth. I often have more ideas than days (or ideas that won’t fit my schedule for the week). File those away in your brain for the next time.

2) Have a set time you meal plan. Find a consistent day and time of day that works. I like to meal plan during breakfast or lunch. I’m a little hungry so I can think of foods that sound good. And I can multi-task doing it while I eat. This makes it feel like less of a time drain. Also, if you have a set time, it doesn’t feel like it is taking over your life.

3) Have a few “set” days. We have a leftover night every Tuesday. Breakfast for dinner is every Wednesday. I don’t have to think about two out of the seven days. Win! Maybe you do Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays. Just having some parameters will speed things up.

4) Know your categories of foods. I like to have soup generally once a week. Then I know we’ll probably want Mexican and or Asian food. Fridays and Saturdays I like to have “weekend food” – pizza, sandwiches, burgers, faster foods to cook. Having those categories helps me know which types of foods I’m thinking about.

5) At the end, double check for repeats. This is a key step. I skipped it a couple weeks ago and ended up with 4 nights of chicken in a row. Whoops! This isn’t to say I might not repeat chicken in a week, but I try to space it out.

6) Look at food magazines and blogs in your free time. I know, I know. We don’t have free time. But instead of scrolling Facebook for the third time today, go check a couple food blogs you trust. Subscribe to a good food magazine for your lifestyle. I really like Cooking Light, but there are plenty of other great options. Just browsing these will file dinner ideas away in your brain. Seriously. Years later, I will suddenly remember a blog post I saw and wanted to try. If you use pinterest, actually USE it to help you plan your meals.

7) One idea to try, which may or may not work for you. Pick one blog or one cookbook or one magazine. Find all your meals from there. It is tricky, but it can save time flipping around endless places for ideas. When I’ve done this, I usually get about three recipes from the same place. My other two ideas are recipes I know and love.

8) Don’t try all new things. Keep some tried and true recipes in your line up each week. It is mentally exhausting to figure out a new recipe every night. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

Do you meal plan? I’d love to hear what you use to help in the comments!

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Oven Baked Tacos

The holiday season is upon us. We are all very busy and stressed. Easy dinners are the order of the day, yes? These oven baked tacos are a win on that score. They can be put on the table in about 30 minutes and are delicious. And there isn’t a big mess afterwards. I hope these help ease a little of the December stress in your life.

Oven Baked Tacos (Makes 12 tacos)

Oven Baked Tacos

12 hard shell taco shells
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed if desired, diced small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons water
½ cup shredded cheese (your preference)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line taco shalls in 9×13 baking dish.

2. Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and ground meat. While it begins to brown, chop vegetables. Add onion, peppers, and garlic once meat is mostly browned. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and pepper soft. Add tomato, salsa, taco seasoning, and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened and combined.

3. Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top evenly with shredded cheese.

4. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per taco):

Calories: 158
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 32 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 277 mg

Recipe notes: Don’t worry if your shells crack a bit trying to get them in the pan. Once you put the filling and cheese in, you can patch them back together. I would start checking the tacos at 5 minutes. The longer they are in the oven, the softer the shells become. Mine were in 8 minutes (convection oven) and the bottoms of the shells were almost too soft/soggy. The nutritional analysis uses ground turkey and doesn’t include in toppings. Refried black beans are a great side dish to serve with this.

Source: Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

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Waffle Taco Salad

Did your family have a unique meal? Maybe a classic dish but your family made it in a special way? My family’s was taco salad. I have never heard of anyone making taco salad like my mom. I remember it being a special treat, too, since she only made it maybe once a year. I’m gearing up to try it myself, but I don’t know if I’m prepared for inevitable disappointment.

This taco salad is nothing like my mom’s but is extremely delicious. It is my favorite salad right now, and my favorite way to eat the chili I posted last week. You could use any sort of chili or taco type filling for the top. Vary the toppings as you like, too. But the cornbread waffle is just awesome on the bottom. Thanks to my mother-in-law for introducing me. Enjoy!

Waffle Taco Salad (Makes about 5 waffles)

Waffle Taco Salad

⅔ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
⅓ – 1 cup skim milk

1. Preheat waffle iron.

2. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk in oil, egg, and ⅓ cup milk. Add more milk as needed to thin the batter to the consistency of waffle batter (rather than the consistency of muffin batter).

3. Cook on waffle iron until golden brown. Top with favorite taco salad toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per waffle):

Calories: 204
Protein: 6 g
Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 38 mg
Carbohydrates: 30 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 445 mg

Recipe Notes: This is just a basic copycat recipe for Jiffy cornbread mix. You can use a package mix as well, but it won’t have the whole wheat flour. I also decreased the sugar a bit. You will need to thin it with milk. It just depends on the day how much you need to thin the batter.

Source: adapted from food.com

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