Tag Archives: recipes

Food Prep

Food prep can mean a lot of different things. Preparing meals for the freezer, assembling complete meals to be warmed during the week, or getting a head start on week night cooking by having ingredients prepped and ready to go.

I’m not always short on time during the week but I’m often lacking in energy and motivation at the end of a work day, and something that I generally enjoy <cooking> can feel more like a chore. I work really hard to stay on a budget, which includes the purchase of groceries as well as money spent on entertainment (i.e. eating out), and I also try to eat relatively well.

There are three reasons the wheels fall off an otherwise perfect meal plan for the week:
1) not having the ingredients on hand, requiring another trip to the store (because that is unlikely to happen, I’d rather order a pizza at that point)
2) forgetting to thaw frozen items from the freezer (again with the pizza order)
3) failing to have prep work done on the front end (you guessed it, pizza!)

So, in an effort to keep us on track with both our budget and healthy eating, I spend time planning meals for the week ahead, doing all my grocery shopping in one swoop, and prepping ingredients on the weekend. In the event that these things aren’t possible over the weekend I try to have a number of options I can pull from the freezer and warm in the oven through the week. Failure to do so often means eating out and I don’t know about you, but it’s nearly impossible for me to make the healthy choice when eating out. Add to that, eating out adds up fast!!

This weekend will be no exception and I’ll be busy washing and chopping fruits and veggies after a trip to the store and pulling items from the freezer.

A bit of what is on deck for the upcoming week are a few recipes I’ve shared with you previously:
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus as a side dish to Grilled Chicken:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon as a side dish to Pork Chops:
My favorite smoothie for a quick grab breakfast:

And, assembly of several of these salads, using this shredded chicken pulled from the freezer, for lunches through the week:

What other tips do you use to keep yourself on track with both eating well and staying on budget where food is concerned? I’d love to hear your suggestions below in the comments section!

Wishing you a fun and safe weekend!


Skillet Lasagna

Sometimes I’m in the mood for lasagna, but I don’t want to spend the time putting a lasagna together…and waiting for it to bake, and waiting for it to ‘set up’ so that it’s not a runny mess. Sometimes I also need a quick week night go-to for dinner.

If you’ve struggled with these same “sometimes…..” scenarios, this is the dish for you:

Skillet Lasagna – all the same deliciousness as the real deal, but faster.

skillet lasagna

Here’s what you need:
1 lb hamburger
½ lb Italian sausage
2 Tbsp minced onion – or if you have a fresh onion on hand, use that, maybe ¼ – ½ cup
1 jar tomato pasta sauce
1 cup water
5 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into smaller pieces
1-1 ½ cup cottage cheese – or ricotta if that’s your true preference, either are great
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 egg
Shredded Italian cheese mix
(check it out, I gave measurements, but please know that I winged it so these may not be exact)

Here’s what you do:
-in a large skillet brown hamburger and Italian sausage with onion
-drain off excess fat, return to pan, add pasta sauce, water and uncooked noodles
-cover and cook 20-25’ish minutes – stir occasionally – until pasta is almost tender
-while your pasta is workin’, combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, and egg in a small bowl
-once the pasta is at that ‘almost tender’ state, spread the cheese mixture over the top, sprinkle on the Italian cheese blend (I used a whole bag, so 2 cups)
-cover and cook another 10’ish minutes. The cheese mixture will be melty and wonderful, the pasta will be cooked through, and this baby is ready to eat immediately

I have to say this is one of my favorite quick weeknight dinners, and this time around it was extra special and out of this world yummy because I used my last jar of homemade (from fresh veggies I grew in my garden) pasta sauce. You can see how that experiment successfully came together in this post. There’s definitely more of that in my future!

Hope your week has been super –


Getting Ready For Another Week

Getting prepared for this work week was quite a task, to say the least. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’m not ready. I have my meals planned. I have my grocery list put together. That’s the extend of it.

Generally speaking, I like to have the grocery shopping done by the end of the weekend so we are ready to roll with after work meals. Since I haven’t gotten that far yet I will use my lunch hour at work today to run and get groceries and keep my fingers grossed that the rest of the pieces for the week fall into place.

Here’s what’s on the menu for the next few nights:
Pot roast, mashed garlic potatoes, veggies (Crock Pot Dinner)
Bacon wrapped chicken breast, brown rice, veggie
Runza casserole, salad (a Runza is a cabbage burger, for those who don’t know)
Baked chicken breast, rice, salad

Last weekend I made a breakfast casserole for breakfast and had leftovers for quick grab and go breakfasts through the week.

breakfast casserole

Brown 1 lb sausage with 1 clove minced garlic
Chop 1/2 a red bell pepper, and 1/2 an onion
Beat 8 eggs with a splash of milk, 1 tsp parsley, salt & pepper per preference
Evenly distribute sausage, red pepper and onion in 9×11 casserole dish
Pour eggs on top
Top with cheese (I was out of shredded cheese so I tore up thin slices of velveeta – so creamy and delicious)
Bake in 375 degree oven until the eggs are firm

Not only was this a quick and easy breakfast for the weekend but it was delicious all week long, alongside some fresh fruit.

Fill me in, how was your weekend?? Do anything special, exciting and/or fun??

Happy Monday,

Preparing For Another Week of Eats

I struggled to come up with a meal plan for this week. Nothing seemed to inspire me, not even pinterest…if you can even believe that.

Despite the struggle, here’s what I came up with for this week:-White Chicken Chili
-Baked Pork Chops, Veggies, Potatoes
-Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime sauce
-Round Steak with Mushroom Gravy, Veggies, Rice

In addition to planning my dinner meals a week at a time, I also like to plan for the week in the breakfast department. I’ve learned that if I don’t eat a good breakfast, one that includes a lot of protein, I spend the rest of my day obsessing about (and eventually eating) all the other bad stuff.

One little trick I like to have up my sleeve is to throw together some eggs on Sunday, and split them into individual size serving containers for a quick grab and go on work mornings.


So simple it’s ridiculous. For this batch I cooked up some peppers & onions, then scrambled them together with some eggs. The key is to leave them slightly under cooked so that when you zap them in the microwave they come out perfect! I also top mine with a bit of cheese before warming them up and it’s a great way to start the day – healthy and full of protein!

Other than planning meals, what other tricks do you have up your sleeve to prepare for your week? Your suggestions on what can be done over the weekend to make the work week that much easier are appreciated – tell me about ’em in the comments section below.

Here’s to a fabulous week-



Baked Spaghetti Casserole

It’s feeling more and more like Fall. Cooler days, chilly nights. Leaves on the trees are slowly starting to turn, and my garden veggie plants are looking sadder by the minute.

I do love Fall. I don’t love what comes after Fall, which is why it’s hard for me to admit even liking the change in seasons. I am ready, however, for the change in routine that comes with the cooler Fall weather, especially where food is involved. It’s time to crank up the ovens, and to simmer large pots of soups for hours.

I recently put my new vintage pyrex dishes to use with this super yummy baked spaghetti.

I was craving something gooey and cheesy and wonderful, like lasagna, but didn’t have those ingredients. So, I came up with this and it was a wonderful replacement.

-Start by cooking spaghetti noodles (or any noodles you have on hand) until short of Al Dente. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven, and you don’t want a mushy mess in the end.

-Brown up a meat of your choice. I used part Italian sausage and part ground beef.

-Pour enough pasta sauce to coat the bottom of your baking dish, then mix the rest with your browned meat. For this dish, I tapped into my limited supply of homemade pasta sauce (recipe here).

-Drain noodles, run under cold water, then arrange in bottom of baking dish.

-Next, top with ricotta or cottage cheese (or a mixture of the two, similar to what I did). You could mix in some cream cheese too and I’m certain that would also be delish!

-Then, spread on a thick layer of your saucy meat mixture.

-Top with shredded cheese – Italian cheese blend, for me, thanks!

-Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes.

-After 30 minutes, turn off oven, remove foil and let the casserole sit in the oven another 20’ish minutes while it’s cooling – this allows a really nice brown crust to form on the top layer of cheese. And, if I’m being honest here, I have to admit that I dished myself up a serving (shown in the picture above) before the casserole went back into the cooling oven to brown. I was starving and didn’t feel I could wait – what’s a girl to do? Plus, I’m in charge, so I’ll do what I want!

You can serve right away with a nice piece of garlic bread, a crisp, fresh salad…or just on its own.

Next time I think I’ll add a layer of roasted peppers and onions to my baked spaghetti casserole. This is another great recipe to play with. Add all your Italian dish favorites.


So, tell me…what’s your favorite thing about Fall?


Homemade Pasta Sauce

Although the days are getting shorter (have you noticed? I have. I don’t like it), signaling that Fall is right around the corner, my garden continues to turn out tomatoes in large quantities.

I think I mentioned, in an earlier post from this past Spring, that one thing I wanted to learn this summer was how to make pasta sauce for canning. Well Folks, mission accomplished!

A couple weeks ago I spent the better part of the day simmering a large pot of veggies down to an amazing sauce for pasta.  Prior to this, I spent time researching how this recipe should come together. I didn’t settle on any one recipe, rather I pulled together elements from several that suited me and came up with this:

-16 lbs Tomatoes
-2 Large Green Bell Peppers*
-1 Large Red Bell Pepper*
-3 Large Onions
– 3 Cans Tomato Paste (6 oz each)**
-Heaping 1/3 cup of Sugar***
-Heaping 1/8 cup of Salt***
-6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
-3 teaspoons Dried Oregano
-1 Heaping teaspoon Dried Parsley Flakes***
-1 Heaping teaspoon Dried Basil***
-1 Heaping teaspoon Cayenne Pepper***
-1 teaspoon (plus a couple more dashes) Worchestershire sauce***
-2 small Bay Leaves
-Lemon Juice****
*If I could have gotten 2 red bell peppers out of  my garden on this day, that’s what I would have used. But, the garden produces what it produces so I went with 2 green and 1 red.
**Yes, I bought tomato paste from the store. I didn’t have the time to cook down my own paste (I think it takes something like a week to accomplish this…haha). It is essential for helping the sauce thicken so…I did what I had to do. I can’t be 100% self sufficient all the time (or, ever), thank goodness for the grocery store!
***I like to cook by sight/taste so these measurements are approximate. It’s the joy of cooking vs. baking, you can do it this way!
****Lemon juice is used only for canning. It’s part of the preservation process. Has to do with the acidity of the tomatoes and helping to ensure you don’t get sick off the sauce when you eat it months down the road. There’s  a whole science to it,  I’ll leave it at that.

-Start by blanching the tomatoes. I’ve talked about blanching veggies in this post, but for a reminder: bring a large pot of water to a boil. While this is heating up, put together an ice bath (large bowl, or sink, full of cold water with ice). Tomatoes go into the boiling water for a couple minutes, then straight into the ice bath. The goal isn’t to cook the tomatoes, but rather to loosen their skins to make for easier peeling.
-Peel, core, quarter, and de-seed the tomatoes. Throw them into a large stockpot. Seeding tomatoes takes more time and not every recipe calls for this, but from what I read, it’s the best way to ensure your sauce thickens (which mine did, beautifully).
-In a food processor, process the bell peppers and onion until they are finely chopped. I also threw my garlic cloves into the processor for a quick chop instead of mincing them by hand or with another kitchen tool (this is a messy enough job without creating additional dishes).
-Bell peppers, onion, garlic, and everything else on the list except for the lemon juice go into the stock pot with the tomatoes.
-Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. This takes awhile given all the ingredients in the pot, so be patient. Once you’ve got a good boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5’ish hours. Stir occasionally. You will slowly see the tomatoes break down into saucy deliciousness.

Once your sauce has reached the consistency you would like (and you have removed the bay leaves), it’s time to make a decision…freeze or can?? I chose to can, because I like the final product of canned items better both in taste and presentation but I understand the benefits of freezing: takes less time, less risk of illness (anything homemade and canned runs a risk of mold spores growing inside cans not prepared properly – people have even died, though I believe this to be rare).

If you decide to freeze, simply allow the sauce to cool down a bit, and divvy your it up into containers that fit your lifestyle (I would go with plastic containers vs. freezer bags, but this is your call). One of the things I love about homemade ‘stuff’ is that you can portion however works for you…large family? Larger batches frozen together. 1 person? Smaller batches frozen together. You get the point. Oh wait! I got off track here! Anyway…divvy up your sauce and pop it into the freezer. Done!

If you decide to can, you’ve got a bit of work ahead of you yet. BUT – in my opinion – it is Oh So Worth It!

I mean, how can you pass this up? You can see the beautiful colors inside the jars. This doesn’t happen with freezing. Beautiful AND Tasty, I’m sold on this idea!


Canning (I’ll follow nearly the same procedure as in this post):
-Wash up your canning jars and rings.
-Sterilize the jars in boiling water.
-Add 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice to each hot jar, then ladle in the sauce, leaving about 1-1 1/2 inches head room.
-Place jar lids into hot water to soften the seal.
-Wipe the rims of the jars to ensure a good seal.
-Place lids on each jar and secure tightly with the rings.
-Process in a hot bath for 45 minutes (remember, the water in the hot bath must cover the tops of the jars by at least an inch AND the water should be boiling the entire 45 minutes. If it takes a minute or two to bring the water back up to boiling after you add the jars, start the timer when you see those bubbles again)
-When the 45 minutes are up, remove the jars from the hot bath and allow them to cool on the counter (not touching each other). You will hear the lids pop (aka: seal) as the jars cool down. Also, when you push on the lids there shouldn’t be any give. This is how you know they have sealed. In the event they don’t seal, no worries, pop the sauce into the fridge and eat right away! The jars that do seal can go into the pantry for good eats this winter! Mmmm.

My journey making pasta sauce took nearly a full day, but I am so pleased with how it turned out that I will definitely make more! Remember that you can taste test the sauce and adjust the flavor by adding more of the spices (or different spices if you prefer something else in your sauce).

It’s all about not being afraid to experiment. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try this one, even if you reduce the recipe way down and make a batch for immediate use. I got 4 quarts and 1 pint with a little left over for immediate eats with the recipe in this post.

Anyone have any favorite recipes using pasta sauce they’d like to share? I feel a pasta dish coming on soon…probably made in my recently purchased vintage pyrex dishes!


Herbed Veggies with Chicken over Pasta

Check out all this beautiful produce from my garden:

It only made sense to turn them into a spectacular, and oh-so healthy dinner.

And I did:

Here’s the recipe:
-Pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti, you can use whatever you have on hand)
-Olive oil
-Onion (approx 1/2 cup, chopped)
-Chicken Breast (I used a breast and a half, because they were big, cut into bite sized pieces)
-Green Bell Pepper (1/2 large, or a smallish one similar to what I picked out of my garden will do, cut into strips and halved)
-Garlic Cloves (2, minced)
-Salt (to taste)
-Pepper (to taste)
-Zucchini (2 small or 1 large, cut into bite sized pieces)
-Tomatoes (4 peeled, seeded, chopped)
-Dried Basil (approx 2 tsp)
-Dried Oregano (approx 1/2 tsp)
-Shredded Parmesan Cheese (I used Italian mix because that’s what I had on hand

Start by boiling water and cooking your pasta. While this is happening, prep your veggies. The veggie and chicken mixture come together very quickly so it’s best to have everything prepped and ready to go.

Warm some olive oil in a pan, add onion. Cook 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken, green bell pepper, garlic and salt/pepper. Cook another 2 minutes.

Add zucchini, tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Cook 5-6 minutes.

Plate pasta (I prefer less pasta and more of the veggie/chicken mixture, but this is a judgment call), and top with herbed veggie and chicken mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top. Eat it up!

Remember that this is not baking so you can change up the recipe as suites your preference. I used less chicken and more veggies because I had veggies on hand (for free) and really enjoy them. You could also omit the chicken all together for a vegetarian twist on this dish. If you want more of the herb flavor, bump up those measurements. You might also want to try a pinch of parsley. The possibilities are endless so fee free to play with this one.

It’s even better leftover, after the flavors have had more opportunity to mingle.

It saddens me that Fall will be here before we know it and that will be the end of the fresh garden produce. Best to make the most of it in the time we have left.

Are your gardens still going strong?


Peach Crisp

Peaches are in season. They are sweet, juicy, wonderful.

The copy paper box full of peaches that I got off my aunts’ peach tree was no exception.

So many peaches that something had to happen quickly with them. They don’t hang on the counter very well, for very long. I ate some. I gave some away. I ate some more. I put some in the freezer for later use. I still had So Many Left!!

So…I made peach crisp, and ran to the store for ice cream. Actually, I went and got the ice cream first.  It was a perfect summer treat!

Once again, a pretty simple recipe. And, it’s quite possible you will have all the ingredients on hand already.

Peel, de-pit, and slice up your peaches
Toss them in a bowl with sugar (your preference, I used about 1/2 a cup)

Mix together the topping:
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter (chilled and diced)

Pour peaches into a baking dish, throw the topping on, cook for 40 min in a 350 degree oven (uncovered).

Serve it warm with ice cream on top.

Then, make it again with another of your favorite fruits!

What’s your favorite fruity dish to whip up when produce is at its best??


Fresh Garden Salsa

Do you like salsa? Do you own a food processor? If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, then this recipe is right up your alley.

My garden continues to produce at a fairly rapid rate. I haven’t, however, had enough tomatoes all at one time to eat myself, supply friends and family who are dying for fresh garden produce, and turn in to put up for winter.

I recently found myself caught in a rare situation where the counter was fairly full of fresh garden tomatoes, but not enough to preserve.  It really only made sense to crank out some fresh garden salsa — and later I hope to make a super healthy dinner that relies heavily on fresh garden produce (tomatoes & zucchini).

This salsa recipe comes together very quickly with help from one of my favorite kitchen toys, the food processor.

Prep Work:
-Slice a jalapeno in half lengthwise, remove & discard stems, seeds and membranes (if you like heat in your salsa keep some of the seeds and membranes, this is where the heat comes from).
-Cut a small onion into quarters (or use half a medium onion)
-Remove leaves from steams of cilantro, you will need approximately 1/2 cup
-Juice a lime, you will need about 1 tablespoon
-Core, peel, and quarter 4 medium tomatoes

Throw Together:
-Use metal blade of food processor to process jalapeno pepper and cilantro until finely chopped.
-Scrape bowl, add 1/8 teaspoon salt & lime juice, mix together, pulse twice.
-Add tomatoes and onions and pulse until they are coarsely chopped (to your preference).
-Serve immediately or keep cool in fridge.

Seriously, this recipe and clean up took about 20 minutes. Super simple and a great use of garden goodies. You can modify the recipe as desired, adding any additional ingredients you typically enjoy in salsa.




Steamed Green Beans

As the garden continues to produce at a steady rate, I am pleased to share another fresh green bean recipe with you.

I had these the other night with a pork chop and rice and let me just say, Oh Sweet Heaven! They were so delicious, I think it might be my new favorite way to prepare fresh green beans!

And, I might add, it’s another super simple recipe. I know I say that about many things that come out of my kitchen, but it’s true. Cooking shouldn’t always have to be difficult, right?

I have just begun playing with steam cooking food. While I am aware that this method has been out there forever, I haven’t had a means by which to steam, until this past Christmas.

In this post, I introduced you to my wok and steam baskets, and also a delicious Turkey Dumpling Recipe. It is these same steam baskets that are coming in quite handy with veggies this summer as well.

So…here it is, the play by play for this delicious AND SIMPLE side dish:

1. Prep the beans (snap the ends off and wash well)
2. While prepping (I actually prep as I bring them in from the garden so they’re always ready to go when it comes time to cook), get the steamer warmed up.
**It doesn’t matter what method you use for steaming. If you have a small appliance steamer, the pans with the holes in the bottom, a wok with steam baskets….whatever…get it warmed up.
3. Place beans in the steamer and cover.
4. Cook for 8-10 minutes – test the beans after 8 minutes. You will cook longer if you desire softer beans, it’s all a matter of preference. The beans will turn a beautiful, bright green!!
5. When done cooking, remove from the steamer (Careful not to burn yourself!)
6. Place in a bowl with some real butter (again, the amount is based on preference)
7. Mix the butter around until the butter melts and all the beans are shiny with a thin coat of butter.
8. Sprinkle seasoned salt over the beans.
9. Eat!!

Something about the butter and seasoned salt come together to create a side dish that will have you saying “Oh Sweet Heaven” as well. And, if you’re unsure about the butter (you know, because butter isn’t super healthy) don’t fret. A little bit goes a long way and it’s totally worth it!