Meal Planning: Basic Instant Pot Chicken and Roasted Vegetables

A little meal planning goes a long way. I try to plan our meals for the week the night before I go grocery shopping, so that I can make my list dependent on what I’m going to cook that week.

On weekends, I try to cook extra items to make our meal preparation for busy weeknights easier. I received an Instant Pot for Christmas. It is a great too for meal prepping.  Either I make dinner in the instant pot, while I make the meal for other nights on the stove or vice versa, make the meal for later in the week in the Instant Pot while I cook our dinner on the stove.

Here are a couple of easy recipes that will make multiple meals.

Basic Chicken Breasts in the Instant Pot



About 3 pounds of chicken breasts

5 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of garlic paste or 1 clove of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon onion powder

½ cup of water


Mix all the ingredients together in a gallon freezer bag with the chicken breasts and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Take out of marinade. Add into instant pot on steamer shelf with about a cup of water and set to pressure cook for 10 minutes. Allow natural release for 5 minutes and then manually release the remaining pressure.

Now you have cooked chicken breasts to be able to add to whatever you like for the week. Roasting some veggies while the chicken is cooking, will lessen your load during the week even more.

Roasted Veggies


2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 Green pepper, sliced into sticks

1 Yellow pepper, sliced into sticks

1 zucchini, sliced into sticks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

¼ teaspoon of thyme


Toss veggies with olive oil and spices. Spread out on a sheet pan. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Here are some meal ideas with the chicken and veggies.

First Meal

This feeds 5-7 people

Greek Inspired Chicken Pasta


1 ½ cups of cooked chicken, cubed

Roasted tomatoes and zucchini

1 16 ounce box of pasta shells (small shells – I like Wegman’s gluten-free)

4 to 6 ounces of crumbled feta

Juice of ½ a lemon

Pasta water


Cook pasta according to instructions on package and save some of the pasta water. Pour the pasta in to a serving dish. Add chicken, tomatoes, zucchini and lemon juice and one ladle full of the pasta water. Mix. Add more pasta water if too dry. Stir in the feta and serve. Add fresh basil if you have some.

2nd meal – for one ( This was my lunch one day)

Baked Sweet Potato with chicken, roasted veggies and feta


1 Baked Sweet Potato

¼ cup of chicken, diced

A couple of roasted peppers

1 to 2 ounces of crumbled feta


Cut open baked sweet potato.  Add chicken, peppers and feta. Enjoy!

Baking the sweet potato in the oven is really my favorite way to cook it, but lack of time usually means that I make it in the microwave.

3rd meal feeds 4 to 5

Chicken Quesadillas


6 flour tortillas (my gluten free favorite is Joseph’s or Mission GF)

1 to 1 ½ cups of cooked chicken, chopped

Roasted green and yellow peppers

8 to 12 ounces of shredded cheddar


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray sheet pan. Place cheese, chicken and peppers on one half of each tortilla. Fold other side over and cook about 6 to 8 minutes on each side.

If there are any chicken and veggies left, toss them into a salad with your favorite dressing.

What are your favorite meal planning recipes? Here are some of my other recipes that have great leftovers to help you out during the week! It is all about making our lives easier: What to do with leftover cod, Turkey Fried Rice  and Sweet Potato Two Ways.


Nutella in a smoothie? Yes, please!

For my birthday, I generously received a gift card for Amazon and bought one of my new favorite toys, a Ninja blender! The kids and I have had fun inventing smoothies and I made my salsa in about 5 seconds 🙂 Smoothies are a great way to get protein and fruit into the kids for breakfast lunch or dinner. If you buy frozen or freeze your own fruit, that helps to make the smoothie creamy, like ice cream. Especially frozen bananas! Frozen mango, frozen banana and vanilla yogurt is delicious together but here is the recipe for our new family favorite…Peanut Butter Nutella!

Peanut Butter Nutella Smoothie


2 frozen bananas, broken into large chunks

1 cup vanilla yogurt

3 Tablespoons of nutella

2 Tablespoons of peanut butter (or almond butter)

2/3 cup of milk

1/2 teaspoon of agave


Place all the ingredients in your blender and let the blender do its work until smooth! Add more milk if you would like a thinner smoothie.

This makes a great afternoon snack! I’m so glad I got this blender! I will from time to time share the great products I use and please know that I will only recommend ones that I love myself!

Share your favorite smoothie in the  comments!


What can I do with Thanksgiving leftovers?

If you and your family do not eat leftovers, send the rest home with someone else because there are people like me, who can eat Thanksgiving leftovers every day. Seriously. Every single day, every meal, I can eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, squash and cranberry sauce for the week following Thanksgiving. But for many (MOST) that gets boring. So, here are some ideas to hide it so your family doesn’t even know its leftovers! And as always, it’s good food that happens to be gluten free.


Changing the flavor profile is the easiest way to disguise the leftovers. You can shred some of the turkey and mix it with your favorite barbecue sauce and serve on leftover rolls or with cornbread stuffing. Add the turkey to jarred Tikka Masala sauce and serve with rice. You can make Asian rice noodles, Italian pasta, Quesadillas or Chili. Using the leftover turkey, squash or vegetables from the veggie tray you can make any of the dishes in my recent Super Easy Pasta Night3 Easy 10 Minute Meal , Taco Tuesday – Step Outside the Taco Shell and Crowd Pleasing Chili posts.

There are so many options! With the ideas and recipe links above you can make your own takeout! Save the money for the holidays 🙂

Happy planning, cooking and try not to stress. Send me your questions for Thanksgiving or for what to do with leftovers! or tell us your leftover ideas! Comment here or send me an email to



3 Easy 10 Minute Meals

The election is now behind us and whoever you voted for, we can all agree its time to move forward! Now we can occupy our brains with the holidays instead! Which unfortunately for many can be just as stressful, especially when you cannot rely on take out. I, like many of you have a endless list of things to do: keep the children alive and fed, go to school meetings, do laundry, clean, pay bills, juggle all the activities, work and do more laundry, so I completely understand that dinner needs to be done in 10 minutes time most nights. Especially with the holidays coming, our time is even more limited. These are three of my go to super fast recipes for when dinner needs to be on the table ASAP and hopefully help keep your stress levels down!

Kielbasa and Peppers with Mashed Sweet Potatoes



1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 Turkey kielbasa (make sure it is GF if you need it to be), diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 package of already made mashed sweet potatoes (I like Wegman’s) or a couple of large sweet potatoes


Heat your cast iron skillet (or sauté pan) over medium heat with the olive oil in it. Once hot, add kielbasa and peppers, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. While that is cooking follow the instructions on your mashed sweet potatoes (or just microwave a couple of sweet potatoes-remember to poke holes with a fork!- and serve with a little butter, salt and pepper). You can either leave out the kielbasa for a vegetarian meal or substitute leftover turkey, chicken, steak or your favorite already cooked sausage.

Asian noodles are always a hit in my house and are a great option for an easy weeknight meal. Healthy, tasty and a great alternative to take-out.

Asian noodles with shrimp and broccoli



1 package of Maifun Rice Sticks or your favorite noodles (GF if you need them to be)

1 pound of shrimp (frozen or fresh, even faster if already cooked!)

1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup rice vinegar

¼ teaspoon fish sauce, optional

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons of ginger (either this stir-in paste from Gourmet Garden or minced fresh)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon onion powder

3 Tablespoons lime juice

4 Tablespoons brown sugar


Cook noodles according to package. Add the broccoli to noodles with 3 minutes left in cook time. Drain all. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar and rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss noodles and broccoli with sauce. Toss in cooked, peeled shrimp and its ready to serve. I serve it with fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts and a couple splashes of siracha. A squeeze of lime juice is also a great way to finish the dish.

If shrimp are fresh or thawed and not cooked, this can still be a quick meal, as long as they are cleaned and deveined! Here is a quick delicious way to cook them. Mix 1/8 cup vegetable oil, splash of sesame oil, 4 cloves of garlic – minced and juice of ½ a lime. Toss with the shrimp and cook for 3 to 4 minutes each side in a 400 degree oven. Cool, peel and toss with noodles.

This dish is extremely versatile. It would also be great with, zoodles (zucchini noodles), rice or cauliflower rice in place of the noodles. You can easily substitute tofu, scrambled egg, leftover chicken, steak or even turkey from Thanksgiving. It is good hot, room temperature and cold.

Having these jack-of-all trade meals in your back pocket will make dinner easier to make with what you have on hand.

Pasta with Pink Sauce



1-16 once package of spaghetti or your favorite pasta (gluten free of course if you need it to be)

1 jar of pasta sauce (or one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce)

4 ounces (1/2 block) of cream cheese


Cook pasta according to package. While water is boiling, pour pasta sauce into sauce pan and heat on medium. Add cream cheese and stir until combined. It will be clumpy. While pasta is cooking pour pink sauce into a large serving bowl and then add drained pasta. Stir and serve.

This is a great base to add whatever cooked vegetables, leftover turkey, chicken or shrimp if you like. I recently made this and served steamed green beans on the side. Stop and Shop steam in the bag green beans. My husband liked them more than when I buy green beans, clean them and steam or roast. Lesson learned! I don’t need to exert the energy!

These three easy dinners will hopefully make your busy nights less stressful and your holiday leftovers easier to finish and disguise! What are your favorite ways to use leftover holiday food? Comment and let us know! I am working on creating Pins for Pinterest for these recipes, so for now just follow me on Pinterest or follow this page and you will be the first to know when you can save these recipes!

Taco Tuesday – Step Outside the Taco Shell

Theme nights are a really good way to organize your weekly meals and make meal planning easier. We joined the #TacoTuesday bandwagon a couple of years ago. The kids love tacos and I have a wide interpretation of “taco.” It is really more like #TexMexTuesday. Some nights it is nachos, literally just tortilla chips with melted cheese in the microwave, on a paper plate, with a salad or fruit on the side. Other nights if we have more time, it is enchiladas with homemade tomatillo sauce or stuffed peppers. I often use whatever protein we had over the weekend, like leftover grilled chicken or steak and whatever vegetables we grilled and throw them into a quesadilla.


Tortillas (Our new favorite is Joseph’s soft gluten-free tortillas which I find at Target or Market Basket locally) – 1 to 2 tortillas per person depending on their appetite
Shredded Cheese (I used Cabot blocks and shred myself or task a child/spouse) – 1/4 cup per person
Canned black beans (I use Wegmans or Goya) – 1 12 oz can is more than enough for a family a five

Optional: sour cream or plain yogurt, fresh cilantro, salsa, sliced avocado with fresh lime juice.

Preheat oven to 400 or use your toaster oven. Assemble and cook for 4 – 6 minutes on each side on a cookie sheet.

TIP: If you don’t have tortillas, use taco shells, tortilla chips or butter lettuce. If you are making it GF, remember to check the labels on the shells and chips.

A recent favorite in our house was a spin on a traditional quesadilla: Chicken Bacon Ranch Quesadillas. Invented by one of my 6 year olds. All we did was add leftover grilled chicken and some cooked bacon to the cheddar. Cook according to recipe above and serve with ranch dressing and sliced peppers.

I often keep a bag of already cooked frozen shrimp in the freezer. All you need to do is defrost in cold water and then dry in between paper towels

Shrimp Tacos

1 pound of medium/large cooked shrimp
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
1 Tablespoon of sugar or teaspoon of agave
1 clove minced garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and marinade the shrimp for 15-30 minutes while you prepare the taco accompaniments. Saute shrimp for a couple of minutes to heat through, if you want to or just use cold. Use for favorite taco shells and toppings then you are ready to serve! I love using feta and avocado.

TIP: If using fresh uncooked shrimp, marinade as above and then add 1 Tablespoon of butter and cook on a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

The options are endless. You can take this shrimp taco recipe and make it into a burrito bowl with rice and beans. You can also top the rice and beans with whatever other leftover veggies and or meat you have in the fridge. I’ll let you in on a secret. I lost the ability to cook rice when I went to law school. I cannot cook rice on the stove to save my life. I have only tried it once in the last 13 years after burning a few pots. I LOVE my rice cooker. My $15 rice cooker from Target. The rice always comes out perfectly and I don’t have to watch it. Instead I can battle through homework with the kids.

I have been making red salsa for almost 2 decades, since I worked at a Tex Mex restaurant in DC. It disappears quickly from the table at any gathering and is very simple to make. I passed the torch last year to my 8 year old daughter, who can easily make it on her own now. Since then, I have been experimenting with a green salsa made with tomatillos. It is tart and delicious and makes a great salsa, enchilada sauce or chilaquile sauce or sauce for grilled steak, chicken, fish or veggies.

Tomatillo salsa

2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 to 3 pounds of tomatillos, husked
1/2 of a large while onion, chopped
1/4 cup of chopped poblano pepper (use jalepeno if you want more spice)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Handful of cilantro
1 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
2 to 2 1/2 cups of water

Combine all of the ingredients, except the water, in a large pot on the stove. Turn the heat on to medium-high. Stir until fragrant. Should only take a couple of minutes. Add the water, stir occasionally and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft. Either blend with an immersion blender in the pot or wait for it to cool and transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and allow to fully cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Our #TacoTuesday turned #TexMexTuesday means I always have a plan for Tuesday nights and can adapt it to what our schedule is for that day, whether I have 15 minutes to prep dinner or an hour. You are only limited by what it is in your fridge or cupboard, but all it really takes is cheese 🙂 Send me your questions or share your ideas for #TexMexTuesday! Remember you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, on Twitter @mammascooking and now I’m also figuring out how to use Google + (if anyone wants to give me a tutorial, I will cook for you!).

Spring is in the air, cook fast and get out of the kitchen!

Spring is in the air and we have been spending as much time as possible outside trying to enjoy it! (Sorry to those in Seattle who are dealing with snow!) While we are enjoying the outdoors, I let my slow cooker do the cooking and use some go to items for quick meals that can be made at the last minute.

I have been trying to find a delicious easy way to make polenta from scratch. I’ve bought the premade tubes and mashed them up with milk and butter, bought the quick cooking polenta, which are both good, but not as good as using corn meal and mixing it by hand for a long time. Today I had an epiphany — make it in the slow cooker! So I did. I just googled slow cooker and polenta and found this recipe. It worked great and was delicious!! I served it with some sausages and leftover roasted butternut squash. I had promised Karina she could have carrots and cottage cheese too before I remembered about the leftover squash, so she got both! and ate both! Win win 🙂

 I took a couple of ladles full of the hot polenta and put it in a small square tupperware dish in the fridge to cool for about 15 minutes while I grilled the sausage and microwaved the squash. when the polenta was cool, I cut a Mickey Mouse shape out with a cookie cutter.

The boys didn’t eat too much tonight, a little overtired from all the outdoor fun, but they usually like it 🙂
Last night I made perogies, peas and shrimp, which only took about 10 minutes! This was a hit with 4 out of 5 of us. Neil didn’t eat much other than the peas 🙂 I try to keep frozen perogies and peas in the freezer, along with something like shrimp that can easily be thawed. I cooked the shrimp in a little olive oil and then once they were pink on a sides, added 1 clove minced garlic and some leftover honey mustard lemon vinaigrette.  [Honey mustard lemon vinaigrette – olive oil, lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, lemon pepper and sugar. I tossed a spinach salad with it over the weekend]
 Coming up…cooking bucket lists and I’ve been doing some research on local CSAs and farmer’s markets!

Pre and Post Thanksgiving ideas (with a potluck recipe thrown in)

Clearing out your fridge and freezer to make room for all the Thanksgiving goodies while saving your cooking energy for the big day can be challenging, but is doable. You will be happy that you have room in your freezer for some of the Thanksgiving foods that you don’t feel like eating or cooking with any more.

On Sunday I made a potato and kale soup to use up some onions and potatoes that I didn’t think would make it to Thursday and a 1/4 of a bag of frozen kale that I had left in the freezer.

Potato and Kale soup

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, diced (use whatever kind you have on hand or you could use leeks or shallots)
6-8 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced (use whatever kind you have on hand)

1- 2 teaspoons salt (add more to your taste)
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
2 Tbsp coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use fresh, just add it a couple minutes after the onions)
6-8 cups of chicken stock (use veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian)
2 handfuls of frozen kale (use a little more if using fresh kale)

 Heat soup pot on medium high. Pour in olive oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add potatoes and more olive oil if it looks like things are sticking. Add salt, lemon pepper, coriander and garlic powder. Stir until potatoes and coated. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add enough stock to cover the potatoes and reserve extra for later.  Cook for about 15 -20 minutes or until you can easily smash a potato with a fork against the side. Stir in kale and cook for a couple of more minutes. Then puree using your favorite method. I use a handheld immersion blender and blend until potatoes are smooth. There will be pieces of kale throughout. If you use a blender or food processor, let the soup cool before pureeing.

TIP: This can also be done in a slow cooker by dumping everything but the kale in and cooking on low for 6-8 hours. Then add the kale and let it cook for about 20 minutes and then puree.

Keep it simple this week, make some pasta with jarred sauce or use baby food for extra veggies, do a make your own pizza night like we did last night or make some quesadillas.

Easy Flatbread pizzas

Flatbreads (store bought pizza dough or tortillas will work just a well)
jar of pasta or pizza sauce
shredded mozzarella (or whatever cheese you like)
Whatever toppings you have. Be creative! I used some leftover spaghetti squash (mix in with the cheese), leftover pesto and some sun dried tomatoes on mine. Husband had pineapple on his. Kids just had spaghetti squash.

Follow instructions on package as to how long to cook.

This is also the time of the year for potlucks at your kids school or at friends houses. Here is an easy pasta salad recipe (that does not have to be heated!!) that I recently brought to a family luncheon at my daughter’s pre school.

Caprese and Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

2 boxes of tri colored rotini
1 pint of cherry tomatoes chopped in half
about 6 oz of fresh mozzarella diced
about 10 leaves of fresh basic cut in a chiffonade (fancy word for rolling them up together and slicing)
1 Acorn squash, peeled and cubed (you can use whatever fall/winter squash you like)
Lemon Pepper
White Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Grated parmesan (I used the stuff that comes in the green can and it was great! but use fresh if you have it)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and put in a large bowl that you would use to transport the pasta salad. While the water is boiling for the pasta, prepare the squash and place it on a sheet pan tossed with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. Roast in oven for about 20- 25 minutes or until edges start to brown. Take out and let cool. Put tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in a small mixing bowl. In another bowl add 1 part olive oil to about 1/2 part vinegar (depending on how much vinegar flavor you like add more or less). Mix in salt, lemon pepper and grated parmesan to your taste.  Add some of the vinaigrette to your tomato and mozzarella mixture and let sit. Add about 3/4 of vinaigrette to the hot pasta and mix. Cover both bowls and keep in fridge over night. Also cover vinaigrette and put in fridge. In the morning mix the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with the pasta and taste. If needs more vinaigrette add more of the remaining until it tastes like you want it to.

Lastly today, here are some links for leftover ideas!

Scallion pancakes and crispy turkey from Sandra Lee. Here is the video. I’m definitely trying this one!
Turkey enchiladas
Other ideas

Pick up some of the groceries for these easy leftover meals when you do your thanksgiving shopping. That way you do not have to go back to the store!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Dinner in about 10 minutes…Cheese ravioli with carrots and peas

Want to fill your kids up with something healthy on Halloween to counteract all the sugar? Here is an easy go to meal for lunch or dinner that takes less than 10 minutes to make!

Cheese Ravioli with Carrrots and Peas

1 24oz. bag of your favorite cheese ravioli
1 4 oz jar baby food (carrots, sweet potato, squash…I get whatever is on sale)
1 cup frozen peas
handful of shredded parmesan or mozzarella
1/4 tsp cumin (optional)
salt and pepper to your taste

Boil water for ravioli. In a large serving bowl add baby food, peas, cheese, cumin, salt and pepper. Once water boils, drop in ravioli and cook according to directions on package, usually only 4-5 minutes. When ravioli is ready, drain water and place ravioli on top of baby food mixture. Toss together and cover for 2-3 minutes (at least). Taste one and add more salt or pepper as you like. 

Serves family of 4-5