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

Marinade:

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Ingredients

1 Baked Sweet Potato

¼ cup of chicken, diced

A couple of roasted peppers

1 to 2 ounces of crumbled feta

Directions

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

 

Super Easy Pasta Night

I keep hearing from friends and readers that they wish they could cook what I do. Truth is…you can. Yes, I love to cook. It is my passion and stress reliever, but I completely understand (and have those nights or weeks!) of not wanting to cook or not having the time to cook.  I do make more complicated meals some nights, but everyone needs to have super easy meals that they can make with very few ingredients and with very little effort. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites over the next couple months.

I have been sharing my “theme night” meals (Breakfast for Dinner, Tex Mex Tuesday, etc.), to show how I keep organized and take the stress out of my cooking. Easy meals like this Pasta with Mascarpone can help change up your pasta night. This recipe is very easy and a new take on mac-n-cheese if you are looking for something a little lighter.

Pasta with Mascarpone
Ingredients
1 pound elbow pasta (use GF pasta or even roasted cauliflower if making GF)
1 – 8 ounce tub of mascarpone cheese
2 Tablespoons of grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 to 2 cloves of garlic minced or 1 teaspoon of garlic paste
Red pepper flakes to taste, optional
Grilled, sautéed or cooked vegetables, chicken or shrimp, optional


Directions
Cook pasta according to directions on the box.  Reserve the pasta water. Pour the pasta into a serving bowl. Add the mascarpone, parmesan, onion powder, salt, pepper and garlic.  Add a ladle of pasta water, or more if needed to help melt the cheese and create a sauce.  Serve. 

This makes more than enough for a family of five as a main meal with some vegetables and leftover chicken. We usually have enough for all five of us for lunch the next day too! You can also use it as a side dish.



A great friend of mine (who just launched an AMAZING blog: Momma to Go), tested this one for me. She is a busy mom with 2 young kids so understands that dinner needs to be easy and needs to be good. This got a thumbs up! Thanks Harmony for testing and for the picture!

What is your favorite super easy meal? 

While I’m singing praises of another blogger, I will remind you that Tuesday, October 25th is the release of Nicole Hunn’s Gluten-Free Small Bites, so you only have two days to get the pre-order goodies available here! I’ve already made good use of mine! 


Bucket list completed and new goals for 2014!

Fourth day into the new year and we are sitting in the house with piles of snow outside warming up after the final round of shoveling. Feels like deja vu from all the storms we had last February. While my kids play bowling on the Wii and my husband is working from home, I am taking a few minutes to give you an update on my cooking bucket list of 2013…oh wait, Neil wants milk and Karina already wants a snack…So back to the bucket list…What’s that Paul? You want some juice?…and this is why I haven’t written a blog in a few months. If I get a chance before complete meltdowns from cabin fever occur, I also want to write my goals for my 2014 cooking bucket list and some new projects.

2013 Cooking Bucket list – COMPLETE!* (and I did 5 of them in December again)

1.  Boerevors sausage (South African farmer’s sausage)
I made 5  batches of this sausage tweaking the recipe each time. Over the holidays my dad and I made the best batch so far! That recipe will be a family secret for now 🙂 
















2.  Souffle
I made a chocolate souffle using Martha Stewart’s recipe as a guide. Didn’t rise as much as I wanted it to, but it was gone in 10 minutes! 




















3.  Melk tert (a South African milk tart)
I used my mother’s recipe and it was delicious. Instead of making a crust, I used the mini phyllo shells, which got a little soggy in the fridge overnight. Next time I would either serve them immediately or use the crust in the recipe if making ahead.




















4.  Pasta 
I ended up make canneloni and filling it with ricotta and spinach and serving with tomato sauce. Delicious! Not as thin as they would be had a I used a pasta machine, but thin enough. Karina and I rolled and rolled and rolled until thin. I made a version of a dish I had last year when I went to Mario Batali’s Eatly in NYC. 
















5.  Carbonara
This was delicious! The whole family loved it. I mean, bacon, eggs, cheese, peas and pasta. You really can’t go wrong. Traditional is with spaghetti or linguine noodles but the kids chose the orecchiette.
















6.  Filet a whole fish
I cleaned and filleted a red snapper. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it and turned it into the most delicious ceviche!




















7.  Ceviche
This was my favorite. “Cooked” the snapper in lime juice for 4 hours and tossed it with avocado, tomatoes, a little red onion, olive oil and cilantro and ate it with tortilla chips. LOVED IT! Karina even loved it. Now that I’ve done it once though, I will definitely ask the fish monger to clean and filet it for me. Make sure you tell the fishmonger that you are making ceviche and want a fish that was brought in that morning. Call ahead. It is worth it!




















8.  Paella
This was also a family favorite. I made some spanish chorizo from scratch, brined the chicken using smoked paprika and cumin. Everything  came out great, except the mussels. I didn’t time those right and some didn’t open enough. I will definitely make this again!
















9.  Octopus* – Did not do this the Octopus that were available were on the “Avoid” list of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch.

10. Jam
So I may have copped out a little on this one, but I never said I would do canning 🙂 I just simmered a bunch of berries over the summer that were on the verge of going bad. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries cooked with a little bit of water, balsamic vinegar and sugar. It was delicious on ice cream and on toast for breakfast.

11. Yorkshire pudding
This was delicious! I will definitely be making this again. It is super easy. So much easier than I thought it would be. I looked at a couple of recipes and used this one from allrecipes.com. I didn’t make a roast that night, so I replaced the beef drippings with beef stock and served it with some leftover sausage and squash.
















12. Cream puffs
I used one of my South African cookbooks for this and it was fairly successful. The best discovery was the “mock” pastry cream recipe from the de Villiers, Cook it and Enjoy It. You just whip together a little butter with sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Amazing!





















For 2014 I have created a bucket list for the year and I’m starting on an ambitious project of cooking a recipe from one of my cookbooks each week, that I have not made before. I have 50 cookbooks, so that gives me 2 weeks off 🙂 Hopefully I will have time to blog about it. If not visit my Facebook page to get updates! 

Cooking bucket list for 2014:

1. Rusks (think South African biscotti)
2. Macaroons
3. Scones
4. Brussel Sprouts (I’ve never cooked them. My husband loves them, so I’m taking one for the team so my kids won’t inherit my food prejudices 🙂 )
5. Pretzels
6. Poached Salmon
7. Beef Wellington
8. Coq au Vin

9. Khachapuri (a Georgian cheesy bread)

10. Duck (not necessarily a whole duck, we’ll see how adventurous I feel)
11. Tortillas
12. Chilaquiles (My favorite Mexican breakfast!!) 

Happy New Year everyone! 

Pasta, Quinoa and Barley, oh my!

Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter or are planning a spring escape it is time to empty out your fridge! Here are a couple of quick and easy meals I have made over the last couple of weeks that were big hits in my family.

Carrot and Squash Pasta with Turkey Bacon, Spinach and Peas

 The Piccolini line from Barilla was on sale at the grocery store last week, so I decided to try a couple of them out. This one is carrot and squash. It was good. My husband even liked it. I wanted to use up some things in my fridge since we were having friends over and I needed the space.

Ingredients:
1 Box of Carrot and Squash pasta (use whatever you have), 1/4 package of turkey bacon, diced, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 bag of frozen peas, 1/2 bag of fresh spinach, 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/4 of a jar of tomato sauce, 1/4 of a bag of shredded cheddar cheese.

Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Saute bacon in pan. Add garlic once bacon starts to crisp. If using turkey bacon you may need to add some olive oil in the pan. Add tomato sauce, spinach and peas until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Add yogurt and cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If your pan is large enough just add drained pasta to it and mix. If you are using a serving bowl, pour in sauce and vegetables and then add pasta. You can add any vegetables, meat, pasta that you have leftover. Cream cheese works just as well as yogurt. A couple of tomatoes that are about to go bad are just as good (if not better!) than the jarred sauce. You can make this with whatever you have on hand.
Lemon Chicken with Quinoa and Barley risotto-like-side dish, and peas.

Ingredients:
Chicken
salt
lemon pepper
1/4 large onion (white or yellow), sliced thin
olive oil
garlic
1 lemon (zested and juiced)
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar will work too)
1 3/4 cup water
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup barley
2 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of water
2 Tbsp butter
1/8 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 bag of frozen peas
 

Saute onions in olive  Salt and pepper the chicken and brown each side in the same pan, pushing the onions off the side. While chicken is browning mix the lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, water, garlic and rosemary in a separate bowl. When chicken is brown move onions around and pour in lemon mixture. Place in 375 degree oven for about an hour. Check temperature of chicken. It should read 180 degrees when done.

White chicken is cooking, add quinoa and barley to the rice cooker with 2 the chicken stock and water. If you have any lemon zest or rosemary still on your cutting board add it in for some more flavor. Cook until rice cooker says its ready! Taste. If still too al dente for you, add a little more water and cook again until its the right consistency for you. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and shredded parmesan and mix together.

Defrost the peas in the microwave and you have dinner! 


Not too late for new years resolutions

To make resolutions or not? 2011 was a year of transition for me and my family. Instead of making specific resolutions this year, I am just pledging to make 2012 a year of moving forward. This pledge will include resolution type things like work out more, go to the dentist when I’m supposed to, cook healthier food, cut our grocery costs and more, but as those smaller things may change, the overall pledge will stay the same. I believe this time next year I will feel better about keeping my pledge and not worry about all the smaller individual resolutions I did or did not do.

Now on to food…My first step toward moving forward in 2012 is to use leftovers more efficiently and effectively.

I started my last week of the year cooking large meals, so that I could spend this weekend not cooking but rather spending more time with my family 🙂


Balsamic Mustard Chicken thighs with roasted butternut squash and risotto-like-rice
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
olive oil
salt
pepper
Trader Joe’s Everyday spice blend (or coriander and a pinch of red pepper flake)3-5 lbs skinless chicken thighs (I often buy them with the skin on because its cheaper and then take it off myself)
Leftover mustard balsamic dipping sauce from my pigs in a blanket Christmas eve (Thanks Lauren for the idea!) (Made with spicy brown mustard, balsamic vinegar and honey mixed together)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 of a medium onion diced
1/2 cup aborrio rice
3-4 cups chicken broth or veggie broth

Toss the squash with olive oil and spices and put on a baking sheet in the oven at 375 degrees. Coat the chicken with the balsamic mustard sauce and place in a baking dish in the oven at 375. Cook both about 45 minutes. Ovens vary so check to make sure its cooking evenly and not burning at about 30 minutes. Check the chicken with a meat thermometer to 165-175.

To make the risotto-like-rice, add butter and onion to your rice cooker and stir until onions are translucent. Add rice and cook while stirring for a couple of minutes. Add 3 cups of broth and start the machine. Once it is done, add more broth and mix it in if you want it creamier.You can also add in some Parmesan at the end if you like.

I used the leftover chicken and risotto to make white chicken chili. To a crock pot added a can of cream of chicken soup, half of a jalapeno (seeded), cumin, coriander, 1 small onion diced, 1 can of white beans, leftover chicken cubed and about 1 cup of the risotto. Cook on low for 2- 3 hours. Delicious! My 9 year old nephew couldn’t get enough of it!

Roasted turkey with sweet potato mashed potatoes and stuffing

I cooked the turkey whole, stuffing it with lime and tangelo wedges, onions and garlic. I melted butter with some thyme, lime juice, lime zest, tangelo juice, tangelo zest and rubbed that all over the turkey. While that was cooking I peeled and diced 3 sweet potatoes and boiled them in water with thyme and garlic until soft. Once they were fork tender, I drained them and mashed them with a little butter, milk and cream cheese. I added some garlic powder, salt and pepper. For stuffing I used Stove top savory herb 🙂 and I used the cranberry sauce in the can.

I used the leftovers to make turkey stock, pesto pasta with turkey and butternut squash, turkey sandwiches and more.

My next step is to cut our grocery costs, starting with more couponing. I bought the Sunday paper the other day to get the 4 coupon inserts. I was shocked at the register when they said it was $3.50! Last time I bought a Sunday paper it was $1.50. Next time I am going to buy the local Lowell paper, I think it also has the inserts and is still only $1.50. I went to a lecture at the local library by Jamie Chase, the Lazy Couponer. It was great! Using her tips, I saved almost 30% on my next grocery trip. I only bought what I needed, no stockpiling or hours upon hours of clipping coupons.

(Belated) Happy New Year to all of you!

Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and Italian Sausage Mac-n-cheese

Thanksgiving is a couple of weeks away and I love to cook for the holidays! I do not love spending more time in the kitchen than with my family (my kitchen right now is too small to have anyone but me and sometimes my 4 year old in it!), so I try to keep it simple. The one area that I do complicate the dinner a little bit is that after listening to many episodes of TheSplendid Table , I have heard chefs say over and over that they do not cook the turkey whole (except for one for show that is not eaten at the restaurant). So a couple of years ago I decided to breakdown and butcher a turkey myself. It was a satisfying experience that took me an hour and a half! Last year it took me only 45 minutes and a few cuts and scrapes on my hands J I put all the dark meat and giblets in a large pan and braise it for a couple of hours on the stove. The white meat is roasted in the oven. That way everything cooks evenly. I then use the braising liquid to make amazing gravy.  
I do not want to butcher the turkey this year. I just don’t have the time or energy, so I’m trying to find a place where I can have someone do it for me. I started calling around the grocery stores and most of them responded something like, “Um, you want to do what? Why? I guess we could figure out how to do that for you.” Not a satisfactory answer. You can buy separate turkey breasts and wings and thighs in most grocery stores, but it doesn’t give you the giblets, which I have no desire to eat, but really do help make the dark meat and gravy taste better. 
Yesterday I went into a butcher shop nearby and asked the woman behind the counter. She was very friendly (but did kind of seem confused as to why I would want that done) and went to the back to ask the butcher if that was something he could do. She came back and told me that the butcher’s father could probably do it. Their price per pound is also the same as the supermarket, so I will probably go through them, but I’m going to do a little more searching to see if I can find a butcher who sees eye to eye with me J I’m prepared that that may not happen this year, but then I have a whole other year to keep looking! 
While I was in the butcher shop yesterday, I figured I should try out some of their meat. I knew I was planning on making mac-n-cheese last night and I saw their homemade sausages, so decided to get a long link of their sweet Italian sausage. It was delicious! 
Mac-n-cheese with Sweet Italian sausage
Serves 6-8
1 box of pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 stick of butter (sliced)
1 sweet Italian sausage
½ cup of flour
About 1 ½ to 2 cups of milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp ground coriander
½ Tbsp lemon pepper
1 tsp salt (add more if you like. I’m notorious for under salting things)
4 oz of cream cheese
1 jar of puréed carrot babyfood (can use any pureed veggie you like, butternut squash would be good too)
8 oz of shredded cheddar (use 10 oz of cheese, whatever combo or single cheese you like)
2 oz of shredded mozzarella
Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make pasta according to package instructions. In a large sauce pan, throw in a couple pats of butter. Take the sausage out of its casing and cook in the butter. Remove the sausage when done and try to keep as much of the drippings in the pan. Put the heat on medium high and add the remainder of the butter and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes or so to get rid of the flour taste. Then slowly add the milk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add mustard, coriander, pepper and salt and mix together. If sauce starts to get too thick, add a little more milk. Add cream cheese and puréed carrots. Whisk together. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as you like. Take pan off the heat and add shredded cheese, mix together with a spoon and then add the cooked pasta and sausage (use a sauce pan that is large enough to accommodate all the pasta – one less dish to wash!).  Mix together, flatten top and sprinkle lightly with panko bread crumbs. Put in the oven for 25 minutes or until edges start to brown.
I completely forgot to take a picture! Oh well. It was a big hit with the kids and my father in law. Tim and I got to go out on a date, so I’ll have some leftovers for lunch today!
Since I can’t lift anything over 5-10lbs right now, I had my father in law help me put the water on the stove to boil, put the pan in the oven and take it out. So thank you to him for his help. Also, thank you to Adriane for giving me the idea to make a “fancy” homemade hamburger helper type meal.  Her version sounds really good and super easy too! “Macaroni, ground beef (browned while pasta cooked), a little milk, Tillamook cheddar, Beechers cheddar, and South African smoke added for the adult portions. Mmmmm.”
Send me any of your easy and go to fall meals! We all can take inspiration from each other to spice up our menus!

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

Menu plan for the week

As I go back to being a stay at home mom (now to 3 instead of 1) I have to rework my cooking/grocery shopping habits again. I was successful for a few weeks cooking down all the food in our freezer and pantry and still working on the pantry. The twins who are now 8 months old are still eating pureed food, but starting to eat little pieces of things like cheerios, steak and brownies 🙂 Luckily for now, they eat anything I put in front of them. Let’s hope that keeps up! Karina, who is 3, is a pretty good eater. She, like all kids, goes through stages of I hate “x” and then loves “x” the next week.

We just came back from a trip to Boston, so our fridge was fairly empty. I made an easy pantry meal last night for our first night before our groceries were delivered this morning from AmazonFresh – Pasta with a tomato pumpkin sauce. For the sauce I just poured a jar of tomato basil sauce into a saucepan, added about 1/3 cup of canned pumpkin, 1/3 cup of fat free 1/2 and 1/2, 1/2 tsp ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through and pour on cooked pasta. I added some frozen peas as well for a little more veggies. However, Karina has decided this week that she doesn’t like peas (used to be her favorite!). At least she got some veggies from the pumpkin + tomato. I got the highest praise, “Mamma, I like the sauce. I’m going to eat all my pasta!”

Tonight, we are having some chicken with rice and edamame. I haven’t decided yet how I am going to cook it, but probably will bake the chicken with a soy glaze (soy sauce, molasses and ginger), make the rice in the slow cooker and microwave the edamame. Simple and quick.

Tomorrow night is frozen pizza with salad and some frozen corn heated up in the microwave, Sunday is going to be ground turkey with some curry + apricot jam on top of couscous to which I’ll add some frozen peas + diced dried apricots. Monday I’m going to go for some salmon, risotto and edamame.

Tuesday night is going to be Thanksgiving night. Whole frozen turkeys were on sale for .88 per pound so I bought a 14lb one that is in my fridge defrosting. Will make enough food for many meals, which I will post about later.

I am trying out various menu planning tools and this is the one I’m using this week: http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/meal-planner.html I’ll let you all know how it works. Hopefully more posts to come now that I am not working outside of the house!

Foodie with a toddler…

I have finally been carving out some time to cook! Most of it has been on the grill (no pots and pans!). I also am getting creative with my lunches and food throughout the day. Eating quickly and sometimes with one hand are preferable, but I want to eat fresh and healthy. Today I had a caprese salad, goldfish crackers and some blueberries. Definitely a meal worthy of a foodie with a toddler (hence the title) 🙂

Quick, little clean up, easy meals are important right now. Here’s what I’ve been cooking:


Grilled sirloin (salt, pepper), peas (frozen – made in microwave), grilled polenta cakes (premade polenta rolls, sliced, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with shredded parmesan, all topped with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives. [modified version of recipe I saw on Seattle PI or Seattle Times online]. This is the adult version.

Here is the toddler version. Karina wasn’t too impressed. She loved the steak though!

This is what other members of may family had for dinner 🙂 The boys love their milk/formula!

Tonight I made some farfalle pasta with shrimp, balsamic grape tomatoes and feta. Make farfalle. Defrost frozen already cooked shrimp with tails off, squeeze fresh lemon juice over shrimp after you dry them off and salt and pepper. Cut tomatoes in half and cover in bowl with balsamic vinegar (looks prettier with white balsamic – cheap at Trader Joes) and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. I used basil and rosemary. Toss all together with some crumbled feta. Yum! In the past I’ve added steamed broccoli and used leftover salmon instead of shrimp.

Very good and very easy. Nice for a summer’s evening with a glass of Riesling.

I keep frozen hamburger patties and hotdogs on hand so that we can grill up a quick summer favorite when we don’t have anything else. Add a salad and its a great summer meal.

I also grilled some pizzas the other night. See link for past grilled pizza recipes. This is not relaxing and was definitely pushing the boundaries of what I’m capable of and only worked because the twins decided to sleep from 5pm to 10pm. I made my regular mozzarella with sauce and basil on Trader Joe’s wheat dough. Then I made a bbq chicken pizza. In an effort for effortless cooking, we often buy the already roasted chickens at Fred Meyer and had about 1/3 of the chicken left. I shredded the chicken and mixed it with a smokey bbq sauce, molasses, honey and some brown sugar, saving some of the sauce to spread on the dough. I caramelized a shallot and sliced up the mozzarella (maybe next time I would use goat cheese). Here is the recipe I was inspired by.

Now I really should go to sleep (especially since all three kids are sleeping – which is rare!).

Too pregnant to cook…

Time is now not the only problem, I can’t stand for long enough to cook a meal. I’m almost at the 33 week mark with twins, so my husband has been doing all the cooking now. Here is what we’ve been eating, which are good suggestions for anyone who doesn’t have time and also those who don’t like to cook:

Fish sticks and sweet potato fries (Frozen fish sticks + fries from Trader Joes that all you have to do is turn on the oven, put them on a baking sheet, put them in the oven)


Whole wheat pizzas with artichokes (Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough – take out about 20 minutes before you want to use it, like right when you walk in the door. Roll it out with a little flour to keep it from sticking, throw some jarred sauce on there, mozzarella and then cut up some jarred marinated artichokes – or roasted red peppers – follow the directions on the dough for length of cooking. When done, just sprinkle some salt and pepper to your taste.)

Pesto Tortellini with Italian sausage (Some nice friends brought us some food to make this easy meal yesterday. Boil water and cook tortellini, when done toss with pesto sauce. Take the already cooked Italian sausage and just chop and heat in skillet, toss on the pasta, sprinkle with parmesan and you have a delicious meal!)

Sausage and Perogies (Similar to the meal above, you can mix it up by buying different types of already cooked sausage and the carb. Boil water, drop in Perogies, when done, plate with cooked sausage + steamed frozen peas or another frozen veggie).

Steak, polenta (Use a tube of already cooked polenta – cut it up, add it to a pot with about 2 Tbsp melted butter and about a cup and a half to 2 cups of milk (or I use fat free half and half). Mix with potato masher as it heats over medium heat until smooth, add more milk if you want it smoother. When done add a handful of parmesan + a Tbsp of fresh herbs (optional). Put salt, pepper and whatever herbs you like on steak. We often add coriander. Grill, saute, or cook it however is easiest for you. For a veggie we often use Trader Joe’s soycatash – mixture of corn, red pepper and edamame).


Chicken quesadillas (Buy a rotisserie chicken, take some meat off, put it in a whole wheat tortilla with some shredded cheddar, black beans – from a can, if we have them – then put in a toaster oven until done. Top with salsa + some sour cream).

Being pregnant and having to eat all the time, I often eat some of the chicken and some cheddar for a snack. Without me cooking, we don’t really have leftovers anymore, so end up ordering take out at least once a week and bring canned soup or frozen meals like Lean Pockets to work for lunch.

I don’t know when I’ll cook again, but hopefully soon. I cannot wait to get back into my kitchen!