Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I love lettuce wraps. I used to get the ones at California Pizza Kitchen all the time when I worked at the mall a million years. Steve and I get them as an app whenever we go to PF Chang’s. Lettuce is highly underrated as a vehicle for things that can be unhealthy for you. Lettuce makes you feel virtuous, even if the rest of your meal is not.

Fortunately, these lettuce wraps are not unhealthy for you at all. One serving is only 3 WW Smart points on the Blue Plan. But it is hard to stick to one serving because these are really amazing. The recipe says it serves 4, but this would be really easy to double if you have more than that at home.

I adapted this recipe from the website Damn Delicious (same website where the chicken meatball soup came from). I’ve made quite a few recipes from her and I haven’t hit a bad one yet. The only change I made to the recipe was an addition of a cornstarch/water slurry because I like a thicker sauce. Without the slurry, the lettuce got too wet for me and couldn’t hold the filling well. The chicken and onions let off liquid when they cook, so I found the slurry thickens it’s up enough that it’s not watery.

You could do these wraps with iceberg lettuce or with butter/Bibb lettuce leaves. I love iceberg lettuce, but I like them with a spicier sauce than this one. Because Thomas eats these, I don’t include siracha in the sauce itself – I use it as a topping instead. I do recommend adding it to the sauce if everyone in your house does heat. It’s really good.

Here’s the original recipe: Damn Delicious PF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (Serves 4)

  • 1 lb ground chicken (you can use 99% lean or whatever the store has – I’ve used both and they both taste fine
  • 1 head Bibb/butter lettuce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon siracha, optional, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (not going to lie – I use the frozen cubes from the grocery store because I hate grating ginger. The cubes are 1 tsp each so add 3)
  • 1 8oz can water chestnuts, drained and diced
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced (I actually mince mine)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3-4 tablespoons water

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the chicken, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

Browning chicken – I used a 10 inch pan which is plenty big enough

When chicken is no longer pink (about 5 minutes), add the onions, garlic, hoisin, soy sauce, vinear, and siracha (if using). Stir until the onions become translucent, about 2-3 more minutes.

All my neatly diced and minced add ins. And a jar of the grossest peanut butter to ever be made. Jif for life!
No siracha because the 10 year old doesn’t like spicy. You could also combine all the sauces in a small bowl and then add, but this way you can just dump everything in the pot as you go and dirty one less dish.

Add the diced water chestnuts and scallions, stirring to combine and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Added the water chestnuts and scallions – you can see the liquid here and why I use the slurry.

In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water until smooth, with no lumps. Add into the chicken mixture and cook an additional 2 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

Season with salt and pepper and any additional siracha you might want. Serve over lettuce.

Posted in chicken, Dinner, Fast, Kid-Friendly | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Chicken Meatball Noodle Soup

I love meatballs and I love chicken noodle soup, so this seems like a good recipe to try out. It came out amazing the first time I made it and it has now become a regular staple in our house. The meatballs are tender, with a ton of flavor. I’ve made it both with regular lean ground chicken and 99% fat free ground chicken – use the regular lean (which is like 93% lean). The extra fat content gives it a smoother, fuller flavor, which in turns gives the soup a richer flavor. If you need the lower fat for health reasons, the soup will still taste great (I promise), but you’ll need to add something for a little richness (like a touch of worcestershire sauce).

I was fully planning to use orzo for this batch of soup, but my pantry had other plans. While I had a box of orzo, it was all clumped in the bottom of the box in a weird way and I didn’t want to risk some kind of botulism because I used clumpy pasta. So I used thin, broken egg noodles for this recipe today. But honestly, any short pasta will be fine. You could probably even substitute zucchini noodles for this.

You can find the original recipe for this here:

I’ve made several of her recipes and they’ve all come out great.

Chicken Meatball Noodle Soup

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup ground parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp EACH garlic powder, dried oregano, and dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Zest from half a lemon (optional)
  • salt & pepper

For the soup:

  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup orzo (if you use another short pasta, like ditalini or broken spaghetti, I would recommend a full cup)
  • 8 cups of chicken broth (I use low-sodium)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

I chopped all my veggies first and set them aside so they’d be ready when I wanted to saute them. To make your meatballs, mix together all the ingredients. It felt weird to me not to put an egg in the meatball mixture, but you really don’t need one – I promise. If the meat mixture feels sticky to you, wet your hands when you roll them into meatballs. You want 3/4 to 1 inch size meatballs. A pound of meat will make about 25-30 meatballs that size. I read somewhere that for every pound of ground of meat you use, you should use 1 tsp salt. It might seem like a lot, but you’ll need to salt for flavor.

Soup ingredients! The meatballs are so easy to make.

Preheat a large soup pot over medium high heat. I do my meatballs in three batches. Once the pot is heated, add about a tablespoon of oil or a little less if your surface area is smaller and brown the meatballs, removing them to a plate as they brown. I found that my meatballs stuck to the bottom of the pot, even with a lot of oil. But that’s okay! You’re going to deglaze the pot and all those brown bits will come up and be part of the soup.

Once the meatballs are browned on all sides (they shouldn’t be cooked through at this point), move them to a plate. Add more oil, about a tablespoon, to the pot and then add your onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until the veggies are softened and the onion is translucent, about five minutes. This will also be a good chance to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in the dried thyme and stir. Let cook together for about a minute.

Browned-ish meatballs
You can see the brown bits here that will come up once you add the veggies and start stirring.

Pour in your 8 cups of chicken broth and your two bay leaves. Bring the soup to a boil, then add your pasta and your meatballs and a spring of rosemary. You don’t have to pull off the leaves – just add the whole spring. You’re going to fish it out later when you pull out the bay leaves.

Let the soup cook, uncovered, for about 10-12 minutes or until the pasta is tender and the meatballs are cooked through. Then add the juice from the lemon into the pot – don’t skip this step. It brightens up the whole soup.

The recipe is listed at 4 servings – that’s a pretty generous serving. Steve and I each had two bowls the first time I made it and I still had enough for two more nights of leftovers.

This recipe is 6 WW SmartPoints on the Blue Plan.

Finished product – Steve’s lunch after a long open house!
Posted in Comfort Food, Dinner, make ahead, Soup | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meal Planning and Meal Prep 101

Hey, it’s me – and my long-neglected recipe blog that I haven’t even looked at it in two and years.

I still do a ton of cooking, but documenting what I cook has taken a backseat to kids, grad school, work, and all the other stuff that happens when you’re trying to do a million things at once. But I’m getting back into this if only to have fun with cooking again.

My kids are 10 and 5 now and we have something to do almost every night and every weekend – soccer, swimming, Cub Scouts, martial arts, homework, school events, etc. Steve’s selling real estate (call me if you want a realtor in Massachusetts!) in addition to his 9 to 5, and I’m finishing up grad school while working full-time. Some nights we don’t have time to make a good meal. I stock frozen veggie burgers and frozen salmon burgers (Trader Joe’s FTW!) and frozen veggies for those kind of nights. Some nights I just don’t feel like cooking. We get home around 6 and it’s usually another hour before dinner is on the table. So I started doing meal prep.

I spend a few hours every Sunday making at least three meals for the week. Sheet pan suppers are so easy to do – slice up some veggies, season them up with something, throw on a few chicken breasts and roast at 400 or 425 and you’re done with a couple days of meals. Soup and chili is another good option. Tonight I made sheet pan chicken fajitas and we have leftovers for tomorrow or Monday.

I tend to do eggs in my Instant Pot for breakfast and I’ll make salad a couple nights for lunch the next day, with chicken I usually poached in chicken broth in the Instant Pot.

This Sunday, I’m doing a pot of chicken meatballs and noodle soup, a turkey chili that we’ll serve over roasted sweet potatoes, a sheet pan of chicken breasts and roasted broccoli and green beans tossed with soy sauce and chili garlic sauce, and chicken lettuce wraps that are freaking amazing. I also have a spaghetti squash that needs to be cooked this week, but I don’t have a recipe for that in mind yet. I got the chicken meatball soup and lettuce wraps from a great website called Damn Delicious ( and the adapted the chili recipe from Budget Bytes (

I’ll post the recipes (and the links from their source) when I make them, but I also want to hear from YOU. What’s your go to make ahead that gets you through a busy week?

Posted in Ask A Reader, Dinner, make ahead | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Turkey and Mushroom Bolognese

Eating healthy is hard. Especially when I feel like I’m hard wired to crave chocolate and red meat and salty chip. Indulging sometimes is fine, as long as the portions are under control and I’m not giving into those cravings daily. I know red meat is fatty and cholesterol-y and bad for me in general. When I have recipes that I can swap red meat for something healthier, I do. (Except for steak. I’ll have a steak when I want one, even if it is a small serving.)

Ground turkey can be kind of bland, so it’s important you punch up the flavoring with it as much as possible. I added mushrooms to this because cremini mushrooms will add some texture and earthy flavor that won’t make you miss the red meat portion of this meal. The carrots and onion will add some sweetness. I know that some bolognese sauces now add milk or cream, but I think just using red wine here will give it in enough richness that you don’t need the dairy. If you find this too thick for your tastes, thin out with a little chicken broth.

I made this to serve over spaghetti squash that I roasted in the oven with olive oil, seasoned salt, and pepper.

Turkey and Mushroom Bolognese

  • 1 1/3 lbs lean ground turkey (I used 93/7)
  • 2-3 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1  1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup finely diced carrot
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine (use wine you drink – cooking wine is disgusting)
  • 28 oz can ground, peeled tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano

While your spaghetti squash roasts (or your pasta water boils), heat a large wide skillet over medium high heat. Saute your mushrooms until they start to give off liquid, about 5-7 minutes. Add onions and carrots and saute an additional 5 minutes, until the onions are softened but not brown. Add in garlic and stir an additional thirty seconds.




Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste, then deglaze the pan with red wine, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour in canned tomatoes and let simmer 15-20 minutes on low heat, longer if you’re not in a rush. If you find the sauce too thin, add another tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir in fresh herbs and simmer another 5 minutes.


If you are doing Weight Watchers, the sauce is 6 points.


Posted in Comfort Food, Dinner, Pasta, Turkey | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Egg Cups with Spinach and Cremini Mushrooms

Breakfast during the week is impossible before I leave for work. I’m too busy racing around trying to get everyone dressed and out the door to bother with myself. So breakfast for me is usually whatever I can grab on the way to work (usually a bagel from the coffee shop near where I work) or English muffins with peanut butter that I keep stashed in my desk drawer. If I’m super organized on the weekends, I make mini omelets in muffin tins. We call them egg cups at my house.

It’s not an original idea – I’ve seen tons of recipes for them on Facebook and other food sites I follow. But I try to make them as healthy as possible by skipping the frozen hashbrowns and sausage versions. I usually fill mine up with salsa or sauteed veggies or even just frozen spinach and a little mozzarella. The last few months, I’ve switched from whole eggs to a mixture of egg whites and eggs so they’re a little more healthy.

There’s different ways you can do this: you can put everything in the muffin tin and pour the egg mixture over them or you can whisk everything into the egg mixture and pour it into the muffin tins. I’ve done both. For this recipe, I recommend putting everything in the muffin tins and pouring the egg mixture over it.

Egg Cups with Spinach & Cremini Mushrooms

  • 2 cups egg whites
  • 3 whole eggs
  • Siracha to taste
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach
  • 1 – 1 1/2 jarred roasted red pepper (depends how big the peppers are)
  • 2-3 cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced thin and then chopped
  • half a cup of shredded mozzarella or 3-4 small balls of fresh mozarella
  • 6 strips turkey bacon, sliced and cooked crisp
  • Cooking spray

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Fill each muffin tin with spinach so that the spinach covers the bottom and sides (about 1/4 cup each if you need a measurement) – remember that spinach cooks down and what looks like a lot will shrink some. Dice up the roasted red pepper and place over the spinach.



Add the mushrooms, mozzarella, and turkey bacon.


In a measuring cup, add the egg whites, whole eggs, and siracha. Whisk together, then pour over the spinach mixture in each tin. Do not over fill – you want enough to cover the veggies, but not enough to spill over the top.


Bake for 15-20 minutes until eggs are set.


If you are doing Weight Watchers, each egg cup is 2 points.

Posted in Breakfast, eggs, make ahead | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Baked Chicken “Cordon Bleu” Roll Ups

Sometimes, I feel like chicken is the scourge of my existence. It’s my main supply of protein and it is endlessly boring. I try to find different ways to cook it, but usually end up with it either stir fried or baked with some kind of seasoning on it.

I had a version of this years ago that I think came from a Weight Watchers cookbook, but I think it used prosciutto and mozzarella. I couldn’t find the recipe again when I wanted it, so I came up with something else. I think the version from before used crush cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs, but that’s actually not very appealing to me. I’ve never like cornflakes unless they have a teaspoon of sugar on them.

I mixed the panko with the regular breadcrumbs, but you could just use one or the other if you have a preference. The chicken I used was already cutlet ready, but you could use regular skinless boneless chicken breasts, just pounded thinner. And the sauce is optional. But I like sauce.

I served this with spaghetti squash that had been roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt and pepper (I also put a little of the sauce over it as well).

Baked Chicken “Cordon Bleu” Roll Ups

  • 1 lb chicken cutlets or boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded 1/2 inch thick
  • 5 slices ham
  • 5 slices swiss cheese
  • 2-3 tbsps dijon mustard, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set up a breading station with the eggs and breadcrumbs near where you’re working.


Place a piece of chicken on wax paper and brush with dijon mustard. Layer with a slice of ham, then a slice of swiss. Brush lightly with dijon (I used about a tablespoon for the whole recipe). Roll the chicken, ham, and cheese into a compact cylinder and secure with a toothpick at the seam.



Dip the chicken roll into the egg wash, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet lined with the foil and sprayed with cooking spray.


Once all the chicken has been rolled and placed on the sheet, drizzle with olive oil. I used the same brush I used with the dijon to spread the olive oil.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.


While the chicken bakes, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add the flour and 1-2 tablespoons of dijon mustard. Whisk until combined and the flour is a golden color. Add your chicken stock and continue to whisk (I also added a couple splashes of white wine, but I think sherry would be better here) until the consistency is slightly thicker than gravy.

Serve the sauce over the chicken once it’s out of the oven.




Posted in chicken, Comfort Food, Dinner | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Baked Orzo with Squash and Mozzarella

I’ve never made anything from the website Smitten Kitchen ( before. But this recipe looked really good. Only problem: I don’t like eggplant and that was the main ingredient. I’m also not a huge fan of tomatoes, which is also an important ingredient. So I thought about the kinds of vegetables you might be able to substitute and which one of those vegetables I like and, more importantly, actually had on hand.

I had summer squash and zucchini available so that’s what I used. And instead of tomatoes I used roasted red peppers. It’s two different tastes, but I like the sweetness of the red peppers. I increased the carrots and celery because I like a veggie heavy casserole and made a couple of very minor tweaks, but other than that I followed the recipe as written.

It was heavenly. Just the right amount of cheesy goodness and the vegetables were tender and sweet. It was definitely a repeat meal for us. We could have eaten the whole tray in one sitting, that’s how good it was.

If you like eggplant, here’s the link to the original recipe:

Baked Orzo with Squash and Mozzarella

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs summer squash and/or zucchini, roughly diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 medium carrots, diced small
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz orzo, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • zest of one whole lemon (I also juiced half of it, about 2 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 4 oz firm mozzarella, diced small
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to top the casserole
  • 14 oz jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the squash and zucchini and fry for eight minutes. I don’t think I heated my oil long enough because the squash and zucchini didn’t get the kind of color I wanted it to. I didn’t want the veggies to get mushy, so I kept a close eye on it.


Remove the squash and zucchini with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain. Add the carrots and celery to the remaining oil and cook for 3-5 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook for an additional five more minutes, lowering the heat to medium. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two more minutes.


Remove the pan from the burner and stir in the fried squash and zucchini, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, roasted red peppers, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper to taste, and vegetable stock. Stir well and transfer to a 9×13 baking dish, prepared with nonstick cooking spray. At this point, I added more parmesan to the top of the casserole.


Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 20. The top of your pasta will be crunchy, but so delicious. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving as the vegetable stock will not be completed absorbed when you take it out of the oven. The resting time is crucial for that.

You could serve this as a side, but it’s meant to serve 4 so eat the whole helping and enjoy it.


Posted in Casserole, Dinner, Pasta, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa

This summer, my oldest is at camp for the first time. It’s not like a sleep away camp – he gets the bus at the local Y to an outdoor Y center in the next town and spends all day there getting disgustingly dirty (seriously – he came home yesterday and I asked him if he just lays down and rolls in the dirt) and having a great time. The program has these so-called Family Fun Nights, where they serve (for a nominal fee) a meal of hot dogs, baby carrots, and watermelon. As an adult, that meal holds zero appeal for me. It didn’t either for a friend of mine who brought a really tasty looking salad made with veggies, black beans, salsa, and brown rice to the last FFN.

I saw her the following weekend at a birthday party and she gave me the recipe (which includes eggplant) and the method (cooking on the grill in a disposable tin). I don’t eat eggplant unless it’s fried and coated in marinara and mozzarella, so that was out immediately. And while her method is super easy and involves almost zero clean up, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include a vinaigrette when I was working with this, so I didn’t think the grill would work.

I will eventually try the recipe (minus the eggplant) the way it was intended, but I tried it this way and I think it came out pretty well. I love, love, love grilled vegetables. I could eat them every night, happily. They’re great leftover in burritos, eggs, salads – anything really. I liked the way this came out.

This was my first time cooking with quinoa. I wasn’t sure if red or white would be a better choice (still not sure) or if there’s a taste difference. I think quinoa, because it’s kind of bland, is a good fit because it lets the vegetables and the salsa speak for itself. I forgot to rinse the quinoa before I cooked it, but when I made this a second time I remembered and the difference in texture was significant. So rinse your quinoa. The slightly nutty taste of the quinoa and the sweetness of the grilled vegetables was a good match. Next time, I may have my husband grill a couple jalapeno peppers as well to add in – it just needed a little more heat. So if you like spicy, either add chili powder or use a spicier salsa. I used a little bit of olive oil on the veggies so they wouldn’t stick to the grill – you could sprinkle cumin and chili powder on the veggies before you grill them as well, which I may do next time. The second time I made it, I added garlic powder and chili powder to the broth before I added the quinoa. It definitely added some flavor, but I still think it needs some kind of chili pepper or spicier salsa.

I served this as a main meal, but you could certainly serve this as a side with grilled fish or chicken or even steaks.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Quinoa

Serves 8

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced thickly lengthwise
  • 1 medium summer squash, sliced thickly lengthwise
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced in rings, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted)
  • 1 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts cut
  • 1 1/2 cups jarred salsa
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grill zucchini, squash, and red onion until charred, but not mushy (about 10-15 minutes – should be the same amount of time as your quinoa). Veggies should still be firm. Chop into bite size pieces.

Cook quinoa and chicken broth according to package directions. Stir in frozen corn kernels, black beans, and salsa once quinoa is cooked. Add grilled veggies and salt and pepper.

Serve with a sprinkle of scallions and a squeeze of lime juice.


This is really good with a cold, summer beer.

Weight Watchers Points: 4

Posted in Dinner, Fast, Sides, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

My friends Andy and Ans host a pot luck party every year. Because winter was so miserable here in the Northeast, they decided that everyone should bring a vegetable focused dish to celebrate spring. I love vegetables. Lately, I’ve been very into big salads with light Italian dressing. There’s something satisfying about the crunch of fresh vegetables.

But the way I like my vegetables best is roasted. So when I was thinking about what to bring to Andy’s and Ans’ this weekend, I thought about the kinds of salads I like. I didn’t want to just bring a garden salad, but I wanted something that I wouldn’t necessarily need to reheat. You can eat pasta salad warm or cold, depending on your taste.

This borrows a bit from the orzo salad I usually make, but not so much that it’s the same recipe.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

  • 2 medium red onions, quartered
  • 1 large zucchini, halved and sliced (not thinly)
  • 1 large yellow squash, halved and sliced (not thinly)
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained and dried
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup baby spinach, cut into ribbons
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cheese (feta, goat, or blue)
  • 2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked orzo pasta

Preheat oven to 425.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together olive oil, thyme & oregano leaves, garlic, lemon zest & juice, and salt and pepper.

Place vegetables in a large mixing bowl or zip lock bag. Pour marinade over veggies and mix well. On a large baking sheet (or two medium ones) lined with aluminium foil and sprayed with non stick cooking spray, spread the vegetables into one layer.

043 045

Roast until vegetables are golden and tender. Usually about 30-45 minutes. Stir once or twice so the vegetables don’t stick to the pan.


Cook orzo according to package directions and drain well. In a large bowl, combine orzo and spinach. Once vegetables are done, add to orzo and spinach. Whisk together vinegar/juice and olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad. Add cheese and olives. Serve warm, cold or room temperature.

047  048

Posted in Pasta, Salad, Sides, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Shells and Cheese

I wanted to make macaroni and cheese this week because we’re into casseroles right now. It gets harder and harder to eat before 7PM these days so I try to make meals on the weekends that I can refrigerate and then heat up during the week. Shepherd’s pie has been our go to lately because that has everything the kindergartner will eat – red meat, corn, and mashed potatoes. But you can only eat the same thing so many times before it gets boring. And while the kindergartner is happy to eat Shepherd’s pie, pancakes, and blue box mac’n’cheese as often as possible, I need something else.

I googled a couple recipes just to get an idea of what people were doing to make macaroni and cheese and sort of combined a bunch of recipes. The topping didn’t brown as I had hoped – next time, I’ll use melted butter instead of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray. This is not in any way, shape, or form good for you, so I was trying to cut down a little bit by not using butter in the topping, but it didn’t brown at all. It still tasted good, but visually it wasn’t as appealing.

You can use whatever shape pasta you want for this, but I liked the mini shells.

You can make this ahead of time and not bake until ready to eat (which is what I did) or you can bake as you make. Either way, you’re getting a dish of hot, bubbly mac and cheese at the end of the day and that’s never a bad thing.

Shells and Cheese

  • 1/2 pound small shells, cooked a couple minutes shy of al dente
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups of milk (I used 1% and it came out fine)
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • salt to taste
  • 12-14 oz shredded cheddar cheese – sharp or mild (I used mild, but I make it sharp next time)
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp melted butter (I’m guessing since I didn’t do this part) or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray

In a pot of salted water, cook pasta a couple of minutes shy of al dente.

(If you are not making ahead, pre-heat your oven to 350)

In a medium sized pot, melt butter. Once butter is melted, add flour, pepper, mustard, and onion powder. Whisk together until golden brown.

071 072

Add in the milk and continue to whisk. The mixture will thicken up, but this will take time, about 10-15 minutes. Once mixture is thickened, add in cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Taste and decide how much salt you want.

073 074


Stir drained pasta into cheese mixture.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour shells and cheese into casserole dish. If you are not baking now, refrigerate until ready to use.


If you’re baking now, make the topping.

To make the topping: Decadent version: melt butter, stir in panko crumbs. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan. Spread over shells and cheese. Leaner version: mix parm and panko in a bowl, spread over shells and cheese, spray with fake butter spray.


Place tray in oven and cook about 30 minutes for non-make ahead, about 40 for refrigerated tray.

It’s not figure friendly, so I wouldn’t make this every week, but it’s really good on a really cold night.


Posted in Comfort Food, Dinner, Kid-Friendly, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment