Tag Archives: veggies

Almost-Chili Taco Soup.

Now that Mini-Munchkin is nearly three months, I probably have to stop using the “I have a newborn” excuse & start posting a little more regularly.

With that, here’s the first of what will likely be many quick-prep meals for those nights when you have literally 5 minutes in the kitchen.

A friend of mine from my local chapter of the National MOMS Club brought this dish over after I had the Mini-Munchkin. This thick, hearty, almost-chili soup was an instant hit, so I asked her for the recipe. It was so easy she was actually embarrassed to give it to me! But I love easy, so I’m not embarrassed at all to share this with you.

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3/4 cup water*
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 2 cans black beans, undrained
  • 2 cans corn, drained
  • tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, etc., for serving

*or however much your particular taco seasoning calls for

  1. Brown the ground beef. Drain.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add taco seasoning & water. Stir.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Stir.
  4. Cover; simmer until heated through or as long as you want.

That’s it! Yum!

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Kiddie primavera. (Or, getting your kid excited to polish off her veggies.)

Weelicious triumphs again!

To minimize mess, I generally buy & cook the short pastas, so when I told The Munchkin we were having “slurpy spaghetti” for dinner, she practically leaped for joy. The many different veggies in this dish are julienned just like the pasta, so she slurped them up just like the noodles. & get this: she was happy about it! She ate them on purpose! “Look, mommy, I’m slurping asparagus!” This, coming from the toddler who enjoys carrots, but will hardly touch zucchini or asparagus. The bowl was polished off. Success!

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 6 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (original recipe calls for only 1, but it needs more)
  • 1 lb. whole-wheat spaghetti (or, if you don’t have a food processor to julienne your veggies & your knife skills are as atrocious as mine, linguine covers a multitude of sins)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan
  1. Julienne your vegetables with a knife or the shredding blade of a food processor.
  2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat.
  4.  Saute garlic 1 minute.
  5. Add veggies & salt & saute an additional 3-4 minutes or until softened.
  6. Drain pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
  7. Return pasta to pot or place in a large serving bowl. Add veggies, pasta water, butter, & Parmesan; toss to coat.
  8. Let your Munchkins pretend to be baby birds slurping up worms!

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Beef with Broccoli (& Carrots).

I do my grocery shopping on Wednesdays. It’s the day before the new circular comes out, so the store is always empty. (Honestly though, I didn’t learn that until we’d been going for several weeks out of necessity because it was the only day we didn’t have something else scheduled; it’s a nice perk.) So this means that Tuesday night after The Munchkin goes to sleep I’m up racking my brain about what to make for dinner that week. I’d been in a rut for weeks — maybe months.

Then I read about one food blogger’s method for organizing recipes. Now, honestly, I’ve been looking everywhere & can’t find the post anymore, so I think it may have just been a Facebook post or something, otherwise I’d send you there in a millisecond. But the gist of it was that she has a Word document (or you could use an Excel spreadsheet) of all the dinner recipes she likes to use, with either the link (if it’s from a blog) or the title of the cookbook, so she can find it quickly. Keeping it on the computer makes it easy to add to & modify the list, & you could organize it by cuisine (Asian, Mexican, Italian, etc.) or food type (beef, chicken, vegetarian, etc.), & it’s so much quicker than my old method of printing off the recipe & sticking it in my overstuffed binder of recipes. So that’s my goal.

Another way to streamline weekly meal planning is to assign “theme nights.” I actually read in this month’s Parents magazine that theme nights can get kids excited about sitting down with the family for dinner & can help them assume a larger role in meal prep. But on the practical side, if I know that Thursday night is going to be Mexican night, I can go to my handy-dandy “Mexican” category & have fewer meals to have to choose from.

So why am I saying all this? Because I’m trying to expand my repertoire to include more international foods for said “theme nights.” For Asian night, meet Beef with Broccoli (original recipe here).

  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 lb.+ stir-fry beef
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 large carrots, peeled & sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • Sauce, below
  • hot cooked rice

Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  1. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl; stir until smooth. Set aside.
  2.  In a shallow bowl, combine cornstarch, water, soy sauce, & garlic powder; stir until smooth. Toss beef in mixture until well coated.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in wok on medium-high heat. Stir-fry beef until done. Remove & keep warm.
  4. Stir-fry vegetables in remaining oil 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. (I like to cover the wok to allow the veggies to steam.)
  5. Return beef to wok & add sauce. Cook 2 minutes.
  6. Serve over rice.

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Italian Steak with Zucchini & Pasta.

My Husband The Breadwinner doesn’t cook much anymore: 1) he doesn’t need to with me around, except when it comes to pancakes, & 2) he doesn’t get home from work in time anyway. But this meal is evidence that he can find his way around the kitchen if the occasion calls for it. It’s his mom’s recipe, but he made it for me for my birthday a couple years ago & it was delicious & memorable enough to have me craving it this week.

In my own carnivorous opinion, the steak is really the star of this meal, but if you’d rather go the vegetarian route, it’d taste great with marinated portobellos, or even just by itself! It also heats up fabulously for leftovers.

  • 1 lb. flank steak
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite house Italian dressing
  • 2 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 med. zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (or to taste) diced onion
  • 2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • parmesan, to taste
  • chiffonade fresh basil, to taste
  1. Marinate the steak 6-8 hours or overnight in the dressing with one of the cloves of garlic, minced.
  2. Prepare the pasta as directed.
  3. Meanwhile, rub the pepper into both sides of the steak & cook it in a skillet on medium heat, 5-6 minutes a side or until desired doneness.
  4. Meanwhile meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pot on medium heat & saute the other clove of garlic, minced, & the onion for a couple minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini, tomato sauce, & red pepper, then salt to taste. Cook another 2 minutes, then cover & let simmer on low another 2-3 minutes or until zucchini is tender.
  6. Toss pasta with sauce & zucchini, then place in serving bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan & basil, then spread sliced steak on top.

Picky (or at least skeptical) eater pleaser: Take out some of the pasta before tossing it with the sauce & place it in a section of one of those nifty partitioned plates & a little of the sauce & some zucchini slices in another. Cut the steak into small pieces & place them in a third. The Munchkin preferred to dip her pasta in the sauce rather than having it coated in it already, & even tried a slice of zucchini! As for the steak, it was gone before we knew it. I’d call that a success.



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Resolution-friendly recipes!

For the many of us who have resolved to treat our bodies a little better this year, here are some healthy recipes from the past year. (I can’t believe this blog is already almost a year old!)

More new recipes to come, promise!

I’m making these Chewy, Chunky (& Lowfat!) Oatmeal Bars for us to snack on as we walk around Disney World this weekend. They’re so hearty & delicious (we all love them), it’s hard to believe they’re so low in fat!

Start the day off right with yummy Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes. You just might want to skip the butter syrup.

Now, a couple vegetarian dinners: Pasta with Arugula & Tomatoes

…& Skinny Veggie Ziti.

If your Munchkins are joining you in your resolution, help them get some more veggies with some Veggie Latkes. (I can’t believe how young The Munchkin looks in this picture!)

Then finish it off right with the almost entirely nonfat Skinny Banana Bread for dessert!

Best of luck keeping your resolutions — health & otherwise — this year!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

36th Avenue

Cast Party Wednesday

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Pasta salad a la you.

I LOVE pasta salad. LOVE it. A few weeks ago, I decided I needed to make a batch to snack on during the day, so I decided to poll some of my friends on Facebook: “Best pasta salad you’ve ever had. Ready… GO.” I loved all the variations they came up with! Pasta salad’s endless versatility is one of its many virtues.

My friend Mandy suggested penne, hard salami, mozzarella, & Bernstein Italian salad dressing.

Lauren said orzo, kalamata olives, feta, red pepper, cucumber, & a lemon/EVOO vinaigrette.

Joy submitted “penne mixed with pesto, spinach mixed with ranch/milk, feta, tomatoes, & olives.”

Momo flattered me by saying my pasta salad recipe was her favorite. Isn’t that nice of her?

Stephanie said “orzo with lemon, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and STUFF. Whatever veggies you have on hand. Various parts of animals! STUFF. And CHEESE, Gromit!”

Thanks to a weird olive allergy (just the whole olive, not olive oil…don’t ask) & fear of Listeria while pregnant, olives & deli meats (sorry Lauren & Mandy) were out. But Stephanie’s comment — combined with all the other delicious suggestions — got me thinking. Can you really go wrong with pasta salad? I submit that the answer is NO!

My “usual” pasta salad recipe — the one I bring to parties & barbecues — is generally rotini, Good Seasons Italian dressing mix, tomatoes, feta, & parsley. Maybe a little Italian seasoning sprinkled in. But guess what? I don’t like tomatoes! So this time, since it was just for me, I subbed in red peppers. This is how I made it… do it your own way!

  • 1 pkg. Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta
  • 1 packet Good Seasons Italian dressing mix, prepared according to the packet directions but with a little less water
  • diced red peppers
  • crumbled feta
  • parsley
  • Italian seasoning
  1. Prepare the pasta as directed, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking & cool it off.
  2. Meanwhile, marinate your red peppers (or whatever crunchy veggies you’re using, like onions) in the dressing for awhile to get rid of that “raw veggie” crunch. You may even want to do this an hour or two before you start with the pasta. This was a great tip from my friend Carolyn!
  3. When you’re ready, toss the pasta with the dressing mixture. Then toss in your other tasty “STUFF,” as Stephanie said, until it tastes perfect.

What’s your favorite pasta salad?

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Pasta with broccoli & chicken in creamy tomato sauce.

My family just came to visit, & after a week of dining out, I was having serious grocery list writer’s block. What to make this week? Especially with Christmas falling in there too? Fortunately, I recalled one of our old favorites that I haven’t made in forever. We call it “Pink Sauce Chicken.”

(Admittedly, this is one of the least flattering photos imaginable. I’m beyond excited about the light scoop My Husband The Generous is “surprising” me with on Christmas!)

So you’re asking, “If it’s one of your favorites, why haven’t you made it in a long time?” The answer is that I got it from the Kraft Food&Family magazine, & they had the nerve to stop making one of the key ingredients. That’s the trouble with semi-homemade: you’re limited by the available ingredients.

But after like 15 minutes of standing in the salad dressing aisle with The Munchkin contentedly munching on a cookie in her green racecar cart (thank you Publix!), I found the substitute. & Pink Sauce Chicken never tasted better!

  • 6 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Lawry’s 30-minute Marinade in Tuscan Sundried Tomato*
  • 8+ oz. uncooked short pasta (the recipe calls for bowtie)
  • up to 4 cups broccoli florets (we do more pasta & less broccoli)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 4 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
  • parmesan, to taste

* The recipe originally called for Kraft’s Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing. The 30-minute Marinade does a great job, but has a little less liquid in it, so you need to watch that your chicken doesn’t scorch. If you can’t find the 30-minute Marinade, look for an Italian dressing with roasted red peppers relatively high on the ingredient list.

  1. Marinate chicken in some of the 30-minute marinade for — you guessed it — 30 minutes.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli for last 3 minutes (for frozen, last 4 or 5 minutes) of cooking time.
  3. Meanhile, heat 3 Tbsp. of the marinade in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic & heat until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken; cook, covered, 5 min. to a side or until done in the middle. You may need to add more marinade/dressing to keep it from burning.
  5. Drain pasta mixture; return to pot & set aside. Cover to keep warm.
  6. Add pasta sauce & Neufchatel to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted & mixture is well blended.
  7. Coat chicken in sauce, remove from skillet, & keep warm.
  8. Add sauce mixture to pasta mixture in pot; mix well. Transfer to 6 pasta bowls.
  9. Cut chicken across the grain into thick slices. Fan one breast half over the pasta in each of the bowls.
  10. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese.

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Healthy & Festive Holiday Party Appetizer.

Need ideas for something a little outside the box to bring to your Christmas party this weekend?

My friend Bethany made this for a Christmas recipe exchange a few years ago, & I think I probably ate half of it on my own. It’s tasty, healthy, & festive-looking!

For each tree (16 rounds), here’s what you need:

  • 1 can crescent rolls
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (I use Neufchatel), softened*
  • 1/4 cup sour cream*
  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed*
  • 1/16 tsp. (just fill the 1/8 halfway) garlic powder*
  • assorted veggies in various shapes to “trim your tree”

* If you’re not a fan of dill, you can substitute 4 oz. Garden Veggie Cream Cheese plus 1/4 cup sour cream

  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Unwrap your crescent rolls, but do not unroll. Cut each of the 2 sections into 8 slices to get 16 slices total. (This was when I realized my knife needed sharpening. You may need to reshape your rounds to make them…er… round again.)
  2. Place your slices cut side down on the parchment to form a 5-row triangle & a single one at the bottom for a “trunk.”
  3. Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden.
  4. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, dill, & garlic powder in a small bowl. Spread over the tree (not the trunk), leaving a border around the outside to make it easier for people to pull some off. (Once the edge pieces are taken, people tend to get the general idea, so you don’t need to top each round individually.)
  5. “Trim your tree” with your veggies. Tip: start with your “greenery” (broccoli or snipped green onions). Then do the “star” (yellow pepper) & “garlands” (red pepper slices), & fit everything else around that. Don’t feel bound to the veggies I chose; go with what you love!

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Skinny Veggie Ziti.

It looks like I need to adjust my schedule slightly… I usually write my Monday-morning post on Saturday evening, but I just got called to teach the 3-year-olds at church — there are 8 of them & only 1 of me — so guess what I was doing Saturday night? How did it go? Well, let’s just say that I need to prepare more than I did last week. MUCH more.

So here I am, writing my Monday-morning post on Monday night. But it’s worth the wait, I promise!

Have you visited skinnytaste.com? If you haven’t, you definitely need to head over there & browse Gina’s recipes. She’s great at replicating the tastes of favorite meals & decadent desserts, but making them lowfat & better for you! She even includes Weight Watchers points values, for those of you who have the willpower to do that (I applaude you). This is her vegetarian baked ziti recipe. It’s low in fat, delicious (a huge hit with my whole family!), & makes a TON. So as always, I make a small pan (8×8) for now — we still had leftovers! — & freeze the rest for later.

But I’ve been running into a problem lately with my beloved foil pans: as you probably know, tomato sauce reacts with the aluminum, causing the entire dish to taste like you’re eating a can. No good! For tomato-based dishes like my stuffed shells, I had been lining the foil pan in parchment paper & then adding another layer of parchment on top before covering it with foil, but I just discovered something new & SO much easier!

Paper baking pans! I honestly can’t remember who makes them — Hefty, maybe — but I just know when I saw them at the grocery store I NEEDED THEM. They seal up so nicely with their own little lids too, don’t they? The only negative is that they don’t fit into my gallon freezer bags like the smaller foil ones did, so we’ll see how leftovers fare for extended periods in the freezer, but at least there’s no more metallic taste or parchment paper lining! Hooray!

Okay, now for what you really came here for: the recipe.

  • 1 package (usually they’re 14.5 oz.) high-fiber short pasta (we used Piccolini penne because they’re cheap at Costco)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed & drained
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (I used 1 Tbsp. dried)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. fat-free ricotta (I could only find part-skim, so I used that)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 2 cups (8-oz. pkg.) shredded part-skim mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray baking dishes with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain & return to pot.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium heat in a medium saucepan. Saute garlic until fragrant.
  4. Add spinach & tomatoes.
  5. Stir in oregano, basil, & salt & pepper.
  6. Pour sauce into the pot with the pasta & mix well. Add ricotta, Parmesan, & half of the mozzarella (1 cup). Mix well.
  7. Spread in bottom of prepared baking dishes. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Put extra dish in the freezer.
  8. Bake 27 minutes (for an 8×8 pan — 30 min. for a 9×13 if you’re not freezing leftovers) or until bubbly, cheese is melted, & edges are beginning to brown.


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Remy can’t even fix this one. But maybe you can!

Who here has seen Ratatouille? Today’s flop-turned-okay lunch reminded me of the scene where Chef Skinner tries to set Linguine up for failure by giving him a dud of a recipe. Remy made it the most amazing thing at Gusteau’s in years; I just made mine edible.

I started with a recipe I found in Parenting magazine for Sesame Chicken Salad that looked promising. It had an Asian-inspired peanut sauce… that ended up tasting like peanut-butter-sandwich pasta. Gross.

I doctored it up to edibility, but I could use your help!

  • 8 oz. pasta that you let your kid pick out to get them excited about trying something new
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 carrots, sliced thinly into coins (if serving cold, just grate them & serve them raw in  the pasta)
  • scant 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • pinch ginger
  1. Cook the pasta as directed. Add the carrot coins to the boiling water 4 minutes before the pasta is done, & the snow peas 1 minute before. Drain. (If serving cold, rinse under cold water.)
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. It may not incorporate entirely; the hot pasta will help melt the peanut butter.
  3. Mix everything well & top with sesame seeds & thinly sliced scallions, if desired.

Okay, team: what can we do to make this good but still kid-friendly? My first thought was red pepper flakes, but The Munchkin can’t take the heat.

Thanks for your help!

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