Lesson one: No amount of processing can save a poorly lit photo. (Thanks for nothing, Standard Time.)
Lesson two: However it may look, this stew tastes incredible. And it’s easy. And clean, paleo, low-glycemic, dairy-free, soy-free, and kid-approved!
Browning the beef beforehand sounds like an extra step, but it is SO important to the full flavor of this dish. And it’s a quick way to get your kitchen already smelling delicious before you even turn on the crock pot! Put this one on your list for the cold, busy weeknights ahead. (Please send some of that cold down here to Florida!)
Paleo Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Original recipe here
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs stew beef (cubed)
- 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into large dice
- 8 carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
- 1 onion, cut into large chunks
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped)
- optional, to thicken broth: 1/4 cup tapioca starch
- Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the beef chunks, season with a little salt and pepper, and sear on all sides. Dump into your slow cooker and cover with the remaining ingredients, except tapioca starch.
- Cook on high 5-6 hours, or on low 8-9.
- Optional: if you want to thicken the broth, 30 minutes before the end of cooking time, whisk the tapioca starch with 2 Tbsp water. Pour the mixture into the stew, stirring gently, until distributed throughout, and allow it to resume cooking.
- Remove bay leaves and enjoy! In the unlikely event that there are leftovers, they reheat beautifully.
Have you read the children’s book Strega Nona, by Tomie de Paola? The main character is a grandmother witch who has a magic pasta pot. She sings a song to it, and it magically fills with fresh, hot pasta:
Bubble, bubble, pasta pot–
Boil me some pasta, nice and hot.
I’m hungry and it’s time to sup;
Boil enough pasta to fill me up.
Her bungling assistant, Big Anthony, thinks he knows her secret, but he forgets one crucial step and soon the whole town is swimming in pasta!
We love that book. And we love pasta! When I first introduced my girls to this recipe, I called it “Strega Nona pasta,” because it’s magic, just like hers! This pasta won’t magically appear in your pot, but it takes so few steps that it might as well. And at least you don’t have to worry about it overflowing and filling your house!
I love that I can dump all these fresh, delicious ingredients into a pot, turn on the burner, and when the timer goes off, I have a magical pot full of fragrant, hot pasta, ready to eat–I don’t even need to drain it!
“Strega Nona” Pasta
Original recipe here
- 12 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti (I throw in a couple handfuls of short pasta, like whole-wheat rotini, for my little ones as well)
- 1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cups (1 pint) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 sprigs fresh basil, chiffonade (cut into ribbons)
- up to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (I use 1/4 tsp)
- up to 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups chicken (or “no-chicken” or vegetable) broth
- optional: fresh grated parmesan
- Dump all ingredients into a large pot with tall sides. If your pot isn’t wide enough for your spaghetti to lie flat, break the spaghetti in half.
- Bring to a boil over high heat; boil 10-12 minutes or until pasta is cooked and much of the liquid is absorbed.
- Serve immediately, topped with parmesan if desired.
Meatless | Clean | Vegetarian option | Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free
Meet my husband’s favorite meal:
Ok, so it’s really hard to make enchiladas look sexy, but trust me, they’re awesome. The key is the homemade enchilada sauce. I love restaurant enchiladas, but never loved how they tasted when I made them at home using the canned sauce. The homemade stuff a total game-changer. I make a double batch so that I can freeze half of it for another time. For our family, I can get away with stretching the filling to two 9×9 pans–one for now, and one to either give away or freeze for later (the Hefty foil pans are ideal for either use). So when I double the sauce, I get enough for four dinners’ worth of deliciousness!
Keep this one clean with whole-grain tortillas and less-processed chicken broth in the sauce. Make it truly vegetarian with “no-chicken” broth. Make it dairy-free with vegan cheese: we use Daiya cheddar shreds and it tastes similar enough that my husband and kids don’t pitch a fit. Make it gluten-free with the right tortillas.
Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas
Enchiladas: adapted slightly from here.
- tortillas of choice
- 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
- 6 oz (1 1/2 cups) shredded Mexican blend cheese or Daiya shreds, divided
- heaping 1/2 tsp cumin
- heaping 1/2 tsp paprika
- 2 cups enchilada sauce (below)
- 1/4 cup onions strained from sauce (see below)
- Preheat oven to 375 and spray a baking dish (one 9×13 or two 8x8s).
- In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, 4 oz (1 cup) of the cheese, spices, and strained onions. Use a fork to mash some of the beans so that mixture is chunky and incorporated, keeping some of the beans whole.
- Lay a tortilla flat and spoon about 2 heaping Tbsp (or more, if you like a larger filling-to-tortilla ratio) into the center. Roll it up and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish, then repeat until dish is filled.
- Pour sauce over enchiladas (if preparing 2 pans, pour 1 cup over each pan), then top with remaining shredded cheese. (If freezing, wrap well with foil and plastic wrap and freeze at this stage. Then thaw 24 hours before baking.) Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.
Enchilada sauce: adapted from here. Tip: Double it!
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-3 Tbsp chili powder, to taste
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 15-oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 cup chicken (or no-chicken) broth
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a few minutes, until just beginning to brown around the edges. Add the garlic, spices, and salt; toast until fragrant, about a minute.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
- Remove sauce from heat and pour through a strainer set over a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press the onions into the mesh and force out more of the sauce. Save about 1/2 cup of the onions to mix into the filling.
- This makes about 2 cups sauce. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or the freezer for up to 3 months!
Vegetarian | Clean eating | Dairy-free option | Soy-free | Gluten-free option
I know all of you moms can relate to this:
When my little one was first born, everything had to be done one-handed &/or at lightning speed, or screaming would ensue. Including dinner. I didn’t think most of my go-to recipes were that time-consuming until I had The Witching Hour to contend with. So I started looking for meals that took literally 5 minutes of prep. They could sit in the oven all they wanted, but hands-on time was at a premium.
Mother-in-law to the rescue!
This easy dinner is adapted from her recipe, and literally takes 5 minutes, especially if you have a bigger kid on hand to crush the crackers for you. The amounts are approximate because I just kind of wing it every time–feel free to do your own improvising! I serve it with seasoned brown rice, which takes longer to cook, so I start it before the chicken. The rice recipe is at the bottom.
- 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
- 1 Tbsp. parmesan
- up to 1 tsp. garlic salt
- about 1/2 cup sour cream
- 4 chicken breasts
- Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place the crackers in a Ziploc bag & use a rolling pin to crush them into fine crumbs. Pour into a shallow dish. Add parmesan & garlic salt; stir to combine.
- Place sour cream in another shallow dish.
- If desired (especially if you’re short on baking time), cut chicken breasts in half.
- Coat one piece of chicken in sour cream, then fully coat in crumb mixture. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Bake 15-20 minutes or until done in the middle (this is why I cut mine in half; they get done quick & don’t burn).
- Serve with seasoned brown rice (below) & salad or fruit.
Seasoned brown rice
- Make brown rice according to package directions, to yield 3-4 servings.
- 5 minutes before it’s done, add about 1 Tbsp. butter, up to 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, & about 1 Tbsp. dried parsley.
- Serve with chicken.
What are your favorite no-time-flat dinners?
My good friend posted the link to this recipe months ago & raved about its tastiness. I was intrigued, so I pinned it, but I never mustered the courage to actually make it.
Because it’s vegan.
Vegan is a dirty word in our house of meat-eaters. But it looks just so tasty, right?
So one day I took the plunge. I had a backup plan in place–a jar of pasta sauce hiding at the back of the pantry–that I considered employing even as the mixture was simmering. How could cashews possibly make a sauce creamy?
But it worked. Oh boy, did it work. Rich, tomato-basil-garlic heaven. & it was easy!!! Now I understand why my friend raved about it. Fellow carnivores (or at least omnivores), please don’t make the mistake I did & wait forever: make this immediately.
Note: while the original recipe says this makes enough for 2 servings of pasta, I’ve coated a whole pound of pasta in it & it’s worked great. I also add a little more tomato flavor.
- 2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2-4 cloves garlic (I use 2), minced
- up to 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, or to taste, finely chopped (if you, like me, don’t buy fresh herbs often, the small plastic package of basil that hangs out in the refrigerated part of the produce section is just enough for this recipe)
- up to 1 lb. of pasta of your choice (we use whole-wheat)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes & toss them, seeds & all into your blender. Add the cashews, water, & tomato paste, & puree until smooth.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water & cook as directed. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-low. Add the garlic & saute a couple minutes, taking care not to burn it. Add the contents of the blender. Bring it to a simmer; add the salt.
- Let it simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove sauce from heat; stir in pepper & basil.
- When pasta is done cooking, reserve about 1/3 cup pasta water, drain, & return to pot. Slowly add the sauce until it looks coated enough for your taste, adding pasta water if needed. Stir & serve immediately.
- Leftovers refrigerate & reheat well!
Dairy-free | Soy-free | Clean eating | Vegan
Aside from the tastiness, healthiness, & easiness of this recipe, The Toddler Who Won’t Eat Anything ATE THIS!!!
So am I posting regularly now? I don’t know… Not regularly enough to use a real camera to photograph dinner tonight, apparently. All we have is this Instagram shot. But this is a tasty dish, no matter how blurry or dark it may look. Several people on Facebook asked for the recipe after seeing said Instagram shot, so I figured I’d post it here for the good of all.
It came from Williams-Sonoma’s One Pot cookbook, which has some real gems if you’re looking for meals that are quick but unique. When my mother-in-law first sent it to me (she got it out of the clearance bin at Deseret Book), this was one of the first recipes that caught my eye. But Husband said he didn’t like squash, & besides, winter squash was out of season. So when the southern-hemisphere stuff started showing up in my grocery store, I ignored my husband & made it anyway. Everyone — including him — loved it (ha! So there!), though I will say that (Almost) One-Year-Old preferred gnawing the raw squash to the cooked, seasoned stuff. It takes less than 30 minutes start to finish & only dirties a pasta pot, a cutting board, & a baking sheet, plus some assorted utensils.
- 2 lbs. butternut or other winter squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into small (1/2-inch) cubes
- 1 large yellow onion, halved & thinly sliced on a mandoline
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon (though I used regular and it was just fine)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage (I used scant 1/2 Tbsp. rubbed sage)
- salt & pepper
- 1 lb. pasta: rigatoni, farfalle, or other chunky shape
- 1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated (or… not), plus more for serving
- Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Toss squash, onion, & bacon with the oil. Sprinkle with sage & season with salt & pepper. Spread in a single layer.
- Roast until squash is caramelized & tender & bacon is getting crispy, 15-20 minutes. Remove & set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta & cook according to package directions, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water prior to draining. Return pasta to the pot.
- Use a wooden spoon to free any of the squash mixture that may be sticking to the foil, then lift the foil off of the baking sheet & use it to funnel the squash into the pot with the pasta.
- Toss for 1 minute over high heat, adding as much of the pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
- Add parmesan, toss, & serve.