Tag Archives: meatless

Last-minute dinner solutions.

You guys, this pregnancy has been kicking my butt: something to do with it being my first time being pregnant in my 30s, combined with having to keep 3 kids alive–including a 2-year-old part-tornado, part-monkey, part-evil genius. At 23 weeks–the usually FUN! trimester–I’m already acutely feeling every single third-trimester ache and pain, and I’m spending most afternoons on the couch. Definitely not the speed I’m used to.

So dinner time has been interesting!

Most of the time, eating out actually makes me feel worse, so what’s a mom who’s solo for dinner time going to do? Simplify. Which, honestly, means a lot of pasta. My girls are kind of sick of pasta. But it’s easy, it’s versatile, and aside from the overuse it generally doesn’t elicit complaints from the under-5′ set. (I still can’t believe that my 7-year-old is already over 4 feet tall.) And I’m really not operating on enough cylinders to think far enough ahead to do the Crock Pot thing.

Rather than blog each recipe individually (I’m tired, remember? And my back is already hurting just sitting typing this… How many weeks do I have left?), I’m just going to make a roundup of the last-minute dinner saviors I’ve been using lately. Some are from my blog, and some are from others; all photos are property of their original publishers.

Peas and Pasta, from Weelicious

Meatless | Clean eating | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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This has been a last-minute staple in our family for years. It is SO easy, SO fast, and uses ingredients I always have on hand, so when it’s 4:40 and I haven’t even thought of dinner, this is it. I use whole-wheat pasta to keep it clean and up the protein and fiber to make it more filling; you can use gluten-free pasta if needed. Also, because this is a very mild dish, easy on the seasonings and spices, it’s usually one of the first recipes I attempt when I’m coming out of morningsickness, and it’s a good one when a bout of nausea blindsides me again.

Creamy Garlic Alfredo, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Meatless | Mostly Clean eating | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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Again, super easy, super fast, and uses things I already have in my fridge. The only forethought required is softening the cream cheese a bit, though in a pinch I’ve just thrown it in cold. Again, I use whole-wheat pasta, but gluten-free would work.

Southwest Chicken Wraps:

Nut-free| Gluten-free option | Soy-free option | Clean-eating option

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For a break from pasta, here’s what we had tonight. These are great because I can cobble together leftover bits from other nights when I’m feeling well enough to make more of an effort for dinner (read: weekends, when my husband’s able to be home to wrangle girls) to make a hearty meal with very little effort. I always cook up extra rice and extra chicken to keep in the fridge, and the rest comes together quick. The best part is that I can stretch the filling recipe over two meals, and freeze half, so that on nights like tonight, all I had to do was pull it out in the afternoon to thaw on the counter, then grab the cheese, sour cream, and tortillas, and in less than 15 minutes dinner’s on.

Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta:

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Clean eating | Vegan | Gluten-free option

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(I really need to update that photo now that I have a Vitamix that actually makes the cashew sauce legitimately creamy.)

Anyway, here’s another really easy pasta option. As long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand, it comes together quick. The sauce literally cooks for maybe 5 minutes. So your dinner is done in the time that it takes to boil some water and cook some pasta. And my girls consistently down this one. I used to dial down the garlic and basil, but I don’t need to anymore.

Skinny Chicken Broccoli Alfredo:

Clean eating | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free option | Meatless option

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This one is really versatile. Lately I rarely add the step of turning the sauce green; I just leave it white. Sometimes I make it without chicken if I don’t have any cooked chicken on hand. Again, I make a habit of keeping all of the essential ingredients in my kitchen, so that I can make some variation of this protein-filled dish any time. The roux sounds intimidating, but even though there are a few steps to it, the sauce comes together really fast–again, just in the time it takes me to boil a pot of water and cook my pasta.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos:

Soy-free option | Clean eating option | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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Another non-pasta option! This week I dusted this one off from a long time ago–when I was still firmly in my semi-homemade days. I think this is from when I was pregnant with my second kid. It’s been awhile. I bought a rotisserie chicken from the Costco that just opened a couple miles away (yay!!!!!), chopped it up, and whipped these up. They’re easy to freeze for later, so now I have another dinner waiting for me to just throw in the oven!

If dinner time has become a chore or a panic-inducing time at your house, I hope that some of these ideas help you a little. Even as tired, gross, unmotivated, or sore as I might feel, I’m so grateful that I have so many options in my back pocket to pull out to keep my family–and myself and my growing baby–fed and healthy. Now, I’m not going to lie: the other night we had oatmeal. And we do hit the Chick-fil-A drive-through or order pizza or Thai takeout not infrequently. But I’ve noticed, more acutely this pregnancy than ever, that even though it takes effort I just feel better after a home-cooked meal. Even if it is just pasta with some kind of sauce on it.

I do have a few new recipes to post, hopefully soon. In the meantime, I’m going to spend some more quality gestating time on my couch.

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Magic One-Pot Pasta.

Meatless | Clean | Vegetarian option | Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free

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!

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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!
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“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
  1. 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.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil 10-12 minutes or until pasta is cooked and much of the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Serve immediately, topped with parmesan if desired.

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Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas.

Vegetarian | Clean eating | Dairy-free option | Soy-free | Gluten-free option

Meet my husband’s favorite meal:

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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)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray a baking dish (one 9×13 or two 8x8s).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  1. 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.
  2. Stir in the tomato sauce and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. This makes about 2 cups sauce. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or the freezer for up to 3 months!

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