Happy Winter everyone! These cold, snowy days have me craving all the comfort foods (or maybe it’s the pregnancy!). That in combination with not wanting to stand over the stove for more than 30 minutes has really made me hone in on quick and simple recipes like this one. Only one pan to wash (win!), no meat to cook (win!), and it is loaded with cheese (major win!). Plus my 18 month old ate about half of it (sort of win!).
My due date is in 6 weeks which is very very surreal to me. I feel like in some ways I have been pregnant for 125 years, and other times I feel like there’s no way it is already winding down. I knew that my second pregnancy would be different than my first, but I wasn’t expecting all of the new emotions you feel with round two. I go from super excited to grow to a family of 4 to a little bit sad thinking that I won’t be able to give all my attention to Rory anymore. I know he will adjust, as all first children do, but is it weird that I feel guilty for making him share everything including his parents?! I’m sure once the baby is here all will be right with the world, and my funny thoughts about having this second child will subside but for now, I’m over here feeling like I’m a string of happy-sad-happy-sad-happy-crying-laughing emojis. Ugh, hormones man.
Anyway, please enjoy this hearty, lazy meal and don’t feel guilty for making your significant other wash the dishes! (one dish! – and maybe a cutting board)
One Pot 30 Minute Taco Mac & Cheese
Everything gets thrown into one pot and is ready to serve 30 minutes later! Weeknight winner for sure.
Mince onion and place in a large stock pot or dutch oven with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in 2 Tbsp of the taco seasoning and the green pepper. Saute for additional 2-3 minutes.
Add in tomatoes, beans, broth, pasta, and corn. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once pasta is done, add in the final 2 Tbsp of taco seasoning, 1 Tbsp chili powder, and the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and serve.
You can add chicken or ground beef to the first step if you would like additional protein.
Omit the chili powder if you are feeding sensitive palates (I dished some up for my son before I added the chili powder).
We like to top it with sour cream, but feel free to add any additional taco toppings you would like!
I started making this side dish about 4 years ago, and it has been in weekly rotation at my house ever since. My favorite thing about this orzo is that it pretends to be a risotto (with pasta of course) but is wayyyy less maintenance. Also, my one year old loves it – WIN!
As a Mom, one of my biggest goals is to create those things that my kids will look back on one day and immediately think of me. As I type that, it sounds a little bit selfish, but I want my kids to have fond memories of their childhood. Many of those warm feelings for me come from food – my grandma’s cinnamon rolls and sugar cookies, my mom’s runzas and ham balls, my grandma’s love of strawberry shortcake and how I tried to make it one time and accidentally used way too much salt. It seems that it’s those recipes that never taste quite as good when you make them yourself. I’m still trying to find “those recipes” of my own, and I think in time they will come naturally. For now, this orzo is probably one of them for my husband as he literally asks me to make this every week.
So go on, give this a try tonight and reminisce about all of those recipes that bring you warm feelings in your family.
Creamy Parmesan Orzo (One Pot Side Dish)
Creamy (without the cream) pasta dish that everyone at your table will enjoy.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter then add the garlic. Heat for 30-60 seconds.
Add the orzo and toast (stirring frequently) until some pieces just start to turn light brown.
Pour in 2 cups of the chicken broth and let simmer down until almost completely absorbed. Add in 1/2 cup of chicken broth at a time until the orzo is done (you'll have to taste it). Add an additional 1/4 cup of broth and let it heat up.
Stir in red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese is incorporated (it should melt quickly) and the orzo is a creamy consistency.
You made need more or less chicken broth depending on how quickly it absorbs.
Freshly grated parmesan works the best, but you can also use parmesan out of the jar (green Kraft container).
You can easily make this into a full meal by adding chicken and/or broccoli.
I feel like since having a baby my daily/weekly/monthly goals that I set for myself have become a wee bit simple. It went from “I’m going to meal plan, meal prep, work out 3 days, and write a blog post this week” to “I am going to shower today” and “I am not going to eat cereal for supper…again”. Since I am 13 weeks postpartum I think it’s time to eat consistent, well-rounded meals, and actually make an effort to get my daily servings of fruits and veggies. Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, I have been trying to eat healthy since I’ve been breastfeeding, but now that my little man is getting bigger, he requires more milk, so I need to start eating more, quit skipping meals, and make sure that the calories I do put in are for the most part healthy. (It all sounds sooo easy, doesn’t it?!)
It’s unfortunate that summer is gone because that means less fresh produce, but thankfully we live in an area of Colorado that has great grocery store variety and large produce sections. This simple Greek salad is a wonderful way to get veggies in (and some feta cheese). Speaking of which, I love feta cheese. I don’t know how this started. Where I grew up, we were more of a meat and potatoes crowd, and I don’t even think I knew what feta was until I went to Europe, had a gyro, and knew this cheese and I would be BFFs. I think I just wrote an ode to feta, but it deserves it.
If you haven’t tried making homemade dressings, you should start now. I was always intimidated by it, but it is truly very simple, especially vinaigrettes: oil + something acidic (i.e. citrus juice or vinegar) + any other herbs or flavors you want. Oregano gives this one a little punch, and it is a traditional Greek flavor. (Plus I added some sugar to balance using two acids)
P.S. Try the vinaigrette on a lettuce salad or pasta salad. Yum.
Greek Salad with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette
Quick salad full of veggies with a simple dressing with multiple uses!
Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette
Chop all of the vegetables and put into a medium sized bowl.
Put dressing ingredients into a bowl or jar (jar works better if you are saving some for later) and stir until combined.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Cover the salad and let marinate in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (you can skip this step if you are in a hurry).
Remove from the refrigerator, and add the feta cheese. Give it a quick stir to combine, and enjoy!
This amount of dressing would make double the salad, so I would start with only using half and add more if you need it. You can change the amounts in the salad to suit your needs! It would also be good with kalamata olives added.
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Today I would like to talk about something that has been plaguing me for quite some time now. Actually it’s been about a year since it started, and I think it has gradually gotten worse. Don’t worry, it’s not life threatening nor is it generally even harmful. Let’s discuss my official diagnosis of baby brain (or pregnancy brain or mommy brain or WHATEVER you want to call this crazy phenomenon). Seriously though, the. struggle. is. real. I noticed it during my pregnancy, and I generally just blamed it on fatigue, but now looking back I know that that time that I tried to put the laundry hamper in the kitchen was definitely the result of my very confused brain. I really hate to admit that it has gotten a little worse since the little man was born. Example (I’m cringing already) – I was trying out a curry chicken dish the other day, and I marinated the chicken in some curry powder, olive oil, etc. As I went to make the dish later in the evening, I was sauteeing the veggies and as I went to sprinkle on some curry powder I realized IT WASN’T CURRY POWDER, it was CUMIN. Ugh! Not only did I put cumin on the veggies, I had also marinated the chicken in cumin. So what does any logical person do? I sprinkled some actual curry powder on top, served the dish anyway, and didn’t tell my husband 🙂
Needless to say, it tasted a little weird, and I will need to try that recipe again. Lesson of the day: read the darn label closer.
They look a little similar, right?!
On that note, I am sharing a simple three ingredient appetizer that even I can’t screw up. Let me just say that this will for sure be a crowd pleaser and people will think you put a huge amount of effort into them! I love mini sweet peppers, and I’m always looking for a fun way to use them. This recipe is great because not only does it include melted cheese (hello!) but the peppers get a lovely, flavorful char on them.
Three Ingredient Stuffed Pepper Bites
Simple and fast appetizer for a crowd!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean up).
Cut sweet peppers in half. Remove seeds and veins.
Transfer half the tub of garden vegetable cream cheese to a bowl, and stir in shredded cheese.
NOTE: I made my own veggie cream cheese by adding minced carrots, green pepper, green onion, and dill to a tub of cream cheese, but store bought pre-made would work great also!
Scoop a spoonful of cream cheese mix onto each half of pepper.
Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then turn on the broiler to low and broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown. Remove from oven and enjoy!
You can increase or decrease the number of peppers for your desired crowd. A tub of cream cheese should do about 40-50 appetizers!
It was one of my New Year’s resolutions to eat less red meat, and to try to eat healthier not only for myself but for my husband. We eat out wayyy too much but we also know that for now there is just the two of us, so those care free, spur of the moment nights out are probably limited. We have a tradition of going out on Thursday nights – I don’t remember how it started. I think we decided to go out for Mexican and margaritas one Thursday in West Des Moines, and after that we decided that the $11 pitchers (best. deal. ever.) were definitely right up our alley.
Sorry about that little side note. Anyway, the other nights of the week I try to make something home cooked. Last night’s specialty was my version of a tortellini casserole. We have tried many many many different kinds of tortellini, and the next statement is my own personal opinion: please buy refrigerated. We have tried frozen and dry but in my experience the refrigerated kind just cooks better. We prefer Costco’s Five Cheese Tortellini. I should also disclose to you that I am the master of choosing a casserole dish that is too small for the amount of food I am cooking and not realizing it until it is too late. This means that I usually end up doing more dishes that I desire to because I have to put a cookie sheet under the casserole dish so my oven doesn’t become a hot mess (literally).
This is a great recipe to ad lib and add your own flare. This time around, I had to make my own spaghetti sauce because I didn’t have any on hand. I mixed a can of diced tomatoes with garlic and onion and a small can of tomato paste in a medium sauce pan and brought it to a simmer; then add water until it becomes the consistency that you want. When you are making the casserole, alternate layers of sauce, tortellini, and mozzarella. The secret to the creamy, richness of this dish is a layer of 1/4 cup cream mixed with 3/4 cup parmesan in the middle of the casserole. When cooked and dished up, the secret layer adds richness and tones down the tomato-y flavor a tad. You can totally omit this if you want!
I know, I know, this isn’t the healthiest of meals but a small portion is very filling and it makes for great leftovers. It would freeze great for meals in the upcoming weeks also!
Look at all that creamy, cheesy pasta. Yes ma’am. Mmmhmmm
Creamy Tortellini Bake
Cheesy, creamy, rich pasta goodness make for a fantastic meat-free meal!
Bring tomatoes and tomato paste to a simmer. Add water to take it to the consistency you desire (I like mine on the thick side)
Cook tortellini according to package instructions. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Just a little hint - you really don't need to stir while they are cooking, and most usually take 2-3 minutes tops.
In the bottom of a casserole dish (I recommend a rectangular one), spread 1/4 cup of your tomato sauce then layer 1/2 of the tortellini followed by more tomato sauce and a layer of mozzarella cubes.
Before adding the second layer of tortellini, mix the cream and parmesan in a bowl and pour over the first layer.
Repeat layers, using the rest of your ingredients and finishing off the top with the cubed mozzarella.
Cook at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until mozzarella begins to brown.
Serve with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Enjoy!