Weeknight Dinners

Zoodles & Marinara Sauce

Healthy pasta is my kind of pasta. Zoodles. Zucchini Noodles. Have you heard about these vegetarian noodles made from green herbs and vegetables?

Well Ronzoni noodles are not exactly fresh Zoodles because that would require me to use an attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer that I do not have (or have time to do tonight); however, these noodles are very similar and have zucchini in them.

Actually, it’s a great combo of spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley and kale. This product is 100% nut free. And not made in a facility with other nuts.

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At first, we were not sure about green pasta. I mean, green is my favorite color, but for pasta?! Certainly this pasta looks and sounds healthy AND for sure then they would taste bad. Right?!

Wrong. The good news is that this pasta tastes 100% like regular pasta, only you’re getting some sweet nutrients along with it.  Three servings of vegetables to be exact. That’s A LOT!

And, if your kiddos are picky eaters when it comes to fruits and vegetables, this is a great way to substitute some key nutrients while still eating something familiar, pasta!

We paired this with classic Campbell’s Prego Marinara sauce and some Parmesan with watermelon balls and strawberries on the side. It was a quick night tonight since we had double pick up from school, scholastic book order sorting and dance rehearsal.

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Not a pretty picture, but we did have clean bowl club all around! Kids loved it for sure. We’ll be buying this brand again.

If you check out the Ronzoni website, they have a TON of great recipes for how to use these noodles with cold salads, too. Perfect for summer time picnics and parties 🙂

 

Weeknight Dinners

Basic Bean & Ham Soup

Last week we had a lovely ham at my Mom’s house in Milwaukee for Easter Sunday. We came home with lots of leftovers.  We decided to make a simple weeknight ham and bean soup. It was ready in 20 minutes. Very easy and most of the stuff you’ll probably already have in your fridge. If you don’t have ham, add extra beans. But the ham flavor actually really makes this soup. You don’t need to add any extra salt because the ham does it all.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cubed, fully cooked ham
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • pepper
  • 2 cans of great northern white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. I used a 4 qt Food Network Ceramic pot over medium high heat and swirled the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes
  3. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes
  4. Add the celery and carrot, saute for about 5-8 minutes until tender
  5. add your vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer over low for 20 minutes. Add your beans and ham at this point as well.
  6. Serve with small spinach salad.
  7. Enjoy! Yield is 4.

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Weeknight Dinners

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Busy families, this one is for you! I highly suggest making it on a Sunday night so it’s ready for your busy week ahead. This is easy 2 or 3 meals for a family of 4.

It was too sunny in our kitchen when I took this quick photo, but you get the idea of how YUMMY it was!!! We also sliced up some watermelon to eat with it, too.

For a short cut, I picked up pre-made pico de gallo from Metcalfes produce section, but canned salsa works, too! I like quick toppings with little to no prep time.

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I griped a little on IG live about this recipe since it’s a two-step (make marinade night before) type of recipe. Having to “mess up the kitchen” twice for one meal really seems pointless to me and I hate doing it. However, this overnight marinade is so simple and you don’t have to dirty ANY dishes if you don’t want to. Just dump a few ingredients into a bag. SUPER EASY, even I could do it, which says a lot.

Clean plate club all around two nights in a row with this meal. Love it since there is a lot of juicy, flavor in the meat, very filling and not spicy for the kids.  Good for all!

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 boneless pork shoulder, trimmed (I had to ask for this from the butcher counter)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (I just used one lime)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 oregano sprigs
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 12 corn tortillas warmed
  • 6 tbsp onion for garnish
  • cilantro for garnish
  • lime for garnish
  • avocado for garnis
  • cotija cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. The night before, cut the pork into 3 inch pieces / chunks / cubes however you see fit. I just made three giant strips and place into a large zip top bag.
    1. Add brown sugar
    2. Add 1/2 tsp salt
    3. Add 1/2 tsp pepper
    4. Add 2 tbsp lime juice
    5. Add 2 tbsp orange juice
    6. Zip the bag up and remove as much air as possible. Set on a plate / bowl and place in the fridge (I do this in case the bag has a hole in it, last thing you want is to clean out the fridge!)
  2. Place 2 cups hot water and ancho chile into bowl and let stand 10 minutes.
    1. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid
  3. Transfer the pork from the zip top bag to the slow cooker + discard the remaining marinade.
    1. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, oregano, ancho chile, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, 2 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp orange juice
    2. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours uninterrupted.
    3. 4.  Remove the meat and shred. The recipe says you can pan fry it in cast iron skillet to give it some crunch, but you don’t have to, especially if you’re short on time, just build out those tacos and eat!!!

Enjoy! We did!

Weeknight Dinners

Spring Carbonara

If you saw me on IG live cooking, you certainly got a nice preview of this dish, Spring Carbonara, inspired by Cooking Light Magazine! Also, that was Neuskes Bacon in my mouth while I was talking, sorry about that. Sometimes you need to sample as you cook! Actually, I encourage it!

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This recipe sets up really quick, perfect for weeknight cooking. There are no short-cuts on this one, just super fast and easy. It’s almost asparagus season, and that makes me so happy because it’s a flavorful vegetable! Asparagus season reminds of when I was in Stuttgart, Germany, for work a few years ago. EVERYTHING had asparagus in it, and it was so fresh and tasty.

Spring Carbonara

  • 8 oz uncooked whole-wheat linguine (half of a regular box of pasta)
  • 4 center-cut bacon slices, chopped (Neuskes)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped asparagus
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1 tbsp powdered)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (use your microplane), divided
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup Kim Crawford to deglaze the pan

Directions

  1.  Cook pasta according to package omitting fat and salt. Drain in a colander, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid (to use later on in your frying pan)
  2. while you’re cooking the pasta, add bacon to a large skillet over low; 6-8 minutes or until crispy. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towel to rest. Add the asparagus to the pan full of bacon fat. Yes. Sautee the asparagus in bacon fat, it’s amazing.
  3. I added a little Kim Crawford at this point. It’ was 5:10, and it seemed right. Mostly, my pan was getting sticky and dirty and I needed to get the crunchy bits off the bottom. White wine goes well with this dish, so why not?! Just a splash, no more than 1/4 cup and use your scraper to get the bacon off the bottom of your pan. If you are using a non-stick, this probably wont be an issue, and you should use bamboo utensils if you’re scraping the bottom of your pan 🙂
  4. Add garlic; cook, stirring often. About 3 minutes then transfer to the same plate as the bacon to rest.
  5. Whisk together three egg yolks, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp parmesan in a medium bowl.
  6. Add oil, drained pasta, 1/4 cup mixture to skillet and toss to coat. Heat skillet over medium and cook, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.  Add bacon, asparagus, garlic, peas and 1/4 reserved cooking liquid (pasta water, from pasta). Cook until heated through, about 1 more minute. Stir in more cooking liquid if your mixture looks too dry.

ANNNNDDD!!  Something happened to my photo of my meal, so here’s what it looks like in the magazine! Enjoy! We loved it!

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Holiday Favorites

Christmas Eve Dinner ::: Nut-Free & Vegetarian

Christmas Eve is quickly approaching and I like to keep things super simple, especially when family is visiting. I’d rather be spending time WITH them, not doing tasks in the kitchen. That’s why we choose to make classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for Christmas Eve.

We started this tradition a few years ago, and it works perfectly. It’s a meal everyone likes (even littles) and it takes little to no time at all. The meatballs can be made in advance, just warm through in the oven for a few minutes during your party.

We’re having 7 for dinner on Christmas Eve, the yield on this menu is about 8. You can easily double this recipe for a larger group.

Christmas Eve Menu

  1. White Christmas Sangria, adapted from She Knows blog
    • 3 tart Granny Smith apples
    • 1 large orange
    • 1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    • 1 cup fresh raspberries
    • 2 bottles dry white wine (I used an unoaked chardonnay)
    • 1 cup white cranberry juice
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 16 ounces ginger ale or club soda
    • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
    • Chop fruit small, mix together in large glass pitcher. Let it “Merry” together before serving.
  2. Lynnie Salad
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 2 pinches kosher salt
    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 8 cups salad greens
    • ¼ cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
    • ¼ cup cheese crumbles (feta, goat, or gorgonzola)
  3. Handmade Meatballs
    • 2 pounds organic ground beef
    • 1/2 cup parmesan
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs
    • 2/3 cup fresh parsley
    • 1/2 cup tomato paste or ketchup
    • 2 tsp Italian herbs / dry blend
    • 1/2 chopped onion or 1 tbsp onion powder
    • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
    • roll out, bake at 400* for 20 minutes or until browning around the outside. Max 30 minutes.
  4. Meatless Meatballs
  5. Spaghetti
    • 2 pounds of Barilla spaghetti pasta
  6. Homemade Tomato Sauce with canned garden tomatoes
    • This is top secret, but here’s something similar that can all be dumped into slow cooker and sit for quite a while, minimum 2 hours.
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 large white onion, minced
    • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
    • ½ cup chicken broth
    • 1 (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
    • 1 (15 oz can) tomato sauce
    • 1 (6 ounce can) tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon white sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ground oregano
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
    • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  7. Garlic bread
  8. Dessert
    • Making some decadent homemade cupcakes (on Friday) since I found some adorable nut-free wilton reindeer and santa cupcake decorations at Michaels Craft Store last month.
    • Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes