What's For Dinner?

Simple Dinner

This is not an elaborate recipe, but it was a hit with my children – a reminder that when it comes to my family, simple is better.

My ten year old could have made this meal without supervision.

Step 1: Rice and water in the rice cooker for 15 minutes. Maybe a dash of salt.

Step 2: Cleaned chicken breasts in the pan, sprinkled with soy sauce, covered and cooked over medium heat. After about ten minutes, flip, another splash of soy sauce, turn down heat, cover, cook another 10 minutes.

Step 3: Put a bag of “steam in bag” mixed veggies in the microwave.

Step 4: Get kids to set the table.

Step 5: Put all the cooked contents in a pretty serving platter and feel like a sophisticated adult who has her act together. Enjoy the bliss of children actually eating their dinner and liking it. Savor the, “Wow, this is good!”


I sometimes over-complicate things. I set unrealistic expectations for myself. I forget that it doesn’t have to be so hard.

What's For Dinner?

Non-dairy Sugar-free Steel-cut Oatmeal

I was first introduced to steel-cut oatmeal by my fella. He uses Alton Brown’s recipe, which calls for plenty of dairy, including butter, milk, and buttermilk. (I usually pass on the buttermilk, but I use whole milk.) I love the way the texture of the oatmeal pops and crunches in my mouth. The fella and I top it off with brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg. Unfortunately my kids won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, but it keeps well in the fridge, so when I make this batch it lasts 3-4 servings.

I developed this non-dairy, sugar free recipe is based on the Alton Brown recipe adapted for for my D14 cleanse (I’ll be writing more on that soon). This recipe is surprisingly good; I didn’t even miss the diary, and I may make my oatmeal this way going forward.

Basic Ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

In a large saucepot, heat the oil and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes, without stirring.

Seriously, don’t stir it. Don’t watch to pot, because you will totally want to stir it. Set the timer and walk AWAY from the stove. Go fold some laundry. Take a shower. Nurse your baby.

You stirred it, didn’t you?

Well, whether or not you prematurely stirred, after 25 minutes, you have my permission to formally stir, and add the coconut milk. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.

If you like plain oatmeal, you don’t have to do anything else. It’s ready to eat or store in the fridge. (Note: if you reheat, add a tablespoon of water or coconut milk before microwaving it.)

I do not like plain oatmeal. I like lots of sugar and spice. I was concerned that a non-sugar option would be really awful. Not so. I added a squirt of honey, and a sprinkling of cinnamon, ground clove, ground nutmeg, and for extra oomph, a handful of dried Turkish white mulberries. I did not miss the sugar at all (and I love my brown sugar).

What's For Dinner?

Salad Bar Chicken Soup

I spend most Tuesday nights having dinner with some friends at the local grocery store cafe. They have sushi, a variety of prepared foods, and a fantastic salad bar. Tuesday is also the night I stock up on stuff for the kids’ lunches, and if I’m on my A game, I remember that I need to make dinner Wednesday night – something that is easy and can cook while I’m at Zumba at 5:30-6:30.

Yesterday I was not on my A game. I had a killer sore throat. But that prompted me to remember dinner, and my desire for chicken soup.

I usually make chicken soup with liquid broth, carrots, celery, onions, and cooked chicken. But this particular grocery store doesn’t sell just one carrot or two stalks of celery, and if I get a whole bag it will go to waste. Fortunately, the salad bar already has all that stuff. In fact, the salad bar already has it chopped into little pieces!

When I got home, I dumped two packages of chicken broth into the crock pot, along with the chopped carrots, celery and onions from the salad bar. I chopped the chicken into smaller bits and threw that in the pot.

Prep time was less than five minutes. Cost was less than $10. It sat in the refrigerator until I came home at 2:00, turned the crock pot on low, and let it simmer til supper time. I also added some barley and topped with Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming spice blend, which is an instant cure for whatever ails you.


What's For Dinner?

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

I got my first shepherd’s pie when my first son was born, and fell in love. It was the most incredibly easy recipe: cooked ground beef, a can of beef gravy and a can of mixed veggies topped with prepared instant mashed potatoes and baked for 20 minutes on 350.

My version is not that much different. The main deviation is that instead of using canned beef gravy (oh so bland), I discovered a British shepherd’s pie seasoning in the international aisle at Kroger. (I do NOT prepare this using the recipe on the back of the package.) I have no idea what’s in that stuff, but it is divine. Best of all, my entire family loves this meal that I can prepare ahead of time and just heat up at supper time.

1 lb ground beef
1 package Coleman’s Shepherd’s Pie seasoning
2 cups water
1 can of mixed veggies (you can also use frozen; use as little or as much as you prefer. Fresh veggies are okay too, but you’ll probably want to cook a little longer.)
1 package of instant mashed potatoes (I use regular size, but family size wouldn’t hurt.)

Fully cook the ground beef. (You can drain the fat, but personally I think the little bit of fat in lean ground meat ain’t gonna kill you as long as you’re not eating it every day. It adds to the flavor.)

Sprinkle seasoning mix and water over the ground beef, mix and bring to a simmer.

Place beef mixture in a casserole dish, adding mixed veggies and mixing thoroughly. (If using frozen veggies, rinse under warm water to thaw slightly.)

Prepare instant mashed potatoes as directed on the package. FYI, some require only water, others require milk and/or butter, so be prepared before you start making the meal!

Spread cooked mashed potatoes evenly over beef and veggies. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (longer if using fresh veggies).

What's For Dinner?

Creamy Tomato Soup

This recipe makes enough for two adults. I made it up based on several recipes I found online. I do not have precise measurements for the spices, as I just kind of threw it together, so what I have here is an approximation.

3-4 tomatoes, chopped
½ cup chicken stock
3-4 whole cloves
¼ tsp chopped garlic
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp oregano
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
2 pats of butter
1 tbs flour
¼ cup heavy cream

Heat chicken stock over medium heat, adding chopped tomatoes with seeds and skin, cloves, garlic, basil and oregano. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.

Pick out the cloves with a fork, add parmesan cheese and puree mixture in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a fresh pan, adding the flour to make a base. Add the pureed mixture to the flour and butter. Stir in cream.

Serve hot with – what else – grilled cheese sandwiches!

What's For Dinner?

Turkey Chili

This is an original Crock Pot creation of mine. I call it “chili” because it has ground meat and beans, but it really isn’t “chili” the way you might be expecting. It’s definitely not spicy, at least not the way I make it. I think it has more of a middle eastern flavor, due to the excessive amount of fresh parsley. You can make it without fresh parsely, but it’s really not the same. It looks really pretty when served fresh due to the colors of the tomato and parsley, and looks kind of drab as leftovers, but it tastes great either way!

1 package ground turkey (1-1.5 lbs)
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can black beans
1 can white corn
1 prepackaged pico de gallo (you can chop up your own tomatoes, onions and cilantro if you want, but buying the grocery store pre-packaged kind saves a lot of time.)
1 bunch fresh parsley
salt to taste

Fully cook ground turkey in a skillet. Mince it as fine as you can.

Remove stems from the parsley, finely chop the entire bunch.

Combine meat, beans, corn, parsley and pico de gallo in the Crock Pot. Cook on low for 2-3 hours. Salt to taste.

What's For Dinner?

Chicken Tikka Masala

This is an Indian dish that I discovered as a prepackaged McCormick recipe with premeasured spices and recipe card (http://www.mccormick.com/Products/Herbs-and-Spices/Recipe%20Inspirations/Chicken-Tikka-Masala.aspx). I have altered it slightly, but it is one of my absolute favorite dishes to cook, and my kids really like it.

2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1 tsp Garam Masala (McCormick makes it, as well as Penzy’s)
½ tsp Ground Cumin

Other Ingredients:
1 ½ lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbs butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp salt


Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken, onion and lemon juice, stir and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add in spices and stir for about a minute. Stir in tomatoes.

In  a small bowl, stir cream into cornstarch and salt until well mixed. Gradually add mixture to chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer 5 minutes until slightly thickened.

Serve over rice. I prefer Rice Select’s Royal Blend® Texmati® White, Brown & Red Rice, which I buy at Kroger. http://www.riceselect.com/royal-blend.aspx


What's For Dinner?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bread Pudding

I saw this recipe for Chocolate French Toast on the Food Network show Ten Dollar Dinners and decided to try it out, but my pantry is simply NOT a Food Network Pantry. Like I routinely have heavy cream and semi-sweet morsels . . . as if! So I had to make do with what I had, and frankly, I thought my version turned out pretty good.  But if you want to try the original, it’s here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/chocolate-french-toast-pain-perdu-recipe/index.html

¾ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, divided
1/2 cup mixed milk chocolate and peanut butter chips
2 eggs
6 slices white bread
Whipped cream topping

Oblong baking dish, roughly 9×5

Over low heat, bring the milk, sugar and butter to a simmer.

In a heat safe bowl, pour the mixture over the chips and let it sit for a few minutes to melt.

While the chips are melting, cut the crusts off your bread and cut in half in triangles. Arrange the bread in your baking dish in any way that looks pleasing to the eye.

Mix your milk and melted chips with a fork. Add your eggs and beat them into the mixture with the fork until thoroughly blended.

Pour the mixture over the bread, making sure the all of the bread is covered with the mixture.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before baking. (I’ve left mine in overnight, too.)

Remove 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving topped with whipped cream.

What's For Dinner?

Karen’s Tuna Casserole

This is my mom’s recipe. She made it up when she was a single gal living in D.C. in her early twenties. It has long been a family favorite, and it’s one of the first dishes I made when I moved out on my own because it is so easy. It can easily feed a family of four as long as you have modest appetites, and if you have leftovers it keeps and reheats well. Bonus: my kids usually like it. Ususally.

2 cups uncooked medium pasta shells
2 small cans of chunk light tuna packed in water
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
White cooking wine
Wheat germ
Salt, pepper, whatever spices you like

Boil 2 cups of uncooked medium pasta shells until well done. Drain and place in casserole dish. Add condensed cream of celery soup and flake the tuna out of the cans with a fork. Add a splash of cooking wine. Mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the top with wheat germ, and dash with salt, pepper or whatever spices you prefer. (You can also substitute panko for the wheat germ, and shredded cheese also works well as a topping.) Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the top is crispy and the contents are a little bit bubbly. I usually serve this casserole with a side of wax beans.