Work Night Dinner: Lemon Pepper Salmon and Roasted Broccoli

If you ask my son, Bear, what his favorite food is he will typically say salmon. And he means it. Whenever I make salmon he will eat at least a half pound by himself (at age 6). I can’t imagine how much he will eat as a teenager! If I ever ask what he would like for dinner while I’m meal planning, he’ll request salmon. So, we eat salmon at least 3-4 times a month.

Bear eating his massive piece of salmon.

Ladybug can do a number on salmon as well, hence why we have to buy 2 lbs of salmon for our family of four!

Ladybug eats her fair share too.

I sometimes hear from friends that they do not like fish but that they especially do not like salmon. I think in most cases that means they do not like poorly cooked fish and salmon is often very, very poorly cooked. Typically, it is way overdone which makes it taste fishy. Properly cooked salmon does not have that overly fishy taste. Moral of the story: Don’t overcook salmon and you may actually like it (or love it)!

Today I am sharing the way I cook salmon most often. This recipe is great for when you want to have a light, healthy dinner that is made quickly on one pan. If you wanted a heartier meal, you could add some roasted potatoes as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 to 2 lbs fresh salmon
  • Lemon pepper or other seasoning mix
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • substitute with olive oil or ghee to make Whole30 compliant
  • 3-4 slices of fresh lemon
  • 3 crowns broccoli
  • Olive
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Open up a bottle of rosé and pour yourself a glass
  3. Put down a layer of foil to cover half of a large baking tray
  4. Place the salmon skin side down on the foil
  5. Sprinkle a nice layer of lemon pepper or other seasoning mix directly on the salmon
  6. Cut pads of butter and lemon slices
  7. Arrange butter and lemon slices on top of salmon
  8. Place another layer of foil on top of the salmon
  9. Roll the edges of the foil together to create a packet around the salmon
  10. Cut florets of broccoli off the broccoli crowns
  1. Place broccoli on the other half of the pan
  2. Drizzle broccoli with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lemon pepper or other seasoning mix
  3. Place pan in oven for 30 minutes
    • 30 minutes will give you salmon that is cooked just all the way through. If you like more of a medium rare cook, reduce the time to 20-25 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, open foil packet and slice salmon
    • The salmon should be moist and tender, not firm.
  5. Use a turner/flipper to slide between the salmon and skin so you can serve it skinless
  6. Add broccoli to the plate and serve

And just like that, a healthy dinner is done and on the table!

Happy cooking!

Mel

Work night dinner: Crock pot chicken

I have not posted in a bit for a variety of reasons.  Summer time for us was filled with lots of pizza at the pool and grilled chicken and whatever veggies and fruit we have while soaking up some time outside.  (I also made this Lemony Orzo dish about 15 times.)  I have a couple of little writing projects going on in my “free time.”  We also did our first driving vacation which included camping in Yellowstone and driving all the way to the Oregon coast and back.

The biggest reason for me not writing was that we also started having sports and other activities in the evenings after pre-school and pre-K for Ladybug and Bear.  This has added an extra layer of complication for a working mom: how do you get dinner on the table by 7 pm when you are gone from 7:30 am to 6:45 pm?

My solution: CROCK POT CHICKEN

Confession:  My crock pot it hideous.  It is literally the crock pot MY PARENTS registered for before their wedding.  BUT, it works and has a great low setting that truly is low where some of the newer models I have tried and returned are just too hot at that setting.  My parents joke that they are going to steal it back one day because they miss it.  And yes, I have heard about the crock pot in This Is Us but really that was the towel’s fault, not the crock pot.  Right?  One day, I will upgrade but until this gem kicks the bucket, I think I’m good.

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1980’s finest.

Crock Pot Chicken has become the Tuesday regular at our house.  Throw a few chicken breasts and other odds and ends you have on hand in the crock.  Turn it on in the morning and when you walk in at dinner time, dinner is basically ready.  Here is the basic recipe and I will give you some different variations to try as well:

The night before:

  1. Set 3-4 chicken breasts out to thaw.
  2. Set crock pot out and put two cups of liquid in.
  3. Add any additional ingredients, seasonings, and salt and pepper.
  4. Cover the crock with the lid.

In the morning, put chicken in the crock, cover, and turn on low.

When you get home:

  1. Take the chicken out of the crock pot and put on a plate to cool.
  2. Get dinner fixings ready.
  3. Shred chicken and serve.

Keep in mind that these recipes can easily be made Whole 30 compliant if you just use approved ingredients. Leaving out the cheese and using lettuce cups instead of bread or tortillas are very easy ways to make these meals compliant.

Our favorite variations:

Chicken Salads:  For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup Italian dressing.  Cook all day.  Shred and serve with greens, carrots, other veggies, and croutons.

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KID TIP:  YES, my kids eat salads.  And yours can too.  Start by putting a small amount of salad on their plate (think one piece of everything in the salad) and a little bit of a dressing they like (like Ranch) on the side.  Even if they do not eat it much or any of it at first, they will get used to seeing it on their plate.  Gradually, you can ask them to try a bite and eventually increase the amount on their plate.  See my thoughts on creating fabulous little eaters here.

Chicken Tacos:  For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup orange juice.  Add 1 Tablespoon of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  If you have an orange, cut it in slices and add the slices to the crock on top of the chicken.  Cook all day.  Shred and serve with hard shells, tortillas, or lettuce cups; shredded cheese; sour cream; and other taco fixings.

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Chicken Nachos:  Cook as above for Chicken Tacos.  When you get home, pre-heat oven to bake at 400 degrees.  Shred chicken.  On a large, oven safe baking dish, layer tortilla chips, shredded cheese, shredded chicken, and various toppings (diced green chilies, sliced jalapeños, black beans, etc).  Bake for 10 minutes.  Add an additional layer of shredded cheese and broil for 3 minutes.  Top with diced avocado, diced tomatoes, sour cream, etc.

Chicken, Rice, and Veggies: For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup Italian dressing.  Add chopped carrots, onions, celery, and/or other veggies.  Cook all day. Shred the chicken and put it back in the crock with the liquid and veggies.  Microwave some instant rice and separate it into bowls.  Spoon the chicken, veggie, and sauce mixture over the rice and serve.

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Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches: For the liquid, use 1 cup water or chicken broth and 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce.  Cook all day.  Serve on buns with a side salad or steamed veggies.

Curry Chicken:  For the liquid, use a pre-made curry sauce and add a little water, if needed, to get 2 cups.  Add chopped carrots and onions.  Cook all day.  Add 1 cup of frozen peas to the mix when you get home.  Microwave some instant rice and separate it into bowls.  Shred the chicken and add it back to the mix.  Spoon over the rice and serve.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches or Lettuce Wraps: For the liquid, use water or chicken stock and cook chicken the day or night before you need it.  Put the cooked kitchen breasts in the fridge.  Shred the chicken when you get home and mix with the following: 3 stalks celery (diced), 1 cup dried cranberries, 1-2 cups red grapes (halved), 1 cup walnuts or pecans (chopped), 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 cups mayo.  Serve on lettuce wraps or toast.

I hope this gives you something to have in the rotation for those nights when you have no time but you still want to get something healthy and good on the table.  It isn’t fancy, but it does the trick!

Happy Cooking!

Mel

Roasted Root Veggies with Rosemary Chicken

This recipe is based on one of our favorites from the Whole 30 Cookbook.  I adapted it to use ingredients I’m more likely to have on hand (bacon instead of pancetta), to use only one pan (because why dirty two?), and to use radishes that I can grow in my garden (the little color pop they give is really pretty).  This is a perfect fall or winter work night dinner.  Yes, you’ll need about 15 minutes or so to chop the veggies but that is really all the hands on time necessary.  Then you have 30 minutes (while the one pan dinner cooks) to play with the kids or do whatever else you need to.

When roasting chicken, I prefer chicken thighs but I have included information in the recipe on how you can use chicken breasts if that is all you have on hand.  If you are using chicken breasts for this recipe, check out how I make my chicken breast so much better by beating them.

This recipe calls for 1-2 pieces of bacon.  You might be thinking, “Why would I open a whole pack of bacon for one piece?”  But that’s not what I do most of the time.  If we have bacon sometime during a weekend for breakfast, I frequently hoard a piece or two in a plastic baggie to cook with the rest of the week.

If you see radishes on the ingredient list and think “I’m out” please hear me out: roasted radishes taste completely different than raw.  They have a much milder taste when cooked that is very similar to other root vegetables.  I learned this when a good friend was telling me how she steams her radishes with butter for her kids who eat them faster than she can make a second batch.  I’d basically avoided radishes since was a kid up until she told me that.  And those cooked radishes were apparently a gateway into radish loving for me because now I can’t get enough of them, cooked or raw.

So try it out and let me know what you think!

Happy cooking!

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Roasted Root Veggies with Rosemary Chicken
This one pan dinner is perfect on a fall or winter work night. If you don’t have bacon, substitute olive oil. If you don’t have fresh rosemary or a lemon, salt and pepper will be just fine. (But the lemon and rosemary do make it extra special.)
Ingredients
  • 1 peeled sweet potato
  • 1 peeled rutabaga
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2-1 bunch, depending on size/preference radishes
  • 1-2 slices bacon
  • 3-6, depending on size chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2) Cut onion into half moon slices
3) Chop vegetables (peeled sweet potato, peeled rutabaga, peeled parsnip, carrot, and radishes) into 3/4 inch cubes
4) Chop bacon into 1/2 in pieces
5) Combine vegetables, onion, and bacon in a shallow roasting pan or cookie sheet with edgesIMG_3270
6) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine
7) Cover with foil
8) Bake for 10 minutes
9) While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the chicken. If using chicken breasts, put them in a plastic zip loc bag and flatten them to 3/4 in thick. If using chicken thighs, no flattening is needed.
10) Zest lemon
11) Chop fresh rosemary
12) Mince garlic clove
13) Combine lemon zest, rosemary, and garlic and run your knife through them together a few timesIMG_3280
14) Once 10 minutes is up on veggies, uncover the pan and mix the veggies. Push chicken pieces down into the pan, removing the large veggies from underneath them. (The occasional onion or bacon under the chicken won’t do anything but good.)IMG_3281
14) Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon/rosemary/garlic mixture
15) Roast chicken and veggies uncovered for 30-40 minutes
16) Serve with lemon wedges from the lemon you zested
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Details

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings plus leftovers for lunches

 

Dinner inspiration: My neighbor’s arugula pesto

We have the best neighbors in the entire world.  Seriously.  This is for a variety of reasons but one that I hold especially dear:  They share things from their garden.

The other day we were in the backyard trading gardening stories with our neighbor (we have both just moved into new houses and this was both of first years for these gardens).  He then asked if we would like to try his arugula pesto.  Absolutely!  In two minutes I was holding a mason jar full of love from his garden.  He said it was a mix of home grown arugula, lemon juice, parmesan, olive oil, and pine nuts.  I don’t know the recipe so that’s why I’m not sharing it here.

With that in hand, I was inspired to make a pasta dish with some love from my garden too.

I marinated chicken thighs in basil, olive oil and pepper then grilled them.  Roasted sliced zucchini (from my garden) and asparagus (cut into one inch pieces) mixed with olive oil, pepper, and salt at 350 for 15 minutes and then high broil for 2 minutes.  Boiled up some shell pasta and mixed it all together with the pesto.  Plated it up and topped it with some shredded parmesan.

I can always tell how well Beast likes something by if he runs to claim the leftovers for lunch the next day.  As we were clearing the table, he was already scraping the bowl into a “to go” container.

This is easily re-creatable even if you don’t have lovely neighbors giving you jars of heavenly made pesto.  Grab a jar of pesto at the grocery store or make your own.  Serve with roasted veggies, pasta, and grilled chicken and you’ve got it.

Happy cooking!

Served With Love: Grace

Originally written 5/31/17

We got back from vacation Sunday night so the house was a mess (when I unpack, it looks like a bomb went off in the suitcase) and fridge was bare.  I didn’t sleep well the night before because all the things I need to do were running through my head.  I didn’t leave work until almost 5:45 pm which meant I wasn’t home until well after 6 pm.  Dinner getting on the table by 6:30 pm was not going to happen, especially if I had to make something.  A quick call to Papa Murphy’s and a stop on the way home was all I needed to get a meal on the table.

And you know what?  Everyone was happy!  Not a big deal at all.  And I was able to soak up some time with the kids while the pizza was cooking.  Way better than frantically trying to create something out of nothing while exhausted.

I’m glad I’ve learned through the years to give myself some grace on nights like this.

What is your go to quick pick up meal?  I’d love to have some others in my back pocket!

Cinnamon apple pork chops with sweet potatoes

My kids (and hubby) love their sweets.  This is a dinner that to them tasted like dessert but I felt fine about it because there was plenty of fruit and veggies in every bite.  Ladybug decided that forks should be optional during this meal because she was able to shovel in the goodness with her hands better. 

Ingredients:

  • Pork chops
  • 1 c (or one juice box) apple juice
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes
  • 2 apples
 Directions:
  1. Night before (or right when you get home) put pork chops, apple juice, honey, and cinnamon in a large ziplock bag to marinate the meat. Cooking/Meal planning tip:  Even if I haven’t meal planned, I like to know what I am making for dinner by the night before.  That way I can make sure any meat needed is thawed and ingredients are on hand.
  2. Get home from work and put a cartoon on for the kids.
  3. Peel and cube sweet potatoes (~1/2 inch cubes are perfect)
  4. Cook the sweet potatoes with some coconut oil or olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Preheat the grill.
  6. While sweet potatoes are cooking, cube the apples (I leave the peel on)
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are starting to soften, add the apples and a little more oil. 
  8. Put the meat on the grill, keeping the marinade.
  9. Pour 1 cup of the marinade into the sweet potatoes and apples and cover.
  10. Flip the meat when it is no longer sticking to the grill (about 4 minutes)
  11. Pull the meat off the grill when again, it is no longer sticking to it and let it rest while the apples and sweet potatoes finish cooking.                                                                                                        

  12. Once the sweet potatoes and apples are softened, pull off the heat.  
  13. Serve in a bowl with the sweet potatoes and apples in the bottom and the pork chop on top.  We served in a bowl because the sweet potatoes and apples mixed with the apple juice and cinnamon makes a yummy sauce that is great to dip the cut up pork chop in.

Beast was excited because he thought we were going to have enough for a great lunch for him the next day.  But Ladybug kept going back for seconds, thirds, fourths and beyond (I actually lost track).  His lunch whittled away to a tiny snack by the time she was done.

As I was originally typing this, Bear is looking over my shoulder and he just said, “That was good!”

Definitely something we will be having again!

Same meal different way:  So sometimes we get sick of making the same things the same ways.  An alternative way to make this meal would be to slice the apples and cook them with cinnamon, a little water, and honey.  Then roast the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil and cinnamon.  Grill the pork chops as recommended above.  Then the plate looks different with each item separated but it is essentially the same thing.

Go-To Pasta Meat Sauce

This is the recipe for my Go-To Pasta Meat Sauce that I seriously make almost every week.  Without fail.  My family loves it.  It makes plenty for dinner and next day lunches too.  And the kids have no idea how many veggies they are eating.  Seriously, no idea.  

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef or Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 box of your favorite pasta
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • Red peppers flakes (to taste)
  • Red wine for deglazing the pan
  • Parmesan cheese

Other possible additions:

  • Chopped zucchini
  • Chopped fresh spinach
  • Chopped red peppers
  • Canned pumpkin Seriously, you can’t taste it at all and it adds lots of vitamins and fiber.  And gets that can out of the fridge that you had to use half of for another recipe.

Directions:

  1. Put on a Daniel Tiger episode for the kids.  Choose their sermon.  Today you need to hear about sharing…
  2. Open red wine and pour taster glass.  You have to make sure the bottle is good before using it in a recipe.  Seriously.  Really this might be step one depending on the work day…
  3. Put on your favorite Pandora mix.  I recommend “A Dinner Party Ambience Radio” or “Indie Singer-Songwriters Radio.”
  4. Put on a big pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  5. Brown meat.
  6. While meat is cooking, chop onion and carrots.
  7. Once meat is browned, drain if there is a pourable amount of fat.
  8. Add onions and carrots and cook about 5 minutes (until onions are tender)
  9. While onions and carrots are cooking, chop anything else you will be adding and get it ready.  Tonight I added zucchini so here is where I chopped that.
  10. Add the zucchini or any other fresh veggies.
  11. While the additions are cooking, add the Italian Seasoning, red pepper flakes, and garlic.
  12. If at any time the bottom of the pans starts to get crusty technical term deglaze the pan with a glug of wine.  Once the wine is in, scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the good stuff off flavor off the bottom.
  13. Add in any other additions.  Tonight I added canned pumpkin since I had still had one can leftover in the pantry from all the pumpkin recipes I was making in the fall.
  14. Cook until the carrots are tender.
  15. Add the pasta sauce and turn heat down to low to simmer.
  16. Depending on how long it is going to take Beast to get home, I’ll sometimes simmer the sauce stirring it occasionally for 15-30 minutes or just go straight to serving.  You can be flexible.  
  17. Once I have “Find iPhone” stalked Beast and determined he is 10 minutes from home, I drop the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box.  
  18. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pot of sauce.  I have toddlers so we use a lot of penne or other small pastas that they can more easily eat than spaghetti.
  19. Stir to get sauce in every nook and cranny.
  20. Top with parmesan cheese or “sprinkle cheese” as it is known in my house and serve.
  21. Watch your children eat carrots, spinach and other goodness they have no idea about.  Evil cackle quietly to yourself.

So there you have it.  This is not anything fancy but it goes over really well with my family and tastes great for lunch the next day.  It is also really flexible and you can make it different depending on what you have on hand.


Hope it works for you too!

Go-To Taco Meat

This is the recipe for my Go-To Taco Meat that I seriously make almost every week.  Beast looks at my weekly menu more on that later for it each week and will ask if it isn’t there when I’m making it next.  This recipe makes plenty for dinner and next day lunches too.  And the kids have no idea how many veggies they are eating.

Go-To Taco Meat
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 box hard taco shells
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • few glugs your favorite beer
  • topping shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup zucchini, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (optional)
  • sour cream for topping (optional)
  • shredded lettuce for topping (optional)
  • fresh tomatoes, diced  for topping (optional)
Instructions
1. Put on Sesame Street for the kids
2. Open a beer and take a swig. You have to make sure the bottle is good prior to using it in a recipe. Seriously.
3. Put on your favorite Pandora mix. I recommend “Today’s Indie Radio.”
4. Brown meat.
5. While meat is browning, chop onion, red pepper, carrots and any other veggies. (Do carrots first since you add them next.) 
6. Once meat is browned, drain (if there is a pourable amount of fat).
7. Add carrots and cook for 5 minutes.
8. Add other vegetables and cook about 5 minutes (until onions are tender).
9. Add seasoning packet to the meat and stir.
10. If at any time the bottom of the pan gets crusty (technical term) deglaze the pan with a glug of beer. Once beer is in the pan, scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the good stuff (flavor) off the bottom.
11. Add can of green chilies.
12. Drain and rinse can of black beans.
13. Add can of black beans.
14. Serve meat in taco shells with cheese, sour cream and other toppings. Can serve with a side of spanish rice (prepared box).
15. Watch your children eat veggies they have no idea about. (Evil cackle quietly to yourself.)
Details

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Taco meat when it is finished.

So there you have it.  This is not anything fancy but it goes over really well with my family and tastes great for lunch the next day.  It is also really flexible and you can make it different depending on what you have on hand.


Hope it works for you too!

Happy cooking!