impressive, fast dinners

I love easy dinners.  I’ve cooked a lot of nice dinners the past few weeks (nice = not hot dogs).  Super simple dinners, but they’ve been above average dinners to end the day with…It always makes me feel better when I can put something good on the table, that makes me feel like I spent A LOT of time preparing it, but secretly know it took about 20 minutes!

This was our menu a few weeks ago (prior to all the road trip and vacation craziness!)

Sunday: Tri Tip in the Oven, Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese, Caesar lite Salad (packaged bag), S’more Stuffed Brownies w/ Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert

Monday: Squash Carbonara, and Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert

Tuesday: Costco Pizzas ($5!!!  Love that!), Casear lite Salad and leftover Grilled Peaches nuked with brown sugar and topped with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert

Wednesday: Orzo with Roasted Shrimp, and Plum & Peach Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert

Thursday: Grilled Tri-Tip tips, sliced tomato from the garden, Rice Pilaf, leftover cake for dessert

Friday: Cheeseburgers (frozen leftover patties from the 4th of July), leftover Orzo Salad, Peanut Butter ice cream sandwiches for dessert

In all honestly, I made every single thing shown above in a week. When needed, I would prep things early or while the girls played at 9AM.  The Littles would “help” me with some of it (nice little activity for us all), or I would make it during play time at 4PM before Dada got home.  Everything was VERY DOABLE and REALISTIC.  I never felt like I was stretching myself and we ate REALLY good food!  Give it a try, even if things look a little daunting, once you try it, you’ll see that you CAN do it!

Have a great weekend everyone!  Hug your Littles, Gran Littles and Friends Littles!

barefoot contessa’s roasted shrimp orzo

Ever since returning from Thermador’s Steamy event, I’ve been on a bigger than normal cooking kick.  Plus because it’s Summer and the garden is bursting with great herbs and veggies to use, it just MAKES you want to cook.  But it DOES NOT MAKE me want to clean up dishes, or be slaving in a hot kitchen when we are in the middle of a heat wave.  So I’ve been searching out quick and easy dinners, that are super flavorful, AND that everyone in the family can enjoy.

I started to watch Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, ages ago.  I loved her design eye and the glimpse into her kitchens.  I also loved that she left a job at the White House to pursue her dreams.  The more I watched her, the more I fell in love with her recipes.  They are always simple, never with complicated steps.  They use great ingredients that really bring out the most in a dish. Ina Garten’s goal is easy entertaining as she doesn’t feel the host should be stuck in the kitchen throughout a dinner party.  Amen! I love this as it also translates to a family dinner, where mom doesn’t want to be tied to the oven all night! Amen again!

This is a great pasta dish.  It is meant to be prepared with Orzo, but really, any pasta will do.  I use Orzo sometimes as it looks like rice to my kids, other times, I do it with Penne or Fussili as it’s easy for their cute, chubby fingers to pick up.

Another reason I love the simplicity of this meal is that you can complete things in short 15 minute windows.  While the kids played with their little kitchen this AM, I quickly chopped up the veggies and the herbs, and mixed the dressing.  Done in under 15 minutes. Which is good, because I would have had more helping hands than I needed if it had taken any longer!  But now that I’m done, and it’s in the fridge waiting for tonight, I can go about the rest of my crazy day knowing the bulk of dinner is waiting for me.  Left to do?  Roast the shrimp, cook the pasta and add it all together with Feta.

Roasting shrimp couldn’t be easier.  I use frozen shrimp from Costco.  They are cleaned and deveined with the tail on (and is super easy to pull off).  I do this on a foil lined baking sheet. Less clean up in the end, just roll up and toss in the trash!

5-6 minutes and you’re golden….errr, opaque.  Which is what you want.

Add the shrimp with the veggies & herbs, to the pasta, toss in the feta and dressing, mix together and serve.  It has a wonderful lemony dressing…one bite of this dish just screams “SUMMER”!  Nice served with a fresh Baguette.

We also enjoyed the leftovers as a side with cheeseburgers a couple of nights later.

Here’s to easy, impressive dinners, that everyone in the family will enjoy!

Barefoot Contessa’s Roasted Shrimp with Orzo
Food Network


Kosher salt
Good olive oil
3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
  3. Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook!
  4. Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

what to do with summers bounty? zuchinni carbonara!

Got Zuchinni? Got Squash? Need a recipe to help use up a summer bounty??  I know Momfluential does!  Have you seen her veggie wagon!?!?!?  My garden is not quite in that league, but we had a nice first crop when I got back last week, so I went in search of a recipe.  This time it was Jamie Oliver that saved the day.  Oh man was it good. Honestly, I couldn’t wait for the leftovers for lunch the next day! Packed with flavor, super easy, super quick.

Beautiful Zuchinni Carbonara
Adapted from Jamie Oliver on the Food Network

Don’t let the length of the recipe discourage you!  I think it took 20 minutes total from beginning to end….at the MOST!  I served this with Grilled Peaches for dessert.  Another SUPER FAST recipe!  These are both perfect for summer entertaining, or flavorful dinner for your family.  People will be amazed you can cook like this AND have kids!


Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
4-6 medium green and yellow zucchini
1 pound pasta (penne, fussili, something easy for the kids)
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 good handfuls freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
12 thick slices pancetta or bacon, cut into chunky pieces (could also use the Trader Joe’s ready chopped pancetta)
A small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped.
Optional: a few zucchini flowers, any fresh herbs you have available.  I used basil and chives along with the thyme.
Optional: chicken stock.  I forgot to reserve cooking liquid as the recipe suggested, so I grabbed a container of chicken stock…I think it actually added well to the flavor!


  1. Before you start cooking, it’s important to get yourself a very large pan, or use a high-sided roasting pan so you can give the pasta a good toss.
  2. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. You can prepare the zuchinni 1 of 2 ways. Halve and quarter any larger zucchini lengthwise. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and A.) slice the zucchini at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the pasta. or B.) Use a mandoline, which is what I did, to slice everything super thin. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the package instructions.
  3. To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Heat a very large frying pan, add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the zucchini slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, along with any other fresh herbs you’re using.  Give everything a stir, so the zucchini is coated with all the lovely bacon-flavored and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
  5. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the zucchini, bacon and lovely flavors, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)
  6. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any zucchini flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately.


thermador’s tomato jam

Oh boy.  I don’t even know where to begin.  You may have seen my post this AM about the little adventure I’m on…

Or if you follow me on Twitter you probably saw about 200 tweets today (check for #steamythermador) on the AMAZING food we ate and the incredible kitchen appliances we were introduced to at Thermador…..seriously, I’m NEVER leaving.

Well, OK, maybe I’m already back at the hotel, but it doesn’t mean it’s beneath me to sneak back in tonight and set up camp for awhile!

Until I am able to get all the photos loaded and posts ready to share, I thought I might pass on a few recipes that were truly to die for…

Truly this photo DOES NOT do this dish justice AT ALL.

When I saw it next to the Beef Tenderloin, I passed it up thinking it might have a savory tomato taste and I wasn’t feeling that for the beef.  But then Thermador’s Chef Kyle saw my plate and asked if I had tried the Tomato Jam.

Huh??  Jam??  TOMATO Jam??

I had to give it a whirl.

I need to take a moment to savor the memory… truly was unbelievably delicious.  Just the perfect combination of sweet and spicy with a touch of savory (kinda covers it all, huh!?) Such a wonderful compliment for so many dishes.  If you want to wow your dinner guests (or your husband/wife/mother/partner/boss)…and you have an ABUNDANT tomato crop going in your garden leaving you wondering what to make with tomatoes next…

THIS is your dish!

Tomato Jam – to be served as a garnish for any type of red meat.


1 ½ pounds Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 Serrano pepper seeded and minced
Salt and pepper


1.      Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil for two minutes.
2.      Lower to simmer and cook for 1 to 1 ½ half hours.
3.      Refrigerate for up to one week, but can also be canned.

Thank you for sharing the recipe Thermador and Chef Kyle!!

For other yummy recipe from my Thermador trip, check out Buttermilk Syrup and a Goat Cheese & Strawberry Salad

Flat Belly Diet ~ Pan Seared Shrimp Tacos

Pretty sure these are SUPER yummy!  Hubs and I really loved this dinner and neither felt like we were missing out on anything.  (Granted, he had an extra taco than me, AND a beer with lime…but still).  I wouldn’t hesitate to make these for Taco Tuesday for your family and friends.  Our girls liked it too!

From the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook

4 Servings (2 tacos each) / 320 Calories / MUFA: Avocado


1 hass avocado, cubed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (I’m calling this optional.  We didn’t miss it as I chose not to use it.  Too spicy for the kids.)
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp (I buy a 2 lb frozen bag at Costco, all you need to do is remove the tails, EASY!)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded romaine (I used Green Leafy as its what I had, tasted great!)


  1. Combine the avocado, onion, cilantro, pepper, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a bowl and set aside.  Combine the shrimp, chili powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a separate bowl.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes per side, or until opaque.  Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
  3. Heat the tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for abut 30 seconds per side, or according to package directions until hot and lightly toasted.  Dividing evenly, top each tortilla with the romaine, avocado mixture, and shrimp.  Serve hot.

I served it with fresh farmers market Cantaloup, super yum, super good!!

Flat Belly Diet ~ Spaghetti and Meatballs

From the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook ~ p 164

8 Servings / 410 Calories / MUFA: Olive Oil

Book Notes: This recipe makes a generous amount of tasty sauce, so if your family is not following the FBD servings exactly, feel free to make some extra pasta for them.  Simply measure out 1/2 cup of cooked pasts and 1/2 of sauce for yourself beforehand, and don’t forget the meatballs!

Book Notes: Prepare the meatballs and sauce ahead of time and dinner’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. (I would freeze containers to reheat later.)


12 ounces mulitgrain spaghetti
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice whole wheat bread, torn into bit sized pieces
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon salt free Italian seasoning (the world wont end if you use regular…)
1 lb 95% lean ground beef (Could also use ground turkey)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (Trader Joe’s frozen cubes are a time saver!)
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions.  Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.  Cover to keep warm until the meatballs and sauce are ready.
  2. Meanwhile, place the bread in a large bowl and cover with milk.  Wait until the bread absorbs most of the milk (about a minute), then add the egg and the Italian seasoning.  Mix with  a fork until smooth (few pieces of crust may remain).  Add the beef and mix until thoroughly combined.  With clean hands, shape into 24 meatballs.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half the meatballs ad cook, turning to ensure even browning, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cooked through.  Trnafer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs and 1 Tablespoon oil.
  4. Add the garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet.  Cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat, and cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve the spaghetti topped with the sauce and meatballs.  Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Flat Belly Diet ~ Crunchy Mac and Cheese

From the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook

4 Servings / 328 Calories / MUFA: Olive Oil


4 ounces multigrain elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again. Set aside.
  3. Combine the bread crumbs and 2 teaspoons of the oil and stir with a fork to evenly coat.
  4. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon oil ot a large saucepan.  Set over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the flour, paprika, salt, adn pepper until smooth.  Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly.  Cook, whisking, for 5 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the cheese until it melts.  Stir in the macaroni. Pour into the baking dish.  Top evenly with the crumb mixture.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Flat Belly Diet ~ Chipotle Beef and Bean Chili

From the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook

4 Servings (1 Cup Each) / 371 Calories / MUFA: Pumpkin Seeds

***WARNING*** This is VERY spicy, too spicy for me and almost too much for my hubs.  Do not feed this to your children!!


1 onion
1 green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 lb 95% lean ground beef
1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce, minced
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 can no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled unsalted dry-roasted pumpkin seeds (or 1/4 cup chopped avocado)


  1. Finely chop the onion, bell pepper, and garlic.  Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, breaking into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer oink. Stir in the onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until starting to soften.  Add chipotle pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 1 minutes. Add beans and 1/4 cup water, if necessary, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in he salt.  Divide among 4 bowls and top each with 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds. (or 1/4 cup chopped avocado)

** Serve with 1 tablespoons shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese.  Total meal: 411 Calories.

baked chicken & cheese enchiladas

I orginally found this recipe on FoodNetwork, but for some reason can’t find the link now.  So the credit goes to Gourmet Magazine via FoodNetwork, but you’ll have to trust me on the recipe as I can’t link you to it!  I found this last year when I got a wild hair to have friends over for Cinco de Mayo.  Since I was inviting the same day I was making, I needed easy, and a guaranteed winner.  I chose the recipe below because it was easy, had short prep and cook time, had basic ingredients, 5 stars,  AND had CREAM CHEESE which I am a sucker for!!  Yum!  I called hubby and asked him to stop for guacamole, chips, beans and rice on his way home from a local authentic spot, and we were in business for a fun night with friends!


4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups prepared salsa
2 cups grated cheddar or jack cheese (I used Costco shredded Tex cheese)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (I use Costco Rotisserie)
1 cup frozen corn kernals, thawed (I used canned)
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t cayenne
salt & pepper
4 scallions, thinky sliced
12 to 14 soft round 6 to 8-inch flour or corn tortillas (I use flour)


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl cream together cream cheese and sour cream.  Stir in 1/2 cup of salsa.  Stir in 1 cup of the grated cheese.
  3. In a second bowl toss together the chicken, the corn, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and 1/2 of the scallions.  Add the chicken mixture to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.
  4. In a baking dish spread a 1/2 cup of the salsa over the bottom.  Place about a 1/3 cup of the filling on a tortilla, roll up and transfer to a baking dish with the seam side down.  Repeat the process for remaining tortillas.
  5. Pour remaining salsa over enchiladas, spreading to coat them.  Sprinkle remaining grated cheese over the top.
  6. Enchiladas may be prepared up to this point 12 hours in advance (LOVE THAT) Transfer to preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Enchiladas may be reheated, covered in aluminum foil before service. Sprinkle with remaining scallions and serve warm.

Pioneer Woman BBQ Meatballs

Holy Moly, I’m all about comfort food, and this just looks like little mini meatloaves to me, which is most certainly comfort food in my book!  For awesome step-by-step instructions, check out The Pioneer Woman’s photo steps on her site.  We’ll be trying this out tonight for sure! Thanks goodness for The Pioneer Woman!

(Image: The Pioneer Woman)


1-½ pound Ground Beef
¾ cups Oats
1 cup Milk
3 Tablespoons Very Finely Minced Onion
1-½ teaspoon Salt
Plenty Of Ground Black Pepper, to taste


1 cup All-Purpose Flour (coating For Frozen Meatballs)
Canola Oil

1 cup Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Tablespoons Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
4 Tablespoons (to 6 Tablespoons) Onion
1 dash Tabasco


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all meatball ingredients. Roll into medium-small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in freezer for five minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes, remove meatballs from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour.
  4. Brown meatballs in canola oil until just brown. Place into a baking dish.
  5. Combine all sauce ingredients. Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or crusty French bread.