Tag: easy

Tortellini Casserole

Here’s a super quick and easy casserole-style dish you can make on the weekend and then divide up single-servings for lunches or dinners the following week.

1 package mushroom tortellini
1/2 cup dried mushrooms, chopped
1 can cannelini beans (or 2 c cooked white beans of any variety)
4 small tomatoes, seeded
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 handsful frozen peas
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
2 T flour, sifted
2 cups milk
6 oz cheese, cubed and divided into 3oz portions (use whatever cheese variety you have on hand)

Cook tortellini according to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, reconstitute mushrooms in warm water, and saute onion and garlic in butter until lightly browned. Sift flour over onion mixture and continue to cook on low-medium heat until flour has coated onions and begins to brown. Add milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to thicken and then add half of the cheese mixture and allow to melt and incorporate entirely while stirring to make a thick cheese sauce.
Pour beans into oiled casserole dish with vegetables and chicken. Puree tomatoes in a blender or food processor and pour over bean and vegetable mixture.
Add tortellini once cooked, pour cheese sauce overtop, and fold ingredients together.
Sprinkle remaining cheese over top, and bake 30-45 min at 375.

This will be a fairly dry casserole. If you prefer it to be more saucy, throw in a can of cream of mushroom soup, or double the sauce recipe.



Portuguese Style Kale Soup

My husband made this last night, and it was one of the better soups I’ve ever had – a favorite right up there with my curried celery or potato parsnip and cabbage soups.

1 quart beef stock
1 quart chicken stock
(Vegetarians substitute “better than bouillon” pastes in chicken and beef flavors)
½ onion, left whole
3 cloves garlic, left whole
2c white beans (pre-soaked) or 2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed
2 t kosher or sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ pound andouille or portuguese sausage, sliced (vegetarians, substitute tofurkey or soy chorizo)
2 large bunches kale
1 stalk celery, diced
2-3 carrots, chopped
garlic salt or minced garlic + salt (to taste, if needed)
Add stock, beans, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme to crockpot or large heavy soup pot. Start the previous night or early in the morning and cook all day to allow stock to become very rich.
After 8+ hours of simmering, fish out garlic and onion. Add more liquid if needed. Add andouille sausage and cook until you can smell the soup throughout your house. You’ll know by the rich smell when it’s done. At this point you can set it to “keep warm” setting on your crockpot or stove, and let it be for a couple of hours if needed.
1 hour before serving add kale, carrots, celery and garlic salt if needed.
Serve with good crusty buttered bread.

Makes approx. 5 quarts soup (20 servings.) If you’re not having guests, you can seal it up in sterile jars to store, or freeze portions for later.  Hint: use 1-quart ziploc freezer bags, mark the outside with the contents, and store flat in the freezer to save space.


Recipe: Best Chicken Pot Pie

It got incredibly cold here today (high of 32) and we were craving comfort food, so I whipped up this chicken pot pie. This recipe can be prepared ahead of time and assembled just prior to baking.

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 60 min
16 Servings


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t cinnamon sticks, ground in spice grinder
1/4 t whole nutmeg, ground in spice grinder
1/2 cup plain crisco, frozen and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup butter, frozen and cut into 1/2″ cubes
6-8 tablespoons ice water

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 carrots, diced
2 cups frozen petite peas
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
3 medium (2-3″) potatoes, peeled and diced to approx 1/4″ cubes – approximately 1 cup yield
1/2 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
2 t chicken bouillon paste/cubes (or chicken stock demi-glace)
2 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t dried sage, chopped
1/2 t dried thyme, chopped

Sift dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl.
Add butter and crisco. Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or a fork and knife, cut and slice through mixture until it resembles coarse bread crumbs with some chunks the size of peas. Sprinkle one tablespoon of ice water at a time over top. After each tablespoon, give the mixture a quick toss with two forks. Do NOT overwork. This is the key to a super light, flakey crust. After half the water has been incorporated, watch closely, as mixture will come together suddenly. Once it begins to stick together, gather into a ball, divide in half and roll each ball out to 1/4″ thickness, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Shape crust into 9x9x3” lightly oiled casserole dish, covering bottom and sides completely.

Preheat oven to 365 degrees F
In a pan, dry-sear chicken until browned, turning once. Cube and set aside in large mixing bowl.
Add carrots, celery, and half the diced onion to same pan. Sauté until veggies begin to sweat. Pour into bowl with chicken.
Deglaze the pan with 1 cup water to create a rich stock. Once stock begins to boil, pour into a cup and put aside.
Add onion, minced garlic, and butter to pan and saute until onions begin to brown. Sift flour over top and stir until all onion is coated.
Add reserved liquid, spices and bouillon, and cook down to thick gravy, stirring constantly.
Pour over bowl of vegetables and chicken, and allow to cool.
Once cooled, pour filling into prepared crust, and top with second crust. Pinch edges shut to seal, and cut slits in top to vent. DO NOT use an egg wash – it makes crust gummy.
Bake at 365 F for one hour or until crust is golden brown and gravy bubbles through slightly.
Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

**hint: When making pie dough, always double your recipe and stash half of the dough in a freezer-safe ziploc bag. Date the dough and make note of any special ingredients (butter dough, shortening dough, any additional spices, etc)


Recipe: Quick and Easy Salmon and Broccoli Dinner

We don’t often eat pre-prepared foods. However, it’s always good to have a few items in the freezer that can be whipped up on those nights when you don’t have energy to cook.

Last night was one of those nights. Luis worked a 12 hour day, and my stamina for standing and cooking is still very very low. As a result you will likely see a lot of quick and easy recipes and meal ideas from me for awhile as I find creative ways to have dinner cooked when he gets home, without tapping out every last ounce of my energy as I’m still trying to heal.

Costco carries salmon patties that have only been very minimally processed. In other words, the fish is still flakey, and recognizable as fish. It’s simply filleted and cut into rounds, and has a light amount of seasoning. These can be found in the frozen section near the pre-made hamburger patties.

Dinner took me less than 10 minutes to cook, and was absolutely delicious. I popped two of the salmon patties in a pan over medium heat and heated them for about 4 minutes per side. While they were cooking, I put some water on to boil, and chopped up fresh broccoli. I put the broccoli in a steamer over the boiling water, lidded it, and gave it 5 minutes. A sprinkle of lemon-pepper and it was done.

Salmon patties and steamed broccoli – in under 10 minutes, very little effort, and absolutely delicious. It’s the ultimate in “fast food.”

Recipe: Fruit Smoothie for Energy!

This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s so easy to adapt for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, and it keeps me full for a few hours. It also has an added benefit of containing at least two servings of fruit and two of dairy.

The two products referenced in the recipe, PB2 and EAS, are both available online. You can substitute whatever protein powder you like, but I’ve found these to be the best for me. My previous post has ordering info if you’d like it.

Breakfast Smoothie:

1 banana
1 container Activia yogurt
2 Tbsp PB2
1 scoop EAS vanilla whey powder
1 cup water
ice if desired
Blend all ingredients until frothy. Add more water if needed.

Lunch Smoothie:
1 cup frozen (without sugar) berries, mangoes, peaches, or a combination
1 cup nonfat milk (soy is fine, or even water)
1 scoop EAS vanilla whey powder
ice to taste
1 packet Splenda if desired
Blend all ingredients until frothy. Add more water if needed.

Snack Smoothie:
1 scoop EAS vanilla whey powder
1 cup nonfat milk (or soy)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 sprinkle cinnamon
ice to taste
Blend all ingredients until frothy. Add more water if needed.

On-The-Go Smoothie:
1 scoop EAS vanilla or chocolate whey powder
1 cup water
Mix in a shaker jar or use a stick blender to mix quickly. I occasionally have this as a fast pick-me-up if I am heading out for a workout and don’t have time to eat properly and digest before the gym.

Recipe: Sausage-Bean Soup

This is part two of my series on stretching food dollars.

Bean and sausage soup is filling, delicious, and is always a hit.

Start with approximately 1 cup of veggie stock.

Add 1/2 cup chopped dried mushrooms. I’ve mentioned these before. They can be found at costco, and because they are freeze-dried they go a very long way. A jar costs around $10 and lasts easily 6 months.

1 cup chopped carrots
1 can white beans
1 can pinto beans
1 tomato, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Slice 2-3 spicy italian sausages into rounds. You can use vegetarian sausage, or whatever you find on sale. I found a package of sausages at Safeway on sale for $1.50. One package contains 6 sausages, so can be stretched into multiple meals. One favorite is to use them as hot dogs.

Saute the sausage rounds, and add to soup. Add a little water to the pan used for the sausages, and reheat to deglaze the pan. You will now have a sausagey stock to add to the soup.

Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and any spices you like. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper!

Recipe: Basic Veggie Soup Stock

The economy is in the tank. Food prices are up – WAY up. Eating is expensive, and we have to stretch every meal we can out of each dollar at the grocery store. In that vein, I bring you a very basic veggie soup stock you can use as the base for almost any soup.

These are all items I had in the house. The entire batch of veggies was approximately $5, and this recipe does not use the entire portion of the veggies purchased (example, it uses radish greens, but the radishes themselves can be saved for another day!)

1 onion – chopped roughly
1 red bell pepper – seeded and chopped roughly
3 bunches radish greens or carrot tops – washed
3 cloves garlic
3-4 carrots, chopped roughly
3 stalks celery with leaves, washed and chopped
1 branch sage, fresh

Place all ingredients in large soup pot. Turn heat on high until onions begin to sweat. Add water to cover all veggies, cover pot and turn heat down to a simmer. Leave on stove for 2-3 hours. Once stock smells rich, strain out the veggies and set them aside. The clear stock can be divided and frozen in 1/2 cup batches in order to use for future soups.

Now take all the veggies you set aside, and fish out the greens. Put the remainder in your blender and puree down to a thick liquid. Add a little water as necessary. Now you have a second batch of soup base for thick soups. Try adding some bite-sized bits of chicken and a handful of barley or other grains.

Recipe: Cheese Olives

Another very easy party recipe. I never liked olives until I had them this way. Now I love them in all their wonderful variations.

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ c butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
dash cayenne pepper
1 tsp Tapatío or other hot sauce
2 jars pimento-stuffed green olives

Preheat oven to 400˚
In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Knead well with clean hands until fully incorporated. Wrap a teaspoon of dough around each green olive and place on a cookie sheet that has been lightly misted with nonstick spray.Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
These can be made ahead and served at room temperature, or frozen and then baked right before your event to serve hot. If baking from frozen, add 3 minutes to baking time.

Recipe: Chicken Soup from leftovers found in the fridge

This is my alternate Chicken Soup recipe. My primary recipe can be found here.

I make a point to always have a chicken carcass in the freezer. It’s fairly easy to accomplish this – even the pre-made roasted chickens at the grocery store will work. Once you’ve finished the chicken you’re going to eat, let it cool and then break the bones apart. Feel free to also separate out any good bits of meat you find in the crevices. Put them in a ziploc, and place that inside whatever container you’re using for the bones.

This becomes an easy way to get fresh, homemade chicken soup when you’re sick or need comfort food.

1 chicken carcass
2-3 carrots – break in half with your hands. Don’t worry about peeling.
1 head garlic
1 onion, cut into a few large sections
1 generous spoonful miso paste
1 large handful spinach
any other leftover veggies in the fridge that may be starting look look less-than-optimal

Throw all of the above into a large stock pot, add water to just cover it all, cover and simmer on low heat for a few hours while you go back to bed or watch a movie on the couch. Once you have a good, hearty stock, strain the solids out and return liquid to the pot.

Add the following:
chicken – cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
carrots, chopped
1 package udon noodles

Simmer until carrots have begun to soften, then serve with crusty bread.

Recipe: Tuna-Cucumber Salad with Miso Dressing

This is a ridiculously easy recipe, and is a bit of a takeoff on the “Chinese Chicken Salad” (which was not even a little bit Chinese) all the moms used to bring to potlucks when I was a kid in the 70’s.

10 oz solid white albacore, packed in water – or fresh tuna, cooked and chunked
1 large hothouse cucumber, seeded and chopped
3T capers
1 oz goat cheese, crumbled
2t pine nuts
1 package Ramen – “Oriental”, Sesame, or Shrimp flavor (including seasoning powder)

Toss all ingredients except ramen in a large bowl. Mix well, but gently.

1/2 c balsamic vinegar
2T olive oil
2T miso paste
freshly cracked pepper

Whisk above ingredients together. Add seasoning packet from Ramen. You will end up with a nice thick dressing. Add dressing to fish mixture, and crumble in the ramen noodles (uncooked). Allow to sit in fridge to chill about an hour.

Makes 4-6 servings