Back to School Make Ahead Dinners: 5 to Keep You Alive

With the school year starting back up, so many of us will soon be thrown into that business of the after-school hustle. So who can’t use a few easy tricks to getting meals on the table a little faster. Some weeks I am a pre-chopper and other times I am a pre-cooker. All of these meals are meals that you can make on the weekend, or whenever you have time, and then they reheat well when it’s time serve them. The other great thing about these dishes is that because the stand up to re-heating you can easily pack them for lunch, or bring to a pot luck. I hope you enjoy these.


Goat Cheese Enchiladas

Goat Cheese Enchiladas are a sophisticated Mexican meal that are definitely suitable for entertaining. A delicious combination of goat cheese and green chiles give this traditional comfort food a little glam power.






Chicken Cobb Hand Pies

Chicken Cobb Hand Pies are my favorite salad tucked inside a pastry crust. Who wouldn’t love that? I love a good sandwich with a side salad, and this pocket sammy is amped up because it’s stuffed inside of dough!





Stuffed Peppers

Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Chicken Stuffed Peppers are a healthier version of the traditional pork and beef stuffed favorite, but just as tender and moist. These reheat really well, so make a batch or two and send them for lunch too.






Veggie filled Chili

Chili what more do I need to say? OK, a little more would be good. This is a fabulous veggie chili that holds its own filled with spices that with keep your mouth begging for more.







Traditional Meatballs

Traditional Meatballs

Traditional Meatballs are one of my tests of a good Italian restaurant. I am super picky to say the least about meatballs, as most Italians are. These are a classic recipe with my favorite homemade marinara to boot!






Bonus Make Ahead Meal: Pesto Chicken. Sorry no photo for this one, but it’s super simple! Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread 1/2 cup of pesto on the bottom of the pan. Top with 2 cups of pre-cooked chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken. Spread the chicken with another 1/2 cup of pesto and top with 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese shredded (I used white cheddar). Bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and hot all the way through. Serve this over pasta or brown rice.

Top 5+ SweetTreats

P1040655It’s been that kind of week where I need to indulge with some delectable desserts. So instead of stuffing my face, I thought I would try to live vicariously and revisit some of my favorite posts in the dessert arena. I hope you enjoy these too!

Jacob's Favorite Brownie Cookies

Jacob’s Favorite Brownie Cookies

Brownie Cookies These are my kids’ most frequently requested cookies!

Nothing like a baseball cookie after a game.

Nothing like a baseball cookie after a game.

Home Run Frosted Sugar Cookies A simple recipe for sugar cookies with icing.


An indulgent breakfast treat.

An indulgent breakfast treat.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Quick Bread What better way to start a morning than eating oatmeal! Ok, so it’s not quite as healthy as that.

Jamie Oliver's Steamed Pudding Cake

Jamie Oliver’s Steamed Pudding Cake

Steamed Pudding Cakes This one is fast and easy, you know, for those emergency dessert situations.

For a special morning treat.

For a special morning treat.

Super-Indulgent, Mini-Chocolate Chip Pancakes These are sinful. Enough said.

Bonus: Sorry no photo for this one, but they were so good I had to share. Easy Almond Cookies I adapted these from the  Betty Crocker website where I simply used white cake mix (instead of lemon) and added 1 1/2 teaspoons of almond extract and a few almond slivers on top of each one.




Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

With the last remnants of winter hanging by a thread, I will succumb with one final post to the Gods of Comfort Food. Yes, as we all bid a fond farewell to cold weather veggies I thought I would share one of my favorites that I don’t get to make all that often anymore (my kids are not fans of mushrooms). This recipe although time consuming can be made ahead and re-purposed into a second meal or appetizer, which makes it so much more appealing in my eyes. So this might not be one of those recipes that you make on the fly, but may be the perfect capstone to a Sunday evening family meal.

As we’re trying to eat a bit more meatless, I noticed that the Wynn Las Vegas has revamped their menus to include vegan and vegetarian recipes at each of their eateries. What better way to get a little bit of Vegas at home?  Ok, so maybe it’s not the same, but I started with my classic mushroom risotto (one of the dishes on the Wynn’s menu), and then I decided to add some fresh spinach for a bit of texture and freshness.

Shopping List:

  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup of red onions, diced
  • 2 cups of your favorite mushrooms, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 cup of baby spinach torn into bite sized pieces
  •  1 cup of Arborrio rice
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of cream cheese


1. In a medium saute pan on medium heat melt the butter and olive oil together. Once melted toss in the smashed garlic and onions. Lower the temperature to low and stir the onions and garlic occasionally for about 20-30 minutes until the onions are nice and caramelized.

2. Remove the onions from the pan at this point and add the chopped mushrooms to the same pan to cook over medium heat until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms to the onion mixture and then toast the rice in the same pan for about 2 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and add 1 cup of stock and stir the rice occasionally for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process of one cup of liquid every ten minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is chewy.

4. Finally, add the cream cheese, the spinach, and the mushroom and onion mixture into the rice. Stir it all so that the cheese is evenly distributed.  Serve with a few sliced almonds on top and Viola!

Serves: 4 entree portions

Creamy Chicken Pot Pie Soup

With weather across the country dangerously cold, I thought I’d share one of my favorite comfort food recipes. I love to order Chicken Pot Pie at restaurants in the winter because it always seems to satisfy that creamy and crunchy fix I am looking for, but I am always left longing for more of the soupiness that is inside the pastry crust. I developed this dairy free version to fill that void.

This is a pretty simple recipe that can be whipped up on the fly with a grocery store rotisserie chicken if you like. You can even serve this over pasta or rice instead of with the pie crust on the side.

Shopping List:
4 cups Chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
4 tablespoons flour, preferably Wondra
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups total Diced carrots and celery
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 chicken breast, shredded about 1 cup
pie dough, optional

1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt the butter and then add the flour. Whisk together to make a smooth paste and let the flour cook to a tan color. This is your roux.
2. Slowly whisk in the mustard, wine and chicken stock, or if you prefer vegetable stock.
3. Toss in your veggies, and let them simmer at a low temperature until they are cooked to your liking (5-10 minutes).
4. Then add the precooked chicken and warm it throughout.
5. To serve top with lemon zest and a lemon wedge, and a piece of baked pie crust or French bread.
Serves: 4

Curried Carrot Bisque

With the new year in full swing and keeping with my resolution of eating more veggies, I thought I would post this lovely soup recipe today.

It’s been a while since I have posted a soup dish, and as a result since I have extolled the virtues of this simple meal. Yes, soup can be a meal!

I could fill my belly with the endless warmth that soup provides for days on end. Especially in this chilly winter weather we are wading through. To come home to a simple soup to soothe the soul sounds simply satisfying and stupendous to me. Wow! That was a lot of alliteration.

I’m not sure what it is about soup, but it really does cure all! When I’m feeling a bit under the weather a simple bowl of tomato bisque with a grilled cheese makes me feel sooo good.

And on a busy night where I don’t have time between kids activities to cook a big dinner, throwing together a quick chicken noodle with leftover vegetables from the week is how I survive.

I hope you enjoy this spicy twist on Tomato Bisque inspired by Chobani’s #MadeWithChobani project!

Shopping List:
3 cups carrots roughly chopped
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2-3 teaspoons curry powder, a little less if you don’t want it too spicy
2 cloves garlic, whole
Juice of 1 lime, about 1 tablespoon
1 5.3 oz. container plain Chobani yogurt
One pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium stockpot bring to a boil the carrots, stock, curry and garlic. Let this summer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are super soft.
2. Transfer to a blender and purée (with steam vent open) for about a minute until it is a smooth consistency throughout.
3. Return the purée to the pot and stir in the yogurt and the lime juice. Then warm it back up and serve it garnished with cilantro and croutons if you like.

Serves: 4 appetizer portions or 2 meal portions

For more recipes with Chobani click here.

Martha’s Parmesan Shortbread Crackers


‘Twas the weekend of a holiday party,
With my “mommy” schedule filled to the brim.
I had no free time for something hearty.
Of course, I wouldn’t chance it on a whim.
So what’s a girl to do when an appetizer is required?
Even if I weren’t tired,
I’d turn to Martha to settle my fears?
And, a pint of beer.
(Ok, that last line was just for the rhyme. I don’t drink beer)

These crackers are super versatile and can easily be made in advance. You can even freeze a batch unbaked, if you like.

Shopping List:
1 1/2 cups flour
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2 sticks salted butter
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
A pinch of cayenne

1. In a small bowl mix together with a pastry blender or two forks in the butter and flour until it is pea-sized crumbles.

2. Stir in Parmesan, salt and pepper.

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface to form it into 1 inch round logs. Then wrap it wax paper and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

4. After chilling slice into 1/4 inch rounds and space 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake @350 for about 20 minutes or until golden and firm in the center.

Makes: 3-4 dozen crackers

Savory Tarlets: Fig Jam and Brie and Roasted Tomato Basil

With the holiday season upon us, I thought I would post an oldie, but a goodie. If you’ve never used puff pastry sheets before, you are definitely missing out. It is by far my favorite trick when entertaining .

You can purchase the lovely dough in the frozen food aisle of any grocery store. Simply thaw it, then bake it off to make a fancy breadstick or a topping for a pot pie, or in this case savory tartlets. Top these buttery little rounds with whatever is in season and suits your taste.

Puff pastry makes something simple become decadent. So next time you sign up for a potluck, you might just find yourself using this delicate dough.

Shopping List:

1 box puff pastry sheets (2 sheets per box)

1/3 cup fig jam

4 ounces brie

1/4 cup of sliced almonds

1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded


1. Thaw the puff pastry sheets, then them roll out to 10 inches x 12 inches. Use a 3-inch round glass or cookie cutter to cut out  approximately 16 tartlets. You can roll out the scraps of the dough once to make remaining tartlets.

2. Lay out the circles of dough on two parchment lined baking sheets. Then, top one tray of circles with 1 teaspoon of fig jam and a thick slice of brie. Top the other tray with a teaspoon of cherry tomatoes, a teaspoon of parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of basil. Drizzle the tomato pizzettes with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Top the fig and brie ones with a pinch of sea salt only.

3.  Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown at edges. Top the fig and brie tartlets with almond slivers.

Makes: 24  tarlets