Boring vegetable sides are easy to understand – it’s hard enough to come up with a main dish for dinner at the end of a long day, so by the time you get to the side dishes, opening up a can or drizzling bottled dressing on a bagged salad seems like all you can handle. That’s why a recipe like this one is such a lifesaver. Tangy, sweet and salty, with a deep roasted flavor and a hint of garlic, these balsamic roasted carrots require only five minutes of prep time followed by about 30 minutes in the oven. They’re so simple and versatile, you’ll find yourself making them again and again.
I absolutely love when I can take a tried-and-true recipe and transform it into something new, so my favorite tomato soup recipe has now become One Pot Tortellini and Tomato Soup. It’s an adaptation of my Crock-Pot Tomato Soup recipe with just a few changes that make a big difference.
The biggest change: tortellini, of course. There is something about adding pasta to tomato soup that makes it so comforting and extra delicious. My mom likes to add orzo to her tomato soup (yum), and in my house we are big tortellini fans. It’s so cheesy and hearty, and I always like to have a package in my freezer ready for cold winter nights when I’m short on time.
Every week, as I plan my dinner menus, I ask the family what they would like to eat that week, and my son Jake usually asks for this Korean beef and noodle stir fry. Jake is our only son and youngest child. He was born in South Korea, and he has been an adopted member of our family since he was 12 months old. He is a terrific kid, and I’m incredibly lucky I get to be his mom. Jake is proud of where he came from, and maybe that’s the reason he loves this dish. Or maybe he just loves it because it’s so tasty.
This quick and easy stir fry has the flavors of bulgogi, a marinated grilled beef that is one of Korea’s signature dishes. A bulgogi-style marinade becomes a cooking sauce for a stir fry of ground beef, Napa cabbage, noodles, edamame and green onion, for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. I would describe this dish as a glorified hamburger helper, but it’s a whole lot tastier and better for you.
I know food bloggers are prone to hyperbole, but I really think these are the best ever Mexican Black Beans. I’m aware that it’s crazy to get excited about black beans, but that’s how much I really love this recipe. It’s super versatile and my family absolutely loves it. The recipe can be made in under 15 minutes and all you need is…
Honestly, I make these black beans so often that I don’t really use a recipe, I just make them from memory. Writing the recipe down reminded me how quick and easy it really is. One thing you’ll notice about this recipe is that it calls for a little less liquid than most Mexican black bean recipes and that means the consistency ends up being slightly different. There’s a little less liquid in the final product and it’s less (for lack of a better word) soupy. If you like you’r black beans served in a little more liquid, feel free to add more tomato juice. I think it is the tomato juice that is the real magic ingredient in this recipe. Most Mexican black bean recipes call for chicken or vegetable stock, but the tomato juice adds so much more flavor.
It was actually my toddler’s love of this recipe that led to it being made so often in our house. Not too long after his first birthday I made these for the first time. He ate them by the handful, and ended up covered in beans from head to toe. He started asking for beans every night for dinner and eventually I had to make a rule that we would only eat these once a week. He just turned two and still loves these just as much as the first time he ate them.
I have a beef with turkey burgers. Did you see what I did there? Yes, they’re healthier and lower in fat that traditional burgers, but they often turn out dry, bland, and boring. After trying many different recipes, I was about to give up on the idea of a delicious, juicy home made turkey burger when I found two ingredients that take turkey burgers to the next level.
The two ingredients that really make these burgers stand out are the BBQ sauce and the smoked paprika. Together they make the burgers juicer and they add a rich, smoky flavor that turkey burgers usually lack. I personally like to use a thick, corn-syrupy BBQ sauce for these and I’m always careful to choose one with a lower than average sugar content (yes, difficult to find when looking at BBQ sauce) as sugar burns easily.
To me the most important difference between beef burgers and turkey burgers is that unlike beef burgers, turkey burgers should not be cooked rare or medium rare. You really don’t want to under cook ground turkey. If you spend some time looking at various turkey burger recipes you’ll see a range of different recommended temperatures the turkey should be cooked to; from 160 F to 180 degrees F. Wanting to make sure I was cooking my meat thoroughly, I did a little research and found that Foodsafety.gov lists 165 degrees F as the safe minimum cooking temperature for ground turkey, with no rest time needed. Be sure to use your meat thermometer, not just your eyes to make sure these are done.
Once you’ve cooked them to the appropriate temperature you’ll arrive at my second-favorite step: topping the burgers. I topped mine with a colby-pepper jack cheese, extra bbq sauce, then piled on the veggies. Then, on to my first-favorite step: eating them.
Is there any comfort food quite like spaghetti and meatballs? It’s hearty, rich, and carb-o-licious, but unfortunately quite fattening and high in calories. That’s why I love this recipe. It transforms pasta and meatballs from a treat for special occasions to a weeknight dinner perfect for your regular recipe rotation.
This recipe is much lighter than your standard meatballs and marinara, but still packs a powerful flavor punch. Turkey is lower in calories and fat than sausage or beef, and these meatballs are packed with just the right amount of spinach: enough that you get a good serving, but not enough that that your kids will turn their noses up at their plates.
This recipe is also much less labor intensive than your typical meatball and marinara recipe, because it’s made using my favorite kitchen appliance – the Crock-Pot. Prep the meatballs and sauce in the morning, set your Crock-Pot for 8 hours and dinner is ready to go!
I’m always on the lookout for weeknight dinners under 500 calories and this one fits the bill. One serving of my favorite whole wheat pasta is 190 calories + 127 calories for 3 meatballs (only 43 calories per meatball!) + 93 calories for 1 cup of marinara+ about 30 calories for garnish comes to a grand total of just 440 calories.
Because this recipe serves 7, it makes enough to serve my small family 2 meals instead of just one. My husband usually takes leftovers to work for lunch the next day, and I use the leftover meatballs and sauce to make slimmed-down meatballs subs the next evening.
I generally serve these meatballs with one of my family’s favorite pastas (we’re partial to vegetable farfalle and whole wheat penne over here) and a light, green side salad or my mom’s famous Slimmed-Down Roasted Broccoli. If you’re watching carbs you can omit the bread crumbs (I’ve done it and it works well-also makes the recipe gluten free) and serve with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of traditional pasta.
- 1 ½ lb 93% lean ground turkey
- 2 cups frozen spinach leaf
- 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- shredded Parmesan, if desired
- fresh basil, if desired
- Combine diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, Italian seasoning, dried basil, salt, pepper, garlic, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar a slow cooker. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Defrost spinach in microwave (mine takes 4-5 minutes on a very low setting, but times will vary) and squeeze dry of excess water.
- Combine turkey, spinach, bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, egg, smoked paprika, and parsley in a large bowl, and mix with your hands until combined. Use a 1/8 measuring cup to measure out portions of the turkey mixture and roll into balls.
- Carefully place each of the meatballs in the sauce. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
- If possible, gently stir mixture every few hours. If not, stir the mixture after its finished cooking and serve immediately.
- Total Cost: $9.26 Cost Per Serving $1.33
There is a certain Mexican restaurant that’s very popular in our hometown, and maybe in yours. Its also very popular in my house, and maybe in yours. Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salads? Creamy Tomatillo Dressing? Chile Roasted Beef Burritos? Ring a bell? Maybe you know what I’m talking about…
This recipe started out as a Copy-Cat Café Rio Chicken recipe, but in my kitchen it’s become so much more. This Cilantro Lime Chicken is a staple in my house, and I use it in many different ways.
In its most basic form, this recipe is something you’ve probably seen before: chicken breasts, salad dressing, and salsa cooked in a Crock-Pot then shredded. It’s so simple you don’t even really need a recipe. What sets this one apart is using a homemade marinade instead of pre-mixed store bought salad dressing. It takes only a few extra minutes, and it makes such a difference! One thing you won’t find in this recipe that you will find in most Copy-Cat Café Rio Chicken recipes is ranch dressing mix. I personally don’t really care for ranch dressing, and the marinade is so flavorful I don’t think it’s really necessary.
One of the things I love most about this recipe is that it produces such a large amount of chicken. It’s way too much for my family to eat in one sitting, so I always reserve at least half in the freezer and we still usually have leftovers. Then when the clock strikes 5 on yet another night that I’ve forgotten to plan something for dinner, I can just grab a bag of chicken out of the freezer and I’m ready to make simple tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, salads, and Mexican haystacks.
- About 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I usually use frozen)
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup salsa
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker.
- In a bowl combine water, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salsa, and Italian seasoning. Pour marinade over chicken. Sprinkle chicken breasts with chili powder and then with garlic.
- Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
- When cooking in complete, gently move the chicken breasts from the slow cooker to a large bowl. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the slow cooker and discard the rest. Pour the liquid over the chicken, then shred with two forks.
- Add the chopped cilantro and lime juice and continue to shred until combined.
- To freeze chicken, let it cool to room temperature then distribute meal sized portions of chicken into Ziploc bags and freeze for future use.
- Total Cost: $9.45 Cost Per Serving: $.94
There’s nothing I love more than a dinner that practically makes itself. Except perhaps a dinner that practically makes itself that’s also cheap, healthy, low-calorie, crowd-pleasing, and most importantly, delicious. This Crock-Pot Tomato Soup recipe is a staple in my kitchen during the colder months. The family gets to sit down together over a warm meal, even when I just walked in the door.
This soup is also great for entertaining family or friends who are vegetarian, vegan, or have food allergies. On it’s own its totally vegan and each guest can add toppings to their liking and sensitivity.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for canned tomatoes instead of fresh, which makes it a perfect addition to your fall and winter dinner rotation. While I cherish the delicious, ripe tomatoes my back yard garden produces each year, canned tomatoes are a great option for when tomatoes are not in season and actually have some interesting health benefits.
I love that the prep time for this recipe is minimal. In the morning I quickly sauté the veggies, throw everything in the Crock-Pot and leave for the day. When I get home, I blend for a few minutes, and dinner’s ready. I like to serve this soup with a variety of soup toppings, a quick green salad and grilled cheese sandwiches on our Panini press. Each family member gets to choose their own soup and sandwich toppings, so it pleases kids and adults alike.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion – coarsely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper – coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high. Cook and stir garlic, onions, and bell peppers until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Combine sauteed vegetables, tomatoes, vegetable broth, salt, and red pepper flakes in Crock-Pot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Serve immediately with fresh basil as a garnish.
- Top with Parmesan cheese, croutons, yogurt, or grilled cheese croutons as desired.
When it comes to dinner, I’m a planner. I have a routine. I find out what’s on sale at my favorite grocery store, ask my family what they feel like having, look at the weekly calendar to figure out who’s going to be home when, and plan menus from that. More often than not, there’s a white index card on my refrigerator with the menu for each night’s dinner written on it.
But every once in a while, that system falls apart. Life gets extra busy, or I realize at 5 p.m. that I forgot to put that pork roast in the slow cooker, or a million other things, and I just have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner.
This quick and easy lemon grilled chicken is perfect for those times. You can have it on the table in under an hour, with ingredients you probably have on hand. It’s also a great meal planned ahead, when you can give the chicken more time to marinate. It’s inexpensive, low in calories, and super tasty.
To begin the recipe, thaw and trim the chicken breasts. If you have to thaw them in a hurry, you can use the microwave. I used three boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that I bought at Costco, and they were huge, so I cut them in half, making diagonal cuts to try to keep the pieces an even thickness. After trimming away the fat and tendons, I had about 24 ounces of chicken breast, which serves six people, or four if they’re really hungry.
The marinade for this chicken contains olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard. It doesn’t have a strong mustard taste, though – the mustard just enhances the lemon flavor. Mix up the marinade and put it in a bowl just large enough to hold it and the chicken breasts, and let the chicken marinate anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Longer is better, but don’t go past 2 hours, because marinating chicken breasts in an acidic liquid too long can make them tougher.
I cooked my lemon chicken on a stovetop grill pan, but you could also cook it on an outdoor grill or in a frying pan. You can serve this with a simple baked potato and veggie side dish for a no-fuss healthy dinner. This recipe pairs well with Slimmed-Down Roasted Broccoli, Balsamic Roasted Carrots, or Berry Spinach Salad.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- ¼ c. olive oil
- Juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons (about ¼ c.)
- 2 t. Dijon mustard
- ½ t. salt
- ¼ t. black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- 1 t. dried thyme
- Cut chicken breast pieces in half, if they are very large, making diagonal cuts to keep pieces an even thickness. Trim visible fat and tendons. Whisk remaining ingredients in a medium bowl to combine. Add chicken pieces and press down so chicken pieces are covered with marinade. Allow chicken to marinate at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Heat a stovetop grill pan, frying pan, or outdoor grill to medium high heat. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until no longer pink in the center. If using an instant-read meat thermometer, cook to 160 degrees.
- Remove chicken from heat and serve with additional lemon wedges for garnish (optional).