Tag Archives: Hardly any prep!

Summer Suppers! New Recipe 1…


Summer is here and I am ready!  As a family of educators we endure the crazy schedule during school year knowing that summer is coming.  It is amazing how much one can accomplish when there are no papers to grade, concerts to plan/conduct, and of course all the parenting things that go along with having kids in school too!  I already have one of my summer projects done with all this “extra” time I have now…cleaning and reorganizing the pantry!


I am happy to be enjoying preparing family dinner again now that I have more time.  I love sitting around the table with my family (it is one of the reasons I have this blog!) but honestly as the school year progressed, I dreaded making dinner.  I was becoming the queen of “throw down dinners”.  You know, the ones you buy in the freezer section and throw into a skillet and about 10 minutes later, dinner is served!  We actually enjoyed many of these dinners. The prep and clean-up were easy enough to where I didn’t have to spend an hour or more in the kitchen after teaching all day.

Tonight I made “Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta” and it earned four smiley faces!  It will definitely make it into our “school-schedule” friendly recipes too as it was quick and easy to put together.  I plan to have my girls make it with me the next time so they can learn to make dinner during the school year. It would be easy to double if you need more than 4 servings.  Here is how I made the recipe for my family:

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add:

  • 2 cups of penne pasta

Cook until tender and then drain the pasta.  While the pasta is cooking:

  • dice 1 small onion
  • mince 2 cloves of garlic

In a large skillet heat

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Add to the heated oil the diced onion and minced garlic and cook over medium-low heat until softened and transparent.

Add to the skillet and stir to combine:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground pepper, to taste

Now add to the skillet and stir to combine:

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of water

Turn the heat down to low and add:

  • 2 Tablespoons of cream cheese

Blend the cream cheese into the sauce and then add

  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup of grated Parmesan

Stir until the Parmesan is melted.  Then add

  •  4-5 ounces of fresh spinach

Stir the spinach gently into the sauce until it has wilted.

Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the sauce.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

I served it with a fruit salad and we all loved it.

It took me about 30 minutes to make the dish and was easy to clean up after dinner.

I’m looking forward to many relaxing and enjoyable dinners this summer!


Lemon Chicken Breast


In many ways I can’t believe that April is almost over!  When I think back to where we were this time last year…our basement was about to flood and begin a month-long craziness, Brad was about to have interviews in Texas, and I was starting to fill out job applications for Texas districts around the places Brad had interviews.  A LOT has happened in this last year.

On the other hand I am so glad that May is around the corner.  Because of all the craziness from last year, we didn’t get much of a summer to relax and regroup.  This will be the first summer in a while that we have been able to just breathe.

I’ve missed blogging for those two people that actually read my posts 😉

Believe me I think many times about sitting down to share a recipe for the table or a recipe for life—but working as a full-time teacher again keeps me hopping!  The last time I was in the classroom I didn’t have children of my own at home—that is a game changer in the world of education.

This year our family dinners have taken on a different look.  The weekends used to be for quick and casual while our weeknights were the meals I spent time on preparing.  Now it has flipped.

Here is a quick and easy dinner that I found this week.  We all enjoyed it and I was able to get it into the oven and the kitchen cleaned up before it came out of the oven.  (And with no dishwasher now for almost a month—that is a big deal!….Home Warranty company has finally decided to replace the ailing dishwasher but now we wait on that!)

Lemon Chicken Breast

Preheat the oven to 400°

Warm in a small saucepan over medium-low heat

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Add to the warmed olive oil and cook for just one minute (don’t allow the garlic to brown):

  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic (about 9 cloves)

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add to it:

  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I used the juice freshly squeezed from the lemon I had zested)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Pour the saucepan mixture into a 9 x 12 inch baking dish

Add to the baking dish:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (I used skinless too but you could have skin on them…put them skin side up if you do)

Coat the chicken, on both sides, with the olive oil mixture in the pan.  Sprinkle the coated chicken with:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper

Cut what remains of your lemon into slices and tuck it among the chicken pieces.  If you have a second lemon you could just slice that one into wedges and use that.  I only had one lemon so we just used it thoroughly!

Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your chicken breasts.

After removing the chicken from the oven, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

We all enjoyed this dish and it was quick and easy for me to prepare after giving state tests all day long 😦


(I based this recipe off of one that I found online at shescookin.com that was called “Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken Breast”)

When Fast Food Won’t Do


No, I haven’t gone all healthy on you…”when fast-food won’t do” doesn’t mean I’ve given up eating at all my favorite drive-thrus.  Rather my eating out budget has been drastically reduced as we have shifted priorities in our family budget.  Now I want to save that money for just the right night.  But what is a girl to do when she gets home from work and is exhausted and hasn’t a clue what to do for dinner?

Here are some quick and easy fall-backs.  Plan your grocery list each month to include these items and you won’t find yourself in need of running through the drive-thru as often as before.


  1. Tortellini.  Open a bag and boil it–it takes about 10 minutes.  Slice up an apple, throw some little carrots and maybe cut up some other veggies and D-O-N-E.  We server our tortellini with cheese and some Italian seasonings.
  2. Quesadillas (The Mexican version of Grilled Cheese).  Always have flour tortillas on hand and a big bag of mexican blend cheese.   I often have some frozen grilled chicken strips that we can heat and add to quesadillas too.  My girls like just cheese and maybe a bit of chicken.  I also like to put onions on mine.  Simply heat a nonstick skillet and place one tortilla down in the skillet.  Sprinkle the tortilla with cheese and other desired items then top with another tortilla.  Flip the tortilla when it is browned and before it chars!  Open a can of refried beans or some Ranch Style Beans (K-Mart sells then in PA) serve with some little carrots.
  3. Burritos.  This is a favorite at our house.  Open up cans of refried beans (it takes two cans for my family) and heat on the stove.  I sprinkle some fajita seasoning into the beans and stir it in while they heat up.  Then pull out those flour tortillas again.  Zap the tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave to warm them up.  I put mine between two damp paper towels and warm for a few seconds.  Then load them up with beans, cheese, and onions…even lettuce if you want.  I like to serve with Taco Bell Hot Sauce and Sour Cream and then of course some chopped apples or other easy fruit to cut and serve.  (Sometimes I just set the clementine bowl on the table and that serves as our fruit selection for the evening)
  4. Fish Sticks/Portions.  Keep in the freezer you favorite battered fish.  Prepare this along with some frozen broccoli and some fresh fruit (or my throw-down fruit of canned mandarin oranges when the fruit basket is empty)

Tiny Bit of Thinking

  1. Pancakes.  I keep a box of Aunt Jemima’s Original in my pantry at all times (along with syrup of course too!).  I mix in an individual serving pack of applesauce and sprinkle in some cinnamon into the batter before firing up the griddle for dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.  Sometimes we have sausage and/or eggs too but often it is pancakes and fruit.  (Then a bag of popcorn later when we are a teeny bit hungry before bedtime.)
  2. Tacos.  Brown some ground meat and empty the taco seasoning and water (per package instructions) into the browned meat.  Serve on warmed hard shells, tortillas, or tortilla chips.  You can load the tacos with as much or as little as you can stand to prepare (shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, salsa)  Refried beans, black beans, or corn on the side are a nice addition too.
  3. Spaghetti.  I have a child that does not care for spaghetti (I guess she takes after her Grandaddy).  However, it is a perfect “tiny bit of thinking” meal.  One pot of water to boil the noodles and one skillet to brown the ground meat  (maybe some onions and peppers too) and then add a jar of your favorite sauce.  Pull green beans out of the freezer and pop open a can of crescent rolls or french bread and you are on your way to dinner on the table in no time.


  • Salad bags are good to have for throw down meals…that is if your family eats salad.  Most of mine doesn’t.
  • Fresh Veggies…call it Crudite and it sounds more fancy …like you spent some time on it!
  • Slice up Fruit- apples and pears are quick favorites for our mindless and tiny bit of thinking meals
  • Frozen vegetables are quick and easy to prepare.  I like to have broccoli and green beans all the time in my freezer.

So the next time you are on your way home from a long day of work and feel your car pulling towards Chick-fil-a or Burger King, resist!  You can still have an easy meal at home with your family for a lot less cost and a lot less salt!



Mindless meals give you more time to snuggle with the ones you love.

Mindless meals give you more time to snuggle with the ones you love.

Kids in the Kitchen: Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels


I had a very cute assistant tonight help me prepare our dinner.  She donned her new apron from her Mimi and got right to work preparing our fun pepperoni pizza pinwheels.  It is yet another recipe from the Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook (I gave a HUGE hint at dinner tonight that the cookbook would make a great Mother’s Day gift….I said something like, “It would make a great Mother’s Day gift.”…subtle ehh???)  It is quick to prepare and yummy to eat!

My very cute assistant.

My very cute assistant.

Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels

Unroll on a cutting board into a rectangle that is about 12 x 9:

  • 1 (10 oz) can refrigerated pizza crust —I used the Pillsbury thin crust pizza crust you find in the refrigerated biscuit section.

Sprinkle the crust with:

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • Pepperoni slices

Roll up the crust, starting with the long side.  (This was a bit tricky as the crust had warmed up some.  I got it started and rolled it several times before my assistant took over.)

Pizza Pinwheels from beckinpa.wordpress.com

Once it is rolled up, moisten the edge with water and pinch the seam to seal.  (We wet our pointer finger and thumbs and pinched it shut—my assistant liked that!)

Cut into 1 inch wide slices and place about 1 inch apart on a large jellyroll pan (15 x 10 inches or so) that has been lined with foil and then lightly greased.

Bake at 400° for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden.

While those bake, whip up some sauce.  I didn’t want to waste opening a jar of spaghetti sauce like the recipe suggested so I made my own.  I opened an 8 oz can of tomato sauce then doctored it up with some Italian seasoning blends I have in our pantry.  There was more than enough.

Serve immediately with warmed sauce.

Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels

I made this on a night that Brad was not home so I just sliced apples and served the pinwheels….done.  BUT we ate all but one pinwheel.  So if we were all home, I would serve this with a salad and some fruit; even then it is a quick and easy meal.

Enchilada Casserole- Slow Cooker


Here is another “near” magic pot recipe that we tried tonight.  It is a vegetarian dish that also earned 4 smiley faces from our family of four.  It is intended to be prepared in a smaller slow cooker ( 3 1/2 quart) but it worked fine in my big slow cooker.  If I have more than four mouths at my table it would be easy to double this one.  I made this exactly like the recipe out of the Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook except that I used a 15 oz can of corn rather than an 11 oz can of mexi-corn.  I just hate to pay more for that!

Enchilada Casserole

Stir together in your slow cooker:

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped green chiles
  • 3/4 cup chunky salsa (I used Pace’s mild version)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can yellow corn
  • 1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso’s Green Enchilada sauce)

Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours

Stir together in a bowl:

  • 1 Tablespoon green chiles
  • 1 package corn muffin mix (8.5 oz box version)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped roasted red bell peppers

Spoon the batter evenly over the bean mixture in the slow cooker (well, mine was more like glop it on top of the enchilada mix)

Cover and cook on Low for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cornbread is done.

Sprinkle over the cornbread:

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or mexican blend as I did….hmmmm….maybe I didn’t follow the recipe exactly)

Cover and allow the cheese to melt

Serve with sour cream if desired.

Obviously the spicier your salsa the spicier the dish.  I was cooking for mild-mouths so we made it more tame.  I served it with Ranch Style Beans, a green salad and apple slices.


Chicken Lasagna Florentine- Slow Cooker


Magic Pot Alert!  Yep, this one is a dump and go kind of recipe….my kind of slow cooker meal.  It gets four smiley faces from my family of four.  The only thing you have to plan for is to be home for the first hour of cooking as you cook on high for one hour and then reduce it to low for the next 5 hours. *  I found the base for this recipe in a Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook that I checked out from a local library.

Chicken Lasagna Florentine

Combine in a large bowl and stir well:

  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry (I used frozen from Trader Joe’s and didn’t need to drain and squeeze)
  • 2-3 cups of diced, cooked chicken (I used some shredded chicken that I had in the freezer, you could also use the Tyson’s diced cooked chicken)
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon of Penzey’s Mural of Flavor (a mix of spices, dried shallots, onion, garlic, lemon peel, citric acid, chives, orange peel)  If you don’t have this, one variation I found online has 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place in a larger slow cooker, coated with cooking spray (or maybe one of those liners would be good)

  • 3 uncooked lasagna noodles, breaking the noodles in half, to fit in the slow cooker. (will need 9 noodles in all for the layers)

Spread one third of the spinach mixture over the noodles.

Sprinkle over the mixture

  • 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese


  • 3 more noodles (breaking as needed)
  • half of the remaining spinach mixture
  • 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese

Top with the remaining noodles, mixture, and cheese.

Cover and cook on High for 1 hour

Reduce to Low and cook for 5 hours or until the pasta is done (mine was fine after 5 hours)

* Note: I did search around before posting this and see that someone did this same base recipe on Low for 8 hours and said it was fine—that way you don’t have to worry about the High/Low switch.


Mediterranean Salmon


No, you aren’t on the wrong blog….I’m actually posting a fish recipe!  It is true that I don’t really care to prepare fish but I know it is healthy and should incorporate it more often.  Almost a month ago, my older brother had a heart attack.  In honor of his recovery, I thought I would dig out some of my heart healthy recipes and post a few.  This is one that has been around our house for over three years and it gets four smiley faces each time I make it.

Mediterranean Salmon

Preheat oven to 425°

Place in a single layer in an 11 x 7 baking dish, coated with cooking spray

  • 4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets  (OK, reality check here….I don’t take the skin off as the salmon I buy comes with skin on one side.  AND I just fill the pan so often I have 6 fillets)

Sprinkle over both sides of the fish:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper  (confession….I didn’t measure either salt or pepper)

Combine in a bowl and then spoon over fish:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped zucchini
  • 2 Tablespoons capers (I used these the first time I made the recipe and haven’t since as capers are not on my regular shopping list!)
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Bake for 22 minutes.

We usually serve this with a big salad and some bread; and then, because it is fish, I plan on popping popcorn later when I am starving before bed!

My handsome fella found this recipe for me back in 2010 after I had my own little heart incident (not near as life-threatening as my big brother last month though!).    The recipe sheet I have says it was from a cnn.com health link.  So big brother, try out this recipe.  It is easy AND good for your heart.  Love you!