Archive for May, 2016

BC (Before Children) my husband and I only cooked for the two of us. This was one of our favorite quick and simple meals; the simple pasta sauce whips up on the stove in less than 15 minutes, and makes just enough for two.We love the flavor garlic adds, and the crushed red pepper flakes give it just enough zing to be exciting.

Once the kids were born, it was knocked out of the rotation because “I don’t like tomatoes” and “it’s too spicy” became just annoying.

Every once in a while, I get the house to myself and even a meal to myself, (What?!?! Yep, it happens.) and I decided I wanted Quick Marinara. We had some leftover spaghetti noodles and some leftover cooked chicken pieces in the frig, so it was meant to be.

In retrospect, I should have left out the chicken. It interrupted the flavor of the sauce. Now, if you had some well-seasoned chicken breast on hand, it might be a different story.

Quick marinara

Quick Marinara, with cut-up chicken breast pieces to add protein.

Quick Marinara for Two

  • pasta of your choice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. grated or shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Advance preparation:  Mince the garlic. (Did you know that letting minced garlic sit for several minutes before cooking may make it healthier for you? So mince it up and let it rest while you get the pasta going and heat the oil in the skillet.)
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Heat oil in medium skillet. Saute garlic in oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

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Asian Turkey Wraps – Not the prettiest meal, but tasty!

I’m a big fan of all-in-one meals because I’m pretty terrible at planning side dishes. I love it when the veggies and meat are all wrapped up in a neat little package.


With this dish, I also love that it a is a quick, one-pan meal, though I end up getting my food processor dirty. I’ve made note of “advance preparation” that works best if you can do it ahead of time rather than in the midst of cooking.

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Makes 10 (1/3 cup) servings.

  • 1 1/4 lbs. ground turkey (I buy 1 lb. packages, and usually just reduce the other ingredients a little.)
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) frozen stir-fry vegetable blend, thawed (my pkg. is 14 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce (I highly recommend Soy Vay’s Veri, Veri Teriyaki. Mmm.)
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh gingerroot (I use 1 tsp. ground ginger when I don’t have fresh)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 10 Boston lettuce leaves (or other broad lettuce of your choice)
  1. Advance Preparation: Thaw turkey (if necessary) and stir-fry veggies. Mix together teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, ginger, vinegar, and oil. Mince the garlic. Chop green onions.
  2. Cook turkey in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until no longer pink.
  3. Chop stir-fry vegetables coarsely. (This is where I pulse them in my food processor, usually because I’ve forgotten to thaw them. 🙂 ) Add veggies to pan. Stir in teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, ginger, vinegar, and oil – or if you’ve planned ahead, dump in your pre-measured mixture. Stir-fry over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in onions. Place scant 1/2 cup turkey mixture on each lettuce leaf; fold lettuce over filling. Serve with additional hoisin sauce, if desired.

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Sometimes, the kids just won’t eat what you want to eat. Annoying. This is a big part of why I hate Menu Planning Day. But I try to find ways to still make what I want and yet get them to eat SOME of it.

Rule in my house: you take one bite. One of my past daycare providers called it the “No- Thank-You Bite.” You don’t have to eat any more than that, but one bite is important. The other day, my daughter actually liked a salad I made her try. Like, with lettuce! Today, she helped me shake up the vinaigrette for this to go with our hamburgers off the grill.

Tortellini Salad (2)

This is a cool, crisp, tangy side for a picnic, or with any meat main dish. It is one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli. My youngest likes this – usually. My oldest turns her nose up at it – I think the vinaigrette is too strong for her – but she will eat raw broccoli and carrots with ranch dressing, so I just save some out for her. But she still has to taste it. Every. Time.

Tortellini Broccoli Salad

Recipe says it serves 4, but it goes farther than that in our house.

  • 1 pkg (7oz) cheese-filled tortellini (I like the dried ones in the pasta aisle rather than the frozen kind. They cook up better.)
  • Garlic Vinaigrette (below)
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 medium green onions, sliced (optional)

Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup cider or balsamic vinegar (I prefer balsamic)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. (If the package says to use salted water, DO IT. The salt makes a big difference.) Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again.
  2. Make garlic vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a large bowl with a tight lid. (I use the container I put the salad in. Make sure it will hold 7 cups, as any smaller will be too small.) Either close lid and shake to mix, or whisk gently.
  3. Add the carrot, broccoli, onions (if using) and pasta to the bowl. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour, up to 24 hours. (I find it keeps well for several days, though it is good to toss the salad again before serving in case the vinaigrette settles.)

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I pulled this recipe from a magazine a few years ago. I guessed we’d make it once and my family would reject it.

I was dead wrong.

My daughters LOVE this recipe. They request Turkey Burgers for breakfast when we have them leftover, and since I always double the batch, there are plenty of leftovers. I never worry it won’t all get eaten. (If they aren’t as popular in your family, I still recommend doubling, then freezing half for your family to have on hand.) The burgers are very mild tasting, and the pesto mayonnaise is really the star. My husband and I are not as enamored as the kids are, but we still enjoy them.

Cooking the recipe as burgers is a bit more involved than I prefer, so I altered how I prepare the recipe and make it more as a meatloaf. (Both sets of instructions below.) We just cut “burgers” out of the pan. We also rarely eat them with buns, so in my house the burgers exist in name only.

turkey burgers

Turkey Burger topped with Pesto Mayonnaise


Pesto Chicken or Turkey “Burgers”

*Note: Recipe is NOT doubled here.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar or 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons prepared pesto*

Pesto Mayonnaise (for serving)

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon pesto*

*For pesto, I buy pesto mix and make on the stove. It doesn’t take long, but does require boiling water and having olive oil on hand. You could also buy a jar of your favorite brand. TIP: Whichever way you do it, you WILL have leftover pesto. I measure one tablespoon measurements into ice cube trays and freeze. After they are frozen, pop them out into freezer containers for next time or another use.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, cheese, salt and pepper, gently tossing with a large fork until evenly blended.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons pesto, then add it to the meat mixture and combine until evenly blended.
  3. For meatloaf: Spread meat mixture into a 8×8 baking dish. (I double the recipe and use a 9×13 baking dish.) Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 165. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut sections to place on buns or eat with forks. Serve with Pesto Mayonnaise. (Note: Baking causes the meat to release a lot of juices that would normally drain into a grill or broiler pan, so loaf will be “swimming” when it is done. Simply drain off liquid before storing.)
  4. For burgers: Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Shape meat into six 1/2-inch-thick patties, placing on the baking sheet. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to firm them. (Burgers are softer than traditional hamburgers and need this.) Prepare grill or broiler and pesto mayonnaise for serving. When 30 minutes are up, brush each burger with oil and place on grill, oiled side down. Lightly brush other side with oil. Cook approx. 5 minutes per side, until meat is no longer pink. Serve on buns (if desired) with Pesto Mayonnaise and other burger fixings.

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This blog has been on hiatus for a while, but I’ve recently found a new focus. The mom of a family close to my heart recently told me how hard menu planning is for her. While Menu Planning Day happens to be one of my least favorite days, I find it vital to the workings of my household, helping me avoid a zillion trips to the grocery store AND responding with a blank stare when someone asks, “What’s for dinner?” After saying as much to Planning-Impaired Mom, she says to me, “You should just send me your menu plan – and recipes, of course.”

Wish granted. But rather than do it all at once, I’ll be posting a bunch of our favorite recipes on a daily basis for a while so the next time I make a plan, it will be easy to link up. I’ll also try to incorporate tips and tricks in preparation.

Food is vital for my family, and cooking (mostly) healthy meals is important to me.

What does this have to do with Stories, Not Stuff? Probably not much. But since this blog is supposed to be about creating and cherishing memories, I will argue that there is no better place to do this than with your family, sometimes around the dinner table, and sometimes in the kitchen making a mess together. Or perhaps an Apple Racer. 🙂

apple racer

Apple Racer Snacks

(adapted from a recipe originally found in Family Fun magazine)

  • 1 apple
  • uncooked spaghetti noodles*
  • a bunch of grapes or grape halves (4 per racer you plan to make)

Slice apple into 8ths, 12ths, or 16ths with a knife or apple corer/slicer, removing seeds. Break spaghetti noodles into 2-3 inch pieces. Carefully push two noodle pieces through each end of an apple slice. Push grapes onto each noodle “axle.” Enjoy!

*You can certainly use toothpicks instead of spaghetti for a sturdier axle, but I prefer spaghetti because it is edible and less likely to hurt little mouths or fingers.

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