12 Easy Dinners Perfect for Back-to-School

Back-to-school is busy! Whether you’re going in person or virtually, I’m sure that as soon as you hit that first day of school, your calendar suddenly looks a lot more full.

Often, that makes getting dinner on the table harder. Easy becomes the name of the game.

If you’re looking for some new, easy dinners for back-to-school, I’ve rounded up a dozen of my favorites!

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Pizza Pasta Salad

So, let’s talk about school. Are you going back? Distance learning? Homeschooling? Something else? It is, for sure, an emotional minefield for so many people. If you’re still figuring things out, I’m sending you big, virtual hugs.

One thing I’ve been hearing a lot is about lunch – some schools are requiring packed lunches, some are sending the kids home early so there will be no lunch served. Lunch so often feels like an overlooked meal – but I believe it’s one we’re all going to be thinking about this year.

I’m a huge fan of make-ahead lunches. Something I can whip together in a big batch and serve all week – and this pizza-inspired pasta salad is just that.

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Chicken Alfredo Ravioli

Does anyone else feel like February went by at warp speed? I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I blinked and it was over. I feel like so many nights I was scrambling at dinner time – where did my day go?! – so quick and easy was definitely the name of the game.

Chicken Alfredo Ravioli 2

This easy casserole is just perfect for busy nights – and a really kid-pleaser.

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Vegan Slow Cooker Chickpea Noodle Soup

This post is sponsored in conjunction with#NationalSlowCookerMonth . I received complimentary product from sponsor companies to aid in the creation of the #NationalSlowCookerMonth recipes. All opinions are mine alone.

On busy days, my slow cooker is pretty much my best friend. I love being able to set it up, walk away for the day, and have a hot meal ready when we’re walking in the door at dinner time.

Chickpea Noodle Soup 2

And is there anything more comforting than a hot bowl of soup? And this is comfort food you can feel good about – this plant-based meal is full of veggies!

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Chicken + Bacon + Ranch + Pasta = My Kids’ Dream Meal.

For real though, this dish is a total crowd-pleaser. Pasta and chicken are covered in a creamy, ranch sauce and the whole thing is topped off with bacon and a generous helping of cheese. What’s not to love?

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta 2

If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, this is a great option.

It’s fast as it is, but there’s two ways to really speed this up. You can grab a rotisserie chicken, pre-cook the pasta, and opt for microwavable bacon. Those three elements will speed up prep considerably.

The other option to to prep the whole thing beforehand, cover, and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. This can be made a day or two in advance, just add a few minutes onto the cook time.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

I’m always a little meh on pastas with red sauce while the weather is still warm, but this sauce felt lighter, even when warm. It’s going to be my new go-to for bringing a meal to friends during the summer months!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta 3

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Serves 8

1 lb. penne pasta, cooked and drained
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
15 oz. jar Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×11″ pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, Alfredo sauce, and ranch dressing. Pour into prepared pan. Top evenly with chopped bacon and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until hot throughout and bubbly. Let cook for 5 minutes before serving.

adapted from Pilisbury

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Summer Vegetable Pasta Bake

We have a few more weeks of summer here, so I haven’t quite wrapped my head around back-to-school. We’re entering a brave new world this year – Kindergarten! – and I’m not ready to give up our relaxed summer schedule.

I know a lot of our friends are starting to head back, though, and I’ve gotten quite a few requests for easy back-to-school dinners. This dinner is perfect – easy, but still full of the fresh flavors of the season.

Summer Pasta 3

This dump-and-bake pasta couldn’t be easier – you don’t even have to pre-cook the pasta! We used leftover grilled chicken, but you could use a rotisserie chicken too. This is also easily made vegetarian by skipping the chicken and using vegetable broth instead.

A few minutes to chop and assemble and then your hands are free to help with homework or spend some quality time with the little ones who have been at school all day!

Summer Pasta 1

Thanks Ellen from Family Around the Table and Christie from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures for hosting our Farmer’s Market Event!

Wednesday Farmer’s Market Week Recipes

 

Summer Pasta 2

Summer Vegetable Pasta Bake

Serves 6-8

2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
12 oz. uncooked uncooked penne pasta
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9×11″ pan with nonstick spray.

Set aside 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup basil.

Pour the rest of the ingredients into the pan and stir to combine. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Uncover and stir. If pasta is not al dente, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

When pasta is al dente, sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, and stir.

Summer Vegetable Pasta Bake

Mexican Lasagna

The weather this past week was such a tease. Several days of warm-enough-for-just-a-sweatshirt, and now we’re back to endless cold and snow. Granted, we’re fairing better than a lot of the country, but I’m still bitter. I’m ready for spring.

Until it gets here, I’m going to be all about comfort food.

Mexican Lasagna 1

This dish is a fusion of two of our favorites – Tex-Mex and Italian. Lasagna is layered with taco meat, refried beans, and cheese, then topped off with your favorite taco toppings.

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Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Creamy Mustard Sauce #Tresomega #OrganicsForLife

MustardSaucePasta1.jpgDisclosure: This post is part of the Tresomega Nutrition Blogger Recipe Challenge. I received complimentary products to use in this post. All opinions are my own.

My last  Tresomega for the week is a quick and easy weeknight dinner that’s also healthy! This mustard sauce is a great way to add a lot of flavor without adding a lot of calories. My kids (and us adults) gobbled it up!

Again, I was super impressed with Tresomega’s pasta. It’s gluten free, but we honestly wouldn’t be able to tell if we didn’t already know!

For more recipe inspiration, you can visit them on Facebook and Twitter. You can purchase Tresomega products at: Tresomega.com. Sams.com, Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

 

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Creamy Mustard Sauce
(a Kate’s Recipe Box original)
Serves 4

1 box Tresomega Gluten-Free Organic Quinoa Fusilli Pasta
1 Tbsp. olive oil
12 oz. chicken apple sausage, coin sliced
2 green peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add in sausage, peppers, and onion and cook until the onion is translucent. Stir in the mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and serve.

MustardSaucePasta2

One Bite Spaghetti and Meatballs #Tresomega #OrganicsForLife

Disclosure: This post is part of the Tresomega Nutrition Blogger Recipe Challenge. I received complimentary products to use in this post. All opinions are my own.

I have a plan for Christmas this year. Instead of doing the big ham dinner that involves being in the kitchen for hours, we’re just going to make a bunch of appetizers and spend the day hanging out. It sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

This is one of the dishes I’m planning to make. It’s filling enough that it could count as a meal, but it’s also something we can eat while lounging around the Christmas tree. It’s pretty much the prefect holiday bite: spaghetti smothered in a to-die-for alfredo sauce, topped off with a miniature meatball and some homemade tomato sauce. And some more cheese just for good measure. Are you drooling yet?

This recipe features Tresomega Gluten-Free Organic Quinoa Spaghetti. We have a few gluten-free family members so we’ve tried a bunch of gluten-free pastas and I can say that this is hands down the best one I’ve tried. My husband – who grew up in a very Italian family – admitted he wouldn’t have know it was gluten-free pasta if I hadn’t told him. Win!

For more recipe inspiration, you can visit them on Facebook and Twitter. You can purchase Tresomega products at: Tresomega.com. Sams.com, Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

OneBiteSpaghettiMeatballs1

One Bite Spaghetti and Meatballs
(a Kate’s Recipe Box original)
Makes 3 dozen

1 box Tresomega Gluten-Free Organic Quinoa Spaghetti
1/2 cup butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 oz. cream cheese
5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 tsp. garlic power
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, divided
1/4 tsp.  salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
36 small meatballs – homemade or frozen
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
Parmesan cheese, for topping

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, whipping cream and cream cheese in a saucepan over medium heat – stirring frequently until all melted together. Stir in 2 minced garlic cloves, the garlic powder, 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook, whisking frequently, until smooth. Add the parmesan and stir until melted. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes more.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Using a fork, twirl up some sauce-coated spaghetti and place in the well of a mini-muffin tin to form a little next of spaghetti. Press down slightly to pack and add more spaghetti if necessary. Repeat until all wells are filled.

Bake for 15 minutes.

While the spaghetti bakes, combine the remaining ingredients, except parmesan cheese, in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

When the spaghetti is done, let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then use a spoon to scoop out the spaghetti bundles and place on a serving platter. Top each bundle with a meatball, 1-2 tsp. of sauce, and parmesan cheese, to taste.

OneBiteSpaghettiMeatballs2

 

Skillet BBQ Chicken Pasta

‘Tis the season for comfort food. I’m not sure if it’s holiday stress or the weather getting colder but I now want all of my food to be warm and cheesy. Which totally does not agree with losing the baby weight. And knowing that I’m going to totally blow any good eating at holiday parties, I’ve been trying to be a little more careful with family dinners.

Luckily, I have some awesome blogger friends to lean on! This lightened-up comfort food dish from Prevention RD‘s cookbook totally hit the spot. This was warm and cheesy and perfect – without the guilt.

SkilletBBQChickenPasta

Skillet BBQ Chicken Pasta
(from Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking)
Serves 4-6

1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red onion, diced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
12 oz. whole wheat penne
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/3 cup cheddar, shredded

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet until shimmering. Add the chicken and onions and cook until chicken is cooking through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, at the water, chicken broth, penne and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer 12-15 minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed and pasta is tender. Stir in barbecue sauce and Greek yogurt. When well combined, stir in the cheeses and reserved chicken mixture. Cook until heated through. Serve immediately.