Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

BBQ Chicken wraps in tortillas with mangos and blueberries

Tonight I had my cake and I ate it too.  I don’t mind cooking – when I have time – and with my schedule, that is not very often…  So tonight I served a fresh, healthy, delicious dinner AND not cook!  Yes, I warmed things up and put them together, but it doesn’t get any easier than this.  And the BBQ rubbed chicken from the other night, along with the red sauce (salsa) from the avocado enchiladas and a hint of BBQ sauce, made this meal a meal to remember!

BBQ Chicken lettuce wraps with mangos and blueberries

The Verdict

10’s all around!!!!  Everyone loved the wraps. The kids had the tortillas and my husband and I had the lettuce.  I used two long romaine leaves for each wrap.  It was crunchy and delicious!  Everyone loved the BBQ sauce (less is more), mixed with the red sauce.  This is a great way to use the chicken in a new and novel way.  I will definitely make this again!

Allergy Work Arounds:

Gluten: Use corn tortillas or lettuce (the lettuce is REALLY good!)

Dairy: Omit cheese or use a cheese substitute that works for you. We use goat cheddar cheese instead of cheddar from cow’s milk

BBQ Chicken Wraps with Potato, Onions, Cheese, Bell Pepper and Left Over Salsa – Use Lettuce or Tortillas – with Mangos and Blueberries

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids + 2-3 lunches

BBQ Chicken Wraps

BBQ Chicken Wraps


½ C onions, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1.75 lbs. BBQ chicken, cooked (hopefully made earlier in the week)

left over potatoes that were scooped and saved earlier in the week

left over salsa from earlier in the week

canola oil spray

8 tortillas or 8 lettuce wraps or a combination of both

1 C cheddar cheese (or preferred substitute)


  1. Saute onions and bell pepper until tender.
  2. Add chicken, potatoes, and salsa until warm.
  3. Heat tortillas on a lightly sprayed griddle on medium heat, one minute a side.
  4. Stir cheese into chicken mixture.  Scoop ½ C of mixture into each tortilla or lettuce wrap
  5. Serve with some fruit on the side and revel in the fact that you can be rewarded for doing very little work!

Baked Lemon-Garlic Tilapia, Yam Rounds, Zucchini


Synergy achieves something higher, better, not achievable by the individual parts. 1 + 1 = 3. It’s like putting an outfit together using ordinary accessories and creating the “Wow!” factor. If the pieces aren’t working together, you may not get that ‘second look’ as you walk down the street…

That is what happened with tonight’s dinner.  Each part was delicious.  The family LOVED the tilapia, LOVED the Yams, and the kids did not reject the zucchini. (That is a good thing.) But the meal didn’t work together to produce the “degustation” that gets the oohs and ahhhs of an amazing meal. Between you and me, it was the seasoning of the yams that got in the way.  I flavored them the way I usually do with cinnamon and a few drips of maple syrup.  It was delicious but didn’t add to the synergy of the meal. It felt like it belonged to a different meal.

I got started on this meal a day ahead when I cooked the yams in the oven for about an hour.  I stored them in the refrigerator until I was ready to use them.  Making the tilapia was very easy.  I rinsed the fish and patted dry.  I poured the lemon juice on top of the fish, sprinkled on the spices, and placed in the oven. While the tilapia was cooking, I cut the yams into rounds, sprinkled cinnamon and drizzled a bit of maple syrup and warmed in the microwave.  Next I cut the zucchini and quickly sautéed in a pan lightly sprayed with olive oil.  I sprinkled a pinch of salt on top.  I plated everything and served.

The Verdict

As I mentioned, everyone loved the components of the meal.  But as my daughter deftly, or not so deftly, pointed out, “I like everything, but it doesn’t go together.” The easy fix: season the yams with something more savory. Perhaps just a pinch of salt. I think the cinnamon and maple take away from the dish at large.  Or substitute the yams with a different vegetable.    Lesson learned: Think Synergy!


Baked Lemon-Garlic Tilapia, Yam Rounds, Zucchini

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids

Baked Lemon Garlic Tilapia, Yam Rounds and Zucchini

Baked Lemon Garlic Tilapia, Yam Rounds and Zucchini


2 yams

1.75 lbs. tilapia fillets

3 T fresh lemon juice

1 t basil

1 t dried parsley flakes

1 t paprika

1 t dried thyme

1/2 t salt + a pinch

2 zucchini

pepper to taste

Make Ahead

1. Bake yams in 350 oven for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. If time has passed you by on this one, and that has happened to me more than once, pull a frozen vegetable out of the freezer and cook that in the microwave.


Pre heat oven to 375
1. Lightly spray a roasting pan.

2. Measure out and combine spices.

3. Place tilapia in pan, and pour lemon juice on top, followed by spices.

4. Place in oven for 20-30 minutes or until tilapia cracks and springs back to the touch.

5. Consider making the brown rice for tomorrow…

6. While tilapia is cooking, slice zucchini, place in a sauté pan lightly sprayed with canola oil and sauté until just tender. Add 1/2 T butter or vegetable based margarine on zucchini and sprinkle one pinch of salt.

7. Cut yams into 1/2″ rounds.  sprinkle two pinches of salt on top – just enough to catch the taste buds, and warm in the microwave for 45 seconds – 1 minute or until just cooked through.

8.  Plate yams, zucchini and fish and serve!

Pre Prep Opportunities

1. Make the yams earlier in the week and store in the refrigerator.

2. Cut zucchini and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Pre-measure spices for fish and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Pasta and Vegetable Gratin and Side Salad

I have been serving one vegetarian meal a week for the last few months. In the beginning, my kids were asking, “Why?”  (Meaning, why would I serve a meal with out meat?!)  I explained the benefits to their bodies and their planet.  They looked at me like I was crazy but indulged me and now they are getting used to this routine. They don’t ask where the meat is.  They are actually enjoying the vegetarian dinners and tonight was another win.  Pasta Vegetable Gratin is a healthy twist on mac n cheese that will have your whole family smiling.

My dinner prep began by making the pasta.  As the pasta cooked, I moved to the frozen broccoli (because it was easier than cutting fresh broccoli), cooked it in the microwave and cut it into very small, maybe even unrecognizable, pieces.  Next I warmed the frozen peas in the microwave, diced the yellow squash, and set the veggies aside.

When the pasta was done, I drained it and placed it in a lightly sprayed roasting dish, adding the peas, broccoli, and squash on top and mixing them into the pasta.  Lastly, I sprinkled the cheese on top and lightly stirred into the pasta.

Then it was time to make the sauce. First I melted the butter in the sauce pan. Then I stirred in flour for about a minute and then added the milk.  After bringing the mixture to a boil I mixed in the parmesan/manchenga cheese and the spices, and poured it over the pasta.

Due to an cow’s milk allergy in my house I used coconut milk drink instead. (This is not coconut milk that comes in a can. This is called coconut milk drink – it is an alternative to cow’s milk and comes in a shelf stable container and is usually displayed near the milk.)  It is a great alternative and doesn’t have a “coconut” taste.  However, it is a bit runnier than regular milk.  I should have added less. The recipe calls for 2 1/4 C of milk.  When I make this again and use coconut milk drink, I will only use about 1 3/4 C.

Cooking Frozen Broccoli

Making the Pasta

Chopped Broccoli and Peas

Mixing Vegetables into Pasta

Sprinkling the Cheese

Casserole Ready for Oven

I baked the casserole for 30 minutes and served.

Pasta and Vegetable Gratin and Side Salad for 4

The Verdict

Pasta and vegetable gratin is a winner! My son rated the dish a 9.5, my husband a 10 (and he likes his meat…) and my toughest critic, my daughter, rated it a 9.  The flavors blend nicely and the coconut milk drink just blended right in. I forgot to put the breadcrumbs (no surprise…) on top but everyone liked it just the same.  It would probably enhance the flavor so if you are not opposed to gluten, add the bread crumbs when you make this vegetarian dish that non-vegetarians will love!


Pasta and Vegetable Gratin and Side Salad

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 meals or 1 meal and lunches

Pasta and Vegetable Gratin with Side Salad


16 oz. penne pasta

1 yellow squash, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, finely diced

1 C frozen peas

1.5 C fresh or frozen broccoli

1 clove garlic, minced

1 C sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 T butter or plant-based margarine

1 T unbleached flour

2 1/4 C milk or 2 C coconut milk drink (original flavor)

1/4 C grated parmesan (cow’s milk) or manchenga (sheep’s milk) cheese

1/8 t nutmeg

1/4 t dill

1/2 t salt

1/4 t paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

pepper to taste

2 T bread crumbs


1. Cook pasta al dente. Pour into shallow baking dish.

2. Stir all vegetables, including garlic. into pasta.

3. Sprinkle cheese on top and lightly mix in.

4.  Melt butter in sauce pan.  Stir in flour, let bubble and whisk until it turns beige.  Stir for about a minute.

5.  Add milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

5. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and spices.

6. Pour sauce over pasta mixture and stir slightly.  Sprinkle on bread crumbs.

7. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown on top. Consider baking the yams for tomorrow at the same time.

8. Serve and see if you miss the meat in this hearty vegetarian dish!

Pre Prep Opportunities

1.  Cook pasta ahead of time and store in refrigerator.

2. Dice all vegetables ahead and store in the refrigerator or buy pre chopped.

3. Prepare recipe through step 3 and store in refrigerator until ready to make the sauce.

Chicken Chile Bake and Side Salad

Chicken Chile Bake

Vintage Dinner Reinvented

I was smiling to myself as I was making the Chicken Chile Bake last night, (which is basically a casserole), because I couldn’t bring myself to type the word “casserole” on Monday’s “Weekly Menu” blog…

When I think of casseroles, I think of canned cream of “something” soup, (with way too much salt), and the cooking genre of the 60’s and 70’s.  Remember the tuna casserole? Tuna, noodles and peas?  My mom didn’t use canned soup very often in her cooking, (She was actually ahead of her time), but I had more than my fair share of tuna, and hamburger casseroles at parties, friend’s houses and relative gatherings  (remember?) …

This recipe is not vintage, but it is a casserole.  I got it from a cooking class my daughter took at her school about 6 years ago.  I modified it to make it more healthy and added veggies.

Getting Dinner Together

It was 4:40 and I had to get dinner prepped and cooked before 5:25. Earlier in the day I had realized that I forgot to cook tonight’s chicken on Monday when I cooked the Southwestern Chicken.  That would have been a time saver… Note to self…

So I began by preheating the oven to 375 and turning the grill on high.  Luckily, I had already washed and cut the chicken on Sunday, so it was just a matter of putting the chicken on the grill.  You can also bake the chicken at 350 for about 20 minutes– but the real time saver is if you cook this chicken earlier in the week when you make the Southwest Chicken.

While the chicken was cooking, I mixed the following in a large bowl:

1 Diced onion

2 Bell peppers, (which I had diced on Sunday – score!!)

1 Can of black beans, drained

1 Jar of salsa (I mixed 2 kinds together to make “one jar”)

1 Cup of plain yogurt (Consider using instead of sour cream.  I use goat’s milk yogurt because of my daughter’s allergy to cow’s milk.)

The other half of the cilantro from Monday, chopped.

In the middle of getting all these ingredients into the bowl, I flipped the chicken (after about 3-4 minutes).  3 minutes later, I tested the chicken, pulled it off the grill, diced it and mixed it in the large bowl with the other ingredients.

Mixing Ingredients for the Chicken Chile Bake

Then I lightly sprayed the bottom and sides of a 9X13 and 8X8 pan with canola oil spray, placing one layer of whole-wheat tortillas on the bottom of the pan.  I followed up with a portion of the chicken mixture, and another tortilla layer.  I repeated the layering, ending with a layer of tortillas on top.

Building the "Casserole"

I topped the casserole (OK, now this word is coming out easier…:)) with cheddar cheese and popped the casseroles in the oven at 5:00. (Not being able to use cheddar cheese derived from cow’s milk, I used goat’s milk cheddar cheese, which, even the harshest critics in the family says tastes amazing!)

Putting the "Casserole" in the oven

After 20 minutes, I pulled the casseroles out of the oven and went to my second evening school meeting this week.

An hour later, I was home, preheated the oven to 375 and put the casseroles in for 10 minutes – just enough to heat through.

I laid out the plates, split an avocado among the four of us, and made a small side salad with figs, tomatoes, and mangoes, topped with the no oil balsamic vinaigrette. I pulled the casseroles out of the oven and served.

4 portions of Chicken Chile Bake

The Verdict

A 9!  Everyone loved the dinner.  My husband had a small second portion, but everyone else was full.  It was really great to have most of my nutrition in one dish.  You really don’t even need the salad, because you have a great variety of vegetables in the casserole, but if you like salad like I do, it is always nice to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

I will be looking for more “casserole” recipes for the fall and winter sans the canned soup. The one dish meal – so easy!  …History repeats itself – with a healthy twist!


Chicken Chile Bake

For 2 Adults and 2 Kids

Chicken Chile Bake

Ingredients For the “Casserole”

1.75 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast

1  15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 bell peppers diced

1 onion, diced

1 jar salsa (you can mix a few together)

1 C plain yogurt

1/2 C cilantro, chopped

Canola oil spray

8 Whole-wheat tortillas

Ingredients For the side salad

4 C salad greens

1 avocado

1 tomato

sunflower seeds to sprinkle on salad


Pre heat oven to 375

1.  Cook chicken – bake or grill.  Hopefully you cooked this with the chicken you made earlier in the week which will save you a lot of time.

2.  In a large bowl mix all casserole ingredients, except the tortillas, in a large bowl

3.  Lightly spray bottoms and sides of a 9 X 13 and 8 X 8 baking pan

4. Place one layer of whole-wheat tortillas on the bottom of the pan, followed by some of the chicken mixture.

5. Repeat step 4, alternating a layer of tortillas and a layer of chicken mixture.

6.  Top with a final layer of tortilla and lightly sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

7. Place in 375 oven for 20 minutes to heat through

8. While Chicken Chile Bake is heating, divide the avocado across the 4 plates and lightly sprinkle salt if desired.  Portion some greens and salad fixin’s on each plate.

9.  Once Chicken Chile Bake is hot, pull out and serve with salsa on the side.  Ol´e!

Pre-Prep Opportunities

1.  Cook chicken ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.

2. Prepare step 2 ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.

Asian Lettuce Wraps, Tomato-Avocado Salsa, and Green Beans

Asian Lettuce Wraps, Tomato-Avocado Salsa, Green Beans

It’s a good night when things go as planned.  It’s a great night when someone says they want to drive your leg of the carpool!  Bonus!!!

I found tonight’s recipe on allrecipes.com.  It sounded easy, delicious, and fast.  Right up my alley.  The recipe estimated 20 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cook time, which was about how long it took me.  I entered the kitchen at 6:10 and began by cooking the ground beef.  I should have washed the Bibb lettuce first and let it dry, but I was too excited to start the meal to think in the right order…

Once the beef was done, I put it on the side and cooked the onion, adding the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce (I used the Bragg’s Liquid Aminos), garlic and rice wine vinegar when the onion was tender. Then I added the beef back to the onion mixture with sliced water chestnuts and chopped green onions.

Making Ground Turkey with Onions and Seasonings

I laid out the plates adding pineapple, a sliced peach and the last of the strawberries.  And while the menu shows green beans for tonight, we had them the last two nights, so I made a tomato – avocado “salsa” mixture.  It was a nice change from a side salad since we were already using lettuce for our wraps.

At 6:25 I had to run and pick up my son’s carpool and at 6:45 when I was back home again, I washed the lettuce (should have done earlier so it would dry), and patted it dry.  I warmed up the ground turkey mixture and spooned a bit on each lettuce leaf. I thought we would probably eat more than one wrap, but I wanted to make sure everyone liked them before I loaded them up on their plate.  We sat down to eat at 7:05.

Asian Lettuce Wraps, Tomato-Avocado Salsa, Fresh Fruit

Two Thumbs Up!

Everyone liked dinner and I even got points for creativity (using lettuce instead of a tortilla)!  We used the sweet chili sauce (you may still have extra from a couple of weeks ago) and that added another level of flavor.  My son and husband really enjoyed the wraps, had seconds, and gave the dinner a 9 and 9+ respectively.  This is a huge win as my son is not a huge turkey eater… My daughter was a little less enthusiastic, had a small second wrap, and gave the meal a 7, although I am not sure why and I am not sure she knows exactly why…


Asian Lettuce Wraps, Tomato-Avocado Salsa, and Green Beans

For 2 Adults and 2 Kids

Asian Lettuce Wraps, Tomato-Avocado Salsa, Green Beans


12-16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves

1.75 lbs. ground turkey

1 T cooking oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1T plus a little bit, soy sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)

1/4 C Hoisin sauce

1 T plus a little bit, rice wine vinegar

Asian chile pepper sauce or sweet chili sauce

1 8 oz can water chestnuts, sliced or finely chopped

¼ C chopped green onions

2 t Asian dark sesame oil

For the sides:

4 C green beans, fresh or frozen

1 avocado

2 medium tomatoes


  1. Rinse lettuce leaves and set aside to dry
  2. Brown the ground turkey.  Remove from pan
  3. In same pan, sautee onion.
  4. Add garlic, soy sauce (Bragg’s), Hoisin sauce, vinegar, and chili pepper sauce (or sweet chili sauce) to the onions and stir.
  5. Stir in water chestnuts, green onions, sesame oil, and cooked ground turkey
  6. Lay out plates and one or two lettuce leaves
  7. Place green beans in microwave-safe container and cook accordingly.
  8. Dice a tomato and avocado and mix them together with a touch of salt.  (for those kids who have strong preferences, add avocado, tomato or both separately on the plate (see the four settings: the adults got the mixture, and one had no tomatoes and one had avocado and tomato separate on the plate…)
  9. Make sure turkey mixture is still warm.  Spoon the mixture into center of leaves, making sure not to put too much in as it will be difficult to wrap.
  10. Serve!
  11. Show the kids how to “wrap” the lettuce like a tortilla – see how many points you get for creativity
Pre-Prep Opportunities
1. Prepare steps 2-5 ahead of time.  Simple warm up ground turkey mixture when you are ready to eat.

Mexican Vegetable Soup

Mexican Vegetable Soup

Mexican Vegetable Soup
I was going to convert this recipe to a crock pot recipe today; but I decided to make it on the stove top, as originally intended. As Chef Melanie of Simple Gourmet is quick to remind me, the flavor can “cook out” of a meal when you are using a crock pot if you don’t use savory flavors. Not having time to figure it out and not wanting to risk it, I used the stove.

Tonight, I was squeezing dinner prep in between carpools. I began by heating the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. To that I added garlic (pressed plus the skins), onions, and cumin. I stirred and sautéed for 10 minutes.

Then I poured in the vegetable stock, tomatoes with their juice, and added 2 t salt. I brought the soup to a boil, and then added the carrots, cooking 3-4 minutes longer. Next I added the frozen okra slices – they were not part of the original recipe, but I had some leftover from a previous recipe. When was I going to use the rest of the frozen okra? Best to camouflage it in a soup and use it up! (Since no one really noticed, I have included okra in the recipe.) 3-4 minutes later, I added the frozen corn, kidney beans, and the zucchini. I was smiling the entire time because I had purchased chopped onions and had chopped the carrots and zucchini on Sunday. So the only thing I had to do was press the garlic! Time was on my side. It was so easy and I was feeling good!

Then I turned off the soup, and using a hand-held blender, blended some of the soup, making sure to leave some chunks of vegetables.

Mexican Vegetable Soup Cooking on the Stove
The soup sat for about 20 minutes while I drove a quick carpool and waited for my husband to come home. Once we were ready to sit down, I warmed up the soup again. I sprinkled grated cheese on the top and served with toasted 7 Grain Flaxseed Bread.

Total time: About 28 minutes (Does not include 20 minutes driving carpool and waiting for my husband)

The Verdict

Another winner! Two thumbs up! My husband, my son and his guest all rated the soup a 9. My daughter rated the soup a 7 ¾ – I am still trying to understand her methodology… She was looking for more flavor. (Do you think she tasted the okra?!?!) Everyone else said it had great flavor and thought it was a very satisfying soup! Only my husband had seconds. Even I was quite satisfied after one bowl.

Would I make Mexican Vegetable soup again? Absolutely! I can see how it is a very forgiving recipe. You can add any/all vegetables (almost any) leftover in your refrigerator, and I believe it will still taste great. And to test this theory, I have enough soup for one more meal AND I have some leftover green onions and parsley. I am going to add them to the soup and will let you know how THAT tastes!

5 Servings of Mexican Vegetable Soup


Mexican Vegetable Soup

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 Meals


¼ C olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced – include skin

2 large onions, diced

1 1/2 t ground cumin

1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, chopped with their juice

8 C vegetable stock, ½ regular, ½ low sodium

2 t salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 carrots, thinly sliced

10 oz. frozen corn

1/2 package frozen okra (I’ll try to come up with a recipe for the rest soon…)

3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into sixths, then into 1-inch chunks

1 15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

grated cheese (optional)

tortilla chips (optional)

plain yogurt


1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.
2. Saute garlic, onions, and cumin for 10 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add tomatoes with their juice, vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
4. Add carrots and cook 3-4 more minutes.
5. Add corn and okra and cook 3-4 more minutes.
6. Add zucchini and kidney beans and cook 2-3 more minutes.
7. Using a hand blender, puree about half of the soup, be sure to leave chunks of vegetables!
8. Serve with grated cheese, broken corn chips, a dollop of plain yogurt, or just eat it straight out of the soup pot!
9. Think about putting some in a thermos for kids’ lunches or label (with Contents and Date) and freeze the other half for one of those crazy nights when you need something fast…
Pre-Prep Opportunities
1. Prepare as much of the recipe up through step 7 as you have time for. You could be ready to sit down for dinner a day early!
grated cheese (optional)

Chicken Pot Pie and Side Salad

Chicken Pot Pie, Hot Out of the Oven

I actually look forward to going to the Dr.’s office.  I get to read cooking magazines and get inspiration for recipes.  I have even asked the office staff to make copies of recipes I am particularly excited about that I don’t have time to copy down. (You are thinking, “What a Geek! Get a subscription and stay home!”)  Yes I am a geek who is not always rationale…

I have been cooking for my family regularly for about the last 12 years. I think I have it down. I’ve read and used thousands of recipes and ingredients.  And then as I start looking at casseroles, I start noticing celeriac root.  What the heck is celeriac root?  I was stumped!

Celeriac is a type of celery that is grown for its edible roots. It grows in a bulb shape and its skin is peeled to reveal the celeriac root vegetable that you can eat.  Because I didn’t really know much about its flavor, and didn’t have time to research, I almost left it out of the pot pie.  But when I was as the grocery store I decided to ask the fruit and vegetable grocer who was working in the aisle.  “Don’t leave it out!” he said.  “Celeriac will add amazing flavor.  People use it all the time in casseroles and soups.”  (Everyone except me who had no idea what it was…)

So I bought it and used it.  YUM!  It is a very savory vegetable and agreeing with my grocer, I would not leave it out!  The parsnips however, are optional.  My kids really didn’t like their flavor and I ended up letting them pick them out.  Just skip them if you think they won’t like them.  There are plenty of vegetables inside this pie.

The Verdict

9’s and 10’s.  The kids told me if I made them eat the parsnips they would rate it a 7.  Now that’s low!  Not wanting low ratings, I quickly acquiesced let them pick them out.  Try this warm, savory pie for dinner.  If you don’t get around to it before St. Patrick’s day, put a shamrock in the middle instead of a heart!

Side Salads Waiting for the Chicken Pot Pie

Voila! Chicken Pot Pie and Side Salad


3 C low sodium chicken broth

1 C cubed baking potato, can peel or partially peel if desired

1 C cubed sweet potato, peeled

1 C cubed peeled celeric (celery root)

1 C sliced parsnip (optional, kids may not like)

(10 oz.) package frozen pearl onions 1

1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2.25 oz. all-purpose flour (or gluten-free substitute)

1 1/2 C skim milk (or milk substitute)

1 1/2 C frozen peas, thawed

1/4 C chopped parsley

2 T chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 t salt

1 t freshly ground pepper

cooking spray

1/2 (14.1 oz.) package refrigerator pie dough or other dough substitute

1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)


Pre-heat oven 425

1. Bring broth to a boil. Add potato, sweet potato, celeriac, and onions; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes.

2. Add chicken. Cook 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

3. Remove chicken and vegetables from pot.

4. Increase heat to medium.

5. Separately, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup for accurate measurement and add to milk.   Whisk until well blended.

6. Add milk mixture to broth.  Cook 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.

7. Stir in chicken mixture, peas, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.

8. Spoon into a 2 – quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

9.  Unroll pie dough. Cut small slits (or a heart design for Valentine’s Day) into center of dough to allow steam to escape.

10.  Place dough over filling and brush with egg if desired.

11.  Bake for 16 minutes or until filling is bubbling.  Portion a side salad while waiting.

12.  Let dish stand for 5 minutes and serve with a side salad.

Pre-Prep Opportunities

1. Cube and slice all vegetables ahead of time and store in refrigerator.

2. Prepare recipe through step 8.  Cover well and store in refrigerator until ready to make the dough. Cook for 30 minutes or until bubbling.

Sept 26-29 Weekly Menu and Master Shopping List

Sept 26-29 Weekly Menu and Master Shopping List

It’s feeling like autumn and I am looking for warm recipes that meet the healthy, delicious, fast criteria that Busy Lives Healthy Eats is built upon.  I love to: cook once and “reinvent” the second meal; and pre-prep so that the amount of work required during dinner prep, which is often jumbled with carpools and homework, is minimal.  This week, all the recipes are new to me.  I have never prepared them.  I thought this would be a good test as many of the recipes I make would be new to you if you made them.  So be forgiving as I share my experiences of the week with these new recipes!

Weekly Menu:

Monday: Tomato-Herb Chicken, Broccoli, Fruit

Tuesday: Fish with Fall Harvest Red Grape Salsa, Peas, Side Salad, Fruit

Wednesday: Braised Chicken Gumbo, Side Salad, Fruit

Thursday: Mexican Vegetable Soup with Crushed Tortilla Chips and shredded cheese

 Give credit where credit is deserved:

Monday’s recipe is a slight variation of a recipe I found on EatingWell.com.  I was particularly excited when I saw their “reinvention” of the meal, which is the Braised Chicken Gumbo that is on my menu for Wednesday.  So thank you EatingWell!

Tuesday’s recipe features a “fall salsa”. While the rest of the meal is not new – we have cooked plenty of fish – I was looking for a fall flavor topping.  Better Homes and Gardens featured this fall salsa that looks amazing.  Stay tuned…

Thursday’s recipe comes from “Quick Vegetarian Pleasures”, a cookbook that I have had for over 15 years.  I have had great luck with several recipes of these recipes, and even used their Split Pea Soup recipe as a base for my variation last week. The additional twist is that I plan to make this a crock pot recipe.  Their recipe is cooked on the stove.

Master Shopping List

For 2 Adults and 2 Kids



3.5 lbs. Boneless skinless chicken breasts

1.5 – 1.75 lbs. fish – I will see what the prices are and what strikes me


Greens – for lunch and dinners

4 Red Onions

8 Cloves garlic

¼ C Fresh chopped parsley

2 Bell peppers, at least one red

3 Carrots

3 Medium zucchini

1 Head Broccoli


1 C Seedless red grapes, halved

5 Pears

Other based on what is in season in the store

Dry Goods

1 t Dried thyme

1 t Fennel seeds

1 t Fresh ground pepper

1 Bay leaf

3 C Low sodium chicken broth

8 C Low sodium vegetable broth

1 T Lemon Juice

2 – 28 oz. Can tomatoes, or tomatoes in other shelf stable package

1 ½ t salt

1 T Olive oil or canola oil

2 T flour

1 C Cooked rice

1/8 t cayenne pepper

1 T Balsamic vinegar

1 t Ground cumin

1 15 oz. Can kidney beans


Corn tortillas



Shredded Cheddar Cheese (optional – for the Mexican vegetable stew)



1 C Sliced Okra

2 C Frozen corn kernels

1 Bag Frozen peas



Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey Thighs

Split Pea Soup - Comfort Food at its Best!


2 C (1 lb.) Split Peas

10 C Water

½ C Celery, chopped

½ C Carrots, chopped

2 C Onions, chopped

2 Bay leaves

3 Garlic cloves, minced

2 t Ground cumin

½ t Dried thyme

2 T Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids or low sodium soy sauce

½ t Salt

2 Smoked turkey thighs



  1. Put everything in a crock pot and cook on high for 6-8 hours.




  1. You can also cook on high for 3-4 hours the night before, put in the fridge before you go to bed, and finish cooking the next day.  Taking into account that the soup will be cold, cook on high for 6 more hours.
  2. Once soup is done, remove the smoked turkey thighs discarding the bones and skin.  Shred the meat and return to the soup.
  3. Serve with a dense whole grain bread (optional but delicious), and see how many recipes you can think of that taste this good and are this fast!

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey Thighs

9-22-11 Dinner Blog

Split Pea Soup - a very satisfying meal!

Last night’s story actually started Wednesday night.  To get a jump on Thursday’s dinner and knowing the flavor would be better if the soup had time to marinate, I gathered all the ingredients and within 10 minutes everything was in the slow cooker.

Split peas, carrot, onion, celery,smoked turkey thighs, and seasonings cook slowly to make this savory soup

I purchased pre-chopped vegetables to save time, so it was a matter of dumping the veggies, dropping in 2 smoked turkey thighs,  and measuring out the water and seasonings.  Super easy! Then I turned the crock pot on high for 4 hours.   Before I went to bed, I put the crock pot in the refrigerator over night.  The soup was not ready, but at least the flavors had begun to cook, and, around noon I took the soup out of the refrigerator and turned it on high for 6 more hours.  If you are going to be gone all day, you could probably finish cooking the soup on low for about 10 hours…

While I usually only shop once during the week, I did not want to get fresh bread on Sunday to use on Thursday.  So yesterday afternoon, I went to the local bread shop and purchased whole wheat sourdough bread – I had them slice it to save time.  It was a quick trip in and out, I didn’t buy anything else!!!

By 4 p.m., the house smelled amazing!  Due to sports, our family dinner was scheduled for 7 p.m.  To make sure we sat down right at 7, I pulled the smoked turkey thighs out of the soup at about 6:15, discarded the skin and bones, shredded the meat and returned the meat to the soup.  This took about 10 minutes – the meat just fell off the bones.

Once we were ready to sit down, I portioned the soup and stacked 5 pieces of bread on a plate (we had a guest for dinner).

Split Pea Soup ready for the table!

The Verdict
Two thumbs up all around!  A 10 from my son, a 9.5 from our guest, who is my brother and would never miss a chance to diss me, a 9 from my husband, and a 9 from my toughest critic, my daughter.  Wow!!!  It was quite satisfying.  The adults had an additional small portion, but the kids were quite satisfied with one bowl.

Split Pea Soup - a very satisfying meal!

You learn something new every day.  You can teach an old dog new tricks…  Yes, I am talking about myself…  I made some changes to this recipe, out of necessity, that really enhanced the flavor. I used to use ham hocks, but the store was out.  I explained to the butcher what I was making and he suggested smoked turkey thighs – said I wouldn’t tell the difference and I might even like it better.  A bit salesy?! He was right!  I love using the smoked turkey thighs and will try them in place of ham hocks in all future recipes that call for ham hocks.  Nothing against ham hocks except that they are bit more fatty.

The one thing about smoked turkey thighs is that they use salt in the process.  As a result, I used very little additional salt in the recipe.  No one asked to add salt. The flavor was just right!

I owe you the recipe for this.  It is too good to pass on!  Stay tuned…