Mini Meatball Soup

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Hi everyone! Fall is here and that means it’s soup time. Growing up, we always ate canned soup instead of making our own. I don’t know about you, but when I eat canned soup, I’m still hungry afterwards. I need something more substantial. The best way to solve this problem is to just make you’re own soup, which it’s so much easier than you think. For example, to make homemade chicken soup, you just need some low-sodium chicken broth, chopped up veggies, pre-cooked chicken pieces, and some egg noodles. Boil everything together and you’ve got soup. It’ll also impress your family.

Rachel Ray’s Mini Meatball Soup requires a little more work than that, but is still easy and super delicious. It’s a good week night meal with leftovers if you’re a small family like us. I decided to split it, which made two HUGE servings so we still had leftovers. The recipe below is the full recipe with a few tweaks.

Make your meatballs first. The recipe calls for making them while you’re sauteing your veggies, but there’s no way I can make meatballs in 5 minutes. I’m just not that talented.

Mix up ground beef, egg, minced garlic (mincing the garlic would take me 5 minutes alone), grated cheese (see, now I’m grating cheese!), bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg (secret ingredient?).

Mini Meatball Soup

The original recipe called for a blend of beef/pork/veal, but I’m lazy. I’m sure the combination is better, but this is supposed to be easy and I didn’t want to buy three types of meat. Set this mixture aside.

Chop up carrots, celery, and onions. Grab a bay leaf.

Mini Meatball Soup

Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep-pot or dutch oven for about 2 minutes. Place your veggies and bay leaf in the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes. Don’t forget to stir it so the veggies don’t stick.

After 5 minutes, added a ton of broth (10 cups!), more than the recipe called for. I also used 100% broth instead of broth and water. I think adding all broth makes for a more flavorful soup. Bring the broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and start adding meatballs. Roll the meat into small balls and drop them in. The beauty is that the balls don’t need to be perfectly round. Just make sure they are consistently sized, about an inch across. When you’re done, add the pasta and stir. Cook for 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is tender. Throw in some spinach.

Mini Meatball Soup

When it’s wilted, you’re done. That’s it. See how simple that was?

Mini Meatball Soup

You end up with something that is very reminiscent of Italian wedding soup. It’s hearty, comforting, and perfect for a crisp fall night. And it took you about 30 minutes. Perfect.

Mini Meatball Soup

You can also serve it deconstructed with the veggies push to the side. Sigh…

Mini Meatball Soup
Mini Meatball Soup

Mini Meatball Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta
  • 1 pound fresh baby spinach leaves

Instructions
 

  • Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine meat, egg, garlic, grated cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a deep pot or dutch oven, heat add oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, onions, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Uncover your soup pot and add broth. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. When soup boils, reduce heat. Roll meat mixture into small 1-inch balls and drop them straight into the pot. When you are done adding meatballs, add pasta to the soup and stir.
  • Cover and simmer soup 10 minutes. When the meatballs are cooked and the pasta is tender, stir in baby spinach. When spinach has wilted, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

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The final days of summer are gone. It’s officially fall, but the hot, breezy weather isn’t convincing me to bring my sweaters out just yet. There’s still time to grill.

Keeping with that theme, you must try this easy steak marinate. I chose sirloin steak because it happens to be one of the more “inexpensive” steaks. Beef prices have gone up so inexpensive is a relative term compared to the other pricey cuts of beef. Sirloin is not as tender as filet mignon or marbled like a rib eye, but it’s a dependable, lean hunk of meat. It’s the friend that will never fail you.

This recipe comes to you from The Food Network. I changed a couple things, but that’s because I did not plan in advance and did not have fresh herbs. I was too lazy to run to the store, too. Dried herbs are never as good as fresh, but this marinade is pretty damn good so I think it’s fine to use whatever you have on hand.

Make your marinade the night before. Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, grated garlic, a trio of herbs, a little honey, and some red pepper flakes.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

In a gallon size resealable bag, add your steaks. The recipe calls for one large 2-pounder, but that’s crazy. I can’t find that anywhere. I plopped in 4 nice pieces totaling to about 1 1/2 pounds. This is plenty of meat for a small 3-person army with leftovers. Reserve a little marinade if you want to drizzle some over your cooked steaks. Pour the rest of your marinade into the bag, and squish the meat and marinade around until the meat is well coated. Seal it up and stick it in the fridge overnight. I like to put it in a glass pan in case the bag leaks. I hate cleaning my fridge, especially after the exploding soda incident. Let’s not speak of that.

When you are ready to grill, remove the steaks from the bag, dripping the extra marinade off, and place on a plate. Heat up your grill or grilling pan in my case because I didn’t want to send my husband out to grill in the unhealthy smoky air. I’m a nice wife.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

What you end up with is perfection. The rosemary, parsley, and oregano give it a delicious herby quality while the sweet honey and garlic/pepper kick rounds it out. Everyone gets along and you end up with summer on a plate.

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak
Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

Italian Marinated Sirloin Steak

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • sirloin steaks

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, parsley, oregano, honey, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the marinade in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Combine the remaining marinade with the steak in a large resealable bag. Turn the bag several times to coat the meat. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan to high. Transfer the steak to a plate or baking sheet, letting the excess marinade drip off. Season the steak with salt and pepper. If possible, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Grill the steak until a thermometer inserted into the thickest side reaches 130 degrees F. For a 1 1/2 to 2 inch steak, this is about 16 to 20 minutes for medium rare, flipping every 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it rest 10 minutes. Serve whole or slice the meat to your preferred thickness, against the grain. Serve with the reserved marinade.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

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Fall is coming up and I want to prepare you with this spin on a chicken noodle soup. I don’t know about you, but I pretty much don’t like canned chicken noodle soup. I know it’s the beloved classic of Americans, but when it’s from a can, the noodles and veggies are mushy. And the chicken? You need a magnifying glass to find any.

I know I just criticized your nostalgic soup so I must be crazy to to tell you to go make some Top Ramen, the crunchy dehydrated nest of god knows what’s in them noodles that you find in every college kitchen. But there’s something sentimental about combining chicken noodle soup with Top Ramen. Reminds me of growing up and then being an “adult” in my first apartment, trying to make ends meet. It’s hot, comforting, and full of noodle goodness.

This recipe comes from Delish, and I’ve thrown in some new twists. Feel free to customize this to your preference with your favorite veggies, or use turkey instead of chicken.

Prep your ingredients. Chop up a couple red peppers and carrots. If you don’t like those, try using celery, broccoli, or bok choy. If you’re a veggie hater, skip it all. Next, thinly slice green onion and mince a few cloves of garlic. Season a couple chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Grab a 4-cup box of low-sodium chicken broth, a couple packages of ramen noodles (throw away the seasoning packets!). Chop some cilantro, cut a lime into wedges, and half another lime to have handy.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Next, heat up some olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot, and saute the chicken breasts until cooked through. Remove when cooked and chop into cubes to the size you prefer. You can skip this step by shredding a rotisserie chicken, but I didn’t have one and I wasn’t about to get into my car to buy one. A word of advice. Always have ground beef, chicken breasts or thighs, and bacon hanging out in your freezer for “emergencies.” Yes, I do have bacon emergencies, but that’s a story for another time.

In the same pot, heat up a little more oil, and toss in your veggies and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until they are softened, but not squishy. Remember, this is not canned soup.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Add chicken broth and simmer. Add your ramen and cook according to the package, about a couple of minutes. Add the cooked chicken and cilantro. Squeeze a lime over it.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Mix it up.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

And that’s it. Serve in a bowl with lime wedges (or not).

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Sit back and enjoy the perfectly cooked veggies with pieces of chicken you can actually see. Slurp up the noodles that your mom scolded you about when you made those sucking noises. Be amazed at how the lime juice improves the taste of the broth, which adds acidity and a little flavor. This soup brings on happiness.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 red bell peppers chopped
  • 2 large carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onions thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 packages ramen noodles discard seasoning packets
  • 1/4 cup cillantro chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • lime wedges optional, for serving

Instructions
 

  • Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Saute chicken until cooked through. Remove from pot, chop into cubes, and set aside.
  • In the same pot, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add peppers, carrots, green onions, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft for about 6-8 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Add ramen noodles and cook according to package, until tender, for about 2-3 minutes. Stir in cooked chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. Simmer until heated through. Serve in a bowl with lime wedges.

Beef and Lentil Stew

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Someone told me I cook a lot of chicken. I’ve never noticed, but I do. I love chicken. What’s not to love? It’s inexpensive and easy to work with. Thighs happen to be my new favorite meat because they are completely forgiving and the hoarders have mostly left them alone. But I do love beef so let’s branch out a bit.

I had a bag of brown lentils that I bought when the shelves were bare of canned lentils and most beans (hoarders!). I never used them because I found canned lentils a few weeks later that I used for another recipe. So I felt obligated not to waste these lentils and use them. But I’m actually really unfamiliar with lentils. It turns out that lentils are the easiest thing to make. They’re a legume and a cousin to the bean. You don’t need to soak them overnight like beans plus they are loaded with fiber and other good stuff. I thought lentils were just another bean, but not so.

With my trusty dried lentils, I made Beef and Lentil Stew from A Spicy Perspective. I made this during early summer, but I plan to make it again this fall when I need something super comforting.

I changed the recipe up a little based on what I liked and had in the pantry. Start by gathering and prepping your ingredients.

Beef and Lentil Stew

In a large pot (like a heavy Dutch oven), saute beef chuck and onions together until the onions are soft. Then throw in some minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Season the meat mixture with some salt and pepper and cook until beef is browned.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Add your veggies, those lentils, beef stock (not broth), and seasonings. I used a half a cup more stock than the recipe called for because I wanted a slightly thinner stew, but mostly these cartons have 4 cups in them and I didn’t want to keep track of a half of cup of stock.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer for at least an hour. Curl up with your favorite beverage and go watch an episode of Tiny House Nation. Episode 3 of season 1 on Netflix was particularly good. Just saying. You’ll even have time to spare.

The stew is ready when the beef and lentils are tender. Fish out those bay leaves if you can. Add some tarragon, salt, and pepper. You’re done.

Beef and Lentil Stew

This stew is fall in a bowl. The soft texture of the lentils with the hearty chunks of beef makes it both luscious and substantial. The veggies round out the dish, giving you all your food groups. Treat yourself to dessert, which is perfectly acceptable after eating this healthy meal.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Beef and Lentil Stew

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds beef chuck cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 2 celery stalks sliced
  • 3/4 cup dried brown lentils
  • 14 ounces finely chopped canned tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your ingredients, such as cut beef into cubes and slice vegetables.
  • Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the beef and onions for 3-5 minutes until the onion are soft. Add garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until beef is browned.
  • Add the carrots, celery, lentils, tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper.
  • Bring to a boil. cover, reduce heat, and simmer, for about 60-75 minutes until the beef and lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the tarragon Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

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Last week, I shared with you Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets. Lo and behold, I’m still on my foil packets kick. I love Mexican food so let’s make fajitas! I often order fajitas when I go to a Mexican restaurant because I can’t make them at home. Although I do try, no way can I duplicate that sizzling pan experience. Sorry to tell you, but don’t expect this recipe to make up for that. On the other hand, you do get a lot of good flavor without a lot of work that satisfies your cravings. Like the last foil packet recipe, you can cook it on the grill or in the oven. The air quality is still bad here (California is on fire right now) so I’m opting for the oven.

This is a pretty easy recipe. Many thanks to the Kitchn. Slice up red bell peppers (the original recipe calls for green….too bitter!) and red onions. You can use any color pepper or onion. Place them in a large bowl. Rinse and drain a can of black beans, and throw that in. Make sure the beans are well drained. You don’t want to accidentally add any extra liquid or you’ll end up with a drippy mess. You don’t want soggy fajitas.

Add olive oil, taco seasoning, and some salt and pepper. The original recipe doesn’t call for salt, but I think it needs it. Taste your taco seasoning. Not salty enough? Add some salt, mix, and taste it again. It’s really important to taste your food as you cook so the seasoning is how you like it.

After tossing that all together, divide it into four piles on sheets of foil.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Need some help on this? Here’s some advice from my previous post:

Now the fun part. Make four large sheets of heavy-duty foil about the size of a small, quarter-sized baking sheet. You could make one sheet and try that out first, and if it’s the right size, make three more of the same size. I took a gamble and eye-balled it, but it worked. You just want to make sure you have about 2″ around the sides for the crimping. If it turns out you made your sheets too small, just make a larger one and place it under the original sheet. It’s all good. There’s no precise science to this. And if you don’t have heavy-duty foil, just double line your packets to prevent leaking.

Season 4 6-ounce chicken breasts with taco seasoning, salt, and pepper. It’s really important that you use breasts as close to 6 ounces or the chicken and veggies won’t be done at the same time. If you can’t find 6-ounce pieces, cut up larger breasts into smaller pieces of approximately 6 ounces.

Next, place each chicken breast on a pile of veggies.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Fold the sides and then the edges. Need some help? Check out the tbsp. for directions and pictures. Here’s what mine looked like:

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets
Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets
Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Grill or oven bake for about 20-25 minutes. Slice chicken into strips and serve with tortillas. I like making a taco, and add grated cheese and guacamole. Super tasty and not a lot of work.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets
Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Ingredients
  

  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 15 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning divided
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Instructions
 

  • Grilling method: Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, direct heat. Oven method: Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Slice red bell peppers and red onions, and add to a large bowl. Drain and rinse black beans. Add beans to the bowl. Add olive oil, 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning, salt (to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Toss to combine.
  • Prepare 4 (10-inch long) sheets of aluminum foil. Use heavy-duty foil or double sheets to prevent leaking.
  • Divide the vegetable mixture among the 4 sheets of foil, leaving a 2-inch border on all sides.
  • Season chicken breasts with the remaining 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning, salt (to taste), and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place a breast on each vegetable pile.
  • Fold the sides of the foil to meet over the center. Crimp the edges together to create completely sealed packets.
  • Grilling method: Place the packets directly onto the grill grates, cover, and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Oven method: Place packets on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before opening the packets and serving. Serve with tortillas and your favorite fixings.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

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It’s the end of August. School started a couple weeks ago, which typically marks the end of summer. With the boy in school, it’s impossible to go on a vacation, which is hard because Labor Day seems to be my end of summer. The weather is still hot and I’m ready for a last trip, even if it’s just a quick getaway to Tahoe. Alas, none of that is going to happen this year so one must make do with what one has.

This is where the pineapple comes in. The pineapple? Yes, the pineapple. The pineapple is synonymous with tropical, fun, vacation, and relaxation. It can be eaten plain. It can be controversial (on pizza). It makes a great foo-foo drink (pina colada). And frankly, it’s one of the cutest fruits around. Rejoice the pineapple!

Next, there’s barbecue, another symbol of summer. I’m not going to go into the discussion of barbecue versus grilling. That’s for another day. Today I’m just writing about that delicious, sweet, and tangy saucy stuff. It’s like summer in a bottle. Work with me here.

Camping. I love it. Some of you hate it and I still like you, but for those campers out there, the foil packet is a treasured item. Take some meat. Take some veggies. Shake some salt and pepper over it. Wrap it up. Throw it on the fire or grill. Voila! Dinner!

So I was pretty happy when I found this recipe to help with this staycation: Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets. And it’s super easy.

First, heat up the grill. I’m including this part of the recipe for you grillers out there, but I decided to oven bake mine because I didn’t feel like standing in front of the grill when it’s a million degrees. I compromised by heating up my air-conditioned house with a 425F oven. First world problems.

Cut your pineapple (yay!) into chunks. I cheated and used pineapple my grocery store already cut up for me. I think cheating is perfectly acceptable. You can used canned pineapple too. Or you can cut up a whole pineapple. The choice is up to you.

Slice up your veggies: onions and bell peppers. The original recipe (thank you Kitchn!) called for red onions and green bell peppers. I was all out of red onions, which was a shocker because that never happens around here. I have a constant supply for my big-ass salads. (To clarify, the salads are big, not my ass.) But I did find some white onions leftover from our tacos the other day. Next, I was supposed to use green bell peppers. Ummm. Just no. They are bitter and not tropical at all. You want a red pepper. You can sub for yellow or orange too. Just don’t use green unless you really like them.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Place your fruits and veggies in a bowl and pour in a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce. My favorite lately is Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce, and I’m not getting any money for saying that. Then, throw in some salt and pepper, and mix it up.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Now the fun part. Make four large sheets of heavy-duty foil about the size of a small, quarter-sized baking sheet. You could make one sheet and try that out first, and if it’s the right size, make three more of the same size. I took a gamble and eye-balled it, but it worked. You just want to make sure you have about 2″ around the sides for the crimping. If it turns out you made your sheets too small, just make a larger one and place it under the original sheet. It’s all good. There’s no precise science to this. And if you don’t have heavy-duty foil, just double line your packets to prevent leaking.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Scoop four equal servings of the pineapple mixture on each sheet. Take four boneless, skinless chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper, and place it on the pineapple mixture. Pour 1/4 cup of sauce on top of the chicken. Spoiler alert! This is a very saucy dish. I think I would have used less sauce in the pineapple mixture or just brush a little sauce on the chicken. For many of you, you’ll serve this over rice and the quantity of sauce is perfect. Not so much for the rest of you.

Wrap up your chicken and pineapple mixture. Fold the long sides to the middle and crimp. Fold up the ends to seal. I found a really good article on the tbsp. that explains exactly how to do this, with pictures and everything. Mine are not perfect, and that’s ok.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Place your packets on the grill or in an oven (on a sheet pan) for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the veggies are tender. I used my trusty meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature chicken was 165F. Just poke through the top of the packet to check. You don’t need to unwrap it. Yes, you will let some of the steam escape, but overall, no harm is done.

After it’s cooked, let the packet rest for about 10 minutes, and then open the packets CAREFULLY to avoid getting a wave of unpleasant, hot steam in your face or burning your fingers. Serve all that goodness over rice or skip it. Deliciousness. The pineapple makes it sweet, but not too much. I think the milder white onion (instead of strong red) along with the red pepper (instead of bitter green) is a much better combination that complements the pineapple perfectly. The sauce gives it a tang to mellow the sweetness out. It’s summer wrapped in a packet.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets
Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups pineapple cut in chunks
  • 1 medium white onion sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper sliced
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper divided
  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • flat parsley leaves optional, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, direct heat. For oven cooking, preheat the oven to 425F.
  • Place chunked pineapple, sliced onion, and sliced red pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Toss to combine.
  • Prepare 4 sheets of aluminum foil about the size of a quarter sheet pan, approximately 10 inches. Use heavy-duty aluminum foil or double wrap.
  • Divide the vegetable mixture among the 4 sheets of foil, leaving a 2-inch border on all sides. Season 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place a breast on each vegetable pile. Pour a 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce over each chicken breasts.
  • For each packet, fold the long sides of the foil to meet over the center, and then fold and crimp the short ends to create a sealed packet.
  • Grill cooking: Place the packets directly onto the grill grates, cover, and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Oven cooking: Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 425F for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before opening the packets and serving. When served, garnish with parsley (optional).

Sheet Pan Vinegar Chicken

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I like easy recipes and I cannot lie.

But sometimes easy recipes are bland and boring. To get around this, try to find a recipe with your favorite meat/protein (duh) and that one flavorful ingredient that will make it stand out. For me: olives.

I know olives aren’t everyone’s thing, and if you hate them, don’t make this recipe, but I happen to love olives so here we are. Olives are tangy, make great snacks, and are practically a health food. They come in all different varieties. Green. Black. Kalamata. Garlic stuffed. Blue cheese stuffed. Castelvetrano. Woah, what?

I don’t claim to be an olive connoisseur. I’m really quite ignorant and had only recently discovered the Castelvetrano olive, the olive that I had no idea I loved. While making this recipe, I was popping them into my mouth and was a little concerned I’d be spoiling my appetite for dinner!

This delicious recipe comes from Valerie Bertinelli on The Food Network. If you haven’t watched her show, Valerie’s Home Cooking, give it a try. She’s funny without being annoying. One of my pet peeves: chefs screaming at you in excitement…darling, nothing in cooking is that exciting, trust me. But Valerie’s also educational without being condescending. I’ve learned a lot from her. Best of all: her recipes just work, like this one.

I changed the recipe a little because I can’t stand skin-on chicken so I removed that before baking. It’s completely up to you to leave it on or not. I also used red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar because that’s what I had.

Slice up an onion and toss it in olive oil on a baking sheet. Throw some chicken on that and season with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Drizzle some vinegar over that and then roast in the oven for 15 minutes. No, not quite done yet.

Sheet Pan Vinegar Chicken

Take your tomatoes, olives (yum), rosemary (try to use fresh…you’ll thank yourself), and garlic plus olive oil and more salt and pepper. Throw that onto the chicken and roast for another 15 minutes. Done. Seriously.

Sheet Pan Vinegar Chicken

The rosemary and garlic make the chicken special, but the tangy olives makes it amazing. Then you have those fresh roasted tomatoes that reminds you it’s summer. It’s really an awesome meal you have. Serve it low carb or with some bread or pasta.

Sheet Pan Vinegar Chicken
Sheet Pan Vinegar Chicken

Sheet Pan Vinegar Chicken

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium red onion 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on or skinless
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups mixed color cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup Castelvetrano olives pitted
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced or minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Toss the onions with 1/2 tablespoon of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the chicken thighs on top and sprinkle them all over with the smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the vinegar onto the baking sheet, and then roast in the oven about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, toss the cherry tomatoes, olives, rosemary and garlic with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, a big pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add the mixture to the baking sheet with the roasted chicken and continue to roast until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  • Sprinkle with the parsley and serve the chicken with the vegetables and juices from the baking sheet.

Campfire Stew

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This summer has been a strange one so when our annual camping trip came around, I was both nervous and excited. Nervous…the virus…need I say more? And excited…I really needed to get out of the house before I lost my mind.

If you do have the opportunity to go camping this summer, go for it. Easy to physical distance and just wear a mask if you do come in contact with others, which wasn’t very often. Camping cleared my mind and gave it a rest from the sensory overload that is my life. I spent a week without news, emails, social media, and work, and gained a week of books, floats on the river, and s’mores, which leads me to the point of this blog. Cooking!

Cooking at camp has been a love/hate relationship for me. I want to try all these fancy meals (oh someday I’ll make a dutch oven cake!), but there are a few complications. The dust. The wind. The bees. Oh, the bees! My nemeses while cooking. Plus our camp stove takes forever to heat up anything. What’s this girl to do?

My strategy is to make our dinners at home and heat them up on the stove. I found the perfect recipe for such a situation: Campfire Stew. I made it for this past camping trip for the first time and it was delicious. I just wish I had remembered to take pictures of me heating it up on our old-school Coleman camp stove, but I was distracted by the dust, wind, and bees. “Damn you bees!” as I shake my fist at them.

Start out by cooking whole chicken thighs seasoned with salt and pepper for about 7 minutes until there’s a nice golden brown sear on them. Flip and throw in some chopped onions and minced garlic.

Campfire Stew

Cook for another 7 minutes until the thighs are cooked through. You will be cooking them a little more, but they shouldn’t be raw. BTW, thighs are really forgiving, especially compared to breasts, which dry up if you cook them just a tiny bit too long.

When the chicken is cooked, chop it up into large chunks. At this point, I let it cool and put it in a Ziploc bag. At camp, I will heat up the chicken, add the rest of the ingredients, dodge the bees, and serve. You could do this at home, which for purposes of this blog, I’ll show you what comes next.

Place the chicken back in the skillet, and add seasonings and canned tomatoes. Stir. Add sliced olives and beans.

Campfire Stew

Stir again and simmer until it’s heated through. Take a picture. Ignore that your kid photo-bombed your photo. The food still tastes good.

Campfire Stew

For camp cooking, some might say this looks fancy (work with me here…it looks fancy when served in a disposable plastic bowl along with the finest white plastic cutlery).

Campfire Stew

It’s not the same as grilling a hot dog on a stick (which is amazing in its own right), but this stew is very tasty without a lot of work. I’m impressed at how the flavors meld together without a lot of cooking time. Just a few basic ingredients becomes a quick, delicious meal. Now I have more time to float in the river.

Campfire Stew

Campfire Stew

Ingredients
  

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 15 ounces diced canned tomatoes
  • 2 1/4 ounces canned sliced olives well drained
  • 15 ounces canned cannellini beans do not drain

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil in a skillet. Salt and pepper the chicken. Cook chicken for about 7 minutes. Flip and add onionis and garlic. When chicken is cooked through and the onions are slightly softened, remove chicken from skillet and cut into large chunks.
  • Add the chicken back in the skillet. Add thyme, mint, oregano, and tomatoes. Stir. Add olives and beans. Stir. Simmer until heated through.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

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These chicken and rice bowls are amazing. Flat out amazing. There are a lot of ingredients and you need an Instant Pot (go out and buy one already! here’s another reason why!), but it’s totally, completely worth it. Thank you kitchn!

First, do your prep. The kitchn says to do it as you go, but I disagree. Because there are a lot of ingredients, I would rather be prepared than frantically chopping chicken and opening cans. So…dice up an onion. Mince a couple cloves of garlic (lately I’ve been using a microplane/zester and finding it faster). Measure out some chili powder and cumin. Open your cans of broth and black beans. Cut chicken thighs into 1-inch chunks, and season with salt and pepper. Grab the frozen corn, a jar of salsa, and rice. Shred some cheese and chop up fresh cilantro. Whew. Ok, take a break. Admire your work.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

In your Instant Pot, heat some oil until shimmering, which means there are little ripples rolling in it. Or you can just time it to about 2 minutes or so. Throw in the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft. Be sure to stir it occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn. Stir in your seasonings and cook until it smells really good, which is really only about a half a minute. I mean it’ll continue smelling good, but don’t get distracted. Add some chicken broth, scrap the bits from the bottom, and simmer for a minute.

Add chicken, beans, corn, and salsa. Stir. Now the technical part: pour the rice over this. Do NOT stir. You might feel compelled to submerge the rain. Just leave it be. Trust me on this one. You’ll then pour some more broth over it, but again, don’t stir.

Set the pressure to high for 10 minutes and let it do its thing. Go watch the news. Actually, don’t watch the news. It’s super depressing these days. Go make a salad instead. It’s better for you than the news.

It’ll take about 10-12 minutes to come to pressure, and I have to say, I love it when Instant Pot recipes tell you this. Yes, it’s faster to cook in an Instant Pot, but when the recipe tells you to cook it for 10 minutes, it’s really at least double than that.

After the Instant Pot beeps, quick release the pressure and then carefully open the lid. Don’t panic when you see the rice sitting on top looking raw. I promise you it’s fully cooked. Just stir everything together, scoop some into a bowl, and top with shredded cheese and chopped cilantro.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

The cheese is all gooey. The beans are all soft. The rice is all tender. Oh, deliciousness! What’s not to love? This one is a make again.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 15 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 16 ounces salsa
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, or a blend)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro coarsely chopped

Instructions
 

  • Add the oil to the Instant Pot, turn on saute setting. Heat until shimmering.
  • Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the chicken broth. Cook, gently scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any stuck-on bits, and simmer for 1 minute.
  • Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Add the chicken, beans, corn, salsa, and stir to combine.
  • Sprinkle the rice over the top. Pour the remaining 3/4 cup broth over the rice, but do not stir.
  • Using the manual setting, set the pressure to HIGH for 10 minutes. Close and lock the lid. It should take the pressure cooker about 10 to 12 minutes to come to pressure and begin the 10 minute countdown. When the cooking time is complete, do a quick release of the pressure.
  • Gently stir everything together. Divide between bowls and top with the cheese and cilantro.

SpaghettiOs

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Like Sloppy Joes, here’s another nostalgic dish from my GenX childhood. A few years ago I bought a can to remind myself how amazing it tastes. Ugh. It was awful. Mushy pasta. Flavorless sauce. What kind of meat are in those meatballs? How could it be so bad, so not what I remembered? No wonder my parents didn’t want to waste their money on it, and would make plain spaghetti instead. But I felt like I was missing out.

When I came across this recipe, I just smiled. It has all the good memories of SpaghettOs with the deliciousness that the canned stuff didn’t have. This recipe comes from BA with a few tweets of my own. I split the sauce recipe. I had a few items I needed to use up and I wanted more meatballs. One could never have too many meatballs.

Warning. I didn’t take very many pictures. No gorgeous vegetables. No exotic spices. None of that. We’re down to basics here. Tomato. Pasta. Meat. Grunt.

Make your meatballs. Mix together panko, cheese, seasonings, egg, cream, and beef. Form into little balls. You’ve got yourself meatballs. I wasn’t sure if I’d use them all in the pasta, but they make really good leftovers. Like a meatball sandwich. Or on toothpicks, if we’re going old school.

SpaghettiOs

Time to cook these guys. I grabbed my gorgeous Le Creuset dutch oven. I love this thing. It’s expensive, but you only need one and it’s so durable that I’ll probably pass it on to my son. Hopefully, he’ll cook for himself by then. Right now we’re in the cheese and crackers phase. Another classic not to be overrated.

So, I have a love/hate relationship with meatballs. Mine NEVER stay together when I cook them. Maybe the mixture is too soft? Maybe I’m flipping them over too soon (but I don’t think so)? I honestly don’t know. If I had to do this over again, I’d make my favorite meatballs instead: Ina Garten’s Roasted Italian Meatballs. These never fall apart and are super easy to make.

Cook them up.

SpaghettiOs

Move them to a separate plate when they are cooked. Try not to obsess they aren’t perfect. know that they will taste fantastic.

Now it’s time to make your sauce. In the same pot, you’ll start layering your flavors. Cook up some chopped onion and minced garlic. Add tomato paste and cook. Throw in some spices, a little sugar (yes, sugar….it makes the tomatoes taste better…it’s science…something to do with bringing out the sweetness by toning down the acidity to unripe tomatoes), fresh basil (I’m sure the original SpaghettiOs didn’t use this), and ground tomato sauce. Cook it for at least 20 minutes. If you can cook it longer, you should because it’ll just taste better. It was time to get dinner on the table so after 20 minutes, I gently added my meatballs and meatball pieces, and cooked that for another 10 minutes.

While all this simmering is going on, cook the pasta. You want to use any pasta that looks like rings or is a short tube, like ditalini, which is what I had on hand. Anelleti looks more like rings (I looked it up…I don’t know what all these shapes look like), but I had made macaroni salad a while ago and had a bunch of ditalini leftover. I was tired of it staring at me every time I opened my pantry door.

When the sauce is done simmering and the pasta is cooked al dente. Gently mix together. To preserve what was left of the integrity of my meatballs, I spooned some sauce into the pasta, spooned some on a plate, added a few meatballs, spooned more pasta on top, added another meatball or two, grated some fresh Parmesan cheese, and called it good.

SpaghettiOs

The results were pretty good. Two thumbs up from the boys. The older “boy” laughed at the name. The younger boy thought we were crazy like usual.

SpaghettiOs

SpaghettiOs

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck 20% fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large basil sprigs
  • 28 ounces ground tomatoes
  • 6 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or other short tubular pasta

Instructions
 

  • Whisk panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and cream. Add beef. Mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overwork (if packed too firmly, meatballs will be dense). Form into 1"-diameter balls, about 24. Transfer to a plate.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet or dutch oven, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.
  • Cook onion and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and ground tomatoes.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices.Continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5–10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.