Pasta is a weekly must-have at our house and most often we rotate between a few basics like tomato sauce, pesto, alfredo, meatballs and we change up noodles, tortellini, or the occasional lasagna. This was a bit different and I did a shrimp or chicken topping option (I’m the only one who likes shrimp at the moment).
The tomatoes burst and provide some sauce and the touch of cream and olive oil made it quick and light! Swap the protein for scallops or bacon or sausage or whatever you like!
Pasta with Blistered Tomatoes & Shrimp or Chicken Ingredients: (for 5-6 servings) 1 pound linguine pasta 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 3 tablespoons heavy cream 2 tablespoons butter shrimp (pealed, deveined large shrimp) and/or roasted chicken (pealed, chopped) 1 tablespoon mixed herb seasoning (Todd’s Dirt is our fav, or Italian Seasoning, or Oregano + Garlic Powder)
Directions: Bring salted water to boil and cook the pasta. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Give them a shake every few minutes – it will take ~5 minutes to pop and release some juice. When the pasta is mostly cooked (~2 minutes less than the package instructs), drain it reserving a little pasta water and return the pasta to the pot. Add the butter, and cream in, plus a splash of pasta water (start with a few tablespoons) and toss together, then add the tomatoes in and continue to cook over low heat. Add more pasta water if needed.
In the skillet used for the tomatoes, add another drizzle of olive oil in and bring to medium-low heat. Add the shrimp in the pan and sprinkle with herbs. Cook for just a minute or two on each side to turn pink but remain a C shape not an O shape. Remove from the heat promptly to avoid overcooking. (I did some chicken and some shrimp.) Serve the pasta with chicken or shrimp on top and one last drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!
I always need a bit more sauce than I think so keep that pasta water or a splash of broth or more cream. The kids wouldn’t necessarily request this one, but everyone ate enough and I got to have shrimp so, win-win!
Love a rice bowl – this inspiration was perfect for winter when we want something warmer than salad! Rice bowls are also filling and great to use leftovers! I subscribe to the goal of: grain + protein + veg + drizzle = grain bowl
Cobb Salad Rice Bowls Ingredients: (serves 4) 1 1/2 cup rice/grain 4 breaded chicken tenders 4 hard boiled eggs 2 cups greens (I used arugula) ~3 tomatoes ~6 oz cheese 1/4 cup salad dressing
Directions: Cook the rice and the chicken and hard boil the eggs. (My rice was in the pressure cooker for 10 minutes and my chicken went into the air fryer.) While the rice, chicken, and eggs cook, chop the cheese, tomatoes, and greens.
Assemble as you like and drizzle with dressing. Enjoy!
Bacon, avocado, and pickles would all be great additions too but my avo decided a few days prior to this meal ‘it was now or nothing’.
The kiddos had cukes versus greens, and they like theirs separate and to dip into dressing. I stirred some bacon bits into the rice when I made it the first time!
There’s a whole category (over to the right under “rice/grain bowls”). I pack them for lunch all the time too – I just scoop out the raw things and warm the rest and dump back on and drizzle. Voila!
These little turnovers had a few flavors we love, in an easy format, plus the kiddos helped and liked them. We used puff pastry, hummus, roasted chicken, salad dressing, and tomatoes.
Anything in crescent dough is good in my book but the hummus in here was great! They would be perfect as an app or we had them with some orzo and some salad.
Greek Chicken Turnovers Ingredients: (for 8 turnovers, serves ~4 as a meal or 8 for apps) 1 tube crescent rolls (or crescent dough as a roll would make double sized ones) 1 cup roasted chicken (~1 chicken breast from a rotisserie chicken) 1-2 tablespoons creamy caesar dressing 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or fresh chopped oregano 1/4 cup hummus 1-2 small tomatoes
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350-degrees (or as the package directs).
Chop and mix the chicken, the dressing, and oregano. Unroll the crescents and lay each triangle flat, then spread hummus onto each triangle. Add chicken onto the wide part of the triangle and top with tomato slices and salt & pepper. Carefully roll the wide end of the triangle and roll over onto itself towards the point. Place onto a baking sheet.
Bake for ~10 minutes (according to your crescent rolls) until golden brown.
We had these with orzo and some tomato/cucumber/feta salad in Italian dressing. They were so fun! The hummus is really subtle but adds some substance and keeps them from being too liquid-y and dripping.
Each kid ate one. They’re not always excited about foods all together but these are flavors we like and they were a hit. They’re very, very into feta in salad.
They reheat well too – especially if you undercook a bit (maybe 8 min versus 10) and reheat in the oven or toaster oven. They don’t need to be served hot – room temp is good too!
Plan now – these Thanksgiving inspired nachos are perfect for leftovers, or if you’re not the host and want to whip up something with Thanksgiving vibes leading up to the holiday!
Thanksgiving Nachos Ingredients: (serves ~4 as a meal, or ~6 as an app) 1 package waffle fries 2/3 cup jellied cranberry sauce 2 tablespoons sour cream 2 tablespoons mayo 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese ~1 cup turkey (I used roasted chicken as it was before Thanksgiving) ~1 cup turkey gravy 6 sage leaves, chopped
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400-degrees (or as waffle fry package directs). Bake the fries (or air fry, but like nachos, there will be toppings and continue to cook). Blend together cranberry sauce, sour cream, and mayo. This can be prepped in advance and refrigerated.
Chop or tear the turkey into bite-size pieces and warm. Mix or warm the gravy. When the fries are cooked, top half with the cheese, half the chicken, and a drizzle of gravy. Then place the remaining fries on top with remaining cheese, and another gravy drizzle. Return to the oven for ~3-5 minutes to melt the cheese.
Remove from the oven and top with sage and a drizzle of cranberry sauce. Enjoy and serve remaining cranberry sauce and gravy on the side.
We had it for dinner with some green beans on the side. It was so fun! The 1st grader ate it all – and took care of the remaining cranberry sauce. The pre-schooler ate the cranberry aoli-sauce by the spoonful and only took a few bites of the rest.
I loved the bites with everything together! They are kind of a fork-nacho but these would be fun with sweet potato fries too! They could be party friendly as mini “stacks” and maybe a toothpick to hold together to serve a portion. The subtle cranberry was really good and would be great on a sandwich or wrap for leftovers or on a turkey burger!
Add this to your leftovers – or make this if you’re not having a turkey dinner!
These started with lots of our favorite flavors and ingredients – basil pesto! mozzarella! tomatoes! We are into a new groove with more in-person routines and special sandwiches make fast dinners – especially in September with some summer temps and some feelings of fall. Most of this can prep in advance and to make as sliders or full-sized sandwiches.
I loved these! Admittedly – the kids weren’t wow-ed. They ate all the elements but didn’t care about them being together. Not every meal will be everyone’s favorite so I feel like they were still a winner if the kiddos were reminded that their beloved pesto doesn’t only show up on pasta.
Pulled Pesto Chicken & Caprese Sandwiches Ingredients: (for 4 sandwiches or 8 sliders) 2 chicken thighs or breasts or rotisserie chicken 2 tablespoons basil pesto 4 rolls or 8 slider rolls 1/2 tomato 1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella 3 tablespoons creamy caesar dressing or garlic aoli or balsamic reduction drizzle (optional)
Directions: Cook the chicken and when fully cooked through, pull it apart with 2 forks and mix in the pesto. Toast the rolls (optional). Slice the tomato and mozzarella.
Spread the rolls with dressing or spread if using it. Assemble the sandwiches with tomato, chicken, and mozzarella. Enjoy!
I had some sourdough rolls and some slider rolls and we had it with caesar salad which the first grader loves to “make”.
These flavors work so well together and I appreciate that a smaller amount of chicken goes further for sandwiches like this, versus serving whole cuts of chicken per person.
I’d eat these as little appetizer crostini or as wraps or grilled into a panini too! I threw some of the leftover pesto pulled chicken on top of some pasta to pack for lunch or it would be fine to freeze too!
Sandwiches are the easiest dinner and was a hit for all of us! The kids were into it and I never expect everyone to like everything all the time. These were a good example of putting elements together the kids already know into a new combo. I thought they might dismantle and eat separately but they ate it as is- just less arugula!
Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Peach Topping Ingredients: (for 4) 1 peach or nectarine 1 slice onion 1/2 tomato 1 green onion 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon olive oil ~6 breaded chicken fingers 4 sub rolls 1 cup arugula 4 tablespoons honey mustard dressing
Directions: Chop the peach, onion, tomato, green onion, vinegar, and oil. Stir well and refrigerate until serving.
Bake or air fry the chicken pieces until cooked through. Assemble the sandwiches by lightly toasting the rolls, spreading honey mustard on, then adding the arugula, chicken and lastly the peach topping. Enjoy!
I loved this! It was so fun and a great use for rolls we had from a sausage & peppers night and there’s always chicken kicking around here.
Add some avocado to the topping (mine weren’t ripe!) cheese would be good too!
We love anything on a pizza so some leftover chicken breasts had me thinking of chicken piccata and what better way than on a pizza! It was a low-pressure way to cook it and to see who will like it and the chicken and lemon sauce and parsley flavors seemed summery to be on a pizza!
It would also be wonderful as a sandwich – or into a panini. Go for it!
Chicken Piccata Pizza Ingredients: (serves 4 for 1 large pizza or 3 small pizzas) 1 ball of pizza dough (or on 3 pieces of naan) 1 chicken breast, cut into 2-3 pieces 4 tablespoons flour + 1 tablespoon flour 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper 2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons butter + 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup chicken broth 1/4 cup lemon juice 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Directions: Allow pizza dough to come to room temp – over a few hours. Preheat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of the butter & olive oil for pan frying over medium heat. Pound the chicken out flat and stir together the flour, garlic powder, and salt & pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces one at a time into the flour shaking off the excess then pan frying for ~3-4 minutes per side, flipping once. Check the internal temp with a meat thermometer – it should reach 165 degrees.
Remove the chicken (without draining the pan) and set the chicken aside. To the hot pan, add in the broth and lemon juice. Cook at a low boil for 5 minutes to reduce. Add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter + 1 tablespoon flour whisking continually over low heat for ~3 minutes then remove from the heat and let cool for 5+ minutes. Chop the chicken. Roll out the dough. Assemble the pizza by spreading sauce onto the pizza dough (I used ~1/2 of the sauce). Then add the shredded cheese and then the chicken. Bake (our pizza oven outside cooks pizza in ~90-seconds per pie, in the oven it might take ~20 minutes if the dough is par-baked, or 30 minutes from raw dough on a hot pizza stone). Top with parsley & enjoy!
We liked it! It was very, very lemony but bright and as pizza, it felt summery not being a heavy meal. The sauce was strong and while it wouldn’t be authentic (but I won’t tell anyone) if it was too much for you, you could also stir in a touch of cream or cream cheese or alfredo sauce (do that off the direct heat so the sauce doesn’t break).
The chicken was super juicy. That’s what a meat thermometer will do – no guessing to know if it is done! I know the 90-seconds in the pizza oven isn’t going to keep cooking, though 30 minutes in a high temp oven will!
We have enough sauce for another time. Or it would be good has a hot melty sub.
I love a rice bowl because of the customization options! The little ones always surprise me with what is a hit any particular day and the bowls ensure everyone has the same things- maybe more of some parts than others. The littlest was most into the chicken and the big one loved the grilled zucchini…who knew! These were only a slight variation from grilling a few things.
BBQ Chicken Rice Bowls Ingredients: 1 cup brown rice 2 cups water/broth 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce 4 chicken thighs 2 tablespoons mixed herb seasoning (we love Todd’s Dirt, or Italian seasoning, etc) 1 large zucchini 2-3 tomatoes 1 tablespoon Italian dressing 1 teaspoon honey
Directions: Cook the rice (mine took 7 minutes in the pressure cooker – or it could be made in advance too). Then mix in 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce. Preheat the grill. Season the chicken with the dried herbs. Then slice the zucchini into coins and brush with olive oil on both sides. Grill the chicken and when almost cooked through, add the zucchini to the grill for the last few minutes. Chop the tomatoes and mix with Italian dressing. Whisk or shake together the remaining 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce with the honey. Spoon the bbq rice into each bowl, then top with sliced chicken, zucchini, tomatoes. Drizzle with honey bbq sauce and Enjoy!
Our kids tend to want things separate but I love love love the bites together. Letting them surprise us is always worth it. Grilled zucchini isn’t something we have all the time but they liked it. They do not love brown rice but I think the BBQ sauce made them a bit more into it, and we don’t try to please everyone all the time.
Avocado would be great in here, or corn, or greens, or cheese. The rice could be any grain or starch – farro or potlenta or orzo or couscous…go wild! I usually do a grain + a protein + 2 or more veggies + drizzle of something. I like contrasts of cooked and raw veggies. Here are others!
Such a fun way to have buffalo chicken and there’s lots of ways to customize yourself! I went mild on the spicy scale and below are lots of swaps to up the veggies.
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad Ingredients: (for 2 meals, or 4 sides) 2 cups pasta 2 breaded chicken tenders 2 cups arugula 1 tablespoon hot sauce 3 tablespoons blue cheese or ranch dressing
Directions: Cook the pasta and the chicken and let cool to room temperature. Chop the arugula. Whisk together the dressing and hot sauce.
Mix together the pasta, arugula and dressing. Then add in the chopped chicken just before serving. Enjoy!
Go as spicy as you like! I like minimal but you could really go for it by tossing the chicken in buffalo sauce AND making the buffalo dressing! To go super mild, the hot sauce could be totally separate and sprinkled on per serving.
To make in advance, keep the chicken separate but the rest could be mixed ahead of time. Greens get a little wilty but a few hours lead time would work, or mix the pasta & the dressing and add in the chicken and veggies before serving.
While I was into the simplicity of it but more veggies would be great. Cucumbers and bell peppers would be awesome. I detest celery but that’s a natural fit and maybe chunks of carrots.
Think of a broccoli & rice & cheese but as a warm wrap- instead of a casserole! These wraps were so fun and an ideal way to use some leftovers!
Chicken, Broccoli, & Rice Warm Wraps Ingredients: (for 2 wraps) 1 cup brown rice (+ water/broth according to required prep) 1/2 broccoli head, cut into small florets 1 cup roasted chicken 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, chopped or grated 2 large wraps 2 tablespoons dressing (optional – creamy caesar or Parmesan Peppercorn)
Directions: Prepare the rice (mine was brown rice for 10 minutes in the pressure cooker). Keep warm. Roast the broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil in a 400-degree oven for ~10 minutes until getting golden and crispy.
Assemble the wraps with half of each the rice, warm chicken, broccoli, and cheese.
Drizzle dressing, if using any. Heat a pan to medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. If the wraps had been refrigerated (or a touch stale!) warm in the microwave for 10 seconds to be the most pliable. Roll the wraps by tucking the sides in then rolling from the bottom and tucking the sides in further until completely rolled. Then pan sear on each side, starting with the seam side down first. Cook for a few minutes on each side- a cover will help the cheese to melt. Let sit for 1-2 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
I loved these! It is like a burrito – just without any particular identity. I like the balance of a whole grain (rice), as much veggie (broccoli) as protein (chicken) and some decadence (cheese & dressing) with just a few ingredients!
Most of this could be prepared in advance: the rice, the chicken, the roasted broccoli. These freeze well too – when freezing any burritos, I wrap in plastic and defrost overnight or in the microwave. Then to finish, I pan sear or bake the in toaster oven with a spray of non-stick spray. The goal is to defrost or warm slowly enough to heat all the way through, then give a little crunch to the exterior.
The technique to roll a burrito takes some practice not to over-fill and roll keeping the ingredients in, here’s a video of tucking the sides in as you roll away from yourself: