Easy to Cook, Hearty and Delicious: BLT Pasta

Pasta is quite the satisfying meal, and nothing quite compares to it. It serves as the perfect backdrop for various ingredients ranging from vegetables and meats to tomato sauce and cheese, and far beyond!

I think my younger daughter may have been Italian in a previous life. She would eat pasta for all three meals if she could. Pasta/noodles have been around for thousands of years so a food with that much longevity has got to be popular and delicious!

I served this BLT pasta as one dish for dinner, with no other sides, since there are both tomatoes and greens within the dish. The dish was easy to cook, hearty, and delicious.

We used yellow cherry tomatoes because they tend to be slightly sweeter than red tomatoes. My kids love bacon so this is incredibly popular in our house. After cooking the bacon, my younger daughter loved crumbling the bacon in a Ziploc bag with the bottom of a stainless steel small bowl.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

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Cooking with the Kids: Potato and Spring Leek Soup

Hello BigKidSmallCity readers! I have missed cooking and blogging with you. It’s been a long while, and I am happy to be back; my girls are too. They were incredibly excited to be doing a post again. Hope you enjoy this one!

This past winter, I purchased a recipe book for a friend. It was a beautiful and vibrant recipe book with excellent reviews. It seemed well-written and a great gift for someone who cooks. My friend LOVED it and raved about it (affiliate The Love & Lemons Cookbook).

She cooked for many days from it, and even bought one for another friend. Her ringing endorsement convinced me to buy one for myself as well. I also liked that the author was from Texas and liked to support local farm shares.

So when I got the book a few months ago, I flipped through it and loved looking at the pictures. Such gorgeous pictures of food…and then I shelved the book.

Yes, I am admitting it.  Sound familiar?

I finally opened the book again this past weekend. I asked my younger daughter to flip through it with me and help me pick a recipe for dinner. I remembered that all the recipes were sorted in chapters by fruit and vegetable and that the recipes were vegetarian. Since we had to go to the grocery store that afternoon, it was perfect timing.

She stopped on a page that showed soup. I wasn’t sure the girls would eat leeks, but was willing to try. We wrote down the ingredients along with our weekly grocery list and headed out. I did forget the sage because I lost my grocery list while shopping, but I decided to substitute with complex and deep herbs like an Italian spice mix and fennel seeds.

My younger daughter helped me prep and the older one helped cook. The recipe was surprisingly quick, but very flavorful for the short cooking time! It was not difficult at all to prep or cook and the kids had loads of fun helping. We would definitely make this recipe again. If you absolutely must have meat, you could add shredded rotisserie chicken at the end to each bowl. This recipe serves a family of 4-5 people.

We will definitely be cooking from the Love & Lemons cookbook again. If you don’t buy cookbooks, you can check out Jeanine Donofrio’s blog at loveandlemons.com, or her Facebook page called Love and Lemons.

Recipe:

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Better Dinners & Fewer Trips to the Grocery Store with Maria’s Gourmet Kitchen

I’ve been spending way too much time and money at the grocery store.  Up until January, I was going several times a week and spending a whole lot of money each time.

This year I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my time and money… and the most obvious place to start was with groceries.  Years ago I did a lot of couponing (and this is actually how I learned about blogs) but I’m not quite ready to get that serious yet.

Instead, I’ve found that if I just go to the store less, I save time and money.  In fact, even if I go to fewer stores and pay a premium on a couple items, I still save money.  There’s just a whole lot less getting added to the cart.

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Salmon Prep Box
So, when Maria, from our sponsor, Maria’s Gourmet Kitchen, told me to just order my dinner online, I was happy to skip another trip to the store. And having dinner prepared by a Parisian trained Chef was going to be a whole lot better than a dinner prepared by me.

So on two different nights last week, I served my family Maria’s Asian Street Tacos and Miso Glazed Salmon.

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Cooler Bag
My delivery was dropped on my step, kept cold with a cooler bag and ice packs.

First up were the tacos, with all the ingredients prepared in separate bags and easy cooking instructions. The steak was trimmed, the cabbage was chopped, the rice was seasoned… all I had to do was cook.

When I served the kids, they gave the ultimate compliment… “This tastes like it’s from Ms. Felicia’s house.”. My friend Felicia is one heck of a cook… and the kids have never compared my meals to her meals!

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Asian Street Tacos
Next up was the salmon. Now, let me tell you that my husband loves salmon and I don’t always love salmon. Sometimes it’s just too fishy.

Well, Maria’s salmon came with a miso glaze, pickled carrots and bok choy. I prepared just as she said on the label, and served this up for dinner:

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Salmon and Pickeled Carrots
Friends, my dinners do not usually look this good.

The fish was delicious and the carrots and miso (something I never would have thought to add) made it amazing. I thought we were eating at a restaurant (except for the Legos scattered under the table).

So, if you also want to spend less time at the store and less time preparing a fabulous homemade dinner check out Maria’s Gourmet Kitchen. This Houston mom will do the work for you.

AND, you can save $20 on a $100 order by using coupon code BKSCTRYMGK !

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Bok Choy
 

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Miso Salmon


Best of 2015: 7 Quick & Easy Dinner Ideas!

The best of 2015: Pranika contributes quick and easy dinner ideas, and beautiful pictures, to BigKidSmallCity… and here are 7 favorites from the last year!

 

Antipasto

1. Cheater, Cheater, Antipasto EaterMy kids love to snack and who doesn’t love snack foods? Occasionally I must admit it’s nice to be daringly lazy when you don’t have much time to cook. I decided to create an antipasto platter and use premade polenta plus store-bought garlic bread for a fun and balanced meal.

 

Black Bean Soup with Sour Cream

2. Black Bean Soup: Why spend a ton of time in the kitchen, when all you need to do is throw in a few ingredients, chop a slight bit, and let an appliance do all the work? For this recipe, a must have is a slow cooker. I love to find slow cooker recipes that are a complete fit for my family, but also flavorful and filling enough for a meal.

 

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia

3. Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia: Our family likes to eat fish and shrimp, so I try different recipes and some work and some fail; fortunately, this one is a keeper!

 

Pasta Shells with Meyer Lemon Cream

4. Pasta Shells with Meyer Lemon Cream: This recipe is delicious and you can really taste the meyer lemons in this dish. If you don’t have access to meyer lemons, you can use the juice a regular lemon in the recipe and add a tbsp of orange juice, preferably fresh for a similar taste.

 

Finished Bowl of Orange Cauliflower Soup

5. Orange Cauliflower Soup: My family accepted the Recipe for Success challenge, VegOut2015, last March. We tackled 30 different vegetables in less than 30 days. This is one of them!

 

Wrapping Up Fish and Shrimp in Parchment Paper

6. Fish & Shrimp in Parchment Paper: I cooked fish in parchment paper with my mom years and years ago and it was fun, so cooking this with my girls was fun and nostalgic.  A fish cooked “en papillote” is wrapped in parchment paper, and baked in the oven so it gently steams in its own juices. You can add a variety of aromatics, such as herbs, onions, and other vegetables to the parchment package to flavor the fish.

 

Summer Minestrone Soup

7. Minestrone Soup: I love one pot meals…who doesn’t?! It’s less to fuss about on the stove and more importantly, less to clean up and wash post dinner.
My older daughter adores minestrone soup, as do I; my husband usually eats anything I cook and my younger daughter…well she’s the picky one so I was hoping to entice her by mentioning there was pasta in the soup.


Quick & Easy Dinner Idea: Summer Minestrone Soup!

Hi this is Pranika! I love one pot meals…who doesn’t?! It’s less to fuss about on the stove and more importantly, less to clean up and wash post dinner.

My older daughter adores minestrone soup, as do I; my husband usually eats anything I cook and my younger daughter…well she’s the picky one so I was hoping to entice her by mentioning there was pasta in the soup.

Summer Minestrone Soup
It might seem too hot to even think of eating soup, but the dish felt refreshing and healthy. I chose to make this meal on a Sunday so we could cook together, be relaxed and have enough remaining for leftovers for all four of us later in the week.

The whole family joined in on the prep and cooking and while the pot simmered and cooked, we set the table, relaxed and chatted. On the side, we simply had toasted garlic bread.

My younger daughter happily ate the soup, asked for seconds and gave me four thumbs up (I think she approved!). My husband and older daughter raved about it as well. This was truly delicious and we will definitely be making it again.

It was a longer dinner to cook (about an hour), but on a weekend it worked for us and we are happy to have one less meal to cook during the week; this soup will also freeze well for later use. Happy cooking and eating!

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Quick & Easy Dinner: Fish & Shrimp in Parchment Paper!

Sprimp and Veggies in Parchment Paper
Hi this is Pranika! Our family is big into seafood these days, so I am trying to be creative instead of eating the same sautéed shrimp and fried fish all the time. I cooked fish in parchment paper with my mom years and years ago and it was fun, so cooking this with my girls was fun and nostalgic.

I cooked both fish and shrimp because one of my girls doesn’t like fish…yet; we like to say she hasn’t developed the taste for it!

A fish cooked “en papillote” is wrapped in parchment paper, and baked in the oven so it gently steams in its own juices. You can add a variety of aromatics, such as herbs, onions, and other vegetables to the parchment package to flavor the fish.

Wrapping Up Fish and Shrimp in Parchment Paper
When the fish is done, the parchment will puff up. Basically, if cooking fish is intimidating and messy, then cook it this way because it really will cook itself! Just make sure to add a little liquid (such as lemon juice, wine, etc) and ensure that whatever you add to the parchment should cook in 12-14 minutes.

If you want to add something that needs longer to cook, then partially cook it beforehand as I will note below. On the side we had baby roasted potatoes with sea salt and broccolini with lemon, sea salt and a touch of olive oil.

Happy cooking and eating!

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Quick, Easy (and Soft!) Dinner: Orange Cauliflower Soup #vegout2015

Finished Bowl of Orange Cauliflower Soup
My family accepted the Recipe for Success challenge, #vegout2015. For the month of March, we were tackling 30 different vegetables in less than 30 days and have been trying new recipes.and vegetables. This is one of them!

I served the soup alongside mashed potatoes and garlic bread. (Kind of a weird dinner combo but I was thinking ahead to dental surgery two days later and needed soft food!). This soup is flavorful with absolutely no dairy! It’s an easy weekend soup or weekday, if you can chop the veggies ahead of time.

Hand Mixing Cauliflower Soup
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Quick & Easy Dinner Idea: Pasta Shells with Meyer Lemon Cream

It’s the tail-end of the meyer lemon season so we are using up our last lemons! This recipe is delicious and you can really taste the meyer lemons in this dish. If you don’t have access to meyer lemons, you can use the juice a regular lemon in the recipe and add a tbsp of orange juice, preferably fresh for a similar taste. (This recipe is adapted from the March 2015 issue of Cooking Light.)

Pasta Shells with Meyer Lemon Cream
Cream sauce can be quite heavy, but the sauce for this recipe is balanced by the meyer lemon juice and ricotta with only a slight bit of cream. The chives, nutmeg and fresh grated parmesan cap off the flavors that will have everyone’s taste buds singing. It’s the perfect pasta for spring and family loved this dish. We ate the pasta alongside garlic bread and broccolini. Enjoy!

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Quick & Easy Dinner: Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia!

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia1
Hi this is Pranika! Our family likes to eat fish and shrimp, so I try different recipes and some work and some fail; fortunately, this one is a keeper.

For added garnish and flavor, you can top the fish with salsa verde, sriracha if you like a kick, or a squeeze of fresh meyer lemon juice as we did. I usually buy fresh fillets on Saturday or Sunday and cook them within 24 hours so I don’t have to freeze and thaw.  On the side we had simple dish steamed tri-color cauliflower dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.

Happy cooking and eating!

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Quick & Easy Dinner Idea: Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup with Sour Cream
Hi this is Pranika! Why spend a ton of time in the kitchen, when all you need to do is throw in a few ingredients, chop a slight bit, and let an appliance do all the work? For this recipe, a must have is a slow cooker. I love to find slow cooker recipes that are a complete fit for my family, but also flavorful and filling enough for a meal.

I have one decently adventurous eater and one that is pretty picky. However, I really dislike cooking separate things; so when I find a slow cooker meal that I think everyone will eat, I am ecstatic because it’s no fuss, no rush and easy.

What’s not to like about spending only 5 minutes the night before and 10 minutes in the morning before work to create a delicious meal? Plus this one is vegetarian, filling, warming when cold, but light enough that it feels healthy!

We served this black bean soup alongside sliced avocado with lime & salt, chips and salsa. The cumin and pickled jalapenos infuse this simple soup with great flavors as it cooks and the result is flavorful, but not at all overly spicy.

Happy cooking and eating!

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