Cooking in the Summer Heat: 4 Methods + 8 Recipes

Ugh, summer heat. Sweat. Sticky. HOT! If you can’t tell, I don’t take the heat very well. I grew up in San Diego and it’s like anything under 65 is cold and anything over 78 is too hot. Now, I live in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve adapted a bit to the rainy, cold season. The summers are pretty awesome, but we always seem to get a few days were the heat is too much. And since we only have a few days of it every year, nobody invests in air conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE summer, but those super hot days can be rough.

It’s on those hot-hot days where cooking seems like a terrible idea, but dinner must be served. You want to serve healthy meals to your family without having to get take-out and spending a pretty penny. What’s a girl to do?

So in anticipation of those hot days, I came up with four different ways to make dinner without turning on the oven and heating up the whole house. Better yet, I’ve got some tasty recipes to go with it. I hope you are inspired to keep on keeping on in the summer heat.

1. Grill

In my mind grilling is synonymous with summer. Living in the Pacific Northwest really makes you appreciate the sun (although, we’re heat wusses). Standing in the rain trying to grill is just not what I call fun. So when the sun comes out, the grill is uncovered and put to action. We bought a new grill this season and I love it. It’s an awesome gas grill, so it’s quick to heat up and get dinner rolling.

Spinach Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers (with a kick) – Burgers are always a win on the grill, but I prefer turkey burgers. This is  thee  turkey burger recipe I use most often for turkey burger days. I often just use fresh spinach instead of the frozen, but both work great. Also, get the Tony Chachere’s as it really makes a big difference on these burgers. There is a little kick, but nothing to be worried about – this being said by a gal that can’t take much heat.

Grilled Moroccan Chicken – This is a recipe I discovered this year and the flavor is a knock out. We eat a lot of chicken in our household, so it’s always nice to get a change of pace. Definitely try serving it with the Moroccan couscous to make it a nice, well-rounded meal.

2. Salad

Is salad a method? Probably not. It seems like it should be to me. Like, “let’s salad it tonight, honey!” I usually waive off salads as a meal, but if you add some protein then for me it magically becomes a meal. I especially appreciate salads on hot, summer days when cooking seems like it’ll melt you (picture the Wicked Witch of the West) and you cringe at putting anything hot near you (or in your mouth). Then it’s salad to the rescue!

Greek Farro and Chickpea Salad – This salad is our new favorite and is on heavy rotation in our weekly meal plans. We usually add some grilled meat (we’ve tried chicken, steak, and pork – all great), however, it’ll can totally stand on its own. Farro is my new obsession and you should totally try it out if you haven’t already.

Chicken Blueberry Feta Salad – My favorite salads have fruit in them. It’s actually a spinach, apple, goat cheese salad that got me to start liking salads. This is a more sophisticated version and is so delicious and refreshing.

3. Crockpot

It might seem odd to pull out the crockpot in the summer as most of us consider it more of a fall and winter cooking method. You think stews and soups, which is not really what you crave in the summer. However, there are some great options for the crockpot for summer cooking. Better yet, it doesn’t heat up the entire house. I heart my crockpot and love discovering new recipes for it. I even discovered, but have yet to try, that you can even make banana bread in the crockpot!

Crockpot BBQ Beer Chicken – When I was young, I loved those tubs of Lloyd’s BBQ pulled chicken. As an adult, I sort of cringe at the thought, but I still have that same love for pulled chicken. This recipe is delicious and is great as a sandwich or in quesadillas!

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyros – Greek food is a favorite and feels so fresh in the summertime. This chicken has great flavor and something for the whole family to enjoy.

4. Stovetop

The stove is another great way to avoid heating up the whole house in the summer. My favorite thing on the stove is probably pasta. But the options are limitless. You can keep it simple and do a grilled sandwiches (amp them up like this one), quesadillas, eggs…just so much goodness.

BLT Pasta – Take a delicious sandwich like the BLT and make it a pasta, and I’m in! This is simple yet oh so yummy.

Caramelized Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa – Do you do Taco Tuesdays? Then this one is for you. These are scrumptious tacos and should be on your meal plan for this week.

Hungry yet? Happy Summer!

Daily Dinner: Pasta with Goat Cheese, Ham, and Spring Veggies

Did you guys have a nice Easter? We did! And we had some great food in celebration. We had Honey Baked Ham, scalloped potatoes, and asparagus. Then we finished it up with a carrot cake roll. Yum! 

But the ham; it was so big! Josh and I both enjoy ham, especially Honey Baked Ham, and it's fun at Easter because it's really the only time of year we buy it. However, the smallest ham is actually  large for just two people. Oh sure we have Caleb now, but he’s apparently on an all bread-yogurt-fruit-only diet, so he’s not helping out with ham consumption.

That means we got lots of leftovers! Ham sandwiches are awesome, but there are only so many sandwiches you can eat. I froze some of the ham, but needed to come up with some other ham dishes. I also had some asparagus and peas hanging out in the refrigerator, so I decided a pasta would be perfect.

Oh man, you guys, I’m so glad I made this pasta. We just ate the pasta dish and I just loved it. I worried that the sweetest of the ham might be weird, but it all came together so nicely. We loved it so much that I just had to share it with you all. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Ham, and Spring Veggies


  • 1 pound (16 ounces) pasta*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (or 1 shallot), peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced**
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces, ends trimmed off
  • 16 ounces (2 cartons) fresh cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh peas (frozen would work as well)
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus some for garnish
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. Cook the pasta al dente in a large pot of generously-salted water, according to package instructions.  Once the pasta is nearly ready, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and reserve it on the side (to be used in the recipe later). Then drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a hot pan, and add the onion. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the asparagus and mushrooms, and continue sautéing for another 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened. Stir in the garlic and peas, then cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Add the ham and give a final stir to mix to incorporate. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate small mixing bowl, add the goat cheese, milk, parmesan and 1/2 cup of the reserved hot pasta water. Whisk until combined.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add the ham and vegetable mixture as well as the goat cheese sauce to the pasta, then toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, you can stir in an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the reserved hot pasta water to thin it out. Taste to see if more salt or pepper is needed. Garnish with extra Parmesan and black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

*For the pasta, I used penne, but farfalle or rotini would work great

**I used 3 Dorot garlic cubes - these are the best! You can get them in the freezer section at Trader Joes.

Recipe Adapted from Gimme Some Oven's Pasta with Goat Cheese, Chicken, Asparagus, and Mushrooms

My Thanksgiving Game Plan

Do you ever think back to what you were doing last year at this time? I find it so interesting to think back and consider how life has changed. Last year I was in my third trimester and getting pretty preggo. This year I have a 10 month old baby and have a home in a new town!

And yet, some things stay the same. Last year my in-laws came to our place for Thanksgiving and they are coming again this year. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking and baking and Thanksgiving is the ultimate kitchen challenge. I am always on the quest for the perfect turkey and dishes. There are so many options out there it’s always so hard to decide!

There are a few dishes I’m going to keep the same as last year because they were dynamite, but there are a few new dishes on the line-up. Here’s my plan for our Thanksgiving feast this year along with what I did last year.

Turkey & Brine

One thing I’ve learned is brining is key to making a juicy, tender, and delicious turkey. Please don’t skip this step! I am going to use the same brine and roasting recipes as last year, which is from the Pioneer Woman. One trick I heard this year that I’m going to try out is to put the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered the night before roasting. Apparently, this helps achieve a nice golden turkey.


OMG, this was so good last year. I declared then that I would make it again this year. Hopefully it’s as delicious as I remember because it was a winner. I call it stuffing but I know some of you out there call it dressing.


I always buy a jar of gravy just in case I either run out of time or energy and/or the gravy doesn’t turn out for some reason. This year I’m trying a recipe with a cornstarch thickening agent opposed to flour from last year’s recipe.

Cranberry Sauce

I’ve made a different cranberry sauce the past few years. I just haven’t found “the one.” I’m looking for a balance of sweet and tangy. Hopefully this does it! I did like the conveniences of the slow cooker, though. It was a decent sauce, but I’m looking for perfection!

Mashed Potatoes

I bought a potato ricer to try this year. I should get it any day now. I hope this will make these the lightest and fluffiest potatoes! I think I’ll make them early and keep them warm in the slow cooker.

Green Beans

I usually make Brussel Sprouts, but learned that my in-laws don’t really like them all that much. Ha! So this year the veggie is green beans. Roasting is my favorite way to cook green beans – yum! I’ll just do Brussels Sprouts for Christmas and the recipe I have is so good!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I love mashed sweet potatoes, but I thought it too much to have mashed sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes – too much mashed up! So roasting it is.


I always have grand plans of making rolls, but then end up just buying them. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bake them this year with this quick 30 minute option. I was tempted with the freeze and bake ones, but realized they still need to rise for like 4-5 hours in the morning..

Pumpkin Pie

It’s not a complete Thanksgiving meal without some pie. Pumpkin pie, of course! I love everything pumpkin so this is the hardest decision for me. This one calls my name with that delicious looking crumb topping. But I highly recommend the one I made last year, too.

So there is the line-up. Now, the game plan:

A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Make the pie crust and store in the refrigerator (or freezer depending on when I get to it)
  • Cook a fresh pumpkin for the pie and store in the refrigerator (I’ll have canned pumpkin on back-up, just in case)
  • Make the rolls and freeze them
  • Make the cranberry sauce – I think this will be just fine in the refrigerator for a few days
  • Bake the cornbread for the stuffing
  • Caramelize the onions for the green beans – Optional
  • Brine the turkey for 18-24 hours

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Take the rolls out of the freezer first thing in the morning – they will need 4-5 hours to defrost and rise
  • Make and bake the pumpkin pie
  • Assemble the stuffing
  • Assemble the green beans
  • Peel the potatoes
  • Peel and parboil the sweet potatoes

Before putting in the Turkey:  

  • Bake the rolls, stuffing, green beans, and sweet potatoes

Turkey Time:

  • Roast the Turkey – The time really depends on the size of the bird. It’s about 10 minutes per pound of turkey
  • Sauté the green beans
  • Prepare the mashed potatoes

While the Turkey Rests:

  • Warm up all the sides in the oven – I hope they all fit in my oven!
  • Pour some wine (or sparkling cider)

Lastly, as part of my preparation, I like to go through all my recipes, read them, add them to Paprika, and list out the temperature and bake times. For the last item, it’s great to know what the need is for the oven. Sometimes you can bake things together. I only have one oven so I need to be efficient!

  • 25 mins @ 350 — Rolls
  • 35 mins @ 375 — Pie
  • 25 mins @ 350 — Pie Topping
  • 15 mins @ 450 — Cornbread for Stuffing
  • 45 mins @ 400 — Stuffing
  • 50 mins @ 400 — Sweet Potatoes

Whew! I can do this, right?! It’s going to be a challenge with a 10-month old baby, but with help I think we can make this feast a success.

Tell me about your Thanksgiving plans! Any dishes that are pure perfection? 

Daily Dinner: Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup

Growing up my parent’s had the tradition of making a nice family dinner on Sunday nights. We would usually eat out Friday and Saturday night for dinner, but Sunday was always at home. Sunday afternoon we would go out and do something fun as a family, then on the way home we would stop at the local market, Harvest Ranch, and pick up groceries to make a delicious meal. We often picked up a Marie Callendar’s pie for dessert at it was next door to the market, too! 

My parents weren’t big cooks, but they loved to grill. We lived in San Diego, so the weather was pretty grill-friendly year around. Some of the family favorites were BBQ chicken, steaks, and hamburgers. I enjoyed helping them prepare the meals and assist in the kitchen. Perhaps this tradition helped to spark the love of cooking I have today! 

As I grew older and moved away from home, I continued the Sunday dinner tradition. I especially enjoyed this tradition when Josh came into the picture. A few years ago, Josh made a request to put a twist on the Sunday night tradition. He wanted to make Sunday night dinner soup night. To persuade me, he gifted me the book, Mr. Sunday Soups. I tried out a bunch of recipes from the book and really started to like the soup tradition. We put the soups on hold during the summer - just too hot for soup. However, each fall we tend to bring it back. 

This week when I was talking to Josh about how I wanted to share a recipe this week, he suggested I do soup. I asked what soup he thought I ought to share and he suggested this one, which happens to be my favorite. The only problem is that it’s a bit more time consuming than I would like - too much standing at the stovetop. Now that I have a baby, I need meals that are quick and easy. So, I did something I’ve never done before and I am quite proud of the results: I converted the recipe to be for the crockpot! 

I love butternut squash, and this chowder is filling and a great introduction back into the fall season. The potatoes add a nice creaminess, and the bacon to top it off! We served this with some crusty, toasted baguette for dipping. 

Now, sit down with your family and/or friends and enjoy some time together over dinner!

Butternut Squash Chowder Soup


  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 6 white potatoes, cut in half (roughly 12 oz)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 slices bacon strips cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage, extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup half & half (or cream)


Place everything - except the chopped sage, bacon, and half and half - into the crockpot and give it a good stir. Cook on low for 6 hours. 

While the crockpot is going, cook up the bacon pieces on the stovetop until nice and crisp. Put aside for topping the soup later.

When the crockpot is done cooking the veggies, place the chopped sage and half and half into the pot. Then blend with a hand blender (or do batches in a blender). I didn’t blend until smooth, but kept some of the lumps from the potatoes to have a chowder like texture.

Ladle into bowls and serve warm! Enjoy this together as a family. :)



Daily Dinner: Easy Chicken & Grape Salad

Ohmygosh. This chicken salad is so freakin’ good. 

  • It’s healthy.
  • It’s easy. 
  • It’s summer friendly.
  • It’s adaptable.
  • It’s possible to make-ahead.
  • It’s filling.
  • It’s delicious.

...It’s perfect! In fact, I just made it last week while we were uber busy packing for our big move coming up on Monday (the big reveal post coming soon). We've had tons and tons of packing to do…whomp whomp. I try to do at least 2 boxes a day during Caleb’s naps. We’re making good progress, but it means my little kitchen is basically all packed up. Perhaps you can in the photos how I was using a pot as a mixing bowl. 

I could also see this as being a great picnic lunch as well with the summer weather - sounds lovely. I’d rather be doing that than packing. Speaking of summer, I love that you don’t have to turn on any heat source for this dish either. We sadly don't have A/C, so on hot summer days the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. 

To turn this into a meal, you can either make a sandwich like my husband, or a salad like me. For the salad, I drizzled salad dressing (I used this one - yum!) on some mixed greens and pile the chicken on top. Last time I made this I also made some pickled onions for our sandwiches. I piled those on with some lettuce and voila, a delicious sandwich. 

Below is the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!


  • 1 Rotisserie Chicken, cubed*
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 7 oz plain Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)**
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, to taste.


* I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but you could make your own cooked chicken. It would be roughly a pound of chicken.

** I used Fage 2% plain yogurt

Adapted from Damn Delicious.

Daily Dinner: Lazy Girl Chicken Pot Pie

As I looked up photos for my last Daily Dinner post, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta, I realized I had a whole bunch of photos lined up for Daily Dinner posts. Oh Boy! So I thought I'd share another fun meal with you. 

I am not a huge fan of the meal's name with the words, "lazy girl." I'm am *not* a lazy person. I'm the opposite of lazy. I tend to make myself busy, but that's my problem. That aside, I appreciate the idea behind the name: that it's quick and easy. I happen to really enjoy this meal. I serve it up with some tasty salted rosemary bread (I get the loaf from Trader Joe's, it's my favorite bread there). Josh, on the other hand, thinks this is good but when it's labeled as a "pot pie" he gets confused because he expects a crust on top. He doesn't buy the whole "just serve it with bread" concept because then it's not a pot pie to him. If I were to rename the meal, he'd probably have expectations aligned more properly and be more onboard with it all. So, might I recommend renaming this to, "creamy chicken and veggies." 

Summer is around the corner, but in my opinion it could work as a spring/summer dish. It doesn't require turning on the oven and heating the house. Also, for my non-dairy friends, I haven't tried it, but I bet it could work with almond or coconut milk. Oh, and if you want to get even more quick, try buying the mirepoix from Trader Joe's (and celery would be a good addition here)!

Here's how the dish comes together in a few photos:

Lazy Girl Chicken Pot Pie

(or Creamy Chicken and Veggies)

Recipe Adapted from Dessert for Two


  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 1 Ib raw chicken tenders, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons half and half
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • Crusty Bread, Sliced and Toasted


  1. In a small skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Turn the heat to medium and let melt while you chop the chicken.
  2. Add the chicken to the skillet, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until all sides are brown. (Note: Don't worry if it's not cooked all the way through, it'll cook more later.) Remove the chicken from the pan, and return the pan to the heat.
  3. Add the remaining butter to the pan, along with the onions and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes over low heat until the vegetables have softened. (Note: The onions shouldn't brown.)
  4. Add the peas and corn and increase the heat to medium. Crush the thyme leaves in your hand (this releases the oils) and add them to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  5. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to combine. Let cook for about a minute.
  6. Add the half & half and milk to the pan, along with a few pinches of salt and pepper.
  7. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat until thickened. It should take 1-2 minutes to thicken.
  8. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Slice it on the diagonal to be fancy.
  9. Serve in a bowl with the toast on top. Enjoy!

I hope you like this dish as much as I do. It's great for weekday meals! 

Daily Dinners: Spinach & Goat Cheese Pasta

Surprise! I'm not doing a post about Caleb. I thought I'd go way back in time and bring back a Daily Dinner. Remember those? Yea, it's been awhile, and I'm sorry. I just ate this dish on Thursday and remembered I had photos already for a post. It was funny because I took the photos January 2015 (and nope, that's not a typo on the year). So it's taken me over a year to get to this post. The good news is, I think you'll like it. It's quick and easy - so quick and easy, in fact, that a mom with a 4 month old baby can manage it (part of it was with him in the Ergo carrier because he didn't want to nap). So here we go...

Technically, the name of this dish is Caramelized Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Garlic Butter Pasta. However, that's a mouthful and too long for a blog title.

If you put either caramelized or brown butter in something, I'm immediately drawn to it. This recipe has both. Don't let the butter scare you if you're trying to keep things light - in my opinion, it's not a lot of butter and it just adds a deliciousness to the dish. Also, this has my favorite cheese in it: goat cheese! And the topping on the comes together in 30 minutes. Boom! Dinner is served.

It requires a few different pots to happen, but other than that the clean-up isn't too bad. First put the pot on for the pasta, then get the caramelized onions going, and the last one to start is the browned butter. Then you stir it all together and you have a delicious, quick, healthy meal.

Caramelized Shallot, Spinach & Goat Cheese Butter Pasta

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is


  • 1/2 pound pasta (about 1/2 a box of pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3.5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 sausage links or a few pieces of bacon, chopped into bite sized pieces (optional)*
  • Parmesan cheese for topping
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Bring water to a boil for pasta and prepare according to directions. (Keep in Mind: You'll want to save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you dump it!).
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large skillet over low heat and add olive oil. Add the shallots and salt, stirring to coat. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the brown sugar and cook for 3-5 minutes more. Be sure that the pasta is cooking by this time.
  3. Add the spinach to the skillet with the shallots and toss. Stir continuously until the spinach is wilted, about 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Whisk frequently until the butter begins to brown. The minute you see brown bits appear in the bottom of the skillet, remove it from heat and whisk for another 15 seconds. Add the garlic powder to the brown butter and give it a good stir.  
  5. Strain the pasta from the water when it's done cooking, and dump the pasta back into it's pot. When straining, keep about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the spinach and shallot mixture to the pasta along with the garlic brown butter.
  6. In the pot that you used for the spinach and shallots, cook up some sausage or bacon (or whatever meat you'd like). Once cooked, dump it into the pasta pot as well. You can skip this step if you want to keep it vegetarian. 
  7. Crumble the goat cheese into the pasta and stir. Add the pasta water to loosen it up until you reach your desired consistancy. Sprinkle with the crushed red pepper if you want some kick and some parmesan cheese. Serve it up! 

* For the sausage I like Trader Joe’s Garlic Herb Chicken Sausage or Al Fresco Roasted Garlic sausage (from Safeway)

Daily Dinners: Weekly Meal Planning

I'm not going to share a specific recipe today, but instead how I plan my meals for the week. I often get asked while munching away with co-workers at lunch how I manage to make the all my meals during the week. My co-workers think they are gourmet or something - ha! It's just regular, home cooked meals here, friends. So I'm going to share my meal planning secrets with you. 

Okay, that's a lie; it's not a secret, but I had to hype this up a bit to get you excited. It's definitely not rocket science (and if I was a rocket scientist, I'd probably be rich and have a home chef or something). But it did take me a while to get where I am with the meal planning. It all started on paper - literally scraps of paper where I wrote the meals and shopping list. My dear husband played a bit part in helping me get a system down. This system still takes some time, but it's a whole lot less than it used to be at the start. And I'm still refining it...especially in anticipation of the little guy on the way. 

Here's how it goes...

Gather Recipes

Finding the perfect recipe never stops for me. I'm always on the quest for the perfect meal - one that's quick, tasty and healthy. It's like a game - a game I both love and hate. I like to torture myself that way. Anyway, where do I get my recipes? Mostly from the blogs and Pinterest.

Blogs: I have been hoping to write a post about my favorite bloggers, and I still plan to, so below is just a sampling. These are a few favorites for meal type recipes (some are better for treats & sweets - that's for another time). Oh, and I use a blog reader to follow my favorite bloggers.

  • Pioneer Woman - Ree, otherwise known as the Pioneer Woman, is great and I've been following her for years. She's built quite the empire for herself and recently started a program on the Food Network. I've been to her book signing and met her when she signed my book. Her chicken parmigiana is a favorite of mine. 
  • Annie's Eats - Annie always seems to have great solutions for healthy and quick meals. She seems so nice, like she could be your friend. Her Mexican quinoa is one of my go-to's for a quick meal. Just add some avocado and sour cream and chips on the side and you're good to go. And, if you want some meat, I often add the carnitas from Trader Joe's. 
  • Gimme Some Oven - Ali has some awesome meals - yes I know them all on a first name basis (although, sadly, they don't know my name). I love how she lightens up a lot of traditional meals and does recipe round ups by ingredient. Her Hummus Crusted Chicken is super tasty - just serve it with Trader Joe's rice! (Psst, I told you about this before...)
  • Mel's Kitchen Cafe - I tell ya, Mel makes some good, home cooked meals. She often make suggestions on what to serve with the meal, which is helpful. I enjoy the Thai Style Chicken and Quinoa during the spring and summer. 
  • Pinch of Yum - Lindsay is a recipe machine. I follow her on Pinterest and she's got so many recipes pinned. One I made in the spring and will make again soon now that it's cool enough for the oven, is the Six Ingredient Sausage Potato Pie

Pinterest: I use Pinterest to quick save a recipe that looks promising to me. So, when I am looking through my blogs and come across a recipe, I pin it to one of my boards. I also use Pinterest to source recipes. I follow a few of the bloggers I follow as they pin other people's recipes, too. 

Plan the Week

Every Sunday I sit down and plan the menu for the week. Here's the steps I take:

1. Weather Check: Yes, I check the weather. Seriously. I want to know whether I want to turn on the oven or not (this is key for the summer). 

2. Scan my Recipes: This is where Pinterest plays in again. I go to my boards and check out if anything catches my eye. If you have a cookbook you like, look at the table of contents. Or, do a quick web search if you have something particular in mind. Got some ideas now? Good, let's move on...

Before I go to 3, I want to tell you about Paprika as it's pivotal to the next steps. This is is a great piece of software and has served me well. I was doubtful of switching off my paper method (with recipes all printed and in a binder), but Josh convinced me and I haven't looked back. When I have a meal planned for the week, I just imported it into the tool. Slowly the recipe library builds up. I can use this for #2 now as well. It's on my desktop, phone, and iPad so it's really convenient. 

3. Meal Decisions: There is a calendar tool in Paprika, so go through and decide on a meal for Sunday through Thursday (I take off Friday & Saturday). If it's a new recipe, you may need to import it. Or, if you already have it in your library, great! You open the recipe on Paprika and there is an opinion to "Add to Meals" - go ahead and add it. 

Tip: I try to have some variety to my weekly meals. I tend to have one pasta dish, a chicken dish, ground turkey/beef, and pork. 

4. Grocery List: At the same time you add the meal to the calendar, you should click "Add to Grocery List." Then you click all the boxes for the items you need. Don't forget to go through the pantry and refrigerator to see what you have, what needs refreshing, etc. You can also just manually add items to the grocery list. I have some things I get every week - yogurt, bananas, milk, ice cream - so I add those, too. All set, good! The tool is great and will categories them into aisles at the store. 

5. Go to the Store: Sunday afternoons I head to the grocery store. I tend to go to Trader Joe's and/or Safeway these days - sometimes I go to both. It takes me about an hour total. I take out my iPhone and open Paprika, and go through my grocery list. As I put an item into my card, I check it off and the item disappears. 

6. Put the Food Away: This is self explanatory. I hope so. Josh usually helps me bring in the grocery bags, isn't he sweet?

Cook each Day

When you get home each day, open Paprika and get cooking. I use Josh's iPad and a little stand in the kitchen. The recipe is there and ready to help me make a most wonderful meal. I usually make 4 servings (or more!). We eat two for dinner, and then put two in tupperware to take to work the next day. Then your co-workers will look at your lunch and ask, "how do you do it?" 

And if that's not enough to get you going, there here is more Daily Dinner inspiration:

Daily Dinner: Hummus-Crusted Chicken

I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight! 

Do you remember those Chicken Dinner commercials? For some reason I do, and I find myself singing the song. It's catchy. 

Wait, you don't remember it? Gosh, how embarrassing. Why is it that I remember these random commercials? I *think* my mom bought this stuff and made it for dinner. And I liked it. 

Well, maybe I should have stuck saying the tried & true phrase: winner winner chicken dinner! (BTW, who knows where that phrase came from? I don't, but I think it's fair to say chicken and dinner go hand in hand.)

Actually, I have found a winner chicken dinner for you. It's good. It's easy. It's healthy. Can't go wrong here for a week night dinner. I've had it twice in two weeks, and one of the times was with friends over (and I think they liked it - they ate it all, so that's a good sign). Anyhoo, let's dive into this recipe! 

This meal idea all started with zucchini. I had way too much from my Full Circle box.I ordered it twice in one box - whoopies! I had to do something. Why not Mediterranean? Hummus, lemon, chicken, feta -- all things I love. 

The timing was perfect because I follow Gimme Some Oven's blog, and this recipe popped up. Couldn't have been better timing! So I added it to my meal plan, and the rest was history.

It's really quite good, and I can't get over how easy it is. I really think you ought to try it out.

Hummus-Crusted Chicken with Zucchini and Rice

Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lemons


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Prepare a large (9x13) baking dish baking dish with cooking spray.

  3. Pat the chicken dry and season with pinches of salt and pepper.

  4. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini and onion with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

  5. Place the zucchini & onion on the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Then lay the four chicken breasts evenly on top, and cover each chicken breast with the hummus so that the entire breast is covered. Sprinkle the paprika over the top. Finally, squeeze the juice of one lemon over the chicken and vegetables. Optional: Thinly slice the remaining lemon, and place the slices in between the chicken and vegetables.

  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve immediately.


  • If one pan seems cramped, then try two smaller baking dishes (8x8). I tried two ways - (1) putting the veggies in one dish and the chicken in the other, and (2) putting veggies & chicken in both dishes just dividing everything evenly. I preferred #2, but both work well.
  • Trader Joe's is your friend with this recipe. I used the TJ brand Hummus Dip - it's quite tasty! If you're ambitious, try making your own hummus (here's inspiration). Oh, you could totally try this with a different flavored hummus - oh my!
  • More Trader Joe's love: I served this with TJ's Basmati Rice MedleyWhole Wheat PitaGreek Yogurt dip, and more of the hummus.

Other Daily Dinners:

Daily Dinners: Creamy Fennel & Pork

Here we go again with another dinner idea. Trying to write these really made me appreciate all the food bloggers in the world. It really takes multitasking to try and cook and take photos (and not burn down the kitchen - or burn your food). 

This recipe is a bit more time than my first daily dinner post, but I liked the idea of sharing a fennel recipe . Fennel is in season right now and it's often neglected as a vegetable. Plus, it's not as common as broccoli and other such veggies, so it can be intimidating. That's why I'm here...don't be scared! Fennel is scrumptious and healthy too (check out these health benefits). 

I love the floral, herby notes in fennel and adds any interesting layer of flavor. I prefer it cooked a bit, but you could eat it raw (like in a salad!). This recipe pairs well with pork, so that's what we'll use it for today.

I served the pork and fennel on top of whole grain extra wide ribbon noodles that I got from Safeway. I figured this meal has protein, veggies, and a grain - pretty balanced if you ask me!

If you're a visual person, here's the steps in photos...

Creamy Fennel and Pork

Recipe adapted from Better Home and Gardens


  • 1 pork tenderloin (like 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed, coarsely crushed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced *
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dairy sour cream
  • Sour cream (for topping)

* I am sensitive to garlic so I don't use a bunch. Feel free to add more. Also, love-love-love Dorot garlic cubes, and pretty much only use this when a recipe calls for garlic. I used two "ice cubes" in this recipe. 


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine rosemary, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper. Trim off any silver skin from the pork (optional really, but probably best if you do remove it). Rub the rosemary-salt mixture all over the pork.
  3. Optional Step: I didn't do this, but it's nice to sear/brown the pork before roasting it. If you do, use about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a plan, and sear each side for a few minutes. 
  4. Place the pork on a pan and roast, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until slightly pink in center (155-160 degrees F).
  5. Trim and core fennel bulbs (reserve some of the leafy tops to top with at the end). Cut each fennel bulb in thin wedges. Slice up the onion. 
  6. Add fennel, onion, and garlic to an oven-friendly skillet. Cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat; add broth, vermouth, and sour cream. Return to heat. Bring to boiling for 1-2 minutes.
  7. By now the pork is probably done, so take it out and let it rest for 5-10 minutes (don't cut it!). While it's resting, pop the skillet with the onions & fennel into the oven. Cook it for about 5 minutes to soften the veggies a bit more. 
  8.  Serve pork with vegetables and juices. Top with reserved fennel tips and more sour cream. 

Daily Dinners: Kale Mac 'n Cheese

Week night dinners, le sigh. If you're anything like me you want something homemade, healthy, and tasty...pronto! After a long day at work you don't want to slave away in the kitchen. Your evening is valuable and you want to use as much of it as possible for relaxing, gosh darn it.

I'm always on the quest to find the perfect week night meal. I scour my favorite blogs and Pinterest daily to find the magical meal that checks off all my "perfect meal" requirements: healthy, delicious, easy, and fast. When you come upon a good recipe, it's like gold. Over the years, I've gathered a few keepers. So in the spirit of sharing, I'm starting a new series to my blog called Daily Dinners

Have you ever gotten one of those emails that asks you to share a recipe, and then share it with like 10 other people. Gawd. Sure, I want a good recipe, but then it requires you to send it to a bazillon people. So, good news, no strings attached. 

Oh, and I think you'll like them. I usually make enough for four servings. Josh and I eat them for dinner, and then bring the leftovers to work the next day. It's a good system, and my co-works usually drool over what I eat. I hope this series inspires you to make co-worker envy, drool-worthy meals!

Up first: Kale Mac 'n Cheese. I am not totally on the kale love train. People seem to swoon over kale. I like it, but only in certain preparations. Luckily, it works really well in pasta. And who doesn't love a mac 'n cheese. I grew up on the stuff - it's childhood on a plate...but all classed up with kale. And the amount of cheese isn't exorbitant. 

Kale Mac 'n Cheese

Recipe adapted from White on Rice Couple


  • 10 ounces pasta *
  • 1 large bunch of kale, stems removed & leaves chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (2% works well)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (more or less) of extra parmesan cheese for topping
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper, to taste

* Any type of pasta works - penne, elbow, rotini, shells. My favorite brand is Barilla Plus, and I usually use penne on this dish.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400. 
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to instructions. When there is one minute left on the pasta, toss in the kale. Drain it all together.
  3. Heat a large pot (preferably one that can go in the oven) on medium heat and melt butter. Add the onions, and cook until soft, then add flour. Stir the flour so it coats the onions. Add the milk and chicken broth.
  4. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil. After 3-5 minutes, the sauce will begin to thicken. Turn the heat down to low and add the cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese is melted.
  5. Add the kale and pasta to the cheese/onion sauce. Stir it all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Sprinkle the extra cheese and bread crumbs on top. Add some cooking spray on top, if desired (it helps make it more crispy).
  7. Put the whole pan into the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until nicely golden.
  8. Dig in!