Tortellini Spinach Bake


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I’m short on time this morning so I’m going to whip through this one and just say the recipe from Our Best Bites is easy to prepare, cooks up quick and was a unanimous crowd pleaser.  The pasta is found in the dry pasta aisle and  despite the fact that I love bacon, I despise cooking it (and the mess it makes!) so I used pre-cooked bacon.  If you don’t like pre-cooked, simply cook up your favorite kind of bacon, remove it from the pan, once cooked, reserving 2 tablespoons of the grease in your pan for the garlic etc. omitting the olive oil.


  • 12 oz. bag Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortellini
  • 8 strips pre-cooked bacon, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
  2. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in small skillet.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.  Add flour and stir with a whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and continue to stir with whisk until smooth.  Add salt, pepper, basil, and red pepper flakes then bring sauce to a simmer.
  3. While sauce is heating, zest the lemon, then cut it in half and remove juice.  Add 2 teaspoons zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to the sauce. Continue to stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  4. Drain tortellini and place back in stock pot.  Reserve about 2 strips of the cooked bacon and add the rest to the pasta mixture.  Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Add sauce and gently stir to combine.
  5. Place pasta mixture in an 8×8 baking dish and top with remaining cheeses and bacon.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout.  Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts

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We all know The Pioneer Woman turns out some mean recipes so I don’t often use her site as a reference for Maynard.  You know where she is and you’ve seen her recipes.  But I decided to make an exception for this one because she said it was a good “week-day” meal and after realizing I had all the ingredients in my cupboard & fridge I decided to give it a go.  Because it cooked up fast, was super filling and was an instant hit with the kids I couldn’t resist posting it!


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained & quartered
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons chives (or other herbs) chopped


  1. While water comes to a boil for the pasta, melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion then sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes, then stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
  3. At this point, the pasta water should be pretty close to boiling and ready to add the pasta.
  4. Stir the cream and chicken broth into the artichokes and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat.
  6. Place cooked & drained pasta in a large bowl & pour sauce over the top. Add chives & nutmeg. Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.  Sprinkle with parmesan.
Pasta, Vegetables

Oven-Roasted Veggies & Pasta

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The first time I made this, from Real Mom Kitchen, we had just finished doing circuits with the kids and a friend and I needed something that made bunches of food and would cook up fast – but it needed to be healthy and have protein to fuel our muscles.  Because we’re cool like that.  I was starving by the time it was ready so I didn’t take the time to take a picture, knowing I’d make it a second time the following week.  And that’s what I did.

This easily hit the yum-factor, spot-on and was full of flavors from the roasted vegetables and I felt good eating it and serving it knowing all the ingredients that went in were wholesome. Except for the sausage which came from Oscar Meyer but you can be even more awesome than me, and buy fresh turkey sausage or organic sausage & whole wheat pasta or whatever healthful stuff you want!  Me?  I went with white pasta because that’s what I had.  The veggies?  Probably sprayed with pesticides – but I closed my eyes and pretended it was all organic and it was good stuff, Maynard!


  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 (12 oz.) package turkey sausage of your choice
  • 12 oz. linguine, uncooked


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  1. Place zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper in a shallow baking pan.  Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat.
  2. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly brown; stir occasionally.
  3. In the meantime, cook linguine according to package directions and drain.
  4. After vegetables are soft, sprinkle sausage on top of vegetables and bake 5 more minutes or until sausage is heated.
  5. Toss cooked pasta with the vegetable/sausage mixture,  sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
Asian, Chicken, Pasta

Kicked Up Ramen Noodles


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Ramen Noodles stir up memories of the days before I had kids.  Back when sodium, preservatives, and ingredients that are unpronounceable in the English tongue were kind-of hip in an “I’m too young to care what I eat” kind of way.

This was delicious and I felt like I was cheating, eating all those sinfully curly noodles!  The smells coming from the kitchen were heavenly; peanuts, garlic and, well, do I really even need to mention anything after that?  Cooked up fast, the ingredients were inexpensive and I will definitely add this to my “go to” dinner file.

The only things I changed from Mel’s Kitchen, since I didn’t have hoisin sauce (forgot to pick it up at the store), was I substituted in soy sauce.  It worked well, but I’ll definitely not want to miss out on the flavors of it next time I make this dish.  I also did not have scallions.  GRR!  So it went scallion-less and I pulled out a frozen bag of edamame to green up dinner a little.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-10 chicken tenderloins
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (I pulled mine from a package of trail mix since the kids leave those anyway)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 (3-ounce) package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packets!
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 scallions (green onions), sliced thin


  1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high heat until it is hot. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Add it to the pan in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally.  As it cooks, using a plastic spatula, begin cutting it into cubes – continue cooking until cooked through.  Remove the chicken and set aside.
  2. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until hot. Add the red bell pepper and the peanuts then cook until the pepper is softened 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside with the chicken.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the remaining oil in the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds to 1 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chicken broth. Add Ramen noodles to the pan (you can break them before adding, but we like them long and curly!). Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, tossing the ramen constantly with tongs to separate, until ramen is just tender but there is still a bit of liquid in the pan, about five minutes.
  5. Stir in the hoisin sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and continue to simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken, peppers, and peanuts. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.
Pasta, Salads

Kale & Lemon Pasta Salad

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First of all?  I’ve never eaten kale.  It sounded like a nasty bitter green stuff that was not making its way into my mouth.  This?  Was phenomenal.  The kids ate it without question, went back for seconds and even took leftovers to school for lunch.  Really.  The original recipe, found at Annie’s Eats, called for penne, but I chose tri-colored pasta just because color is good, and it makes me happy.



  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 large bunch kale, rinsed and dried, stems removed
  • lemon slices, for garnish
  • shredded Parmesan, for serving


Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.

  1. Mince the garlic cloves.  Sprinkle the minced garlic with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and smash the garlic into a paste with a fork.  Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl & add the Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes.  Whisk together until well combined.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.
  3. Chop the kale into 1/2 ribbons.  Add chopped kale to a large bowl and toss with dressing to coat.
  4. When pasta is done, quickly cool it with cold water, in a colander, draining well.
  5. Toss pasta in the bowl with dressing until well coated. Serve with sliced lemon and additional Parmesan as desired.
Beef, Pasta

Some Other Mom’s Goulash


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A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.  Martin H. Fischer

My dad was the one who introduced me to goulash and, only getting to visit him in the summers, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him it was the worst tasting thing I think I’d ever eaten in my young life.  It had hot dogs and macaroni noodles and lots of too-runny tomatoey sauce and, if I remember right, beer.  Nasty.  Just nasty.  This, found at Annie’s Eats, is nothing like dad’s goulash.  This doesn’t really say goulash to me, more of an Italian weeknight meal, but call it what you want, it’s fast, simple and tasty!

You can easily substitute the sausage with beef, turkey, chicken, whatever you have on hand.  I should have used the leftover beef from the Shredded Beef and Caramelized Onion Enchiladas we had the other night but opted to use the sausage that desperately needed to be used.


  • 1 lb. beef sausage link
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

1.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2.  Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat & drain off the excess fat.  Stir in the tomato paste, tomato sauce, sugar, basil, oregano, and salt to taste.  Stir in the 1/3 cup of water.  Reduce the heat and simmer on low for 5 minutes.

3.  Add pasta to the boiling pot of water and cook according to directions.

4.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cream cheese, and egg.  Mix well to blend.  Stir in the green onions.

5.  Spread a very thin layer of the tomato sauce mixture over the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with half of the cooked, drained pasta.  Spread half of the sour cream mixture over the pasta, then top with half of the remaining tomato sauce mixture.   Repeat layers with the remaining pasta, sour cream mixture and tomato sauce mixture.  Sprinkle shredded mozzarella evenly over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and bubbling.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

Fish/Shellfish, Pasta

Smoked Salmon & Linguine

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Bored, and looking for something new to make, I found this recipe on Antics of a Cycling Cook.  His recipe calls for milliliters and “rocket leaves”.  Having all but failed math, I had to Google the measurement conversions and found out rocket leaves is another way of saying arugula (which I’d never tried).  I made a few small changes, but the recipe whipped up surprisingly fast and far surpassed my expectations of taste!  The sauce was light and lemony and coated all the pasta perfectly.

I bought the individually wrapped salmon, frozen.  I tossed them, wrap and all in a sink of hot water to defrost for about 5 minutes, removed the wrapper, then generously coated each side of each fillet with McCormick Grill Mates Sweet and Smoky dry Rub (next time I’ll just coat one side – it was plenty of flavor for the mild salmon).  I put each fillet on a sheet of heavy duty foil and barbequed for about 5 minutes each side and them set them aside while the pasta and sauce came together.  If you don’t have the McCormick Rub, you could easily toss something like this together instead.


  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped.
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 oz. linguine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 salmon fillets, cooked
  • juice of one lemon
  • Black pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup arugula, roughly chopped


  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small pan then add onions and garlic stirring frequently to keep garlic from browning.
  2. Once water boils, add pasta and while it cooks; by this time the onions should be softened.  Add the cream, lemon juice and black pepper to the onions.
  3. Once the pasta has cooked, drain then stir in sauce and toss to coat.  At this point you can add the salmon in pieces, or you can slice it and place on top of your pasta just before serving.
  4. Toss the arugula over your prepared plate and enjoy!
Chicken, Mexican, Pasta, Salads

Southwest Pasta Salad


DSC_5584 copyI didn’t have chicken prepared for this dish, found at Our Best Bites, so I pulled out eight chicken tenders from the freezer, put them in a large skillet and added all the ingredients for Taco Chicken.  I let it simmer, covered until cooked through, about 15 minutes.  I had the pasta water set to boil while the chicken cooked, chopped the veggies while my oldest daughter grated the zest off the limes and had everything ready to eat in under 45 minutes.  This salad makes a TON.  This is definitely something you could make to share or take.  Serves at least 6 adults as a main dish and 12 as a side dish.


  • 14.5 oz. bowtie pasta
  • 1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced or about 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen fresh corn
  • zest from 3 limes
  • optional: 8 oz. cooked chicken, diced (this is fantastic)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese


  • 6 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 3 juicy limes)
  • 1/4 cup white wine or rice vinegar
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped


1.  Zest the limes over a large salad bowl then add the beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, & corn and set aside.

2.  Boil pasta in salted water until cooked.

3.  While the pasta cooks, prepare dressing:  Place the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and sugar in a blender.  (Basically everything except the cilantro and oil)  Process until smooth.  With the motor running slowly, add the oil in a steady stream until incorporated.  Add the cilantro and pulse so it gets broken up, but some pieces still remain in tact.

4.  When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse immediately with cold water to cool.

5.  Place the pasta & chicken in the large bowl with the lime and vegetables.  Toss with dressing.

For best results, chill for 1 hour before serving.  Right before serving, sprinkle cheese on top.

Chicken, Pasta, Vegetables

Chicken Pasta Primavera

DSC_1646 copyAdapted from Cheat Day Cafe

12 chicken tenders
1 bag of Wacky Mac pasta
Italian dressing mix packet
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
15 oz bottle Alfredo sauce (I used Newman’s Own)
1 zucchini, diced
1 red pepper, diced
broccoli (I used about 4 small heads)

1.  Begin water boiling for pasta; meanwhile, cook chicken in large pan with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Italian dressing mix until cooked through.
2.  Once cooked, break the chicken apart (I used a plastic spatula) into bite-sized pieces directly in the pan, then add all the chopped vegetables to your pan.  No need to mix.  Cover and simmer on medium for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3.  By this time the water should be boiling and ready to add pasta – cook according to package directions.
4.  Pour Alfredo sauce into a large bowl.
5.  When the vegetables are tender, add them and the chicken to the Alfredo sauce bowl and mix thoroughly.
6.  Drain pasta then add it to the chicken and vegetables.  Mix gently and serve.

Chicken, Pasta, Salads

Ranch Chicken Salad

DSC_1569 copyAdapted from All Recipes

  • 12 chicken tenders
  • 3/4 cup steak sauce
  • 1 cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds spooned out, then sliced again into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) mini bowtie pasta
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 3 avocados, split, pitted and diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 packet Ranch Dip mix (you’ll only use 1 1/2 cups of the dip)
  • 2 cups sour cream


Marinate chicken in steak sauce for at least 30  minutes.  The longer the better, up to a day.

1.  In a large bowl, mix Ranch packet with sour cream.  To about 1 1/2 cups of the dip, add sliced tomatoes & cucumber; set aside.
2.  Grill chicken until no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove from grill, and chop into bite-size pieces.
3.  Add bouillon to a large pot of boiling water then add pasta.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain, and rinse under cold water.
4.  Add chicken and pasta to bowl with Ranch, tomatoes and cucumber.  Add avocados last or to each individual bowl to prevent mashing it up in the salad (and also avoids allowing the avocado to brown in the salad).  Cover, and refrigerate until chilled – or if you’re like me, just eat it up!  This made enough for my family of five with enough left over for at least two more adult servings.