Tag Archives: Dinner

How We Do Dinner Part 2

Welcome to my new blog, Chasing Santee! I’m working on the design bit by bit so thanks for your patience while my content has been on hold. I realized I was becoming more and more frustrated with blogging and that was because I hadn’t been writing as much, I had been researching and tweaking and transferring. But what I have re-discovered in 2016 is that I must write. It’s vital to my emotional health! So I am coming back to posting and trying to tie up the loose ends of some of my two part posts. So, without further ado, here is Part 2 of How We Do Dinner.

In Part 1, I talked about some of our quick meals. For this post, I’m linking to some of our current favorite recipes; some are new and some I have used for the last thirteen years! A few are just quick guidelines (I would like to update with full recipes later). We can really recommend these! (If you don’t have an Instant Pot, some of these may make you want one!)

  • Easy Cheesy Veggie Lasagna: Delicious and freezes great. We really like this better than traditional lasagna.
  • Salad for the win: Our favorite product from Sam’s Club is their huge tub of Organic Spring Mix.  We also grab the big bags of sliced almonds, craisins, crutons, and real bacon pieces. I used to make salads in bowls for each person, but I finally gave in and started tossing my salad together with dressing and tons of toppings in a big bowl. It is JUST BETTER, trust me. There are a million variations, obviously, but we have found keeping those ingredients available with different fruits and veggies means the salad actually gets served….and eaten, rather than languishing in the produce drawer. If some of the spring mix needs to be finished up, I throw it in the freezer for smoothies.
  • Balsamic Chicken Thighs: You will need an Instant Pot for this, but you will love the results. Tender, tangy and perfect with jasmine rice.
  • Wrap it: One of the fun things I realized when I worked at Tropical Smoothie was that almost anything makes an awesome wrap. Flour tortillas are cheap and last forever in the fridge, so I always stock up at Aldi. Try: Chicken salad with fresh spinach and onions, breakfast burritos, leftover turkey, cranberries & dressing (even gravy tastes delicious), and chicken Caesar salad.
  • Mac & Cheese: Ok, I have obviously shared this before, but it’s good enough to repeat. SO easy.
  • Oven Roasted Veggies: These easy instructions work for pretty much any veggies, and the olive oil and balsamic vinegar make them extra irresistible.
  • Healthy Chili: So easy the kids can make it!
  • Homemade pizza: We love the pizza dough sold in the Publix bakery cooler. This way you can really load up on the veggies and cut down on the grease.
  • Taco Soup: One can of chicken, one can of corn, one pack of taco seasoning, one pack of ranch dressing, one can of beans. Dump all together (no can-draining) in a pot,  bring to a boil and simmer for like 20 minutes. Awesome camping recipe! (I imagine….I have never slept outdoors in my life). Serve with chips, sour cream, and , of course, cheese.
  • Copycat Chick-fil-a Sandwiches: It’s fun to try copycat recipes and the pickle juice marinate and powder sugar in the breading bring this pretty close to the real thing. Honestly, we’d rather just go to Chick-fil-a but there is something empowering about re-creating a restaurant favorite!
  • Quick Chicken Pot Pie: Saute your chopped veggie trio (onions, carrots, celery), add some chicken broth and bring to a light boil, add a spoonful cornstarch and stir until thickened. Throw in a bunch of chopped cooked chicken (or make it easy on yourself and use a store-cooked rotisserie chicken. ) Season by preference. Pour it all into a crust (DIY or buy Pillsbury), top with a second crust and bake.
  • Beans & Rice: I have mentioned this recipe before because it is one of our favorites and it literally takes three minutes to throw in the Instant Pot.
  • Stir-Fry: A big bag of broccoli slaw from the grocery store makes the quickest stir fry ever. Throw in whatever veggies you have and lightly saute with EVOO. Add some rice or pasta and leftover pork or chicken. Don’t forget to serve with kid-friendly chopsticks! It makes the whole experience 10 times better (the rule is parents must eat with chopsticks also).
  • Cabbage & Buttered Noodles: This may not sound great, but trust me, served with savory kielbasa (we just buy these from Hillshire Farm) it’s a crowd-pleaser. This was a recipe we started making when we were over-run with cabbage from our CSA and we still love it!
  • Chicken Salad: Chopped Rotisserie chicken or canned chicken plus mayo, salt, pepper, & seasoned salt makes a great chicken salad. Add any of the following: chopped celery, craisins, raisins, grapes, chopped apples, or sliced almonds (again from Sam’s Club) and you’ve got an awesome meal.

That’s it for now! What are some of your go-to family favorites? I’d love to try them!

So-Easy-the-Kids-Can-Make-it Chili

Even my nine year olds can handle this super easy, quick & delicious chili recipe. Pin it for an easy meal in only 20 minutes!v-8 chili

2 lbs. ground beef (or 1 lb ground beef plus 1 lb spicy sausage)

3 medium onions, chopped

3 tbls. chili powder

3 cups Spicy Vegetable Juice (V-8)

1/3 cup ketchup

2 cans beans (any combo of kidney, chili, garbanzo, white chili, etc.)

1 can corn (optional)

Bacon (ok, this is definitely optional, but if you don’t add it, you’ll wish you did)

Cook beef and onion at medium heat in the bottom of a dutch oven on the stove. Drain fat, then add chili powder (sometimes I throw in some extra seasoning like garlic, etc). Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and cook for 15 minutes. This is another one of the most flexible recipes of all time (kind of like my Magic Oatmeal Cake). You can pretty much throw in any beans & meat and this is always a hit!

Real Mac & Cheese in the Instant Pot

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products I truly believe in or desperately want to try.

This is a crazy easy alternative to boxed mac and cheese.

While it’s not a health food, it is REAL food with real ingredients and definitely tastier than the microwave version.

And guess what you cook it in? That’s right…my favorite thing: the Instant Pot (affiliate link). Are you tired of hearing about this appliance yet? Sorry….not sorry. I can’t help raving about something that saves me SO much time. *note: if you want a normal size portion, you are going to want to half this. I supersize everything.

Real Mac & Cheese Instantly

5 cups elbow macaroni noodles

4 cups water

2 cups half and half (or whole milk)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp nutmeg

4 tbls. butter

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)

5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Spray the inner pot with cooking spray and stir in 5 cups uncooked noodles, 4 cups water, 2 cups half & half, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dry mustard and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. Give it all a good stir, close the pot and seal the vent. Push manual 7 minutes or HIGH pressure 7 Minutes depending on your model. When the timer beeps, do a quick pressure release (QPR). (be careful, this spurts up pretty high so I throw a dishtowel over it.) Next stir in 4 tbls. butter, 1 cup of half & half, and 5 cups of shredded cheese.

That’s it….shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes from start to finish. Enjoy!

How we do Dinner: Part 1

  • Omelettes: We do a lot of breakfast for dinner:eggs/grits/fruit or omelettes & fruit (I spent a long time googling omelettes and finally found a perfect photo tutorial on how to make them easily, but they removed the link). Options: sausage, bacon bits, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, broccoli etc. I have also made omelette kits and put them in the freezer with small bags of fresh veggies/shredded cheese/cooked sausage/onions and put it all in a big ziplock to grab in a hurry. This makes it crazy easy and  cheap because you have just enough of everything right when you need it.
  • Oatmeal Bar: Sometimes we even do a “gourmet” oatmeal bar with tons of toppings. Yes, I give my kids a bowl of oatmeal for dinner but if they have a small sprinkle of chocolate chips and some sliced strawberries they say “best dinner ever”. The secret to delicious oatmeal is a big plop of real butter and a drizzle of half and half or whole milk/cream. Options: fruit, brown sugar, nuts (huge bag of sliced almonds from Costco lasts forever and goes into lots of our recipes), coconut, rainsins/craisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter.
  • Nacho Night: This is also an effort free meal that somehow gets my kids very excited. We often do Nacho Night on a blanket on the floor and have movie night, so that could be a big part of the appeal! Aldi has tortilla chips for like $1.20 a bag so we are never without these. Options: shredded chicken (canned works), beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, veggies, ground beef. Nachos “outside the box” can include breakfast toppings (my friend Katy does sausage, eggs, cheese on nachos), or chicken salad with chips (super delicious and lower carb than chicken salad sandwiches).
  • Just add a smoothie! When we have slim pickings for dinner (the end of leftovers, or something my kids aren’t thrilled to eat), we add a smoothie to round out our meal. After years of smoothies, my kids still LOVE them and I can make it healthy to add  to a not-so-fab meal OR decadent to add to a healthy but not exciting meal (big spinach salad with tons of toppings is great with a chocolate peanut butter smoothie on the side). This is when having a vitamix is 100% worth it for us. Seriously, it’s like a magic bullet at our house: “We are having salad…..AND A SMOOTHIE” *big cheers* (affiliate link).
  • Fruit side/treat: Another thing we have been doing is swapping a side out for fruit. So say we have grilled chicken and rice as our main course. Instead of adding broccoli, we add fresh pineapple which is a big treat for us. Suddenly our meal is exciting and  I have found this really helps me not feel like I need dessert also, so it’s a win/win.

Like I said, these are not original ideas or revolutionary ones, but they are in our current rotation and are working for us now. Cooking for a family gets so tiring with all the other obligations of parenting, so anything that makes it easier is valuable in my book! I’d love to hear any ideas you have and I’ll be adding Part 2 soon!