I don’t know about everyone else on the East Coast, but I am so over this chilly weather! Even a snow day and extra snuggle time with my little man couldn’t sway me towards loving the winter. The only saving grace of the freezing cold is that I get to make some nice, warm, comfort foods. It’s much harder to make those when it’s 85 degrees and sunny until 8pm. Here are three recipes that are easy and delicious, and should help you out no matter what kind of cooking mood you are in – stovetop, crockpot, pyrex dish in the oven. Other bonus to trying these out? You’ll feel much less guilty when your child eats chinese food, spaghetti o’s, and a string cheese for the meals in between.

Stovetop: Sausage Tortellini in Cream Sauce with Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Okay, so this one was supposed to have chicken. But in my mind, pasta = easy. And there’s something about poaching, baking, or pan-frying chicken to protect your family from salmonella that just doesn’t scream ease to me. So, I was on my way home, and my husband called to find out (1) where was I, and (2) where was dinner. I should say that he is not usually this desperate sounding or needy, but he goes to work at 6am and eats lunch at 11am, so my plans to leave work at 5pm and go grocery shopping before coming home and cooking  dinner to eat around 6:30-7pm (on a good night) don’t usually line up with his near-frantic level of hunger. I had to shift the grocery shopping into high gear. So I subbed out the chicken and played the sausage tortellini, and easily saved myself 15 minutes. I also then had the motivation to add homemade biscuits to the mix. Insert image of me patting myself on the back.

Ingredients for Tortellini (adapted from Taste of Home)

  • 1 package fresh cheese tortellini (I’m sure frozen would work too)
  • 1 package sausage tortellini (I was hoping to get the chicken ones, because they are awesome, but no dice)
  • 1 bag steamable broccoli florets
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 tsp minced)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, cook tortellini according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, steam your broccoli in the bag. If you decide to go with fresh broccoli and steam it yourself, you can just toss it in with the tortellini when there is about 5 minutes left.
  3. While your tortellini and broccoli are going, saute garlic in butter until tender in a large skillet. Stir in the cheese, cream and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 7-9 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  4. Drain tortellini and broccoli; toss with chicken mixture.

Ingredients for Garlic Cheese Biscuits (Source: Skinny Taste)

  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 cups pancake mix
  • 3.5 oz shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup 1% milk

Directions 

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter in a small frying pan, add half the garlic and saute on low heat about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add parsley.
  • In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix, cheddar cheese, and remaining garlic. Stir in milk and mix, just enough for it all to be combined. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 10 minutes. Brush biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 5 more minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom.

photo 1 (9) photo 2 (10)

Crockpot: Ground Beef and Rice Soup

Personally, this got a pretty high score from me. I mixed in some cheddar cheese and topped it with some avocado (because what meal isn’t made better with avocado?), transforming it into an interesting mix of Mexican and beef/rice soup. I like to do crockpot meals on nights when I don’t get home until late. It’s kind of like a prize to my husband who is left with the task of feeding, bathing, entertaining, and then enduring bedtime with my little man. Although he loves ground beef and rice, my son apparently threw his first bowl of this on the floor before surrendering and eating it. My husband said it was “okay” and that it didn’t taste as flavorful as it smelled when he walked in the door. He did not add the cheese and avocado, and actually conceded that those things probably made it better. So, I’d recommend adding those things, and maybe even some sour cream if you  like it.  I also realized after making it that I completely neglected to put in the beef broth. That probably makes a difference. So maybe don’t neglect that, or crank up the taste by doubling the spices. Either way, I’d recommend this for a good, hearty, warm-your-bones dinner. Leftovers of this were pretty tasty too.

Ingredients (adapted from: Free Weight Watcher Recipes)

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 medium orange bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14-1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 cup uncooked instant rice – I used basmati and it was awesome.
  • 1/2 cup shredded colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • sour cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Plan ahead a little. Probably one of the reasons I forgot the beef broth was because I tried doing all of this at 8am when we needed to leave at 8:15. While it’s not hard, chopping peppers and onions does take a few minutes.
  2. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion, sweet peppers, and garlic over medium heat until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Drain off fat.
  3. Combine beef-vegetable mixture, broth, the water, tomatoes, black pepper, chili powder and smoked paprika in the crockpot.
  4. Cover and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours or HIGH 4 to 5 hours.When you are ready to eat, cook the rice and spoon the crock pot mixture over it. *Another option is to turn the crock pot to high and cook the rice for 30 minutes in the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. I didn’t trust that my husband would remember to do this as he chased around the little guy while in a state of near frantic hunger, so I just told him to make the rice and pour it over. Besides, 10 minutes versus 30 wins every time.
  5. Top with cheese, avocado, sour cream, or any other toppings that sound good to you.

photo 4 (3)

Pyrex Dish in the Oven: Crunchy Honey Garlic Pork Chops

My husband is not a pork guy, and by this I mean that he’ll never ask you to make pork chops and I’ve only seen him eat them one time and actually enjoy them. He’s also not a seafood guy, and by this I mean he will. not. eat. seafood. Unless we have a bunch of people over and eat crabs in the summer, or his shrimp is so doused in cocktail sauce that it’s basically just a chewy condiment. He’s a chicken and beef guy through and through. This can make cooking boring, as there are only so many ways to incorporate these two meats into your life. So this time, I didn’t even tell him these were pork chops. I just bought them and started cooking and prayed that he’d eat them. And to quote him: “I’d eat pork chops more if they were always like this.” I’d say that’s a win.

Ingredients (slightly adapted from Just a Pinch)

Pork Chops:

  • 6-8 thin pork chops
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • canola oil for frying

Glaze:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper, or to your taste
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Whisk the eggs and 4 tablespoons water in a shallow dish.
  2. Mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder in another shallow dish.
  3. Dip the chops in the flour, then over into the egg, then back over into the flour mixture again.
  4. Be sure to get plenty of flour on this last coating, then shake them a little and place in a pan with about a half inch of oil.
  5. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, and then turn it down to medium so that the pork chops don’t cook too fast.
  6. Cook for about 6 minutes on each side, flipping only once so that the breading stays on.
  7. Remove from the pan to a 9×13 baking dish.photo 3 (8)
  8. In a new pan, saute the garlic a little in the butter. Add the honey, soy sauce, cayenne and garlic.
  9. Bring to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  10. Add the brown sugar and let it simmer for a few minutes more. It should be thickening up at this point.
  11. Pour 1/2 of the glaze over the pork chops. Flip them over and pour the other 1/2 over the other side.           photo 4 (4)
  12. Place uncovered in a preheated 350 oven for about 20-25 minutes. photo 5 (2)
  13. Serve with whatever you want, really. I made Velvetta queso blanco (one of my son’s favorites) and a steamable bag of broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, and water chestnuts. I can easily see mashed potatoes on the side of this or rice or green beans. Yeah, it’s that good.

So there you have it! Three recipes for whatever kind of cooking mood you happen to be in. I don’t want to hear that you had to go the pizza route because you had no other options! Just kidding, pizza is a pretty standard once a week meal in our house. Well that and string cheese.

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