weeknight gourmet

Posts Tagged ‘Real Simple Magazine’

Cheesy Baked Shells & Broccoli

IMG_1626This is an easy homemade mac and cheese that will please kids and adults!  Tasty with the added benefit of a bit of broccoli in the dish.

I followed the recipe as written, using a mild cheddar.  The only addition was including a bit of parmesan to the cheddar sprinkled on top.

Charlotte gobbled it up!

Cheesy Baked Shells & Broccoli
Real Simple

  • 3/4 pound medium pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets

Heat broiler. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 ½ cups of the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the nutmeg, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Add the pasta and broccoli and toss to combine. Transfer to a broilerproof 8-inch square or a 1 ½-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese. Broil until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

Fish with Herbed Bread Crumbs & Green Beans

IMG_0503After the decadent meal of Orecchiette Carbonara with Charred Brussels Sprouts, I decided to make a lighter dinner last night.

For the fish, the recipe recommends tilapia or catfish filets.  You simply season the filets with salt and pepper and cook in a frying pan with a touch of olive oil.  Top the fish with some panko you toast in the oven.  The panko adds a nice crunch and a bit more flavor.

The steamed green beans are tossed with green olives, whole grain mustard, olive oil, and salt & pepper.  Great combination — especially for us with our olive-loving little girl.

Overall a healthy and delicious dinner that only took about 20 minutes to put together!

Fish with Herbed Bread Crumbs and Green Beans
Real Simple

  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1/3 cup pitted green olives, halved
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 6-ounce skinless tilapia or catfish fillets
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Heat oven to 350° F. Toss the bread crumbs, butter, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, tossing once, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Let cool, then toss with the parsley.

Meanwhile, steam the green beans in 1 inch of water until tender, 3 to 5 minutes; drain. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the olives, mustard, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tilapia with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, in 2 batches, until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve the tilapia sprinkled with the bread crumbs, with the green beans and lemon wedges on the side.

Zucchini Tart With Crumbled Sausage and Dijon

IMG_0023I posted a photo of this recipe on Facebook about a month ago.  It was the second time I made it and it is SO tasty.  I’ve made it with sweet and hot sausage.  Both work well.  I also added some grilled corn (as seen in photo).  The mustard – sausage combo is tasty and I think could work with a number of different veggies.

In general puff pastry is a great starting point for easy savory tarts.  Here are a few of my favorites:

These tarts are a great brunch, lunch, or dinner!  Super delicious with a simple green salad.

Zucchini Tart With Crumbled Sausage and Dijon
Real Simple

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 small zucchini (about 1 pound), sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (half a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • green salad, for serving

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until cooked partway through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon; reserve the skillet.

Add the zucchini, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the drippings in the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.

Unfold the pastry on a baking sheet and prick all over with a fork, leaving a ½-inch border around the dough. Spread the mustard on the pastry (avoiding the border); top with the zucchini and sausage. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cut the tart into 8 pieces. Serve with salad.

Turkey Meatloaf

Here is a super simple and delicious turkey meatloaf.

I made a few changes so I could use what was in our fridge.  I used swiss chard and curly parsley (from my mother-in-law’s garden) instead of spinach and flat-leaf parsley.  I also used seasoned breadcrumbs — didn’t have whole wheat breadcrumbs.  I think the addition of dijon mustard added a great flavor to the meatloaf.


Turkey Meatloaf
Real Simple

  • 1 1/2  pounds  lean ground turkey
  • 1  onion, chopped
  • 1  bunch spinach, thick stems removed and leaves chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1  cup  fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2  cup  whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 2  tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1  large egg white
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4  cup  ketchup

Heat oven to 400° F. In a bowl, combine the turkey, onion, spinach, parsley, bread crumbs, mustard, egg white, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet and form it into a 10-inch loaf. Spread with the ketchup. Bake until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes.


A Taste of Havana: Slow-Cooker Ropa Vieja

Here is a delicious slow cooker recipe!  There is nothing better than coming home after a long day to a fully prepared dinner.

Cuban-braised beef, more commonly called Ropa Vieja, is shredded flank steak in a tomato-based sauce base.  The steak slow cooks in the sauce with the oregano and cumin giving it a great flavor.  The normally tough flank steak shreds easily after 7 hours in the slow cooker.

While some slow cooker recipes require you to sear the meat or cook some ingredients before adding to the pot, this recipe is so quick.  The only real prep is slicing the red peppers!

I served the ropa vieja with yellow rice and avocado.  It was a delicious meal.  The only disappointment was that it did not keep well.  The leftovers just were not as tasty.

(And, I must thank Real Simple yet again!  This is another recipe from Real Simple’s: Dinner Done Right.)

Slow-Cooker Cuban Braised Beef
Real Simple

  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, oregano, cumin, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Nestle the steak among the vegetables. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

25 minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.

Using two forks, shred the beef and mix it into the cooking liquid. Serve with the rice and top with the avocado and cilantro.

Weeknight Chicken: Baked Chicken Parmesan

I usually think of chicken and eggplant parmesan as having lots of steps and taking a while to prepare.  Here is a delicious short-cut version of chicken parmesan perfect for a weeknight!

The two keys to this recipes are: 1) thin chicken cutlets; 2) high quality jarred marinara.  The thin cutlets cook up quickly and a good marinara just makes the dish so much tastier!  I actually forgot to buy the mozzarella so I put dollops of ricotta on top of the cutlets.  Delicious and a change of pace from your typical parmesan.

By the way, this is another recipe from Real Simple’s: Dinner Done Right.  Definitely got my money’s worth out of that checkout line purchase!

Baked Chicken Parmesan
Real Simple

  •    8 thin chicken cutlets (1 1/2 pounds total)
  •     kosher salt and black pepper
  •     1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •     2 large eggs, beaten
  •     2/3 cup bread crumbs
  •     1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  •     3 tablespoons olive oil
  •     1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
  •     1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

Heat oven to 400º F. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Place the flour and eggs in separate shallow bowls; in a third shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Coat the chicken with the flour, then dip in the eggs (letting any excess drip off), then coat with the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Pour the marinara sauce into a large, shallow baking dish. Top with the chicken and mozzarella.

Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Turkey & Bean Chili

As you have probably surmised by now, I love chili!   The other day I wanted to make a chili that Charlotte could try; so, my go-to turkey chili which is super spicy did not fit the bill.  I found this recipe in my new Real Simple cookbook and it was a hit!  Much milder than what I usually cook which was perfect for Charlotte.  And, I just needed to add a few dashes of Cholula to my bowl for a bit of a kick.

The recipe seem very heavy on the beans relative to the turkey — it calls for 1/2 pound of ground turkey and 2 cans of kidney beans.  I upped the turkey to 1 pound.  If you increase the turkey to a full pound, you might up the chili powder and cumin a bit.

In the last few minutes of cooking, I added frozen corn for some color, crunch, and additional flavor.  Serve with avocado, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Overall, the chili was tasty and a nice change of pace from my usual turkey chili.

Turkey & Bean Chili
Real Simple

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper or 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • cilantro sprigs, for serving

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.  Add the turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, and chili pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, beans, ½ cup water, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.

Serve the chili with the sour cream and cilantro.

Dinner Tonight: Done! Broccoli & Three Cheese Lasagna

Last week I picked up Real Simple’s Dinner Tonight: Done! on a whim at the grocery store checkout.  I was hungry and the cover photo looked yummy!  When I got home, I couldn’t believe I had picked up yet another cookbook but this one has not been a disappointment.

I have already made two recipes from it and have another two planned for this week.  The recipes do not require a lot of ingredients, are relatively quick, and (so far) have been very flavorful.

I made this lasagna recipe for my book club meeting last week.  Everyone loved it — even one woman who doesn’t normally like cheese!  Tim and Charlotte had leftovers and both gobbled it up.  I didn’t know an 18-month-old could eat so much lasagna!

A few notes – make sure to thaw the broccoli and to squeeze the excess water out of it so that the lasagna is not soggy.  I used Rao’s marinara sauce — it is a bit pricey but so delicious!  I doubled the recipe and we were able to get two dinners out of it.  And, lastly, definitely use fresh mozzarella — it melts beautifully and tastes delicious!

The prep and assembly of the lasagna was super quick; so, as long as you have 40 minutes for it to bake, it is definitely doable on a weeknight!

Broccoli & Three Cheese Lasagna
Real Simple
•    1 15-ounce container ricotta (about 1 3/4 cups)
•    1 pound frozen broccoli florets—thawed, patted dry, and chopped
•    2 1/4 cups grated mozzarella (9 ounces)
•    1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)
•    kosher salt and black pepper
•    1 16-ounce jar marinara sauce
•    1/2 cup heavy cream
•    8 no-boil lasagna noodles
•    2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the foil
•    4 cups mixed greens
•    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 400º F. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, broccoli, 2 cups of the mozzarella, ¼ cup of the Parmesan,½  teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In a small bowl, combine the marinara sauce and cream.

Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 noodles, a quarter of the remaining sauce, and a third of the broccoli mixture; repeat twice. Top with the remaining 2 noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan.

Cover tightly with an oiled piece of foil and bake until the noodles are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Toss the greens with the olive oil, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with the lasagna.

Seared Steak with Cauliflower Puree

Here is a simple recipe to spruce up your typical steak dinner.  I just loved the olive-shallot-parsley-red wine vinegar combo on the steak.  I’ve actually made it several times now.

And, pureed cauliflower is one of my favorite veggie sides!  All the creaminess of mashed potatoes but lighter and healthier!

Seared Steak with Cauliflower Puree
Real Simple

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into florets
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 strip steaks (1 inch thick; 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit it with a steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil.

Place the cauliflower in the basket, cover, and steam until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the steaks with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest before slicing.

While the steaks cook, transfer the drained cauliflower to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

In a bowl, combine the parsley, olives, shallot, vinegar, remaining oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with steak and cauliflower.

Looking for Menu Ideas? Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan

I used to grocery shop multiple times per week.  I would just pick up what I needed for dinner that night on my way home from work.  That’s not a realistic option now that Charlotte has come along and I am working full time.  Menu planning (and some shortcuts courtesy of Trader Joe’s and Fresh Direct) has become key to my weeknight cooking.

October’s issue of Real Simple Magazine features a four-week dinner plan.  Not having a ton of time to look for menu ideas, I decided to give Week 1 of the plan a whirl!  I made 4 of the 5 recipes.  They were all quite good but I thought the Penne with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella and the Pork Cutlets with Spicy Noodles really stood out!  Real Simple provided a shopping list making my life even easier!   I bought all of the ingredients on a Sunday and was prepared for a week of tasty, healthy eating!

The four recipes I made are below.

Roasted Tilapia, Potatoes, and Lemons

Very tasty!  I used tri-colored fingerling potatoes which were tasty and provided some great color to the dish.  The lemon and olives lend a great flavor to the very mild tilapia.

  • 1 pound baby potatoes (about 12), halved
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 6-ounce skinless tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Heat oven to 400° F.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, lemon, thyme, 2 tablespoons oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.  Roast, tossing once, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
Toss the olives with the potato mixture; nestle the fish in it. Drizzle the fish with the remaining oil and season with paprika and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Continue to roast until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp and the fish is opaque throughout, 12 to 15 minutes.

Penne With Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Delicious!  I skipped the mint and used basil instead.  I also added some grated parmesan.

  • 1/2 pound penne (1⁄2 box)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1⁄4 pounds), cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the eggplant. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing, until the tomatoes soften, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the pasta, along with the mozzarella and reserved cooking water. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with the mint.

Turkey Burgers With Creamy Romaine Slaw

This was my least favorite of the four dishes but it was still tasty!  To save time I used shredded carrots.  And, we used sandwich thins as opposed to buns to save on calories.

  • 1 pound ground dark meat turkey (93 percent lean or less)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 leaves romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
  • 4 soft rolls, split and toasted
  • potato chips and pickles, for serving

In a medium bowl, gently combine the turkey, mustard, thyme, and scallions. Form the meat into four ¾-inch-thick patties. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss with the lettuce and carrot.

Serve the burgers on the rolls, topped with the slaw. Serve with chips and pickles (if desired).

Pork Cutlets With Spicy Noodles

This was delicious!  I had trouble finding udon noodles so I used a brown rice spaghetti that I found at Trader Joe’s.  The noodles had great flavor from the broth, ginger, and jalapeno.  The pork was delicious as well!  I used two butterflied pork chops.

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 pound udon noodles
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
  • 1 red jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • 4 thin pork cutlets (about 3⁄4 pound total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 scallions, sliced

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth and ginger to a boil.

Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the noodles are al dente, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and jalapeño and simmer until the mushrooms are just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Coat with the flour, then the egg, and finally the panko.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Slice the pork and serve over the noodles. Sprinkle with the scallions.