Back to School Dinner Inspiration

September 10, 2020

My kids are back in school and while I’m so happy about it I feel so bad for those that are still facing all the challenges and worries and stress about this stupid virus.

Dinner is still the challenge we face together, friends. And I have found that meal planning makes the week SO much easier that I want to help you get a few items that you are excited about on there. Some nights I have time to cook and want to make something new. Most nights I need something very quick or preferably prepped earlier. So there’s a selection of both. Mostly I highly recommend ordering/cooking pizza one night and the hubs grilling one night/date night on your meal plan so you don’t get dinner fatigue. 5 nights are easier to plan than 7 by far. That’s the summit of my kitchen wisdom right there.

So here is a line up of easy (but sometimes still a culinary adventure) and yummy recipes that are new to me or our families tried and true favorites from the blog.

If you have a half hour and want to stir something new:

One-Pot Rosemary Lemon Dijon Chicken  by HalfBakedHarvest

Back Pocket Chicken Stir Fry with Noodles by Pinch of Yum

Pork Chops with Mushroom Cream Sauce by SkinnyTaste

Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth by SmittenKitchen

Orecchiette with Sausage, Tomato and Broccoli by the Humble Onion

Turkey Enchilada Stir Fry with Couscous by Food Network – I love that couscous takes 5 minutes.


If you only have 5-10 minutes to put a CrockPot/Sheet Pan Recipe on:

Chicken Taco Bowls by The Humble Onion – our families most popular quick/easy dinner

Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken  by Diet Hood – my pickiest eaters *gobble* this up, and I always mean to do a post about it but it really is my go-to when I only have 5 minutes.

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie Soup by Pinch of Yum

Paleo Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken and Sausage A past favorite that I forgot about and can’t wait to make soon. Also easy is my Balsamic Pulled Chicken. SO yummy!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast Sheet Pan by Everyday Occasions – can’t wait to try this!

Sheet Pan Lemon & Herb Salmon with Dill Citrus Sauce by The Humble Onion

Easy Crowd Pleasing Classics:

Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings by The Humble Onion – this has a little bit of labor at the end making the dumplings but the cooking part is easy and the flavor is amazing!

Easy Chicken Parm by The Humble Onion – I’m always surprised by how easy this is and it is always a hit. I substitute the chicken for eggplant often during lent or Fridays or make both for family weekends.

Ina’s Parmesan Chicken This is Ina’s most popular recipe. Instead of smothering a chicken cutlet in sauce like chicken parm above, just top it with salad and a vinaigrette

Kid-Friendly Chicken Stir Fry by The Humble Onion – a longstanding favorite that marinates/rice cooker goes in 30 minutes before, then clean your kitchen, then pan cook in 10 minutes.

Tortellini in Brodo by Food Network – what kid doesn’t love tortellini in chicken broth? What mom doesn’t love adding pasta and veggies to broth and calling it dinner?

Chicken Piccata by Giada DeLaurentiis – I NEED to make this after having Halibut Piccata at a restaurant and remembering how simple and delicious it is. The lemon sauce is addicting.

Easy 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese by Food Network (cooks in under 30 minutes too).

Butter Chicken – this recipe looks amazing and it only takes 30 minutes of active time.

Easy Shephard’s Pie – One of our families favorites! Store-bought mashed potatoes FTW.

Ok, Happy New School Year and happy meal planning. But if you need to call take out that is FINE TOO.

xoxo Katie

Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Broccoli

August 18, 2020


I don’t know about you but my desire to cook plummets by August.

Between all the bags to pack to go swimming, all the towels to wash after, packing picnic lunches and wiping up popsicle spills, I am gravitating to our easiest dinners every night. But while the kids will eat spaghetti always I am still craving some flavor. Enter this baked feta sheet pan.

Toss all these veggies with some olive oil, salt and pepper and a tsp. of cumin (which I really doubted would be good but I was so, so wrong). The lemon slices infuse everything with a lemony flavor, especially the feta. The whole thing is done in 15-20 min. and then you can just grab some pita bread or crusty french bread or crackers and nibble. If you have a bottle of Rose and people to share all of these with, it is a night made in summer heaven.

I loved putting a little hummus on a plate and making the most delicious bite sized concoctions. Every bite tasted different and in the end it felt so healthy. I ate the leftover feta the next day, melted on a piece of pita bread as I ran to the car to drive someone somewhere, and it was so good I was transported out of my chauffeur job and felt like I was somewhere like the French Rivera or Monaco.

I first found this recipe in a NYTimes Cooking email, but I don’t subscribe so the recipe is from memory. Good thing it’s pretty simple because I remembered it. I also made it twice in the first week I tried it. (They made it with broccolini but I couldn’t find any so I used broccoli and I didn’t miss anything.)

Can’t wait to make this at the lake on Labor Day weekend up at the lake. Hope you get to try it soon too.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Broccoli

6-8 oz. sliced feta, preferably one packaged in brine

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups broccoli heads or one bunch of broccolini

1 lemon, sliced

1 medium red onion, cut into wedges

1 tsp. cumin

3-4 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

2  Tbsp. chopped parsley or basil for serving

bread, hummus, tzadaki for serving



Preheat the oven to 425.

Place all the veggies on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and red pepper flakes.

Nestle in the slices of feta and bake for 15-20 min. until the feta is slightly golden brown.

Sprinkle with herbs and serve, with bread, hummus and other toppings.


Recipe adapted from the NYTimes.

Zucchini Squash Strata

July 31, 2020

Got a garden this summer? Then you might be looking for ways to use up all the zucchini and summer squash that are starting to pop up.

My sister gave me Joanna Gaines new cookbook Magnolia Table for Mother’s Day, and I was totally intrigued by this recipe. Layers of bread and cheese and sautéed squash sounded like the perfect side dish for grilled meats or seafood. And it was a great way to squeeze a lot of garden veggies into a dish that my kids would probably eat thanks to all that bread and cheese.

Turns out I was right. If we ever get invited to a summer bbq again, this is what I’m making. It also has me thinking about all the different things that could go in a strata. Crumbled sausage sounds like it would be great in this one. Or you could go ham, egg, cheese, and green pepper. Or you could go dessert and add all the berries that are in season. But this dish is definitely special, with its velvety squash and melt in your mouth cheesey bread.

It feeds a lot of people too – it says 8-10 servings but it felt like more than that. I’m happy to report the leftovers are delicious too. I think it might be even better the next day.

I dried out my bread first and kept it in a ziplock bag until I was ready to make the strata the next day so that is a great step to get out of the way.  Eight squash are a lot to chop so turn on a podcast or album. I also needed to use 2 pans because there was so much squash to sauté.

Hope you get to try this soon! It is a total summer comfort food dish. I am happy to report Joanna knows what she is doing in the kitchen, not that we doubted it for a second.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Zucchini Squash Strata

7 cups torn French bread (from 2 large loaves)

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dish

4 large zucchini, cut into 1/8 inch slices

4 large summer squash, cut into 1/8 inch slices

6 oz. white Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

2 oz. parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons garlic salt

8 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley (optional)



Preheat oven to 250. Spread the torn bread on a sheet pan and dry in the oven for 45 min. until crunchy and golden. Set aside.

In a large skillet (I did it in 2 skillets) heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the zucchini and squash and sauté until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl to cool completely, about 20 min.

Grease a 9 x 13 in baking dish (or an extra large round skillet) with butter.

In a large bowl, mix the bread, Cheddar, Fontina, Parmesan, sautéed zucchini/squash mixture, and garlic salt until combined.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until smooth.

Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and bread mixture and stir until the bread is well coated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the strata until the casserole is set and the top is nicely browned, 35-40 min.

Sprinkle with the parsley if desired and serve hot. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes 8-10 servings.

Recipe from Magnolia Table cookbook by Joanna Gaines.


Artichoke Cakes with Citrus Aioli

July 23, 2020

Longtime readers of this blog might know that artichokes are one of my favorite foods. If they are on a menu, I always order them and I love having a stash in my pantry for salads, pasta, omelettes, pizza, and especially this soup. All delicious, right?

When I was brainstorming for the food column of Coastal Design Magazine’s Spring issue, (RIP, thanks to COVID), I knew I wanted to use them in a recipe.  I remembered seeing a recipe that swapped out artichokes for crab in a cake form, so I recipe tested. I knew I had a winner when I made a few to taste and immediately needed to fry out a new batch. The extras sat in a bowl in my fridge and called out to me the rest of the day. These are seriously crave-worthy. My family got to enjoy the next few rounds and they loved them too. (The lovely photographer for Coastal Design Kindra Clineff made them at her house and shot these pics just as we all shut down so they are recipe tested by her as well and she loved them).

They are lovely. They work as an appetizer, a side dish, on a salad. You can use fresh artichokes but canned are easier. I love that this recipe uses pantry staples too. And the (super easy) citrus aioli is HEAVEN. I came up with this sauce after we ate at one of our favorite restaurants and they served their fries with citrus aioli. We ordered a second ramekin. So basically, make extra and make some oven fries. 🙂

If we were still having summer parties I would tell you these need to be on your menu. But alas we are mostly cooking for our quarenteams aren’t we?  Whoever you make these for will feel very lucky, I promise.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Artichoke Cakes with Citrus Aioli

3 cups artichoke hearts, chopped, fresh or canned

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup breadcrumbs

½ c. red pepper

½ cup sliced green onions

1 garlic clove, minced

¾ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 t. salt

1 t. Worcestershire sauce

2-4 Tablespoons olive oil


Drain artichokes and squeeze them with a towel to removed excess moisture. Put into a bowl and add eggs, breadcrumbs, peppers and onions. In a separate bowl, mix mayonnaise, heavy cream, lemon juice, Dijon, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Add to artichoke mixture and stir to combine. Cover and chill for 2 hours. On a large skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Spoon out artichoke mixture into hand and form about a 2 inch ball, then press flat. Cook 2 ½ -3 minutes per side until slightly golden and set. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Serve with Citrus Aioli (recipe follows). Makes 20-24 cakes.

For the Citrus Aioli:

1 clove of garlic

Pinch of salt

½ cup mayonnaise

1 lemon, zested

2 T. lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

Directions: With the side of a knife, mash salt into garlic clove across a cutting board, or in a mortal and pestle. Place into a bowl and add mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, and pepper. Stir to combine and serve with artichoke cakes

Slow-Roasted Salmon with Citrus, Fennel and Chiles

July 16, 2020


We got back from our vacation at the lake and I was craving ALL the healthy things. I don’t know about you but shopping during the quarantine (once a week! during nap time!) got us into a shopping rut where we bought and ate the same things and tried hard to use up the things we had stocked up on. Then we went to the lake where we ate all the steak and cheese and crackers and simple, easy meals that were definitely low on veggies and quality snacks.

But now that we’re back to a regular routine I have been thinking about what helps keep me and my family on a healthy path. I stocked up with lots of proteins and veggies and made easy meals like this Salmon with Citrus, Fennel and Chiles for easy lunches for my husband and myself.

Having lots of veggies and easy healthy recipes to prepare them, getting good sleep and exercising has already helped me lose my vacation pounds. I wasn’t stressed about them because I knew I could lose them right away using some basic habits. Here are some keys that help me when I want to be healthy.

Find What Works For Your Body

Everyone’s body works differently and listening to your own body – or intuitive eating – is so important. What foods do you like and crave? What season are we in and what does that make you want to eat? What foods make you feel sluggish?  For me it is overly processed foods. When I want to go on a health kick I try to cook from scratch and make lots of soups, roasted meat and veggies, and try to add flavor with herbs and spices. My body craves carbs too, and the diets where they are eliminated don’t work for me. I try to find delicious bite sized desserts or a gourmet pretzel that comes in the perfect bite size portions. I honor my craving with something delicious that is made from real ingredients. I think of food as fuel for your body, and I ask myself (and my kids, much to their chagrin) is this going to fuel my body? before I eat something.

I was definitely craving salmon this week.

This dish left me full for the whole day and the flavors – the heat from the jalapeño, the tart citrus, the mellow fennel – were so good I didn’t think I was eating ‘healthy’, just delicious.

Remember Moderation Is Key

When I’m trying to eat better, one of the most important things for me to remember is that moderation is key. For me the easiest way to moderate is to use smaller plates, wine glasses, or portion out my food before I eat it.  I try not to look at any food as off limits. If I am craving something (see above) I take a bite, and see if it satisfies, and if I want more I’ll get a small serving. Making half of my plate veggies helps me to feel more full and naturally moderate what we’re eating. I need this reminder myself – it’s good to take a look at your plate every so often. There’s always going to be room for improvement and I don’t feel guilty when I lose track of what I’m really eating at a meal. I just try to pay attention and readjust.

I was totally full after this small plate.

Explore Different Cuisines

Most ethnic cuisines are based on the ingredients that grew locally, and the time tested recipes are delicious and use minimally processes ingredients.  The olive oil and tomatoes in Mediterranean food, the slow cooked meat and salsas in South American food, the techniques in cooking meat and vegetables in French classic recipes. There are so many different cuisines out there to try, and so many different flavor combinations you can achieve. There’s always something incredible about tasting something for the first time that you haven’t tried before. This salmon with citrus is such a great example of this – I’ve never combined these delicate flavors and my heart and my belly were so happy after eating it.

Don’t Do Any Fad Dieting

I’ll never forget my college suite where all of my roommates filled our cupboards with low-fat cookies and crackers. Boxes of processed food and we thought the ‘low fat’ on the label was going to help us. Fast forward twenty years and now we know – eat the real thing if you’re craving it, in moderation.

Fad dieting is always going to be around, and a lot of people will buy into it in the hopes of achieving their weight loss goals. If you are doing it for other health benefits than more power to you and you probably have the motivation to stick with it in feeling better. But most of us do it for weightloss. The problem is fad diets aren’t easily maintained for long periods of time. I know when I cut out a food group that is all I am likely to crave (hello bread) and I don’t last long on it. That’s why many will only have short term results. It’s easier and has longer term results to use moderation and eating the right types of food that are needed for your body.

Ok, with that I’ll let you indulge in this delicious healthy recipe I just made this week from Bon Appetit. It’s fast and easy and so delicious. It’s delicious with mashed potatoes but could easily be served on couscous, rice, or as a salad or sandwich.

Happy Eating! Xoxo Katie

Slow-Roasted Salmon with Citrus, Fennel and Chiles


  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 blood or navel orange, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 Meyer or regular lemon, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 red Fresno chile or jalapeño, with seeds, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs dill, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2-lb. skinless salmon fillet, preferably center-cut (could also use a meaty white fish like cod or halibut)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)


  • Preheat oven to 275°. Toss fennel, orange slices, lemon slices, chile, and 4 dill sprigs in a shallow 3-qt. baking dish (I used a sheet pan and it was fine); season with kosher salt and pepper. Season salmon with kosher salt and place on top of fennel mixture. Pour oil over.

  • Roast until salmon is just cooked through (the tip of a knife will slide through easily and flesh will be slightly opaque), 30–40 minutes for medium-rare.

  • Transfer salmon to a platter, breaking it into large pieces as you go. Spoon fennel mixture and oil from baking dish over; discard dill sprigs. Season with sea salt and pepper and top with fresh dill sprigs.

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit and is a collaborative post.


Wild Mushroom Bucatini

June 24, 2020


When I visiting New York City recently, my friends and I ordered a few dishes to share at a very cool eatery called The Smith.

We ordered their Wild Mushroom Bucatini and promptly ordered another one after it came because we wolfed it down, it was so ridiculously good. I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I came up with this recipe. I actually submitted it as one of my recipes for Coastal Design Magazine’s next issue. I was so excited to share it with the world because it might be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Sadly, the magazine folded when the quarantine hit. The editor was gracious enough to let me share it here on the blog and the very talented photographer Kindra Clineff sent me this images. So yay you get to have it dear blog readers!

The thing that makes it amazing (besides the butter, garlic and shallots) is the white wine. It is pucker-y and full of umami and makes your mouth sing. It is comfort food yet you feel surprisingly good after eating it.

I love all the salads and grilled meat in the summer but sometimes it’s still nice to fire up your stove and make something that makes you feel like you’re in a restaurant. It comes together surprisingly fast too. If your people like mushrooms, I highly recommend for an at home date night, cooking for one, or – hopefully soon – having dinner guests over.

Hope you are all well and staying sane/safe!

Happy Cooking, xoxo Katie



Wild Mushroom Bucatini


1 pound bucatini pasta, cooked according to package

4 Tablespoons of butter (1/2 stick)

½ cup of shallots, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1-1.5 pounds of sliced mushrooms, such as porchini, baby bellas, or any foraged variety

½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper

1 cup white wine

2 cups chicken broth

½ cup cream

1/2 cup parmesan, grated preferably into course bits with a blender or food processor for texture, plus more for serving

¼ cup finely chopped parsley (optional)




In a large pot, boil water for pasta, then cook according to package directions. Take care to salt the water and drizzle a bit of oil in it.


Melt butter in large pan over medium heat. Add shallots, stirring frequently while they sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, until they’ve released their water and browned a bit. When they are cooked, scrape into a bowl. Add the wine to the pan and let it reduce about 10 minutes over med-low heat. Then add the chicken broth and let it reduce for 10-15 minutes, then add cream and stir. Add mushrooms back to the pan and reheat. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan and parsley if desired. Toss with cooked pasta and serve immediately, with more pepper or parmesan if desired.