Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quick and Easy Family-Favorite Meals

It's time to share a couple more tasty, quick and easy family-friendly meals with everyone!

Last week, I tried another recipe I found on Pinterest. You can find the pin here. The recipe originated from Annie's Eats blog, a great food blog I have now discovered. :) This meal is excellent and definitely one to put on your list to try!!

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-14 oz cans diced Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lb pasta (tubes)
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add garlic and cook over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and oregano and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, cook the pasta (al dente!). Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce.

Place half of the pasta in an oiled 9" x 13" dish. Cover with half of the parmesan and half of the mozzarella. 

Top with remaining pasta, then parmesan and mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

I did make a few changes to the original recipe and I will make a few more the next time I make it as well. I used 3 cloves of garlic (you can never have too much garlic if you ask me!) and I minced them instead of crushing them. Next time, I will add a couple additional cloves too. Apparently when I was writing down the ingredients for my shopping list, I must have missed the diced part of the tomatoes. The only ones I could find that said plum tomatoes were whole, peeled ones, so that is what I bought. I went ahead and diced them myself before cooking them. Next time, I may get the same ones, but will probably use an additional can as well. I thought the dish could use more tomato. I don't really like my pasta super saucy, so I love that this dish focuses more on the chunks of tomato versus a lot of sauce. I used whole wheat penne instead of regular pasta and the box I bought was just shy of an entire pound - I think 14.5 ounces instead? This was a good amount of pasta. Next time I will double the amount of mozzarella cheese I use. I bought fresh mozzarella to cube and it was delicious, but I think the dish needed more. You can never have too much cheese either! ;) One final addition - I added a pound of pre-cooked chicken strips (fajita seasoned) and added the strips in layers, like I did the cheese. I think the chicken was a nice addition to give it some added protein and made it very filling without loading up on too much pasta. I ended up baking it for 20 minutes, and I think it may have benefited from another 5 minutes to help the cheese melt even more. This recipe produces a huge gigantic amount of food and it was enough for all three of us for dinner and Josh and I had leftovers for lunch for the next two days as well! :) I'm also not usually a big fan of leftovers, but this dish was still great when re-heated too. I love how easy it was to make my own sauce for it from just tomatoes, garlic and oregano. So, not only a tasty, easy dish to make, but also very cheap. That is a definite winner in my book!

To accompany the dish, I made another loaf of bread in my bread machine. Because who doesn't love a loaf of fresh bread with their pasta? ;) This time I tried out a loaf of French bread. It was a 2.5 pound loaf set to light crust. It was heavenly. It tasted just like the bread my momma used to make for us when we were kids and it was always delightful as well! If you are interested in the recipe for this loaf, let me know. :)

Another dish I would like to share is one that I have been making for years now. I have a friend whom I worked with at UK, Visnja, to thank for the original recipe that I modified a bit. For that reason, I call it V's Easy Rice Dish. :)

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 red bell peppers, diced into ~1" pieces
  • 2 bunches of green onions, diced into ~1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups brown rice (I use Minute Rice because it's quick and easy)
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Curry powder, to taste (about 2-3 Tbsp is good)
  • 1 pound chicken breast, diced into ~1" pieces
  • Salt, to taste
Heat the oil in a skillet. Clean and dice the red peppers and green onions and add them to the skillet, cooking over medium to medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, prepare the brown rice as directed. When the rice is finished cooking, add it to the peppers and onion, mix well, and continue cooking over low to medium heat.  

After you get the peppers and onions into the skillet, start dicing the chicken. Heat another skillet to medium to medium-high heat and add the chicken, cooking just until done. 

Season both the chicken and the rice mixture with garlic salt and curry powder, to taste. I normally use hot madras curry powder (it's yellow), but I was running low, so I used red curry powder this time. It was also good. :) I use at least 2 to 3 Tbsp of the curry powder in the rice and then sprinkle it over the chicken too. 

Once the chicken is ready, add it into the skillet with the veggies and rice and mix everything together until blended well. Season with additional salt, to taste. Serve while hot!

This is such an easy and quick meal to throw together. It is great for busy nights when you still want to serve your family a tasty, healthy dish. It also yields plenty of food for dinner for the three of us with leftovers for one to two lunches. It's also easy to increase or decrease the amount of each ingredient to adjust to your family's needs. :) If you try it out, please let me know what you think!


  1. More yummy things to try...thanks for sharing the recipes! :)

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for reading, Lana! :)


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