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Back To School Recipe Favorites (a round-up) #BackToSchoolWeek

Wow! We’ve had an amazing week of all things Back To School, including crafts, crockpot meals, freezer meals, lunch ideas, and organization ideas. I have loved seeing all the creativity, and I am honored to be participating with such talented bloggers.

**The PinChat is today at 3 p.m Arizona Time, (that’s 6 p.m. EST). Click here to read how it works. I hope to “see” you there.

I want to shout out to all the great talent that contributed throughout the week:

Co-Hosted By: { {i love} my disorganized life } and { Miss Information }
Heather’s French Press }  { Kleinworth & Co.}  
Growing Up Gabel }  { Cook the Story }
The Tasty Fork }  { Amy’s Cooking Adventures }
 { Dukes and Duchesses }  { The Grant Life }
Real Housemoms }  { The NY Melrose Family }
 { Crazy & Cool With a Side of Crafty }
Lemons for Lulu }  { Chase the Star }  
Yesterday on Tuesday }  { Sweet Twist of Blogging }
A Night Owl Blog }  { Organized Island }  
Setting for Four }  { Sunshine In My Pocket }
Now, take a look at some of the amazing recipe ideas from this week. (I want to make ALL of these!!):


How am I ever going to decide which one to try first?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Gluten Free Grain Bars from Heather’s French Press

Southwest Chicken Tacos from Sunshine In My Pocket


Vegetarian Quinoa Fajitas from Cook the Story

Slow Cooker Red Chili from {I love} my disorganized life

Caprese Chicken Bake from Real Housemoms

Don’t these all look so good? There were so many more delicious recipes! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Back To School Week…have a Great school year.

May your days be filled with sunshine,
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Southwest Chicken Tacos (A Favorite Crockpot Recipe) #BackToSchoolWeek

Sometimes life is hectic. Some days require a little dinner help…from your crockpot. I love coming to home to the smell of a delicious dinner that has been cooking away all day!

I first got this recipe from my sister. She loves the spice cumin. I have never been a real big fan of cumin. But when I added a few ingredients and cut down on the cumin, I found this recipe became a FAVORITE quick crock pot dinner with my family. (Thanks, sis! *wink*)


I love that I can take a few cans of ingredients from the pantry and some chicken from the freezer and throw them all together in the crockpot and Voil’a…dinner!


I will post the complete recipe in a bit. But first, a note on that Herdez salsa. The Herdez salsa pictured above is the one I like to use, but I’ve tried the Ranchero salsa, too and it adds a bit more heat. You could use your favorite salsa if this brand is not available in your area.

Put the chicken in the crockpot, then add all the remaining ingredients. Turn the crockpot on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours. Beautiful. Then shred up the chicken using a couple forks and stir it all together.

When you are ready to eat, just assemble your toppings (shredded cheese, lettuce, homemade salsa, sour cream, guacamole…whatever you like!) and put your taco together.


Oh…please do use those tortillas that you cook up yourself (find them at most grocery stores and Costco). These tacos taste SO much better on those fresh cooked tortillas.


Easy, delicious crock pot dinner! It has a smoky Southwest flavor from the cumin, and a little added heat from the chiles and salsa. If you like more heat, you can increase the heat in the salsa or add some chipolte chili powder!

Southwest Chicken Tacos in the Crockpot


  • 3-4 frozen chicken breasts
  • 2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (7 oz) can Herdez salsa
  • 1 t. cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Put frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients over the top of the chicken.
  3. Cook on High for 4 hours, or Low for 8 hours.
  4. Shred chicken, stir, and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve on tortillas with your choice of toppings: shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc.



Did you enter the giveaway yet? Enter the Back To School giveaway here!
There are some amazing prizes: like a $75 Pick Your Plum prize (I love them!), a Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cooker (perfect for this recipe!), a smoothie maker, cooking supplies, a Pack-It lunchbox cooler…and more! I hope you win!

There’s a whole lot of Back To School Ideas this entire week:

#BacktoSchoolWeek Graphic

And just a reminder, there is our back to school PinChat coming up:
Join us on Sunday, August 25, 2013 for a PinChat! For more information on how it works, click here

May your days be filled with sunshine,
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Taste Test Tuesday — Sweet Pork (Cafe Rio Copycat) with NO cola involved

There are a lot of Sweet Pork (Cafe Rio Copycat) Recipes out there. But have you noticed that most of them call for Coke or Dr. Pepper? Well, I’ve tried my fair share of these recipes in the past…but since I strongly dislike colas (yes, all of them) I found that I did not like those recipes that included them! {Plus, I sorta have an aversion to cooking with soda pop.}

SO, I’ve been searching for a good recipe for sweet pork that didn’t have cola in the ingredient list. I’m happy to announce that I found a couple recipes and then put them up to the Taste Test Challenge!

The great thing about these recipes is: you put all the ingredients in the crock pot to cook all day (easy!), then just shred up the meat and add in the sauce. I love that!


After I cooked up both recipes, I put a taste of each on small plates for our judges. And then, when they picked their favorite, they got to make an entire sweet pork salad (or burrito). Now those are some lucky judges!

Sorry about the half eaten salad in this next picture…it was SO good that I forgot to take a picture before I ate most of it!


We used the following for our salads:

Fresh cooked tortillas
Cilantro Lime Rice
Garlic Black Beans
Peach Mango Salsa
Kari’s Garden Salsa
Cilantro Lime Dressing

Oh. My. Goodness. I think these homemade salads are SO delicious! (They do rival the restaurant — however, there is something lovely about having all the ingredients ready and a salad made-to-order for you at the restaurant!)

Just to make sure of our results, I took both cooked recipes to my brother and sister-in-law (who just had a baby! yay!) to try out. The difference was, they would warm theirs up for dinner the next night. And they both liked the SAME one.


Surprise! It was a TIE. I know, I know. I can’t believe it either.

So today, I am going to share with you my mother’s recipe for Sweet Pork.

And I will link up to the other cola-free Sweet Pork recipe as soon as I get permission!  Permission granted! Here is the Sweet Pork Recipe that was a favorite among 50% of the judges! (Thank you to The Sisters Cafe for such an awesome recipe!) If you do try this recipe, be sure to try their Garlic Black Beans as well…so good!
[Note to judges: this was recipe 1 for all of you that picked the first sweet pork sample as the winner]. This one has a small hint of a spicy kick to it (probably from the enchilada sauce) that was delicious, and this one was definitely quite a bit sweeter than the other.

And the other 50% of the judges liked my mom’s recipe! {recipe to follow} This was, in my opinion, the easiest of the recipes. You just mix together all four ingredients (yes, only four ingredients!), add on top of the pork roast, cook it up all day, take out the pork and shred it up, and add back in some of the sauce (not all of it….it makes a lot of sauce!) [Note to judges: this was recipe 2 for all of you that preferred this one]

*Recipe here

Sweet Pulled Pork {Cafe Rio Copycat}


  • 3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 2 8 oz. cans El Pato sauce (can use yellow or green can)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup water


  1. Mix ingredients together and pour over 5-7 lb. pork loin roast.
  2. Cook in crock pot on low for 8-10 hours. (You can also cook in a tightly covered casserole dish in oven for approximately 4 hours @ 325 degrees).
  3. When roast is tender and done, remove from dish and shred - saving the cooked sauce.
  4. Pour cooked sauce back over the shredded meat to desired moistness. (Note: this makes a lot of sauce and you may not need it all).

I used the green can of El Pato (jalepeno salsa). The yellow can said “hot” and I was a little scared hesitant to try it. If you like a little more spice, try the yellow can.



So there you have a couple of the BEST cola-free Sweet Pork Recipes! Give them a try and let me know what YOU think! I just love a good Sweet Pork Salad. :)

May your days be filled with sunshine,
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4th of July Picnic in the Backyard


It’s that time of year for BBQs, Picnics, family gatherings! I love an easy backyard picnic for the 4th of July and today I am sharing with you a fantastic  (and easy) family meal!

The menu:

So Tender BBQ Ribs (check out this easy tip for getting the most tender ribs in a short period of time)
Lemon Picnic Pasta (my favorite picnic food!)
Salad with shredded carrots, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers
Chocolate Chip Muffins

The decor:

Root Beer Bottles filled with Primroses
Easy Paper pockets


I had so many empty Root Beer bottles from our Root Beer Taste Test and I just knew they would come in handy! So I took some scrap fabric in red and white gingham, tied it around the bottles and added some stars and jute rope. I just traced and cut those stars from scrapbook paper that I had in my stash. It’s great to use what you have around the house for a centerpiece! Then I cut some primroses from the backyard and put them in the center of our table. Cost: $0!

When you serve BBQ ribs, you need some wet napkins right? So I made a double-sided pocket and put some Wet Wipes in one side, and Laffy Taffy (for a few jokes) on the other side. Then I set it all up outside on the backyard patio.


I set up the food buffet-style for our guests to pick and choose what they wanted. Easy foods like watermelon, muffins, and make-your-own salad are perfect for an outdoor meal! And back in the silver bowl is my favorite Lemon Picnic Pasta!


And don’t forget those BBQ ribs! (There’s my hubby the Grill Master…thank you for the perfectly grilled BBQ ribs!)

Here’s the secret for easy and FAST bbq ribs: first, pressure cook them in water to cover half-way up the ribs and set the timer for 45 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Be careful when you remove them from the pressure cooker…they are already SO tender and ready to fall apart! Then, put them on the grill and brush on your favorite BBQ sauce. Grill for a few minutes on each side. Oh, these ribs are so delicious and so tender…better than restaurant ribs! (really)!


We had so much food that we literally had to use two plates! I picked up those darling gingham plates from the Dollar Store and they sure made it look like a real picnic. :)

With just a few touches and a little extra attention, you can throw together a fun and easy picnic BBQ that everyone will love. I wish you a happy and safe 4th of July!



May your days be filled with sunshine,
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Ginger-Lime Grilled Beef Salad

Today is my wedding anniversary and what better way to celebrate and praise 14 years of wedded bliss than with a perfect and delicious recipe?! This is special tribute to my husband who is a grill master (you are awesome, Honey!) and he will grill anything I ask him to!! I love that we are such a perfect couple for this: I love to cook and deliver up great recipes, he loves to grill them…:)

Summer is perfect for grilling and for salads…and when you have a recipe that combines the two, you have the perfect summertime dinner!

We love this recipe at our house. In fact, whenever my son comes home from college, he requests it! It is easy to make and nice and light for summer. It’s a fast recipe too…just marinate the meat in the morning, then grill it up for dinner! I can’t even begin to tell you how flavorful and delicious this recipe is, you’re just going to have to try it yourself. :)


To make the marinade, use some simple ingredients. I always keep these ingredients on hand so I can whip this up at (almost) any time!


Less Sodium Soy Sauce, Chili-Garlic sauce, ginger root, lime juice, and a little brown sugar (not pictured). Those ice cubes in front are actually frozen lime juice…if I can’t use my limes up in time, I just squeeze them and freeze the juice. And did you know that you can freeze ginger root?! It’s true…I’ve had this ginger root in my freezer for a few months and it’s still delicious and fresh tasting in this marinade! (see the full recipe below)

Just mix together all these ingredients, then reserve some aside to use later as your salad dressing. Pour the rest into a resealable bag with the meat and add a little extra lime juice. Then make sure to coat all your meat and store it in the refrigerator until ready to grill. I found that if you marinate for four hours or longer, the taste is SO much better. So make sure to stir this up for marinating earlier in the day.

You can use either Flank Steak or London Broil for this recipe. I’ve tried both and we all seem to like the Flank Steak the best. I will be experimenting with other cuts of meat, I’m sure and I’ll report back. :) Now just grill up the meat:


(Here’s the picture to prove it: My husband is the best at grilling…Happy Anniversary, Honey!)
And while that is on the grill, get your salad ready:


I like to use the organic salad mix from Costco. It has spinach and arugula, but sometimes I just make a simple romaine bed of lettuce for this recipe. It’s always just delicious! I will add tomatoes or green pepper from the garden, and sometimes I shred up a carrot to add, too. Mmmmm….


Let the meat rest for a few minutes before you slice it thinly. This allows the meat to retain more of it’s juiciness! Since everyone at my house likes their salad different, I will put the additions on the side so it’s more like a salad bar…then you can build your own salad and top it off with a bit of the grilled meat. Add a little (believe me, this is flavorful stuff so you only need a little!) of the reserved dressing and enjoy!

{The recipe suggests that you add all the ingredients together and combine with the reserved salad dressing, but at my house everyone likes different amounts of the dressing (or none at all) and so I just let everyone make their own plate.}




See, it’s a hit! No leftovers!

*Recipe here

Ginger-Lime Grilled Beef Salad


  • 1 pound London broil or flank steak
  • 3 T. lime juice, divided
  • 3 T. low--sodium soy sauce
  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1 t. minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 t. minced ginger (fresh ginger root is best)
  • 1 t. chili-garlic sauce (or less if desired)
  • 1/2 head red-lef lettuce, spinach, and romaine (about 6 cups)
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • carrots, tomatoes, green peppers (optional)


  1. In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, soy sauce, vegetable oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and chili-garlic sauce.
  2. Reserve about half of the mixture (to be used later as salad dressing)
  3. Pour the rest of the mixture in a resealable bag and add the meat.
  4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice to the bag.
  5. Seal tightly and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. (Turning occasionally)
  6. Grill steak until medium-rare or at desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side. Let rest until room temperature and then slice thinly.
  7. Combine lettuce, shallot, and basil. Add the beef and the reserved dressing and toss to coat. Divide among 4 plates and enjoy!


Try this recipe and until next time, have a delicious summer!

May your days be filled with sunshine,
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Food to Make you happy — Easy Yakisoba

We are celebrating around here for making our goal of 100 likes to our new Facebook page! Thank you, friends and dear readers! And what could be a better way to celebrate than with VEGETABLES!?! I’m serious! If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE my vegetables and I drink (yes, drink) them every morning. I will be sharing my delicious breakfast drink soon!

But I have been getting SO many requests for my Yakisoba recipe that I decided to post it today. I have to keep my favorite people happy!


Truth is, this recipe makes me so happy…and I think you will agree when you try it out. It’s easy…it’s delicious…it’s filled with color. That is celebration right on a plate, friends! (Can we please officially change the title of this recipe to “Celebration on a Plate”?)

Let’s get started with the Yakisoba.

First, assemble your favorite veggies. I like to use all the colors of the rainbow (except maybe blue, I can’t even think of a blue vegetable!) My favorites for this dish are:

Onion, Carrots, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Red pepper, Broccoli, Red Cabbage, Garlic

Slice your onion (I use yellow onion). In a large pan (or stir fry pan), warm 2 T. of olive oil on medium high. Once oil is hot, add onion. Let this cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onion is soft and browned.

While the onion is cooking, cut your other veggies. Cut them in similar sizes for even cooking. When onions are browned, add carrots and zucchini. Cook for 4-5 minutes. I like to let the zucchini and squash cook without stirring for a few minutes. This allows them to get browned on one side. Oh! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Turn them over to brown on the other side.


Once zucchini is browned, add peppers and broccoli. Allow those to cook for a bit, then add the cabbage.

While that is cooking together, get your meat ready. I used chicken for this recipe, but you can also use beef or pork, or keep it vegetarian! I cut my chicken (3 chicken tenders) into bite-sized pieces. Then warmed a small amount of olive oil in a separate skillet. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally. Add a couple cloves of garlic (minced) with the cooking chicken, if you like. (I like!)

When chicken is done…it only takes a few minutes! Add to the vegetables. Then, add your noodles, water, and seasoning mix from the package. I usually include 2 packages of noodles, both seasoning packets, and 1 cup of water. Here are the noodles I like to use:


[Note: If I don’t have these on hand when I crave Yakisoba, I have also used angel hair pasta or spaghetti…and I make sauce using a bit of soy sauce, cornstarch, and water!] You have to coax these particular noodles to separate, but please be careful and don’t break them. It just doesn’t taste the same with broken noodles!

Now, dish up and enjoy! (here’s another secret: I sometimes add a bit of low-sodium soy sauce to mine)


How’s that for a celebration!?

May your days be filled with sunshine,
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Maple Pecan Waffles with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

It’s my husband’s birthday…almost! He’s a leap year baby, and so he really doesn’t have an OFFICIAL birthday this year, but don’t worry: he figures he can celebrate for TWO days this year.

I had a different post all planned, but it just didn’t seem right on this celebratory day. So this post is dedicated to my sweetie, who helped me test out this recipe on Sunday: Maple Pecan Waffles with Cinnamon Whipped Cream! (Yum!)


My husband is the waffle-maker in our house. He loves waffles, and he has a nice collection of waffle irons. He has round, square, belgian, and farm animal waffle irons! I’m surprised we don’t yet have a Mickey Mouse waffle iron, but I’m sure we will eventually. And I’m not complaining….NO! I LOVE that he has taken over as waffle chef in our house. His absolute favorite waffle iron is one that I got him a couple years ago on super-sale and he reaches for this one the very most: Check it out here

It will make TWO belgian waffles at once and that is great when you have a lot of mouths waiting for their waffles! We love to host a waffle party…and we even sometimes eat waffles for dinner….or lunch. When isn’t it a good time for waffles?

So let’s get to the “recipe.” It’s so simple (I love a simple recipe!) This comes together in minutes!

First, chop up some pecans.

Then, whip up your heavy cream (PLEASE use the real stuff! My kids are fine with the frozen whipped topping, but that just won’t do for this recipe…You need the real stuff here…believe me, you’ll thank me later)

When the cream is nearly fully whipped, instead of adding sugar to the cream, add CINNAMON/SUGAR. It is so delightful!


Now for the waffle part. Don’t laugh: my husband has found a shortcut to his waffle making secret. He uses Krusteaz waffle & pancake mix to start with! Fifteen years of trial and error and testing every waffle mix out there, and he has found this to be the best. We buy it in the giant bags at Costco! Make it using the instructions on the back. Then, add a bit of cinnamon and a bit of Mapleine.

Put your waffle mixture on your pre-heated waffle iron and sprinkle on some of the chopped pecans. Now let the waffle iron do the rest of the work. {Note: we tried this recipe two ways: one with the pecans sprinkled in the waffle batter, one with pecans sprinkled only on top. The winner: Pecans IN the batter!}


Add your Cinnamon Whipped Cream, a few more chopped pecans, maybe a strawberry or two!  These waffles are amazing. When you try this recipe, let me know what you think!


Before I go, I wanted to share that this “recipe” has me giggling a bit. It reminds me of a cartoon I once saw YEARS ago (If I can find it, I will post it here). It started out with the “Dad” of the cartoon getting ready to make breakfast. The kids say “Mom says that everything tastes better when it’s made from scratch.” The Dad replies “Then that’s what we’ll do!” The next slide shows the Dad pulling a box out of the pantry, and the kids say: “What’s in the box?” He replies: “Scratch.”

Gosh, I love my husband!

May your days be filled with sunshine,
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