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Streamlined and Delicious

Remember my recent words about wanting to share my favorite tasty, time-saving, and healthy family-friendly recipes? As you know, unexpected life events took precedence, and I’ve spent several weeks now reflecting on and processing what happened while we were attempting to return from our family vacation in Fort Lauderdale.

Amazingly, yet as always seems to happen in life, what was a nightmare scenario at the time actually spawned some beautiful life lessons, as well as a special addition to our family: a brand new puppy named Tommy Twinkle. He has not only brought sunshine and giggles into our lives over this past week, but has given us a new imperative to begin eating at home more often. We want to spend every second with our little guy, and we could use the cost savings since he comes with his own hefty, ongoing price tag.

I can’t tell you what a joy it’s been to get back into the kitchen every night since we’ve been back. My biggest struggle when it comes to cooking is that I have a family full of picky eaters, and there are very few dishes that everyone can agree upon. Luckily, over time and with much experimentation, I have discovered a handful of favorite go-to recipes that always evoke smiles. I share those here, with a few of my own suggestions/modifications:

Penne Rosa

This is, hands-down, the one dish that my kids all beg for, demand second helpings of, and will eat multiple nights in a row. I love that it sneaks in whole grains and veggies, is truly delicious, and can be adapted to adult tastes and heavier appetites with the addition of more veggies and meat options like shrimp or rotisserie chicken. The ultra bonus is that the whole meal takes less than 15 minutes to make!


1 lb box whole grain penne pasta (our favorite is tri-color)

2 Tbs white wine (plus a glass for you while you’re cooking!)

2 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp crushed red pepper (reduce to ¼ tsp if cooking for kids)

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup marinara sauce

1 14-oz can tomatoes, diced

parmesan cheese, grated


Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat wine, olive oil, marinara, diced tomatoes and red pepper over medium heat. Stir for 5 minutes. Turn mixture to low after 5 minutes and stir in cream.

Drain pasta and add to skillet. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

Loaded Veggie Nachos

One of my most constant cravings is, unfortunately, for tortilla chips. I could literally eat chips and salsa for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I’ve found a recipe that allows me to channel my cravings into something a little bit healthier. With this recipe, I’m able to sneak in great veggies, protein and healthy fats with the avocados. For a little added substance, try topping these nachos with shredded rotisserie chicken and hearty guacamole.


4-5 cups baked blue corn tortilla chips

1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and diced

1 Roma tomato, diced

½ cup canned black beans

½ cup refried beans

1/3 cup corn kernels

¼ cup canned green chilies


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 baking dish with nonstick spray.

Spread tortilla chips into the prepared baking dish. Top with cheese, avocado, tomato, beans, corn and green chilies.

Place on the center rack of oven and bake until cheese has melted, about 10-15 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with guacamole and/or salsa.

Orange Pecan Salmon

I have to really thank Costco here. Not for the salmon recipe per say, but for the introduction of my children to baked fish. Something magical happens whenever my kids are handed a food sample—they love it, whatever it is! If you’re not sure if you can get your kids to eat fish, try giving them a teaspoon-sized bite inside a mini paper cup. I’m not joking! My kids all now eat salmon and tilapia.

This salmon recipe is my family’s favorite seafood dish ever. It’s the perfect combo of sweet and salty, contains healthy proteins and fats, cooks to perfection every time, and only has to marinate for up to 30 minutes. Our favorite accompaniments include easy parmesan-roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli.


1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (just spread on a pan and pop into toaster oven)

1 cup orange marmalade

½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp pepper

4 6-oz salmon fillets, skin off


In a small bowl, combine first 5 ingredients. Pour 1 cup of marinade into a large resealable plastic bag. Add salmon, seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes. Set aside remaining marinade. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain and discard marinade from salmon. Place salmon in a greased 11x7-inch baking dish. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes (fish should flake easily with a fork.)

While fish is baking, bring reserved marinade to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook until liquid is reduced to ¾ cup. Serve drizzled over salmon.

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