Quick Veggie Stir Fry

One of the sad things about the past few months is that we tried a bunch of new recipes, and I honestly don’t remember most of them.  At all.  The good thing about that is that a few recipes were so nice they made it through the fog of sleepless nights into my long-term memory.  Those recipes will make their way to you.

First of all, we have a veggie stir fry from The Pioneer Woman.  It’s quick, it’s delicious, and it makes me feel better about all of the pizza we ate last night.  That’s a pretty strong combination.  Oooh, and it’s hearty enough that Scott will eat it without complaint even though it’s vegetarian.  That’s a really big deal.

Here’s what The Pioneer Woman’s looked like:


photo by Ree Drummond


If I couldn’t remember which recipes we tried, you can guarantee I was too out of it to take any pictures of our favorites.  I barely got pictures of baby and dog and husband, much less food.

Okay, maybe I got a lot of pictures of baby.  He’s cute.

FullSizeRender (2)

See, even the back of his head is cute.  Even in the grocery store.  And those neck rolls are cute, too.  That might be the mom in me thinking that neck fat is cute, however.  I get it if that does nothing for you.

So neck rolls aren’t awesome?  Don’t let that stop you from trying the stir fry.  It’s pretty wonderful.  I didn’t make any real changes to the recipe.  I used dried ginger instead of fresh because we already had it in the pantry, and I used green bell peppers instead of multi-colored ones because, once again, I was trying to save a few dollars.  It was 10% less pretty with all green peppers, but still really delicious.

In the near future, you can look forward to a recipe for protein balls (which taste like chocolate chip peanut butter deliciousness and are also kind of healthy) and some salmon with a mustard cream sauce and tasty veggies a la Giada.  And if I really get on top of life, I’ll take pictures of how Tuck’s nursery turned out and pretend that we’re all fancy and decorative when we’re really just changing diapers all day.

Happy diaper day!

Steak-n-Beans-n-Rice-n-Tomatillo Salsa

Oh, you say it’s been a while since I’ve written?  Well, work has been busy.  Really busy.  And life has been relatively full, too.

And we’re going to have a baby in November.  Yay!  Now I’m thinking about food for two, or something like that.  I probably already liked food enough for two people, so we’ll just consider the baby one lucky little munchkin (strictly food-wise).  I’m not sure how that factors into the whole not writing recently thing, but I think it does.

What in the world has the last month held for Small But Valuable?  Well, we’ve been cooking up some tasty food.  There have been a higher number of delicious, celebratory cakes than normal.  And we’ll go with the most recent meal first.  Just because.

Last night, we tried a new-to-me recipe from Real Simple.  Scott was in charge of cooking the steak, and I was in charge of the other pieces of the meal.  It was easy to make (even if you’re responsible for three out of three meal components instead of two out of three), not horribly expensive (factoring in a little bit of extra money for the steak), and delicious.  In 30-ish minutes.


Honestly, I would eat this meal once a week (or more) all summer long.  It’s lovely.  The steak is rich and perfectly cooked.  The rice and beans are a good, simple side to complement the steak.  And last but not least, the tomatillo salsa is so darn fresh and summery.  It just hits the spot.

So try it, folks.  You’ll like it: Real Simple summer recipe magic in the form of steak, rice and beans, and tomatillo salsa.

Now I’m off to try out milk paint for the first time.  Wish me DIY luck!

Beef with Veggies–Plenty o’ Options

This week has been a week of trying new versions of things we already love.  First there was ravioli.  Then last night, there was The Pioneer Woman’s Beef with Broccoli.  Yum!

photo-13The “original” that I fell in love with was beef with snow peas.  It’s a good thing.  It takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish, and it’s delicious.  You can find the recipe here.

Why did I want to branch out?  Well, in a word, veggies.  The snow peas are delightful, but they can be expensive, and 8 ounces of veggie just isn’t enough for me in that entire recipe.  If I doubled the snow peas, it would be twice as problematic on the expense side.  So I thought I’d go with the broccoli option this time.

The only other real difference is the addition of oyster sauce and beef broth in the new-to-me recipe.  It creates a pretty powerfully tasty sauce, so no complaints on that change.

So… if your dinner goals include plenty of flavor, meat, and veggies in no time flat, these two recipes are both winners.  If you want all of that at a lower price, the broccoli option is your new best friend.

Also, we cheated and used venison this time around.  It was surprisingly wonderful and tender and perfect.  Beef and broccoli?  Venison and broccoli?  Keepers both.

Also also, serving this with chow mein noodles is recommended.  Serving it with leftover sushi rice from last week is just fine.

Huevos Rancheros in Minutes!

In case that title is ambiguous, I’m talking Huevos Rancheros in 10 minutes.  The original recipe says 15 minutes, but honestly, there’s can opening and egg cooking.  It’s pretty much the easiest thing I’ve made in months, and it’s delicious to boot.

photo-11That’s the “every man” version.  This is the professional version (obviously still in the pan):

photo by Quentin Bacon (via realsimple.com)

photo by Quentin Bacon (via realsimple.com)

I don’t know if I’ve actually had Huevos Rancheros at a restaurant, so this may or may not be exactly like the traditional recipe.  What I do know is that this was inexpensive, easy, healthy, and tasty.  I’m going to be making this a lot in the future.

We added some leftovers from another dinner into this, so it was a little bit of a time cheat.  Maybe it’s 15 minutes if you add meat-brownin’ time.  Anyway, it’s ridiculously easy and serves 4.  (Why yes, I did use twice the beans, extra salsa, meat, and 2 extra eggs while leaving the serving number the same as the original recipe.  Real Simple portion sizes might be correct from a dietician’s perspective, but we need a little bit of extra food.)

Skillet-Poached Huevos Rancheros+


  • 3 cups salsa
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
  • 6 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 lb. ground venison or beef, browned (totally optional)


  1. If you want to use ground beef or venison in the recipe, brown the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Combine the salsa and beans with the browned meat and bring to a simmer.
  2. Make 6 wells in the bean mixture. Crack each egg and slide it gently into one of the egg wells. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  3. Cook, covered, over medium heat, 3 to 5 minutes for slightly runny yolks.
  4. Sprinkle with the scallions and cilantro. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to each serving.

You might even have enough time after this to paint your nails:

photo-10I love that snow days mean clean dishes, folded laundry, and enough spare time to do my annual nail painting.  And thank goodness the roads were totally cleared today.  I almost got the house so put together that I would have to start filing old paperwork.  Whew.  It was close.

Roasted Salmon with Lentils

I picked this recipe for roasted salmon with lentils because it looked healthy, and we had a giant family pack of salmon fillets in the freezer.  Both excellent reasons to pick a recipe, in my opinion.

But why will I make this recipe again?  Because it tastes delicious.  Yum!  Oh, and it’s healthy.  That’s the right way to eat a healthy recipe, in my opinion–tasty first, healthy second.

This gem is from Dinner: The Playbook, which I very much don’t want to give back to the library.  But as a librarian, I have to set a good example of not stealing books.  Sigh.

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha's version (photo from marthastewart.com)

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha’s version (photo from marthastewart.com)

Roasted Salmon with Lentils

Takes about 30 minutes, makes about 4 servings


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups of any combination of chicken broth and water, or enough to cover lentils by about 1 inch in the pot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (white or balsamic, tarragon, or red wine, we used red wine vinegar, more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil (same… more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of scallions (white and light green parts), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
  • leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs (or a generous pinch of dried rosemary or thyme, or even 2 tablespoon of finely shopped fresh parsley)
  • 1 1/4 lb. salmon fillet(s)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a medium pot, boil the lentils in the broth-water combo, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes (15 if you’re using beluga lentils).  While the lentils are cooking, in a medium bowl make a vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper.  (I made extra here–roughly doubling the recipe, and we used the extra dressing on top of some halved cherry tomatoes and cut avocado to create an easy, healthy salad on the side… delcious.)
  • While the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, drain them in a fine strainer.  Toss the lentils in the bowl with the vinaigrette (making sure you’ve already used any extra that you made), adding the scallions, bell pepper, and thyme or other herbs.
  • Meanwhile, brush the salmon fillet(s) with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until flaky.  Break the salmon into bite-size pieces and toss with the lentils.

You can even make everything ahead of time except for the roasted salmon, if you want.  That would make this a really exceptionally easy dinner.  It’s already pretty darn easy.

The vinaigrette on top of the mixture just makes this meal.  A little bit of vinegar and oil and mustard, and the lentils are transformed.

Why did I forget to take a picture of our salmon with lentils?  Well, I’ve been getting more early Christmas presents, and I was busy taking pictures of my awesome cowboy boot slippers and new kitchen rug instead.  That’s a totally legitimate excuse, if you ask me.


Miscellaneous Thursday

These are happy tidbits, nothing more.

First, Scott recently became the friend of a friend of the head of an equestrian program.  Which  means that he acquired horse manure for our garden this morning.

manureThat is a lot of manure!  That is an entire truck bed of manure, to be exact.  And in the background, you have the top of our garden fence, complete with drink can deer deterrents.  I like to think of the hanging drink cans as yard ornaments, not trash.  Some people have gnomes, we have cans.

Second, I successfully convinced Scott that old taters should be used as tater-o-lanterns sometime in the next few weeks.  The idea didn’t originate with me.  It came from Apartment Therapy, who got it from Apartment Therapy contributors.  I still like it, even if it wasn’t my idea first.  Look at those awesome spuds:

photo from ApartmentTherapy.com

photo from ApartmentTherapy.com

And lastly, I have a recipe for your tasting pleasure: Real Simple’s Southwestern Chicken Soup.  The magic of this soup is in its simplicity.  It isn’t necessarily designed for your fanciest dinner parties, but it is tasty, homemade, and ready in 15 minutes.  Sometimes that is all I could ever dream of getting from a recipe.

professional 15-minute soup from realsimple.com

professional 15-minute soup from realsimple.com

my 15-minute soup

my 15-minute soup

It’s also kind of fun, because you can change the taste of the recipe dramatically by using a different type of salsa.  We used a hot variety, so we had a spicy soup.  You could go with mild or mango salsa or whatever you want to try.  The world is your oyster (or soup bowl).

Birthday Week Spaghetti

Spaghetti doesn’t sound fancy, right?  Well try this recipe: Giada’s Spaghetti with Beef, Smoked Almonds, and Basil.

unnamedThis made the birthday week menu mostly by virtue of its beef content, but I think I ended up loving it more than the birthday man.  The sauce is technically more like an Italian salsa (read: no cooking!), and it was so light and summery and just plain wonderful.  The lemon, basil, and tomato combined into this perfect sidekick to the pasta and steak.  I never would have thought this dish would feel light, but it does.  Basil + maters + lemon + steak = best.  The pasta doesn’t hurt anything either.

This is reason #652 to plant several basil plants at your home.  It’s inexpensive to throw 2 1/4 cups of basil into a sauce when you’ve got buckets and buckets of the stuff right out your front door.  I would be less inclined to make this dish if I had to buy 2 1/4 cups of basil from the store.

You could make friends with people who have thriving basil plants.  That’s a solid secondary option.