easy dinner

Taco Pasta

Is there anything better than the simple comfort of pasta with the simple deliciousness of taco seasonings? I think not. I’m not sure why the idea to combine the two took me so long to figure out, but I’m glad I finally did!

Taco Pasta

Taco Pasta

This simple recipe combines my taco seasoning with fridge-forage veggies and cooked pasta. It’s a riff on pasta salad, which means you can serve it cold or hot and everyone will celebrate. The possibilities are endless: serve this with chicken, or meat free; with shredded cheese or dairy free; and always load on the veggies to make it a one bowl wonder. This works perfectly for dinner and for lunchbox leftovers.

If you’re looking for more pasta ideas, I’ve got you covered!

If you make this, I’d love to hear what you add! Tag me so that I can see!

Taco Pasta Lunchbox
taco sauce ingredients

taco sauce ingredients

Taco Pasta

Sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
*optional: pinch of cayenne pepper 

Pasta
8 oz dry pasta, cooked as directed
1-2 cups of chopped veggies (I used cherry tomatoes and bell peppers)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta with chopped veggies and toss to combine.

  3. Add sauce and toss again to thoroughly combine.

Quick and Easy Turkey Meat Sauce

Quick Meat Sauce

A Quick Meat Sauce is a back pocket essential as far as I’m concerned. Most of the time, I make ours with ground turkey, but occasionally I’ll use half turkey/half ground pork, or a turkey/pork/beef combination. I love this dish because it comes together in under 30 minutes, and works beautifully in the lunchbox as leftovers. My kids will eat this cold or hot, but they definitely prefer it packed in a thermos.

With just 7 ingredients, this simple recipe is perfect for a busy weeknight. Add veggies like spinach or chopped bell peppers, and you’ve got a one-pot wonder on your hands. This pairs well with any pasta shape, and we’ve also made it with polenta.

If you make this, let me know how it goes or tag me on Instagram.

Quick Meat Sauce

Ingredients
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey 
28 ounce can of chopped or crushed tomatoes
Chopped basil to taste (I used about 1/4 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat a large saucepan to medium heat and add the olive oil.

  2. Sauté the shallots for about 2-3 minutes or until they become translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.

  3. Add the ground turkey and combine thoroughly. Sauté until the turkey is almost cooked through.

  4. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked through. 

    *Note: my kids like it “meaty.” If yours like it more saucy, simply decrease the amount of ground turkey that you add. 

Argentine Tortilla (Tortilla de Papas)

individual tortilla de papas

Potatoes + onions + eggs + spices = divine combination. Right?

My family traveled to Brazil and Argentina this summer to visit family and celebrate my brother in law’s wedding. Visually and culturally, the trip was magnificent! It was a culinary eye opener for my kids, and somewhat difficult at times for one of my kids and for me to handle the amount of meat consumed. We don’t eat so much red meat at home, but in Brazil and Argentina, it’s ubiquitous.

One bright light: in Buenos Aires, my aunt wowed us with her Tortilla de Papas, an Argentine riff on the classic Spanish dish, Tortilla Española.
In the classic preparation, chunks of potato are fried in olive oil with onions and spices until they have beautifully browned edges, and then eggs are added. Once flipped, this omelet seals the deal as a simple, yet filling and comforting rustic dish. My aunt can make this with her eyes closed, and it’s absolutely delicious time and time again. But wow, it’s a messy affair! Oil splatters everywhere, and the need to pour out some of the excess oil is potentially a hazard. In general, not the kind of dish that I would personally want to make over and over.

Once home, I tried my hand at her recipe many times, and tinkered with it until I reached a dish that I would be happy making on repeat. Instead of frying in a cast iron pan, I’ve roasted and seasoned the potatoes and onions, then baked the whole thing with eggs. The roasted flavor carries over beautifully here, and you won’t need to wipe up all of the oil spatter from frying. This dish can be made in multiple sizes, with the only adjustment made in the cooking time.

tortilla de papas

It’s homey and comforting, and easy enough to make on a busy weeknight. I love this dish because it’s also hearty enough to have as a main dish. If you make this dish, post it and tag @lalalunchbox and #lalalunchbox on Instagram.

Tortilla de Papas

roasted onions and potatoes

1 pound of thin skinned potatoes (such as yukon gold), cut into 1 inch chunks
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin rounds
1 tablespoon paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Lay out the potatoes and onions on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
3. Roast for approximately 35-40 minutes or until the potatoes and onions are nicely browned on the edges.
4. In a separate bowl, scramble the eggs and add salt/pepper to taste. I added just under one teaspoon.
5. Combine the roasted vegetables with the eggs and pour into an oven safe dish. You can line the top with roasted onion rings to make it look pretty.
6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the eggs are just set.

tortilla de papas

Pasta with Eggs

Between work and the early evening shuffling to tae kwon do, gymnastics or whatever else, getting a healthy dinner on the table quickly feels overwhelming at times. You too? One of my go-to weeknight dinners when I'm short on time has just four ingredients, takes less than 30 minutes to pull together and is really affordable. Here's my favorite part: all five of my family members love it! 

Spinach noodles with egg

Spinach noodles with egg

eggs

Pasta with Eggs came about one night when I started making carbonara and realized that I didn't have bacon. The process to make it is nearly identical, but this version has neither bacon nor cheese. Since that evening, this has become a staple in my house and my kids love to take the leftovers for lunch. Eggs are versatile, delicious, and nutritionally dense. One large egg has a satisfying 6 grams of protein and is high in vitamin B2 so even when I'm serving what seems like plain pasta for dinner, it is anything but plain. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that eggs are dear to my heart. (also, collecting them with my daughter on a recent farmstay was seriously cool!)

But back to the pasta... the four ingredients you'll need are pasta, eggs, butter and salt. I'm sharing my recipe with you now and hope that it serves you as well as it has served me for years. You can make it completely dairy free by substituting oil for butter. 

Here's what you'll need: 
1 pound of pasta (fresh or dry will work) 
3 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of coarse salt

Here's how to do it:
1. Cook the pasta as directed, reserve 1/8 cup of the cooking water and set it aside. Drain the rest of the pasta and set it aside as well. Here I'm using fresh spinach noodles, but really, anything will do. I've also made this with gluten free, bean pasta and it's delicious!

cooked and drained pasta.jpg

2. Add the butter to the pot that you used to cook the pasta and turn the heat on medium low. 

melt butter

3. Add the pasta back to the pot and stir to combine the melted butter. Add the reserved cooking water and then slowly add the eggs. 

adding eggs to pasta

4. When you've added the whole eggs and the egg yolk, stir with a wooden spoon to break the yolks, add the salt and combine into the pasta. 

raw eggs in the pasta

5. With the heat still on medium low, keep stirring until the eggs just cook. It will form a rich, creamy sauce. Taste it to determine whether you'd like to add more salt (or add pepper). You might have some small egg clumps. That's okay. They're still delicious! Check to make sure the temperature on your stove isn't too high. 

Stirring Pasta with Eggs

6. Have patience. It takes about 7-10 minutes of low heat for the sauce to set. These are best eaten immediately, but my kids also love them cold for lunch the next day. 

Enjoy! 

Pasta with Egg

DIY Meals for Kids

I'm a big fan of kids in the kitchen. But I'll be honest, despite all of the reasons to get kids cooking, sometimes the reality of the giant mess that usually follows is completely unappealing. On the days that I just. cant. deal. with that kitchen mess, but still want to keep the spirit of kid involvement alive and well, I go DIY. 

Below are five ideas for you to have some fun with mealtime. They've been a huge hit in my house and as an added bonus: the prep is done by me so my kitchen isn't a complete disaster by the time the meal is served. I hope they're a hit in your house too!  

1. DIY Tacos
Who doesn't love tacos? Actually, one of my kids doesn't love tacos, so when we have DIY Tacos, he makes himself a quesadilla and eats beans and pineapple on the side. Fine by me. But for those who DO love tacos, you can make it fun with black beans, ground meat (season with chile powder and garlic), cheese, cilantro, limes, pineapple, avocado, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, peppers and cucumber. Don't forget the tortillas! 

DIY Tacos

2. DIY Bruschetta 
The inspiration for this one comes from What's Gaby Cooking. I saw it and was instantly smitten. My family went bananas for this because there are so many flavor opportunities! DIY Bruschetta is fabulous for entertaining as well. Here we've got grilled bread with: goat cheese, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and a slicing cheese, grilled corn, roasted tomatoes, roasted pepper puree, bean dip, hummus, grilled mushrooms, olives, caramelized onions, guacamole, grilled steak, prosciutto and pesto. Note: when we do this for dinner for just my family, we don't have this many options! This photo was taken before entertaining some guests. :) 

DIY bruschetta

3. DIY Oatmeal  
Cook a big old batch of oatmeal and put some favorite toppers in a muffin tin for the kids to choose from. Ours include: strawberries, raspberries, coconut, banana chips, pumpkin seeds, chopped apple, chopped banana and golden berries. 

DIY oatmeal

4. DIY Pasta
Pasta can be a challenge in my house because my youngest can't eat dairy, my oldest loves dairy and doesn't like too many ingredients in her pasta and my middle child doesn't love meat and eats cheese sparingly. DIY Pasta is a blessing for us! We usually have it with meat or chicken (often leftovers cut up), peas, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, basil, tomatoes and peppers. I frequently have tomato sauce as well.  

DIY Pasta

5. DIY Egg Roll Ups
I got the idea for Egg Roll Ups from Aviva Wittenberg. Essentially, it's using egg as a tortilla replacement and it's pretty genius! Scramble the egg and fry it in a pan with a little butter, flip it after a few minutes and then slide out of the pan onto a plate. Once cool, you can use it like a tortilla and roll up anything you want! For us, it usually involves cheese, quinoa or rice, veggies (below, we have purple cabbage, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes) and ham or chicken (often just cut up leftovers). 

DIY Egg Roll Ups

Are there DIY meals that you make at home? We'd love to hear about them!