Tag Archives: weeknight

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions and Easy Weeknight Mini Pizzas

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella



I recently completed another Skillshare class (Character Illustration from Concept to Final Artwork)!  I almost didn’t take this one because I felt character development is something I’m pretty capable of doing.  But it also has an Illustrator and Photoshop component, and I felt I can always learn more about creating digital art.  I’m really glad I did take it, because I was introduced to some key things that I will definitely use in my work — for example, importing layers into Photoshop from Illustrator (who knew!!?).  I don’t know if I will end up working exactly this way in the future, but going through the process was really valuable and a great learning experience!  And I did learn things I am using now that I didn’t before. 🙂 Here is my work process for this assignment: I first did sketches of pirates and chose a final one to take to final: roughs

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator.  it was WAY tedious!

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator. it was WAY tedious!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop -- I realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop — a realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is a full illustration incorporating the character.  I will use this as a promotional piece.  I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I'm really happy I took it.

This is a full illustration incorporating the character. I will use this as a promotional piece with my artist rep. I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I’m really happy I took the class!

With these various projects going on, the slow cooker has been my friend.

My bestie!

My bestie!

Our favorite dish is Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.  It’s so great to throw everything in the cooker and forget about it.   In 6-8 hours, you’ll have tender, tasty meat. Ooey and gooey, and yummy I tend to avoid chicken in the slow cooker, unless it’s dark meat though.  White meat tends to dry out. Recently, I knew I wanted to saute some onions for easy Mini Pizzas I was planning for a quickie dinner.  That morning, I had the brainstorm of throwing some sliced onions in the slow cooker and letting it cook all afternoon while I was out.  That cut down on about 20 minutes of sauteing later in the evening– 20 minutes of precious time I could be working!  I just used one onion and drizzled it with some olive oil.  It cooked on low for 4 hours.  But next time, I will buy a bag of onions and a bunch at one time.  This might take closer to 6 hours to cook. onions 2
You end up with soft, sweet, meltingly tender onions.  They can be store in the refrigerator and used throughout the week in omelets, fritattas, quesadillas, burritos… I’ve even put them on my salads.  They are soo good!

For this batch, though, I put them on our mini pizzas for a FAST week night meal!

How about you all– what are some slow cooker recipes you can’t live without that make life easier?

onions 1

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Some onions, sliced vertically in to 1/4 inch slices

Drizzle of olive oil to coat

Pinch of kosher salt

1.  Put sliced onions in slow cooker and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt.  Stir.
2.  Cook on low for about 4-6 hours.

pizza 2

Mini Pizzas

Mini or Regular sized whole wheat pitas

Your favorite marinara sauce (or homemade!)

Shredded cheese

Slow cooker onions

Chopped artichoke hearts

Any other topping you would like!

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (I use our toaster oven).

2. Spoon some sauce on each of the pitas.  Top with toppings.

3.  Cook in oven about 8-10 minutes depending on how crunchy you like it (place directly on rack).

4.  Slice into wedges and eat! 🙂

25 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Easy Weeknight Pork Enchilada Casserole

Ooey and gooey, and yummy

Ooey and gooey, and yummy


Imagine this:  It’s a weeknight and you need to make dinner fast.  Instead of take out (which actually takes some time because you have to order and then go pick it up or wait for it to be delivered), make this!

I used leftover slow cooker pork shoulder, but you could easily use shredded rotisserie chicken instead.

I was inspired by this recipe from Cooking Light.  Instead of seasoned ground beef, I used pre-cooked pork, and instead of the enchilada sauce, I got really lazy and used bottled barbecue sauce.  We love Trader Joe’s Bold and Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce.  It’s tangy and tasty, but not spicy (for the little one).  tj sauce

Saute some onions, and mix in the pork or chicken and the barbecue sauce.  Add a handful of cheese.  Layer mixture in pie pan with flour tortillas. Top with a bit more sauce and cheese and bake until melted.  Easy peasy!

In the pie pan

In the pie pan

Cut into wedges and serve.

ooey gooey up close

Easy Weeknight Pork Enchilada Casserole

Non-stick spray

¼ cup onion, diced

1 teaspoon oil

2 ½ cups leftover pulled pork (see recipe here) or shredded rotisserie chicken

1/3 cup barbecue sauce

4 flour tortillas

1/2 cup grated cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a pie dish with spray. Set aside.
  2. Sauté onion with oil in a large pan until soft.  Add pork and 1/3 cup of the barbecue sauce. Stir together to combine and sauté gently until heated through.  Stir in a handful of the grated cheese, and remove pan from heat and set aside.
  3. Place one tortilla in pie dish.  Spread 1/3 of pork mixture on top. I divide the mixture in the pan first by making a “peace” sign with three equal portions, so I have a clear idea of what 1/3 of the total is.   Cover with another flour tortilla.  Continue to layer with another  1/3 of pork mixture, another tortilla, and last 1/3 of pork mixture.  Cover with last tortilla.
  4. Spread rest of  barbecue sauce on top layer.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Bake in oven for about 10 minutes until cheese melts.  Cut into wedges and serve.

6 Comments

Filed under chicken, Dinner, Pork

Easy Weeknight Baked Pasta with Meat and Veggies


Trying to get some vegetables into your diet?  (Sneaking in more vegetables in your kids’ diet also counts!)

Here is an easy weeknight dish that accomplishes that, and even meat eaters will approve.
I think it was in Mark Bittman’s Food Matters that I first read about the benefits of stretching meat centric dishes with vegetables and/or grains.  It’s a nice compromise, because you are not cutting out meat completely–if you are an omnivore–but just reducing the amount and bulking up on vegetables and grains.  This accomplishes a lot of great things at once:

From a health standpoint, eating less saturated fats and more healthy fats from plants is always a good thing.

From an environmental standpoint, eating less meat and more plants is also a good thing.

From your pocket book’s standpoint, it is a lot cheaper to maintain a diet heavier on plants (especially if you grow a lot of them–something I, unfortunately, haven’t had to luck of doing) rather than on meats.

My husband is a meat person — I’ve mentioned before he only used to eat brown food (think bacon, beef, chicken, potatoes, peanut butter, bread, etc.) for a lot of his life before we got together!  I’m not going to force him to become a vegetarian — it would never work anyway.  And I eat meat also — just not so much red meat.

This is a simple, fast weeknight dish that you can adapt to suit your preference.  If you like more meat, add more.  No meat, omit it.  You can swap ground turkey or chicken for the beef.  Use whatever vegetable you like.  Since zucchini is a family favorite, I use it.  But I think this dish would also be great with eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, even fall friendly vegetables like butternut or acorn squash.  The more variety of colors, the better!  Just be sure to cut the pieces into similar sizes.

Fiori pasta is so cute.

 

I used Fiori pasta because I had a package in the pantry, but any bite sized pasta would work well.

Make a meat and vegetable sauce.

Béchamel sauce cooking.

Make a Béchamel sauce if you’d like an extra layer of flavor and richness.

Pasta topped with Béchamel sauce,

Yum!

Topped with grated mozzarella.

Top with mozzarella — note:  Freeze the mozzarella about 30-60 minutes before grating, so it is easier to grate!

Spotted from some broiler action.

Throw in the broiler for a quick melt and you’re done!

Easy Weeknight Baked Pasta with Meat and Veggies (based on Rachel Ray’s Baked Ziti)

Lb. pasta of your choice (I used Fiori)

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion (one whole small onion)

½ lb. ground meat (I used lean beef)

3 cups chopped vegetable (I used one large zucchini)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 28 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes

pepper to taste

For Béchamel Sauce (optional):

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

grated nutmeg to taste

nonstick spray

¼ cup grated parmesan

4 oz. grated mozzarella

  1. Bring large pot of water to boil.  Season with salt.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, put mozzarella in freezer to firm up.  Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.
  3. Sauté onions and beef until beef is no longer pink.  Add garlic and let cook until fragrant.  Add zucchini or other vegetable.  Sauté until softened slightly.  Add canned tomatoes.  Turn heat down to low, cover, and let simmer, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. If using, make béchamel sauce.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add flour and quickly whisk with butter to prevent from clumping.  Sauté for a minute.  Gradually add a little bit of milk while whisking.  Don’t add it too fast, or the sauce will become lumpy.  Add just enough at a time to smooth it out.  When it is the consistency of a smooth, liquid paste, add the rest of milk, while whisking.  Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste.  Let simmer and thicken about five minutes.
  5. Meanwhile cook pasta al dente according to package instructions.  Set aside.
  6. Preheat broiler.  Coat the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with spray or olive oil.  Set aside.
  7. Assemble baked pasta. Combine cooked pasta and cooked sauce in the large pot you used to cook the pasta in.  Add grated parmesan. Stir to combine.  Transfer to baking dish.  Top with a layer of béchamel sauce.  Cover with grated mozzarella.  Broil in oven until cheese is melted and is starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

13 Comments

Filed under Beef, Dinner, Pasta, Vegetables