Menu Banner
  1. Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Lasagna-Baked Ziti

    Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by Italians. Literally surrounded. Three Catholic churches in our small town, 4 or 5 Italian restaurants in a 1/4-mile distance (keep in mind, there is just one traffic light downtown!) and last names like Pagnani and Martorana galore! Living around so many Italians meant lots of Italian food at community and school parties, specifically baked ziti. Baked ziti is to New Jersey as funeral potatoes are to Utah.

    easy and delicious lasagna-baked ziti from @janemaynard

    Needless to say, I ate some really delicious baked ziti growing up. Which makes it all the more disappointing that almost every time I’ve tried to make it, it just isn’t up to snuff. Well, I tried a recipe from my Real Simple | Best Recipes cookbook and I’ve finally found my winning ziti recipe! Woohoo! Move over, Italian mamas from New Jersey.

    In case you are wondering, the recipe is also really easy to make. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Lasagna-Baked Ziti
    From Real Simple | Best Recipes with my notes
    • 12 ounces ziti, cooked to package directions (for some reason my grocery store did not have ziti, so I used penne)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • ⅓ onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pushed through garlic press
    • ½ pound lean ground beef or italian sausage
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce (I had a bunch of No-Cook Pizza Sauce left over and that made up the bulk of my sauce, with some leftover jarred sauce to make up the difference. The sauce was delicious!)
    • 1 bunch or 1 small bag spinach, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
    • ½ cup ricotta cheese
    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I did more than 1 cup”¦probably about 1½ or so)
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Drain cooked pasta and add it back to the pot.
    3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onion until soft and clear (4-5 minutes), then add garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Add the beef, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat, until the meat is cooked through.
    4. Pour meat mixture into large pot of drained pasta. Add sauce, spinach, ricotta and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until ziti is hot all the way through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.


  2. Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Easiest-Ever Chicken Pot Pie

    Hello everyone! I am back from vacation and can’t wait to share the fun we had…but I still have a lot of photos to go through and some decompressing to do! So, until then, how about an awesome recipe and a giveaway? Let’s do it!

    As you know, I love America’s Test Kitchen and have a great relationship with them. When I visited the kitchens this summer, I was given an advance copy of their new cookbook The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. Of course I love it…delicious and reliable recipes that are FAST? Yes, please. I found a real gem of a recipe in this book that has found a permanent place in our dinner rotation…the easiest-ever chicken pot pie.

    This chicken pot pie recipe is soooo yummy and it really is super easy. Everyone in our family eats everything on their plate and I’ve made the recipe several times. Boursin cheese is the secret ingredient. I love Boursin, but was a little worried it might taste too Boursin-y. It doesn’t at all, the flavor is fantastic and the gravy has perfect consistency.

    Now that the cookbook has been released, I can share the recipe with you AND give away a couple copies of the book! Yippee!

    Two of you lucky people will receive a copy of The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. As always, simply leave a comment on this post to be entered to win! You can add extra entries by liking This Week for Dinner and/or America’s Test Kitchen on Facebook. Be sure to leave separate comments for each extra entry! All comments must be added by Midnight PT on Wednesday, October 10, 2012.


    And now for the recipe, with my modifications. To get the even easier version from America’s Test Kitchen you’ll have to win or buy the book! 😉

    Easiest-Ever Chicken Pot Pie
    Modified from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook (their version is even easier than what I outline below”¦get the book to see the tricks!)
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry, Pie
    Cuisine: American
    • 8 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1 (5.2-ounce) package Boursin cheese
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • salt and pepper
    • 1½ cups frozen peas and carrots
    • 1 refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust
    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    2. Boil chicken breasts until just done. Cut/shred with a knife and fork into bite-sized pieces.
    3. Saute mushrooms until softened and liquid has released.
    4. Combine broth, cream, cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper in large saucepan. Break up cheese and mix in. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until cheese is melted and mixture has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. (Note: I just leave the mushrooms in the pan where I sauteed them and add in the broth, etc and cook it with the mushrooms in there. Saves a pan and works great!) Stir in chicken, mushrooms, peas and carrots. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to 9-inch deep dish pie pan. My pie pan was not deep enough, so I used a 10-inch cake pan.
    5. Carefully lay pie crust over top. Tuck overhanging dough underneath itself so crust is flush with edge of pan. Cut three 1-inch slits in top of dough. Bake until filling is bubbling and crust is browned, about 25 minutes. Rotate dish halfway through cooking. Let cool slightly when done then serve.


  3. Friday, January 27, 2012

    Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches

    Today I have a simple and easy lunch or dinner recipe for you. It is Friday after all, may as well take it easy! And it’s so yummy that after eating it Cate declared I was the best cook in the world. (I think her dad must be paying her to always say such nice things about me.)

    We used to have a CPK ASAP near our house and they served a pesto chicken salad sandwich that I loved. Loved so much, in fact, it was one of the few things I could eat when I was pregnant. Well, the CPK ASAP is gone and with it my sandwich.

    I’ve taken matters into my own hands. While I haven’t yet tried my hand at the yummy pizza bread that they used, I have nailed the pesto chicken salad aspect of the sandwich. I made it for the first time last night and it was so easy and so yummy. Definitely will be making it again…and again…and again!

    Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches
    From Jane Maynard, inspired by CPK
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Sandwich
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • ½ cup mayonnaise
    • ½ cup basil pesto
    • salt to taste, based on saltiness of your pesto
    • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, chopped
    1. Cook the chicken breasts however you like (I boiled mine until cooked through – it’s easy and you’re just going to mix it with sauce). Shred chicken and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a bit of salt.
    2. Mix together mayonnaise and pesto. Add half of this mixture to the chicken and mix well. Add the other half of the mixture to your chopped romaine lettuce. I like to mix them separately so that if we have leftover chicken we don’t have lettuce that will go wilted and yucky mixed in – the next day I can throw together a little sauce and lettuce. Make sense? Serve on your favorite bread.

  4. Friday, August 19, 2011

    Italian Chicken Panini Pizza

    Today is the third and last of my Newman’s Own “Own It” posts with Martha’s Circle. This time around I was challenged to use a salad dressing to make a recipe my own.

    As I thought about what I might put together, I remembered back to when we were very first married. One of the meals we would make were grilled chicken sandwiches. I would marinate the chicken breasts in Italian dressing and then broil the chicken in the oven. Nothing fancy but it was definitely a go-to meal for me then that we liked a lot.

    At that same time in my life, a friend of mine had me over for dinner one night and made pizza. She didn’t use sauce, just olive oil and it was delicious. (This is the same friend who gave me the Uncle Tony’s Pizza Crust recipe…that night was the first time I ate that crust! And, yes, she really did have an Uncle Tony and he really was Italian.) I digress, back to the pizza…it was the first time I had a tomato sauceless pizza and it opened up a whole new pizza world to me.

    Thinking fondly on those early days of marriage and learning to cook, I decided to combine these two memories into one recipe. I made pizza that uses Italian dressing as the “sauce,” instead of just straight up olive oil. And then I used all the ingredients that I normally would have put on the chicken sandwich. And with that, the Italian Chicken Panini Pizza was born!

    The pizza was yummy. It had a nice light flavor and hit the spot. I used the Newman’s Own Lighten Up Italian dressing and it worked great! I named the pizza Italian Chicken Panini Pizza because Panini sounds more Italian than Sandwich. 😉

    Italian Chicken Panini Pizza
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pizza
    Cuisine: Italian
    • Uncle Tony’s Pizza Crust or other pizza crust that you like
    • Newman’s Own Light Italian Dressing
    • 1-2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced, seasoned with salt & pepper prior to grilling (you could even marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing before grilling as well)
    • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced
    • Couple handfuls of fresh spinach
    • Mozzarella cheese
    1. Prepare your crust. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of Italian dressing on the crust instead of tomato sauce. Top with spinach, chicken and tomatoes then the cheese.
    2. Bake in the oven on a pizza stone with your oven at the highest temperature it will go (mine goes to 500 degrees), about 8-10 minutes”¦until crust browns and cheese is bubbly.
    3. When I used the above pizza crust recipe, I made 4 medium sized pizzas – two of them plain cheese, two of them Italian Chicken Panini”¦for two Italian Chicken Panini pizzas I used 1 large tomato and 1 chicken breast.

  5. Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    On Top of Spaghetti

    Our girls love spaghetti and meatballs. In fact, if there is ground beef in a dish and we tell them it’s meatballs, they’ll eat it. So, instead of doing a meat sauce for our spaghetti last night, I decided to spend a few extra minutes and make some actual meatballs for my cuties. And they were delighted. They barely ate the spaghetti, which normally disappears within minutes!

    When Nate came home and started eating, I of course immediately pestered him with, “How are the meatballs?” He told me, “They’re really good! What kind of meat did you use?” I told him just ground beef and he was shocked! Nate was certain I must have used more than one kind of meat because the flavor was so good. Meatball success!

    So, here’s what I did. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s tasty.

    On Top of Spaghetti
    • 1 lb ground beef (I used 85/15 this time around)
    • ½ cup bread crumbs
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • ½ teaspoon basil
    • ½ teaspoon oregano
    • ½ teaspoon parsley
    • ½ teaspoon dried diced onions
    • 1 fresh garlic clove, minced or pushed through a garlic press
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 4-5 cups prepared tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
    • 1 package spaghetti
    1. Mix all ingredients (except tomato sauce and spaghetti) together by hand. Form into 1”³ – 1-1/2”³ balls (I think mine were closer to 1-1/2”³ and I ended up with 38 meatballs).
    2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Brown meatballs in oil, constantly rotating, until all sides are browned. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato sauce. Simmer for 15-20 minutes (make sure heat is high enough so sauce is simmering). While meatballs are simmering, prepare spaghetti according to package instructions. Serve sauce and meatballs over spaghetti. And be sure not to sneeze”¦those meatballs have been known to roll off the table and onto the floor.

  6. Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    My New Fave Go-To Meal: Stuffed Shells

    I’m always on the lookout for easy go-to meals. While I tend to rely on my go-to recipes a little too heavily, eventually making myself totally sick of them, I’m still grateful to have these gems in my arsenal!

    My latest favorite go-to meal is simple stuffed shells. No meat involved, super easy to make, and mighty delicious. It’s a little more effort than throwing together spaghetti, but not much. You just need to think ahead a bit – make sure you have the cheeses on hand, and give yourself time for baking. But, seriously, they’re easy to make. And my girls gobble them up.

    Please feel free to share your own stuffed shells recipe!  Here is how I’ve been making mine lately. Yum.

    great go-to stuffed shells recipe from @janemaynard

    Simple Stuffed Shells
    Simple, delicious and reliable go-to recipe for stuffed shells.
    Recipe type: Italian
    • Half box of pasta shells (about 20)
    • 1 container ricotta cheese (I think they’re 16 oz – whatever is at your standard grocery store)
    • A few cloves of garlic, mashed through garlic press
    • About 1 tsp. salt
    • A few shakes of black pepper
    • A few tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten
    • About half a jar of tomato-based pasta sauce
    • Handful shredded fresh parmesan cheese
    • A few handfuls shredded mozzarella cheese
    1. Boil shells as per package directions. Drain and make sure they don’t stick to each other.
    2. Mix together the ricotta, garlic, salt, pepper, basil, and egg.
    3. Stuff your shells, maybe about a tablespoon per shell. Use up all the filling for about 20-24 shells.
    4. Place shells in a 9×13 baking dish, drizzle with pasta sauce (I think I used about half of a jar or so), then sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese.
    5. Bake in 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes or so.

  7. Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Hot BBQ Chicken Wings (or Not-So-Hot Drumsticks, if you prefer)

    After much convincing, I’ve wrangled a sort-of recipe from my future brother-in-law Norman for his barbecue hot wings. He prides himself on his secret chicken wings recipe…but I suppose the desire to get on the blog overcame that pride. 😉  He even took these shots of the prep process for me since I didn’t have my camera handy. Amazing how a NYC fashion photographer can even make raw chicken look good.

    Last week on the Cape Norm grilled up some barbecue wings and drumsticks for the family – spicy wings and not-so-spicy drumsticks. They were delicious, so I wanted to share the sauce recipe with you.  If you remember from this week’s menu post, he also grilled up some amazing corn….that recipe is still to come. You’ll love it.

    Hot BBQ Chicken Wings (or Not-So-Hot Drumsticks, if you prefer)
    From Norman Nelson
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry
    • Stubbs spicy barbecue sauce for hot wings; Stubbs regular bbq sauce for drumsticks and breasts
    • Soy sauce
    • Vinegar
    • French’s yellow mustard
    • A1 steak sauce
    • Honey or maple syrup
    • Hot sauce (to taste, depending on how hot you want it)
    • Allspice
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Garlic salt
    1. In terms of proportions – a few cups of the barbecue sauce should do it. Norman says the secret trick is the yellow mustard – maybe 3 Tablespoons or so, don’t be shy. For the vinegar, soy sauce, steak sauce and honey – I would say a tablespoon or two. A teaspoon or so of the spices should suffice. (I’ll check with Norm to make sure I got all this right!)
    2. Mix sauce ingredients. Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Coat chicken with sauce. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon. Let marinate for 2-5 hours. Add a little olive oil before cooking so the chicken doesn’t stick to grill.

  8. Friday, June 4, 2010

    Easy Barbecue Chicken…No Matter the Weather

    Today I was going to post my pastry chef friend Faye’s recipe for her beautiful nut tart…but then I decided to give you something a little easier, it is Friday after all. How about some barbecue chicken that doesn’t require a grill and decent weather? Sounds good to me!

    oven barbecue chicken web

    I really wanted Barbecue Chicken on Memorial Day, but we currently don’t have a grill (a situation we will remedy before we get too far into summer!). I ended up using the oven with success! The chicken came out great, nice and juicy. I know, I know, it’s not from the grill…but it’s certainly a good, easy alternative. The key to cooking it just right (i.e. not drying the dickens out of your chicken!) is using a thermometer…be sure to read about that at the end of the recipe.

    Easy Barbecue Chicken...No Matter the Weather
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry
    Cuisine: American
    • Chicken pieces (I used 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts this time around)
    • Canola Oil
    • Salt
    • Barbecue Sauce
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Salt the outside of the chicken. Sear chicken until browned. Transfer to a cookie sheet/roasting pan/baking pan/whatever you’ve got! Brush with barbecue sauce. Bake in oven until chicken reaches 165 degrees, brushing on a second layer of sauce about halfway through baking time. Total baking time was about 1 hour.
    3. Here is the key to this recipe: use your thermometer! I have an electric Pyrex thermometer with a probe attached to a long wire. I can keep the probe in the meat throughout cooking and set the thermometer to beep at me when the meat reaches 165 degrees. I put the thermometer in the smallest chicken breast. It beeped, I removed that piece of chicken from the oven and then put the thermometer in the middle-sized chicken breast”¦five minutes later it beeped and I took that piece of chicken out. Then I put the thermometer in the third, largest chicken breast and it took another 5 minutes to finish. All three pieces came out nice and juicy”¦I was SO glad I used this technique.

    oven barbecue chicken3 web

  9. Friday, February 5, 2010

    Bistro Chicken

    Why is there a picture of an empty plate? Because this recipe is so good by the time you’re done serving it up, the plates will be empty lickity split!

    bistro chicken1 web

    Okay, actually, I didn’t get a decent picture of the chicken. It looks more like a pile of cheese. A delicious pile of cheese, but not much like chicken. Trust me, there is delicious, tender chicken hiding in there. I didn’t spend any time plating this dish because I just wanted to eat it!

    bistro chicken2 web

    My mom’s friend Jen shared this recipe with me in the early days of my blog. It has become one of our favorites and a quick go-to meal. Enjoy!

    Bistro Chicken
    My mom's friend Jen sent this recipe to me when I started my blog and it fast became a favorite. Easy, unique and so delicious!
    • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I usually do two, but the amount of sauce could handle probably 4-6 breasts)
    • ½ cup chopped onions
    • 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I get petite diced)
    • Italian seasoning (or a few shakes of oregano, basil, parsley and garlic powder)
    • 1 can Campbell’s French Onion soup
    • Swiss cheese, sliced
    1. I cut my chicken breasts into thirds and pound them thin before browning, but the recipe didn’t originally call for that. Brown the chicken breasts in a medium-high skillet in oil or butter. Remove and place in casserole dish.
    2. Cook onions in skillet for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, french onion soup and cook together to reduce liquid for 5 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken in the casserole dish, top with Swiss cheese and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
    3. I like to serve with garlic mashed potatoes.
    4. Addendum after comments have come in: the last few times I’ve made it I haven’t used the entire can of french onion soup. I put all the broth in, but I only put maybe half of the onions from the can in. for me, it’s the right balance. the first time I made it, though, I followed the recipe to a “t” and we still liked it, so feel free to modify or not according to your tastes!

  10. Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Easy Peasy Bean Tacos

    Today I’ve got a quick, tasty meal idea for you, thanks to my dear friend Angie who shared this non-recipe-recipe with me recently. It’s her go-to meal and it’s a winner!

    easy bean tacos1 web

    In honor of The Pioneer Woman giveaway we’ve got going this week, I did this post Ree style, photographing every step of the cooking process. Thought it would be funny to finally do that with the easiest recipe on my site. Funny, right? A-ha-ha-ha-ha!

    Easy Peasy Bean Tacos
    Easy to make and delicious to eat!
    Recipe type: Main Dish
    Cuisine: Mexican
    • Flour or corn tortillas, smaller size
    • Shredded cheese
    • Can of refried beans
    • Toppings you like on tacos”¦tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, etc.
    1. Preheat your oven broiler. Heat up the can of beans in a saucepan.
    2. Place the tortillas on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle some cheese on half of the tortilla (you can also heat them up on the stove, whichever you prefer).
    3. Pop the tray in the oven, broil until the cheese melts. This is seriously the hardest step of the process. You still with me?
    4. Schmear on the beans.
    5. Add your favorite taco toppings.
    6. Fold. Eat. Enjoy.

    easy bean tacos2 web

    easy bean tacos3 web

    easy bean tacos4 web

    easy bean tacos5 web

    easy bean tacos6 web

    We really liked these tacos, and I loved how simple they were to make. But I’ve gotta say, I think a few grilled peppers and onions would give the tacos nice flavor and crunch…but yeah, that involves chopping stuff AND dirtying another pan. So don’t worry too much about it. These are Easy Peasy Bean Tacos, after all.