What’s for Dinner? Creamy Spinach Pasta, Red Wine Braised Flank Steak Sandwiches & Black Bean Pasta Salad

Black Bean and Corn Pasta Salad 

511 pasta salad

Meatless Monday

Time: 20 Minutes


Review:  I was a little hesitant to serve a pasta salad as the main dish for dinner, but it worked very well.  It has been in the upper 80s this week here in NC and a nice cool pasta salad on the deck was the perfect dish.  There is room to play around with this dish and add other things you may like,  my husband  added olives and cheese and I added some cheese!  The Rotel gives it the perfect amount of heat.  I think you will find this a great summer dish and perfect to take to a picnic!

Creamy Spinach Ravioli (tortellini) – Pampered Chef Lite

511 spinach pasta

Keeping it Light!

Time: 30 – 40 Minutes


Review:  OK, we did meatless twice this week!  And everyone lived!  Pampered Chef has some fun and easy recipes that often look like you worked much harder than you did, that’s a win!  However, many of the dishes are loaded with fat, but this dish is from their Lite cookbook and was a healthier take on a nice creamy dish.  I made a couple adaptations; use frozen spinach instead of creamed spinach and add a little milk if not the consistency you would like and use half fat free cream cheese and half low-fat.  It is still a tasty, creamy dish.

Red Wine Braised Flank Steak with Roasted Red Peppers and Gruyere – Tom Colicchio

511 braised flank steak sandwiches

The Indulgence!

Time: 4 Hours

Moderate Skill

Review: Yuuuummmmy!  Review is complete.  OK, well maybe not.  This dish takes time, but part of the time is while it is in the oven and you can go about doing other things.  Many of the dishes by Tom Colicchio take time and loving care, but the results are well worth it.  The only change I made was the cheese, my cheese loving husband somehow doesn’t like Gruyere, so I used Cheddar.  If there are no objections I think the Gruyere is better, but it is still good no matter what.  This is a dish that will redefine sandwiches; sandwiches can be the masterpiece of your dinner!


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I Love it When you get Fresh!

Dinner doesn’t have to be a chore and you don’t have to pull out the boxed mixes and packets to pull it off in time.  I promise, after a while you will embrace fresh, fresh, fresh!  It really doesn’t take much more time, if any, to use fresh ingredients.  The real issue is in our heads-it’s mental.  It seems like it is too hard, too time consuming, too involved etc., but the truth is that with a little practice you will be making fresh meals in minutes for your family and friends and they will love you for it.   Don’t feel like it has to be all or nothing here either; baby steps and start where you are.

Keep it fresh and alive at the table too.  Talk to each other, engage with your family and guests and get to really know each other.  Build trust at the table and remember to make it a safe place.  Here are some ice breakers: Get to Know you Cards, Dinner Conversation Starters, Highs and Lows: ask each other what the best part of the day was and what the worse part was and then talk about it.  Some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now, I admit a part of me does, but try it.  Be creative.  Dinner is not about getting food in their bellies, it is about savoring the moments both with your food and your relationships.  Enjoy!

TIP: Try setting up a Mise en Place to help you with time.  Don’t worry about dirtying more dishes; it cleans up quickly.

  • The Meals:

black bean quesadillasBlack Bean Quesadilla: Eating Well Magazine

Time: 15 Minutes

Ease: Simple

Review: This is a quick and easy meal.  I pull this out when I’m rushed for time and I’m still able to give my family a fresh meal.  It is a family favorite.

Tip: Use low sodium canned beans and rinse well and use pepper jack cheese for flavor.

baked RavioliBaked Ravioli: Marthastewart.com

Time: 35-1 Hour; This dish could be a quickie if you use prepared spaghetti sauce instead of making the sauce.  There are many spaghetti sauces on the market that still keep this as a “fresh” dish.  Try organic, low sodium and look for the shortest ingredient list.

Ease: Simple

Review:  I found this recipe to be a nice and easy meal, but did not find the sauce to be especially flavorful and added hot pepper flakes, red wine, and a few more Italian spices to make it a little more full in flavor.  Next time I will probably use prepared spaghetti sauce, which will also cut the time in half.  Play around with this one and see what you get.

lentil soupLentil Soup: The Foodnetwork.com  Chef: Alton Brown

Time: 50 Minutes

Ease: Simple

Review: A nice hearty soup! Adjust the puree to your personal tastes, we like it in the middle.  This recipe calls from ground grains of paradise.  They can be found in places like Savory Spice or specialty markets.  It is a peppery spice with sort of woodsy flavor.  Very nice.  If you can’t find it just use pepper.

meatonioncomboMeatloaf with Cheddar, Bacon, and Tomato Relish: Wichcraft cookbook    Chef: Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar(I’m still researching copyright usage of recipes from cookbooks.  Until I’m sure I’ll try to find a link for you, I linked to a blog called crepesofwrath.net.  A fun blog.)

Time: 30 minutes to 2 hours; The time difference depends upon whether you use leftover meatloaf or make it for this purpose.

Ease: Moderate

Review: Wow and yum!! If you don’t like meatloaf this may win you over.  It didn’t win over one of my eaters who didn’t care for the texture, but as for everyone else, people who still had room ate two!  You can try the meatloaf recipe (which is geat) or make your favorite recipe. 

I cut the bacon amounts in half and crumbled the bacon, just to try to make some attempt at cutting the fat. It still gave it a great flavor.  Don’t be scared by the tomato relish, it is simple to make and can be made while the meatloaf is cooking or even a few days ahead of time, but it truly makes the sandwich. This is a great recipe and now a family favorite. Try it, you can do it! Once you make the tomato relish you’ll be excited to try more.

Meal Five:   We had a pretty busy week this week and didn’t get to five meals, but I suggest that for a fifth meal make meatloaf earlier in the week, try making two at one time and serving one as a meal in itself and the other one for your sandwiches.  A great and easy side dish is roasted vegetables! I like to use chunks of squash, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  Toss in olive oil and salt and pepper and bake at 425 degrees for about a half an hour or until just tender, but not too soft.

Enjoy! Be creative, have fun, and set the table!

Photos may be used, but please link back to this blog and credit Lisa Burbach, recipes are links to existing recipes and I have no ownership of recipes other than the ones of Have created.  Thank you.