Easy sheetpan dinner with eggplant, shrimp, and harissa

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Nothing beats the ease of a sheetpan dinner. They’re quick, easy, require very little hands-on time, and usually only few dishes.

This one from Melissa Clark’s cookbook Dinner has become a favorite in my house. All of the above are true, but it checks two other significant boxes: it is also remarkably flavorful and, once we have an eggplant, calls for ingredients that live in our freezer and pantry.

The flavor comes from harissa, a North African pepper sauce. If you haven’t had harissa, you’re in for a treat. It’s really special, a one-stop step to deliciousness. Now I know you’re thinking “eh, I’m not too excited about adding one more kind of expensive thing that I will use once to my pantry. Harissa isn’t one of those things. It’s an instant upgrade and I use it ALL the time. Add it to shakshuka, chickpeas and chicken in this one-pot wonder, or to flavor 20-minute lettuce cups. These are some of my weeknight staples because they’re easy, ready in no time, and don’t compromise on flavor.

A few notes on other ingredients:

  • If you don’t have cumin, buy it. I promise this won’t be another un-used spice vying for precious kitchen space.

  • If you don’t have cumin seeds, don’t sweat it. They’re tasty, but a total bonus. The dish won’t miss them.

  • Yep, this recipe calls for shrimp. No, I didn’t go out and buy it. Frozen shrimp (uncooked, shell off) is a steal and a weeknight wonder. It defrosts in under 10 minutes, so it’s a dream for last minute meals.

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Roasted eggplant and Shrimp with Harissa

from Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks


  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • 2 tablespoons harissa


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin


  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • 12 ounces shrimp, shelled


  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds


  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest


  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
 (store bought or from 1 lemon)

  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint


TooLs

  • 2 sheet pans/baking sheets, 1 large, 1 smaller

  • mixing bowl

  • knife

  • measuring spoons

  • citrus zester and juicer (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup olive oil, harissa, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt.

  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the eggplant to the baking sheet, drizzle with the harissa mixture, and toss to coat. Spread the eggplant in a single layer.

    *note: when I’m extra lazy I skip the small bowl and mix the oil, harissa, cumin, and salt directly on the baking sheet with the eggplant

  4. Roast eggplant for 20 minutes.

  5. While the eggplant is roasting, in a large bowl, combine the shrimp, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, lemon zest, remaining salt, and pepper.

    *note: If you don’t have lemon or cumin seeds, don’t worry. This will still be delicious. You can also sub a few squirts of lemon juice for the zest.

  6. Spread the shrimp on a smaller baking sheet lined with parchment.

  7. After the eggplant has been in for 20 minutes, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and add the shrimp to the oven.

  8. Leave both trays in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. The shrimp are done when they are a little white in color and they've formed a C shape. The eggplant is done when it is browned and soft. It may need a few extra minutes.

  9. Combine the shrimp and eggplant and top with lemon juice and mint.





5-ingredient cherry tomato and garlic pasta recipe

I’m making a case for pasta. It just might be the best thing a busy home cook could ask for.
As a refined carb, it definitely has a bad reputation. But it actually has a lot going for it.

Pasta is:

  • Satisfying

  • Versatile

  • Cheap

  • Always in your pantry staple

  • Quick and easy to prepare

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My husband came home the other night with a dozen lobsters. For two of us. That’s six lobsters each! Even after we recruited my brother to help us eat them, we still had a load of leftovers. It was an entire village of lobster after all! My cooking juju has been off, so when he suggested pasta, I was game, happy to not have to plan something more complicated.

And that, my friends, is when the magic happened: I cemented the 5-ingredient formula that dreams are made of.

It looked fancy, it tasted fancy, and it was one of the easier things I’ve done in a while. My husband was so impressed that he took a picture to send his family. Give it a try and please let me know if you love it as much as I do.

One of the reasons I’m in love with this recipe is that it is beyond delicious on its own – totally fresh and satisfying. But it’s also endlessly adaptable: eat as is or add fancy lobster, frozen shrimp, leftover chicken, sausage, or some extra veggies with the tomatoes. I made it weeks ago with summer corn off the cob and we loved it just as much.

Ingredients for two

  • ~1/2 lb pasta of choice

  • Olive oil

  • 3 cloves of garlic minced

  • Red pepper flakes to taste

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved

  • Salt, pepper

  • Basil

How to:
- Set a large pot of water to boil
- In a large pan heat a glug of olive oil over medium low; add 3 cloves of minced garlic and red pepper flakes
- After a few minutes once the garlic is almost browning turn heat to medium and add sliced grape tomatoes

** If you have any additions like lobster, corn, or other veggie or protein add it to the skillet after a few minutes
- Add salt and pasta to the boiling water
- When pasta is al dente and tomatoes are saucy after ~7-10 minutes, transfer pasta to tomato skillet using a slotted spoon or tongs
- Toss until pasta is coated
- Top with basil, julienned or whole and ENJOY

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A genius way to use your fruit when it's going bad

My husband and I spend a lot of summer weekends away from home, so I was thrilled when he had a local commitment that would keep us in Philly. His job was to work. Mine was to not to spend my week’s salary at the farmer’s market. Mission accomplished. I left with only two impulse purchases: organic chicken sausage and a pint of plums.

I ate a plum on the spot, and honestly, it wasn’t the juicy, bright explosion I was hoping for. Fast forward six weeks (eek!) and I discover in the back of my fridge nearly a pint of the saddest, mushiest, most lifeless plums I have ever seen.

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I’m a girl who loves a sale, reuses ziplock bags, and is still reeling over the ten dollars that slipped from her pocket last night. I wasn’t about to let those farmers market plums go to waste!

My first thought was to bake with them. But honestly, I couldn’t even get it together to eat the plums. A big baking project wasn’t happening. Instead, with 2 ingredients, one knife, one baking tray, and an oven set on 400 I said goodbye to the saddest plums. Fifteen minutes later I welcomed a gorgeous mess of roasted fruit that upped my breakfast game to gourmet-level deliciousness for the next week.

How to eat roasted fruit:

  • With yogurt

  • Or vanilla ice cream

  • Or oatmeal

  • Serve under an oatmeal crumble topping

  • Or plain with a touch of lemon for dessert


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The simplest recipe for any fruit roasted

Ingredients

  • Any combination and amount of roastable fruit: berries, stone fruit (plums, peaches, cherries, etc), apples, pears, figs, grapes

  • Sugar

  • Butter/oil optional

  • Cinnamon optional

How-to

A few options:

  • Roast whole

  • Cut in half

  • Cut into equal-sized pieces

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees

  • Place fruit on a parchment-lined baking tray cut side up

  • Sprinkle cut side of fruit with just a touch of sugar; cinnamon optional for flavor, butter/oil optional for a richer and juicier final product (you’ll also just need a touch)

  • Roast 12-30 minutes depending on fruit size

The 7 tools you need in your kitchen

These are my tried and true for saving time, effort, and clean up. For anyone who prepares anything in the kitchen - from the serious cook to corner-cutting maven. I'm curious to hear yours. Share with me below.

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Parchment paper

If you do a lot of roasting and you’re not using parchment paper, you are really missing out. It makes cleanup a dream. But that’s not all, my friends. Parchment is also awesome for roasting fish. Yep. Called “en papillote,” this is creating an airtight envelope or package to steam-roast for a moist, easy meal. Try layering salmon on top of chopped zucchini and topped with lemon slices (a great meal to prep, too!). Tasty, and, again, easy on the clean up front. My favorite.

Garlic press

Okay, so I did live without a garlic press for a while, and I can tell you with certainty: life with a garlic press is better! I used to neglect cooking with garlic, because, let’s face it - it’s a kind of a pain! But it’s a tasty pain and I love the garlic press for making it easier.

Mini food processor

A must for all you pesto and hummus makers out there. It checks all the boxes for convenience: size, price, clean up, and set up. I promise! Even if you are as technically challenged as I am, you don’t need an advanced degree to put it together. This is the one I use.

Immersion blender

Life really changed when I got this guy. No, it’s not an everyday item, but an immersion blender does make a lot of things A LOT easier. It’s not expensive and it’s not big, but it does save time and headache. It’s adequate for a small batch of hummus, but it’s really golden for pureeing hot soups. No transferring required, no hot liquids exploding, one less giant device to clean,

Microplane

Small item, endless functions: citrus zest, cheese, ginger, garlic, chocolate, whole spices, spicy peppers. This is a great starter. And I love this wider one for cheese too.

Lemon juicer

Lemon juice is amazing. Its uses know no boundaries. But picking lemons seeds out of your food? Near impossible and supremely annoying. Find yourself a fancy lemon juicer like this or use a small strainer and juicer like I do for new and improved citrus juicing.

Mandoline

Not a necessity, but a wonderful luxury. First, a disclaimer: these things are scary! Thinly slicing a radish is heavenly, but it’s an entirely different situation when it’s your finger on the blade instead of a vegetable. That being said. I’m a huge fan of thinly sliced difficult-to-cut veggies (radishes, beets, zucchini) in my salads and if you’re up for creating homemade veggie chips or even julienning, a mandoline has you covered. As long as your fingers are also covered, it’s stress free. This one comes with a protective glove, which I highly recommend!

BONUS ITEM

Scissors or shears

I actually have THREE pairs of scissors in my kitchen. They're that useful. I use them for everything from cutting herbs and tearing apart a chicken to cutting flowers and opening mail. I am positive you will put yours to good use.  

 

*note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links
 

The busy mom's guide to after-school snacks for every eater

Happy Back-to-School Month! Do you have snacks and packed lunches on the brain? Join the club.

Snack time is primetime for highlighting fruits and veggies in a fun-to-eat way. And it can be an opportunity to fill nutrient gaps if you have got a picky eater on your hands. Don’t worry too much about specifics, but do aim to combine protein, fiber, and fat. This trio keeps kids (and their caretakers) fuller for longer (but hitting even just two will get you far!).  

 

With nut butter

  • Ants on a log (celery spread with nut butter and studded with raisins)
  • Nut butter topped rice cake decorated with sliced berries, banana;
    • try adding chia seeds or dried coconut if your little is up for it
  • Banana “ice cream” - blend ½ frozen banana, 1 tbs nut butter, ½ tsp cinnamon until creamy
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With cheese

  • Turkey and cheese roll up with a dab up hummus and a piece of crunchy lettuce
  • Cheese quesadilla triangles with salsa
  • Medjool dates pitted, sliced, and stuffed with spreadable cheese (ricotta and goat cheese work well here)

Sweet

  • Fruit kebabs
  • Fruit smoothie made with unsweetened yogurt
  • Plain, vanilla, or coconut yogurt stirred with 1 tbs nut butter, 1 tsp cinnamon (1 tsp honey optional ); serve with apple slices
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Salty

  • Edamame with flakey sea salt
  • Popcorn - pop on the stove with a slick of olive oil over medium heat. Serve as is, with favorite spice, salt, or even a few chocolate chips for a melty rich surprise that kids love
  • Dried seaweed topped with avocado - try Sea Snax made with olive oil
  • Roasted chickpeas - dry a can of drained chickpeas with a paper towel or cloth; coat with olive oil - seasoning optional - and bake at 450 in a single layer for 30-40 minutes
  • Quick guacamole (roughly mash ⅓ avocado with lime juice and a few pinches of salt) with favorite dippers - baby carrots, bell peppers, jicama, veggie chips are my go to

Packaged

  • Jerky of choice - Beyond the traditional beef there are lots of funky and minimally processed options out there. Look for salmon, coconut, turkey, tuna, and even alligator or kangaroo for the adventurous eaters
  • RXBAR kids - only a few, real ingredients in kid-friendly sizes and flavors
  • Crunchy bean bites - try Enlightened Roasted Broad Bean Crisps, Biena or the Good Bean crispy chickpeas,