Organizing Dinner is dedicated to helping people get more homemade dinners to the table with fewer trips to the store. We offer you recipes here on our blog and in our cookbooks, strategies for organized dinner success on our website, and in-home cooking classes.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One Good Pan

One Good Pan

Even though you may have 10 pairs of shoes ready to wear, do you find that you reach for the same, tried and true, comfortable, versatile, go-with-anything pair? Perhaps you have a favorite handbag that fits everything just right? Having one good pan that can be used for so many dishes in the kitchen can make cooking so much more of a pleasurable event. I get asked often what is my favorite item to use in my kitchen. It is, hands down, my electric frying pan. Not only is it my favorite item to use in my own kitchen, but it's my favorite thing to use in other people's kitchens when I do cooking demos and classes. 

Why the electric fryer? 

There are two main reasons why I love this piece:

1. It can be used anywhere. Not just anywhere as in at anyone's house, but anywhere in the kitchen where there's an outlet. In the dining room in fact, or on any surface. If counter space is an issue in the kitchen.... be creative. It frees up the stovetop to be used for other things, or allows you to not be confined to cooking in one spot. I move it closer to where the kids are doing homework to "multitask". You could move it closer to where you can see the tv, or look out a window if that increases your dinnermaking pleasure.  

2. Its size. A 5-quart frying pan with a lid can double as a stock pot for soups, chilis, larger portions, sloppy joes, etc. And as opposed to a stock pot that has tall sides, the frying pan's heat is more evenly distributed with more "bottom" space. 

What do I use my electric frying pan to cook? Breakfast lunch and dinner mostly. I can fit eight pancakes, five grilled cheese sandwiches, 6 - 8 pieces of meat.. you get the idea. I also love it for simmering, and below give you two great dinner recipes from 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store that work great in this pan. 

I find that many people don't like to cook a lot because the kitchen is not a place they like to be. Well if your shoes were uncomfortable, you wouldn't want to walk in them either. Buying one good reliable piece for the kitchen can be all that it takes to get you excited about showing up ready to cook. Even better, the money spent on kitchenware makes up for itself in approximately two uses when you calculate the money you've saved by dining in.

For a limited time, I am offering 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store (retail value $16.00) and a beautiful electric frying pan (retail value $50.00)  for $49.99. Together these items can save you a great amount of stress and money at dinnertime. Click here to buy now, and start cooking. 

Grecian Chicken


4 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 can marinated artichoke hearts

1 can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 cups cooked rice

Cook rice according to package directions. In electric frying pan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add chicken seasoned with Italian seasoning and cook until just browned on both sides, but not cooked through. Add artichoke hearts, tomatoes with their liquids, and chicken. Reduce heat to high simmer, and cook uncovered in oven for 45 minutes. Serve over rice. 

Salisbury Steak 


1 lb. ground beef
3 tablespoons flour

1 can mushrooms, drained

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, sliced

1  cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Form beef into four patties. Season with salt and pepper and then coat in flour. In a large pan, heat butter and brown patties on both sides. Add mushrooms and onions to skillet and stir until just warmed. Then add broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix through, spooning sauce onto patties. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for additional 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Smart" Ingredients

At my cooking classes and cooking demos, and in 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store, I talk about the concept of how less = more. Specifically, how fewer ingredients can lead to more mealtime success. The key is knowing what ingredients to buy. To start, you have to learn your family's "Smart" ingredients. 

In our house, if I have a can of diced tomatoes on hand or some chicken broth (and I always try), dinner is a breeze. These two simple (and cheap!) ingredients are the base of so many sure-fire dishes for my family. If I have rice, I know I can use the broth, any veggies I have on hand and some shrimp out of the freezer to make an easy weeknight risotto. If I have some leftover rotisserie chicken, the broth will help me make a delicious pot pie. If I have pasta, the can of tomatoes opens up a world of options. If I have fish fillets, or chicken breasts, I know the tomatoes combined with some frozen spinach or jarred artichokes will make a nice sautee.   

Tortillas are another item I buy every time I go to the store. Why? Because I know my family will eat anything wrapped up in a good quality flour tortilla. Chicken combined with lettuce and caesar dressing for caesar wraps, ground beef browned with taco seasoning for soft shell tacos, chicken fajitas... you get the idea.  

Pay attention to the common themes in the your family's sure-fire dinners, and make it a habit of stocking up on those ingredients or buying them every time you go to the store. It will save you time and energy wondering what to make for dinner and lead you to greater dinner success. In the meanwhile, try stocking up on my two top picks and see if they don't bring you some needed relief. Following are some recipes that use my smart ingredients. 

Chicken Pot Pie


  • Leftover roasted chicken, 2 cups
  • Leftover roasted potatoes, 1 cup diced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups mixed veggies (peas, carrots and corn)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 14 oz chicken broth

Heat oven to 425°F. Bring refrigerated pie crusts to room temperature. Place one crust in bottom of a 9-inch pie pan.

In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened. Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

Basic Risotto Recipe

*Note: Arborio rice is the "recommended" rice for making risotto as it best provides the chewy texture risotto is known for. If you're looking for a quick weeknight meal with ingredients you have at home, any rice will do. If you're using quick-cook rice, the cooking time will be a bit less.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the rice, and stir until the rice is coated in oil and has started to brown. Add the broth one cup at a time, pausing between cups, and stirring constantly. Reduce heat and continue stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Add additional ingredients as desired*. Add the Parmesan cheese and pepper. Stir to blend, and serve.

*Additional ingredients to risotto can include cooked chicken or shrimp, and almost any kind of vegetable already cooked or steamed. Some of the most popular variations include mushrooms sauteed in butter, and sauteed spinach, tomatoes or asparagus.

Italian-Style Chicken with Spinach and Tomatoes


4    chicken breasts
2    tablespoons olive oil
1    teaspoon diced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
1    can diced tomatoes
1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1    teaspoon Italian seasoning
2    tablespoon balsamic vinegar
8    oz. spaghetti noodles
4    tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile sauté onions and garlic in oil in large pan for 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add chicken, balsamic vinegar and Italian seasoning and cook over medium high heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes each side. Add diced tomatoes and spinach to the pan. Cook until fully heated and some liquid evaporates. Serve over pasta, and top each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, February 23, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Appetizers

Mini Ruebens, Potato Pancakes and more for your St. Pat's Party

From Reuben Pizza to Corned Beef Dip, following are some ways to round out your St. Patrick's Day party with delicious and unique appetizers.

Hooray for St. Patrick's Day. It's a fun national celebration, a great way to welcome the hope of spring, and an opportunity for Irish folks to embrace their heritage and traditions. And a great thing about this holiday is that it's built around -- ok, green beer -- but also great food tradition. For the traditional St. Pat's party main course, corned beef and cabbage with potatoes is a delicious and easy-to-make dinner. If you're having a large party and need some appetizer suggestions, or are just looking for some ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day without the full main course, following are some delicious St. Patrick's Day appetizer recipes.

Rueben Pizza Recipe


  • 1 prebaked pizza crust
  • ¾ cup sauerkraut
  • 1/4 pound thin sliced deli corned beef , broken into pieces
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Caraway seeds
  • ½ teaspoon Parsley
  1. Spread mustard on pizza crust. Top with sauerkraut, beef and then cheese. Sprinkle with caraway seeds and parsley.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 15 minutes.

Mini Ruebens -- aka Rueben Sliders Recipe


  • 1 lb. corned beef
  • ½ pound Swiss Cheese
  • 2 sleeves mini rye toasts
  • One bottle Thousand Island dressing
  • 10 oz. sauerkraut
  • butter
  1. Thinly slice corned beef into 2 inch square pieces or smaller. Split cheese into four equal squares.
  2. Load corned beef, one teaspoon sauerkraut, 1 teaspoon dressing and one slice of cheese onto a rye toast. Top with another rye toast to make sandwiches.
  3. Either grill sandwiches in lightly buttered pan, or bake in oven on baking sheet for 10 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately, or individually wrap sandwiches in foil if transporting or to keep warm. Once in foil, sandwiches can be kept warm in warm oven.

Corned Beef Cream Cheese Dip Recipe


  • ½ pound deli corned beef
  • 1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • ¼ cup Green onions, diced
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • Rye toasts or pita or tortilla chips
  1. Dice corned beef into ½ inch squares.
  2. Mix beef together with cream cheese and onions.
  3. Spread in glass baking dish and top with Swiss Cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until cheese is golden.
  5. Serve on rye toasts or with pita or tortilla chips for dipping.

Mini Potato Pancake Recipe


  • 3 to 4 medium potatoes
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons diced green onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, cool, and remove skins.
  2. In a large bowl, loosely mash potatoes.
  3. Add bread crumbs, onions, lemon juice, and salt and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
  4. Form into 1/2 inch thick patties the size of a sausage patty.
  5. Add oil to a deep, medium-sized skillet or Dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat. Fry pancakes 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside on absorbent paper while frying the remaining pancakes.
  6. Serve with sour cream and applesauce for dipping.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dreamy Filet Mignon

Last night I set out to make Food Network Star’s No Nightmare Beef Wellington. I am always trying to learn new things in the kitchen and expand my repertoire, and Beef Wellington is something I have yet to try. As the title implies, this particular recipe is a simplified Beef Wellington version that’s actually made with individual fillets. Great, I thought. I had some beautiful fillets in the fridge, and a package of button mushrooms, so I set out to learn something new. I don’t get a lot of opportunity to work with steaks because my husband loves to man the grill. But this recipe calls for baking the steaks for 15 minutes after a quick sear (using the same pan, which is always key in my kitchen… less mess, less stress). I thought, how easy!... and it was. The steaks turned out delicious. I highly recommend this recipe as a quick and easy preparation for filet mignon.

The Food Network recipe called for topping the beef with Duxelles, which is a mushroom pate, and then drizzling the plate with red wine sauce. (This was, after all, a variation of the ever-fussy Beef Wellington). As I am always trying to make recipes more accessible, sensible, time efficient and use less dishes (less to clean!) I combined the mushroom and wine accents, left out the pate (and the ever-fussy puff pastry), and made a delicious mushroom and red wine gravy to top the steaks. It was unbelievably good. I even used the leftover gravy sauce to make mushroom omelets this morning, making two delicious meals for the low-effort of one. Not only was it not a nightmare, it was dreamy.


Dreamy Filet Mignon with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce


  • 4 8-oz. Filet mignons
  • 2 tablespoons McCormick Steak Seasoning (Or and equal combination of rock salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder and paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil



  1. Remove all moisture from beef with paper towels. Rub steaks with seasoning. 
  2. Heat oil in pan on stove and over medium-high heat, sear steaks for one and a half minutes on each side. 
  3. Transfer pan to 375 degree F (185 degree C) preheated oven, and continue to cook 15 minutes more for medium steaks (25 for well done).


Mushroom sauce recipe

  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 package button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter


  1. Melt butter in saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Add onions and mushrooms, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until softened. 
  2. Add remaining ingredients, increase heat to medium-high, and continue to cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until some liquid evaporates and a slight gravy consistency is formed.


Morning After Mushroom Omelets with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce


If you are lucky enough to have some leftover mushroom sauce, (the above recipe is generous, so you should) you have the makings of a delicious, gourmet-quality, and effortless mushroom omelet.



  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • leftover mushroom sauce
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Melt butter in pan on stove. 
  2. Whisk eggs and milk together. Add eggs to pan and let set for one minute. 
  3. Top with three-quarters of your remaining mushroom sauce, and cheese. Let set one minute more, and then fold omelet and cook until eggs are set. Top with remaining mushroom sauce. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Chicken Strata

Chicken Strata

70 Meals, One Trip to the Store Cookbook

2 chicken breasts, cubed
6 slices of bread, or equivalent, cubed
4 tablespoon butter
1 can mushroom
1 diced fresh tomato or 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
3 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded cheddar/jack OR Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Line bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2" buttered baking dish with bread.Top with chopped chicken. In a small frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until browned,3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to baking dish. Top with cheese and tomatoes. In a large bowl, combine milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until well blended. Pour over chicken. Bake 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle on break crumbs;dot with slivers of remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake at 350° F for 10 minutes, until crumbs are lightly browned.