Cooking with Hope- A birthday celebration

For the second week of Cooking with Hope, we are celebrating a very special birthday for my twin siblings! Hope and Sean, aka Sohope as they were called growing up, turn 20 today! YAY My parents can finally take a big breath; for the first time in 17 years, they don’t have any teenagers! Click here to read about the first week of Cooking with Hope.

For their special day, Hope requested one of her favorite meals – Quinoa enchiladas from Skinny Taste. I made them once for her and she LOVED them. Also on the menu are grilled watermelon and homemade healthy ice cream! Everything turned out delicious and Hope learned how to make her favorite meal. The original recipe for the enchiladas can be found here.  The one below is the one I made; it has a few minor changes from the original. The great thing about this recipe is it makes a lot of food; we had enough for leftovers the next day, and it gives you left over black beans to make a salad or quesadilla with. That’s one dinner and two lunches! Score!

Quinoa Enchilada Bake


  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth – (I used chicken bouillon to make my base. See meal planning tips for more info on this)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 (4oz) can diced green chiles
  • 3/4 cup canned black beans
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen thawed corn
  • Chopped fresh cilantro – the more the merrier. I used about 1/2 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups Mexican shredded cheese, divided
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped scallions


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 12 baking dish
  2. Cook the quinoa using 1 3/4 cups chicken broth and 1/4 cup water according to package instructions. Once done, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown. Don’t burn! Add the tomato sauce, 1/4 tsp salt, cumin, 1/4 cup chicken broth, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer 3-4 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, green chiles, corn, black beans, and 1/2 cup cilantro. Top with the hot sauce mixture and add remaining cheese.
  5. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.
  6. Top with avocado and scallions.

I’ve been wanting to try grilled watermelon for a while, plus this made a perfect side dish to the quinoa. It tasted even better than I expected. The salty feta cheese mixed perfectly with the sweet watermelon.

Grilled Watermelon with Feta Cheese and a Balsamic Reduction Sauce


  • Watermelon, sliced into triangles
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


  1. Cut the watermelon in half through the center. Place the flat part on a cutting board and slice a 1 inch thick piece off, so you have a large circular piece. Slice the circle into even triangle pieces.
  2. Turn on the grill, season the watermelon with a thin layer of olive oil on both sides and grill until grill marks show on watermelon, about two minutes/side.
  3. Transfer to a platter and season with salt. Set aside.
  4. In a small sauce pan bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil and cook until thickens slightly about 5 minutes. Pour over watermelon pieces and top with feta cheese.

I have also been wanting to try this healthy ice cream for a while! Recently , I’ve been getting a chocolate craving after dinner and thought this would be perfect, except I didn’t have any frozen bananas. So this time I finally planned ahead! This recipe definitely hit my sweet tooth and I will be making it again!

Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream


  • 4 ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp honey


  1. Pulse banana pieces in blender until smooth, add all other ingredients and pulse until incorporated.
  2. Transfer to a resealable container, freeze at least 30 minutes before serving.


Week of July 26th

What a week of great meals! After returning from vacation, it takes a while to get back into the swing of things. This past week helped to reestablish my routines and start eating healthy again. 

Monday-Chicken sausage kebobs with green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and pineapple and tomato, spinach, and basil risotto. 

Chicken Sausage Kebobs with Green Pepper, Cherry Tomatoes, and Pineapple


  • 2 Chicken sausage links, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1 package cherry tomatoes
  • Pineapple cut into 1 inch squares
  • 5 wooden skewer sticks, soaked for 30 minutes


  1. Prepare all your ingredients. We didn’t cook the chicken sausage ahead of time on the stove, but it would be a good idea since some pieces fell off theskewer 
  2. Place in order on the skewer – chicken sausage, pepper, tomatoe, pineapple, repeat. Don’t overcrowd them – leave a little space in between each item
  3. Grill for 10-15 minues until the veggies start to get some grill marks

Tuesday-Cobb salad. I pretty much only make this in the summer, especially on the hottest, most humid days of the summer.  It’s super easy to throw together and tastes delicious! 

Cobb Salad


  • 1-2 hard boiled eggs, sliced and chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced and chopped
  • 3-4 slices of bacon, cooked
  • 1 large tomato, chopped 
  • Feta cheese
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Your choice of salad dressing  


  1. Add lettuce to a large bowl 
  2. Add all other ingredients and your choice of dressing!

WednesdayGnocchi with zucchni ribbons and cherry tomatoes – A perfect summer meal! Calling this a light meal seems like an oxymoron since it’s gnocchi, but that’s exactly how I would describe it! Try it for yourself and see what you think!

ThursdayLemon basil grilled pork chops with a Caprese salad! I have so much fresh basil in my garden I need to start using it up! This dinner was great since both items called for basil! 

Caprese Salad with a Balsamic Drizzle


  • Two large tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella sliced
  • Handful fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar 


  1. Slice tomatoes and lay on large platter, cover, salt them and let sit 10-15 minutes, drain the juices
  2. Slice mozzarella and add to platter, tucking behind a tomato, top with fresh basil and add pepper to taste
  3. In a small mixing bowl, add olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, and salt. Stir together and pour over tomatoes

Friday-Cooking with Hope – A Birthday Celebration! Quinoa Fiesta Enchilada Bake. My sister loves this recipe, so in honor of her birthday today, we are making her favorite meal together! Separate post coming soon! 

Shopping List

  • Servings: 2 people/meal
  • Print

  • 3-4 boneless pork chops
  • Fresh basil – 1 cup for pork chops and handful for Caprese salad
  • Five large tomatoes – 2 for Caprese salad, 2 for the risotto, 1 for the cobb salad
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Two chicken apple sausage links
  • Cherry tomatoes – for the chicken sausage kebobs and the gnocchi pasta
  • Zucchini
  • 1 package gnocchi 
  • Fresh parsley
  • One large green bell pepper
  • Pineapple – cut into cubes for the kebobs
  • 3/4 cup Risotto
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 bag of lettuce
  • 1-2 hard boiled eggs
  • 3-4 slices of bacon, cooked
  • 2 Avocados – 1 for the cobb salad and 1 for the quinoa enchilada bake 
  • Feta cheese
  • 1 4 oz can diced green chiles
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Shredded mexican cheese 
  • Scallions

Pantry items

  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar 
  • Lemon juice 
  • Butter
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Quinoa
  • Tomato sauce
  • Chicken broth – for the risotto and quinoa bake 
  • Cumin
  • Chipotle en adobo sauce or hot sauce
  • Black beans
  • Fresh or frozen corn

Week of July 19th 

What an adventurous week for megsmealplanning! I only followed 1 recipe all week! Four of the meals were created by me! Also new this week, I’m going to start including my shopping lists so you can print them out to make it even easier for you at home to try these recipes!

The shopping list will be located at the end of every weekly meal post. I’ll include every item needed for each recipe. Don’t freak if it looks like a lot of items; once you start building your pantry, you’ll find you will already have a bunch of these items. For more tips on building a pantry, click on my meal planning tips! Remember to buy things when they’re on sale. For example, I only buy pizza dough when it goes on sale for 10/$10, I’ll buy 2-3 and freeze them until needed.

Monday– Homemade pizza! Margherita and pesto pizza with spicy chicken sausage. My sister came over for dinner because she wants to learn how to cook.  For the next few weeks I’m going to be featuring a mini-series called “Cooking with Hope” featuring meals my sister and I cook together. To read more about this meal, click here!

Tuesday– Chicken legs with sweet potato and pineapple. I found this recipe in the cook book One pan, Two Plates, by Carla Snyder.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Sweet Potatoes, and Pineapple


  • 2 tsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 whole chicken leg quarters or drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup diced fresh or canned pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Combine 1 tsp of the parsley, all the thyme, garlic, and butter in a small bowl and mash it all together. Working with one chicken piece at a time, gently slide your fingers under the skin to separate it from the meat and push half of the herb butter under the skin, pressing it evenly over the surface of the meat. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a 12 inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and brown it on the first side, without moving it. Turn and brown the other side. Transfer to plate. (It won’t be fully cooked.)
  4. Add the shallot, sweet potatoes, 1/2 tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper to the oil in the hot pan and saute until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the pineapple and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and any juices, layering the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes. Transfer to the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes. *Note if not using leg quarters, the chicken will cook faster, use a meat thermometer and insert into the chicken until it reads 165 degrees).
  5. Divide the chicken and potatoes between two plates and top with remaining parsley.

Wednesday– Cheeseburgers with grilled squash and zucchini and baked beans. This is as easy as they come. Slice the veggies, season with salt, pepper, and olive oil and cook at the same time with the burgers.

Thursday– Grilled chicken salad with roasted corn, black beans, scallions, and feta cheese with a honey lime vinaigrette.  I’m very happy with this salad because I didn’t follow a recipe for the salad or the dressing!

Grilled chicken salad with black beans and roasted corn

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print


  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 2 pieces of skinless, boneless chicken breast, grilled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup ofcorn
  • 3-4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In large bowl add spinach, chicken, black beans, scallions, and feta cheese
  2. Heat small frying pan over medium heat, add corn, salt, and pepper and cook 3-4 minutes or until corn starts turning brown. Add to spinach.

Honey lime vinaigrette


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • Salt to taste


  1. Mix all ingredients together and pour over salad.  This will make more than enough, you can store the rest in the fridge and use on another day!

Friday– Spaghetti with pesto, artichokes, and sun dried tomatoes. Once again I didn’t follow a recipe! This was a good week for that! I had the pesto I made in advance, click here for the recipe.  Cooked pasta according to package directions, added artichokes and sun dried tomatoes.

Shopping List

  • Time: Depends how quick you move
  • Print
  • Two store bought pizza doughs
  • Pizza sauce
  • Fresh basil
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Pesto
  • Spicy chicken sausage
  • Artichokes
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 whole chicken leg quarters or 4 drumsticks
  • Sweet potato
  • 1 fresh pineapple or canned pineapple
  • Hamburger patties
  • Hamburger buns
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • Spinach
  • Feta cheese
  • Scallions

Please note, I didn’t include the following items because they are what I consider as pantry items aka I always have them in stock and buy when they go on sale

  • Parsley- can use dried
  • Thyme- can use dried
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Butter
  • Baked beans
  • Corn
  • Black beans
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Honey
  • Spaghetti

Cooking with Hope

My sister, Hope, is a junior in college and will be living in a house next year with NO MEAL PLAN!  I remember being in her shoes and being so nervous thinking, “What the hell am I going to eat!?”  She has the same fears and wants to learn some easy meals to make next year.

The Cooking with Hope series will feature meals we make together over the next few weeks until she leaves for school. The first meal is homemade pizza!

We made two pizza pies – the first is your basic Margherita pizza and the second was a pesto pizza with spicy chicken sausage and sun dried tomatoes.  We experimented cooking the two pizzas by preheating one pizza stone, but not the other. And let me tell you, BIG mistake not preheating both of them. The preheated stone gave the dough a nice crispy crust! Once both pizzas were prepared, we cooked them together.


Margherita Pizza


  • Pizza dough
  • Pizza sauce
  • Sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Handful fresh basil


  1. Roll dough on cookie sheet or pizza stone
  2. Spread pizza sauce on dough, top with fresh mozzarella
  3. Bake at 475 for 15 minutes (for the Margherita pizza, we didn’t preheat the cookie sheet)
  4. Slice basil and top on pizza once it’s done cooking

Pesto Pizza with Spicy Chicken Sausage and Sun Dried Tomatoes


  • Pizza dough
  • Pesto, click here for recipe
  • Olive oil
  • 2 Spicy chicken sausages, sliced thin
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and heat pizza stone for 15-30 minutes. I only preheated it for 15 minutes because I was too hungry to wait the full time, but it will make the dough even more crunchy!
  2. While the pizza stone is heating, drizzle some oil olive in a frying pan. Saute the chicken sausage until no longer pink in the middle. I used only two pieces and froze the rest.
  3. After 15-30 minutes take out the pizza stone and carefully spread your dough out. Remember it’s hot! Turn oven up to 475 degrees
  4. Spread a layer of pesto. Add your shredded cheese, then top with chicken sausage and sun dried tomatoes. Cook both pizzas together for 15 minutes or until the crust is turning brown.

CSA week 5

I’m really glad I decided to try the CSA, although I only did it for 5 weeks, I still received plenty of fresh and local vegetables, fruits, and herbs. It was also cool to try things I never heard of before like sorrel and kohlrabi. When I was in Portland, one of the dinner specials at the Grill Room was a steak served with kohlrabi. And I thought HEY! I know what that is!!!

One thing I’m very nervous about is, making my own recipes! I always refer to cookbooks or recipes I find on pinterest, but with the CSA I slowly started experimenting with their ingredients to make my own dish! I hope to continue that trend and keep trying to create my own meals!
For the final week I received raspberries, snap peas, dill, basil, blueberries, sorrel, and zucchini, and lettuce. Since this was the week before leaving for vacation, I didn’t use too many of the items for dinner. Instead I snacked on the raspberries and blueberries, used the lettuce on my sandwiches, and made pesto.

Basil Pesto


3 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup unsalted almonds

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/3 cup olive oil


Add all ingredients, except olive oil, to a food processor and blend well.
Slowly drizzle olive oil and continue to blend.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled snap peas. Ummm I love these!

Grilled zucchini – seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Week of July 12th

I’m back! The past two weeks were much needed! I caught up with old friends, celebrated my one year wedding anniversary in Portland, ME, (click here to read about Portland), and went on a family vacation!  Over the past two weeks I finished my CSA, made LOTS of PESTO, tried some new recipes, and ate way too much seafood! (Not always a bad thing!).  

I made two variations of pesto.  The first one was with just basil and the second one was with basil and sorrel, both from the CSA.  

Basil Pesto

  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


  1. Add all ingredients, except olive oil, to a food processor and blend well.
  2. Slowly drizzle olive oil and continue to blend.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

***For the 2nd batch I followed the same recipe, but added fresh sorrel with the basil.  I froze more than half of the pesto and stored the rest in a tightly sealed mason jar. 

Monday– Panini- homemade basil pesto (see above), tomato, fresh sliced mozzarella. Another easy dinner!  Spread the pesto on the panini, layer with tomato and sliced mozzarella. Toasted on panini maker! 

Tuesday– Grilled salmon and grilled snap peas. Finished off the last snap peas from the CSA.  I love this grilled snap pea recipe, I’ve used it almost every time. It’s simple and tasty! I didn’t use a wood plank for the salmon because last time, we didn’t like how it came out. Any tips?? Instead, the salmon was seasoned with salt and pepper and placed directly on the grill for 10 minutes. 

WednesdayPasta with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.  Another easy dinner for a summer night.

Thursday– Left over pulled pork, baked beans, and kohlrabi coleslaw. The pulled pork was from my parents and the kohlrabi was from the CSA.  I had never heard of kohlrabi before; it tastes like a cabbage, but has a little more crunch!

Friday– Pesto chicken. Finished off the rest of the basil. This was a great recipe, something I can’t wait to eat again once I start getting tomatoes from my garden! 


CSA week 4 

This week I received basil, white cherries, raspberries, kohlrabi, kale, and snap peas. I let my mom keep all the asparagus. This week will be linked to the week of July 12th, coming soon!


  • Dinner- Fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil panini. I used the rest of the sorrel pesto I made a few weeks ago
  • Dinner- Pasta with basil and cherry tomatoes
  • Pesto

  White cherries

  •  Snack


  • Breakfast- Morning shake with kale, raspberries, apple, ground flax seed, and almond milk
  • Snack


  • Dinner- Coleslaw. Served on the side of left over pulled pork from Father’s Day lunch


  • Breakfast- Morning shake with kale, raspberries, apple, ground flax seed, and almond milk
  • Lunch- Kale salad with roasted shallots/garlic, grilled snap peas, cranberries, and sliced almonds

  Snap peas

  • Dinner- Grilled snap peas on the side of grilled salmon
  • Lunch- I saved some of the grilled snap peas and added it to my kale salad