Shrimp Fried Rice | Dinnertime and the Livin’s Easy

I love Chinese food. Takeout. There is nothing better than MSG filled rice and noodles out of a white cardboard box. I decided to start trying to incorporate non-takeout Chinese meals into the weekly menu since virtually traveling to China every day to teach with VIPKID. My dumpling attempt was an epic fail that made all my students’ moms laugh on Chinese social media (yeah, I am totally on Chinese social media 😂).

But. I gotta say. My Shrimp Fried Rice came out yummy! And was described by one Chinese mom as, and I quote, “香.” (Translation: Fragrant). Best part was both kids asked for seconds!

Shrimp Fried Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup of dry rice, prepare as directed
1/2 to 1 cup of frozen veggies, your choice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 package of frozen shrimp, around a pound, thawed
2 tablespoons sesame oil, more or less as needed
2 tablespoons soy sauce, more or less to taste

  • For frozen veggies, I usually use only chopped broccoli. Because. Picky eaters. I also will use carrots and peas but the peas get picked out by 3/4 of my family. I’ll let you guess who eats them.
  • I like to use the raw, peeled, deveined, tail-off shrimp. Because. Well. It is so much easier. For everyone.
  • It is better to have slightly drier rice. Last time I made this, I accidentally let the rice boil too long before reducing to a simmer. As in it was on the verge of bubbling over. The rice was perfect because it wasn’t as soft and sticky. If you have other suggestion on getting the perfect rice, let me know!

1. Start the rice. Usually rice takes about 20 minutes to cook.

2. When there is about 10 minutes left for the rice, heat up the sesame oil in a large skillet or wok, if you have one. I need a wok.

3. Add the frozen veggies and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. I kind of push it around as it cooks.

4. Push all the veggies to one side of the pan and add the lightly beaten egg to the empty side. Push those around as the cook as you do for scrambled eggs. Because. That’s what they are. Once they are mostly cooked, mix up with the veggies, breaking up the eggs in the process.

5. Add your thawed shrimp. At this time check your rice and, if it is done, remove from heat.

6. Once the shrimp is mostly pink, add the cooked rice. Mix it all up.

7. Add the soy sauce. It will seem like there is not enough for the pile of food in your pan. But just start mixing. And mixing some more. You will be amazed that within minutes, everything is lightly soy sauced. If you like more, add more. But I would only add a little at a time. A little goes a long way.

8. Keep mixing for a few minutes to let the rice become slightly fried.

Recipe Notes: “Push around” is a very technical cooking term. It is not as vigorous as “stirring” but more prolonged than “mixing. So push that stuff around the skillet to keep it cooking evenly and to prevent it from burning!

Nutritional information per BIG serving (using 1 cup cooked rice): Calories 336; Fat 9.6 g (Sat. Fat 1.6 g, Unsat. Fat 7 g); Carbs 38 g (Fiber 2.6; Sugar 1.4 g); Protein 25.4 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 658 mg; Potassium 135 mg

You can switch up the protein or just do Veggie Fried Rice too. I think I would probably start cooking beef or chicken before the veggies though because they take longer to cook than shrimp.

Fast, easy and yummy!! And SO much healthier than takeout!

Instant Pot Vegetable Soup | Under Pressure

What’s the best way to get like all of your vegetable servings for the day in one meal? Vegetable soup, of course. What’s the best way to get a week or more of homemade vegetable soup lunches in just a couple of hours? The Instant Pot, baby. This low calorie (0 points if you do WW), high fiber, veggie loaded soup is on my lunch menu most days. It is filling and delicious.

Before we get to the recipe, however, I want share with you a story that warms my heart more than the vegetable soup you are about to make. I teach English to children in China with VIPKID. Recently, I was teaching one of my higher level students the folktale, Stone Soup. We were talking about the story and soup…

STOP! I kid, I kid. You will never find a long winded story about some random ass moment in my life before the recipe. I know why you are here. For the food. And. I know from experience, you don’t want to waste time scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling down the river. Please tell me that I am not the only one who randomly turns what I am thinking into song. But. I digress. Onto the recipe.


Vegetable Soup

  • Difficulty: easy
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About 4 carrots, sliced
About 4 stalks of celery, sliced
1 zucchini (more or less or none to preference), diced
1 onion (more or less to preference), diced
2 cans of diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can of light kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Italian cut green beans, drained
1 can of sweet corn, drained
8 cups (2 regular sized boxes) of broth (chicken, beef, vegetable)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
2 bay leaves

  • The vegetables are a guideline. Omit what you want. Add what you want. If you don’t like beans like the rest of my family, don’t add beans. If the rest of your family doesn’t like beans, add beans and have all the soup to yourself. Like I do.
  • If you want to minestrone it up, throw in about 1 1/3 cups of small pasta – elbows, shells, ruffles.

1. Prepare all your fresh veggies so they are ready to dump. The prep time of 30 minutes was a complete estimate. It will probably take you less time than that. It probably takes me longer to prepare 4 carrots, 4 stalks of celery and a zucchini. For some reason, prepping takes me FOREVER. (still over here #becomingdomesticated)

2. If you are NOT including diced onions, skip ahead to step 4. If you are including diced onions, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil (I use grapeseed oil) to the Instant Pot. Push Saute. Once the Pot heats up, add the diced onion and saute until they are softened.

3. Push Cancel.

4. Add everything else. Yes, I mean everything, including the pasta if you are adding pasta. I usually dump the fresh veggies, followed by the canned veggies, then the broth and finally the herbs. But really, it doesn’t matter. It is all going in. Stir it up real good.

5. Put your lid on the Instant Pot. Make sure the vent is on Sealing/closed.

6. Set the Instant Pot to manual pressure for 4 minutes.

7. Go about your day. Pressurizing will vary based on the model of your Instant Pot. It will take longer than many of your recipes because the Pot is filled so much with yummy goodness.

8. Once pressure is reached, the timer will switch from ON to the 4 minute countdown. When the 4 minutes is complete, push Cancel.

9. I would let it natural release for at least 15 minutes. To release the pressure, move the vent to Open. Usually, I just leave it to naturally release for longer because I am doing other things.

Nutritional information per 1 CUP serving (WITHOUT PASTA): Calories 90; Fat .5 g (Sat. Fat .01 g, Unsat. Fat .04 g); Carbs 17.7 g (Fiber 5; Sugar 5 g); Protein 5 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 774 mg; Potassium 220 mg

And there you have. Easy, delicious, healthy and fast-for-a-soup Vegetable Soup. I store it in the the fridge until it is gone. Switching it to a smaller storage bowl every couple of days.

Black Bean Soup | Dinnertime and the Livin’s Easy


Soup. I never realized how easy it is to make. Or that you had to put it in a blender! After my success with Pepper Soup, I decided to branch out. I had a lunch date with a client last week at Panera Bread, the week I started eating healthy. If you know me, you know I can devour a tuna sandwich on tomato basil bread, a cup of mac and cheese and whatever seasonal shortbread cookie is out. But, I am fat. And I am all in.

So I ordered half a tuna sandwich on tomato basil, and a cup of black bean soup. No cookie. And, I recorded it in MyFitnessPal. The black bean soup was so good, and full of fiber, that I decided to try it on my own! Fiber is key for me. I need it to feel good, and I have neglected it for, oh, the last 10 years.

I put together a couple recipes, and the results are easy, healthy, full of fiber and tasty! So give it a try and make your lunches for the week ahead of time!

Black Bean Soup

  • Servings: About 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 15-ounce cans of black beans
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon of chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1. Dump everything in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

2. Blend in blender, or if you have one of those awesome hand blenders, use that, til desired consistency.

That’s it! So easy and so good! Plus a 1 cup serving is nice and filling because it is packed with fiber!

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 156; Fat 1.2g; Sodium 925 mg; Potassium 519.2 mg; Carbs 27 g (Fiber 8.8; Sugar 3.7 g); Protein 10.1 g; Vitamin A 14.6%; Vitamin C 11.7%; Calcium 11.7%; Iron 19.8%


Pepper Soup | Dinnertime and the Livin’s Easy

The hubs came home a few weeks requesting that I make Pepper Soup. This was an odd request to me. It involved peppers and soup, two things the hubs doesn’t eat much of. Plus, I had never heard of such a soup. But I was up for the challenge, found a couple of recipes, added my own twist and this batch is pretty dang good! So here it is, Pepper Soup.


Pepper Soup

  • Difficulty: easy
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2 pounds of lean ground beef (I used 90-10)
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, pressed
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Soy sauce, to taste
2 green peppers, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 orange pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
32 ounces of beef broth
1 cup water
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of stewed tomatoes
2 heaping tablespoons of packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Starch of choice (rice, pastina, oyster crackers), optional

1. Brown beef and garlic over medium-high heat. Shake some Worcestershire Sauce and Soy Sauce on there while it’s cooking. I know, I know. I hate it when recipes fail to give proper guidance on the amount to use but I just poured a little on and didn’t measure it. After beef is browned, drain and pat dry with paper towels. This is kind of gross, but it makes the soup better.

2. Dump everything except your starch of choice in the crock pot. I like to cut up the stewed tomatoes a little when I put them in. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

3. If you want to add a starch, prepare as directed (rice or pastina) and add  to the soup about 20 minutes before removing from the crock pot. DO NOT let rice sit in a turned on crock pot for longer because you won’t have soup. You will have super expanded rice with beef and peppers. In our family, I like to eat it without a starch to reduce calories and carbs. The hubs likes oyster crackers. So if you have a starch, you can always add it, if desired, before each serving.



Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef | Dinnertime and the Livin’s Easy

Yesterday, I made the first dinner of my first 2-week meal plan. I went with a new recipe, added a few tweaks of my own and the result was pretty yummy and the hubs approved! Best part though? It was super easy to make!


Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Between 1 and 1.5 pounds of stew meat (I use the pre-cut stew meat because it is easier and, well, less gross)

1/3 cup corn starch

2 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 minced or pressed garlic cloves

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup brown sugar

Green onions, one bundle will more than do you


  1. Put the corn starch and garlic powder into a large zip lock bag, and give her a shake to mix. Add stew meat (if you don’t buy the pre-cut, cut it into strips or chunks first). Shake, rattle and roll until the meat is covered. Set aside.
  2. In your crock pot, mix together the olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, water and brown sugar until the brown sugar dissolves. This will seem like a LOT of soy sauce. With the little pouring device, it is almost painfully slow and you WILL question whether this is too much soy sauce. Just keep going.
  3. Add coated meat to crock pot, mix to coat meat with sauce. Put on top, and cook for 5-6 hours on low, or 3-4 hours on high.
  4. Serve over rice, and top with some green onions, sliced.

Easy and tasty. My kind of recipe.

Recipe slightly tweaked from The Recipe Critic



One Pot Hawaiian BBQ Pasta | Dinnertime and the Livin’s Easy

Got ham? I did. Being my first attempt at preparing a holiday spread on my own, I went out and bought the biggest spiral ham Wegmans had to offer. Nearly 11 pounds of ham for 7 adults. It was bone-in and I had no idea how much that weighed, so better safe than sorry, right?

The day after Christmas, I decided to put my hypothetical apron back on and put all that extra ham to good use. Hello Pinterest. I found a potential recipe adding leftover ham to a one pot pasta dish. Pasta and one-pot are my favorite kind of recipes. But this particular recipe wasn’t quite right in my mind so I decided to combine it with another one pot pasta recipe. The results were a leftover ham paradise.


One Pot Hawaiian BBQ Pasta

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


8 ounces of bacon, chopped
A good bit of ham, bite sized cubes/pieces
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of milk
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups rotini pasta
1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I use more like 1/2 a cup. We like BBQ sauce)
8 ounces of pineapple tidbits, drained (I used more, like 2/3 of a 20 ounce can)


1. In one of your biggest skillets, cook the bacon until crispy over medium heat. Drain almost all of the grease carefully – it is hot. I never know exactly what to do with the grease, so I usually pour it into an old jar.

2. Add ham to the bacon and heat over medium heat. The ham is cooked so you are really just heating it up and getting it saturated in bacon grease. Yum.

3. Add diced tomatoes, milk, chicken broth. Stir to mix it all together. Add rotini pasta. And, you got it, stir again. I like to make sure all the noodles are in the liquid, even if not completely submerged.

4. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until pasta is cooked the way you want to eat it.

5. Stir in BBQ sauce and pineapple tidbits until heated through. Just a couple of minutes on low heat.

6. Enjoy your re-discovered holiday ham!

Now, we are basically a no cheese house. The hubs has an aversion to cheese on anything except pizza. I am not a cheese junkie, so no need to add extra calories. Both of the recipes I consulted to create this called for cheese.  One called for 1 cup of cheddar, the other for 1 cup of mozzarella. So, if you like cheese, take your pick and add it at the end, and cover til it melts.