Recipe: Meaty Baked Pasta!

We eat a lot of veggies in this house, but recently I picked up a few pounds of bulk hot Italian sausage and I was jonesing for a meaty baked pasta dish. We don’t eat a lot of meat, so 1 pound for this recipe is a lot for us. If you are a big meat eater, you can add up to an extra pound of sausage to make it extra meaty.

This recipe makes a lot, but, it keeps well for leftovers and you can freeze leftovers as well.

Meaty Baked Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 box pasta (whatever variety you like best), cooked per package directions
  • 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 T. butter or oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 32 oz of your favorite red pasta sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups mozzarella, divided
  • 1 cup parmesan/romano blend cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook pasta per directions, drain off the water, reserving 2-3 Tablespoons.
  3. In a large pan, cook and crumble Italian sausage. After it is cooked, drain it on a paper towel.
  4. Using the same pan, saute onion and pepper for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are clear and have started to caramelize.
  5. Add in garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add in zucchini, sauce, and tomato paste- cook until sauce comes to a simmer.
  7. Add meat back in, and stir to combine.
  8. Add reserved pasta water to the sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  9. In a baking dish layer sauce, pasta, cheese, and sauce. Repeat until the baking dish is full and top with the remaining cheese.
  10. Cover the baking dish with a lid or tented foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid/foil and cook another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  12. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread!

This recipe made a 9×13 baking dish, which will serve 6-8 people a hearty portion.

If you need more veggies in your life, add carrots, drained diced petite tomatoes, more peppers, and even a few handfuls of spinach!

This meal was so satisfying. I’ve had leftovers for lunch twice now.

I ended up with extra sauce, and I plan on making calzones with it.

Tutorial: Meal Prep with Protein Bowls!

We don’t eat a lot of meat. Partially because our fridge/freezer is still broken, and it’s getting really expensive. So we’ve been eating more non-meat proteins lately.

This tutorial is more like a choose your own adventure. Depending on your dietary restrictions, food likes and dislikes, and what you have in your pantry and refrigerator will greatly influence how your protein bowls turn out.

The base of your bowl is going to be a grain. We used red and white quinoa, but you can use brown rice, bulgur, Right Rice (which isn’t actually rice), you could use high protein pasta like the kind made with lentils, or if you don’t like any of those you could just use regular pasta, noodles, or white rice. It won’t be as high in protein. We prepared 8-ish cups of quinoa cooked per package directions with vegetable broth.

Your next step is to prep your vegetables. The vegetables will take up the bulk of this dish. Because we get a variety of veggies each week with our Yasukochi Farms CSA box, it was easy to select our veggies. We used onions, carrots, celery, peppers (bell peppers), zucchini, mushrooms, and bok choy. We added cherry tomatoes uncooked directly to the bowls while packing. 

Cut your veggies into bite-size pieces (you want to end up with about 8-10 cups of veggies, and sauté them in about a tablespoon of oil (I love avocado oil, but it’s up to you).

Because you will be re-heating these veggies before serving, cook them until they are al dente, or still slightly crisp. Otherwise, they can get mushy.

I started with the onions, cooking them until translucent, then adding the mushrooms, and cooking the moisture out. After that, add the remaining veggies and cook for 5-10 minutes.

While your veggies are cooking, in a separate pan you’re going to heat 2 tablespoons of oil, your choice. This is where we’re going to cook our protein and sauce. We cooked salmon. The salmon was cut into bite-size pieces and then lightly sautéed in oil until it was about 3/4 of the way cooked.

Then we added a jar of Private Selection tikka masala curry sauce (it’s available at Kroger brand stores). I’m usually not a big fan of premade sauces, but in the case of Indian food, the sauces are so much more financially savvy. I believe the sauce was three dollars or less for the jar, and it tastes delicious. Like restaurant quality mild tikka masala sauce. If you wanna add heat, you can add some chili oil or red pepper flakes. But I don’t recommend doing it while you’re cooking, because it will just infuse it with so much heat.

We cooked the sauce with the salmon pieces for about 10 minutes added bok choy and allow that to cook down for another five minutes.

And now the assembly!

We set out eight of the Rubbermaid storage containers (these are the ones that we use).

 

 

Each container contains:

  • one cup of cooked red and white quinoa
  • one and a half cups of vegetables
  • 2 6-oz ladles full of salmon and sauce

Once the containers had cooled to room temperature lids were put on, and they were stored in the refrigerator. When it is time to eat, we will then to the lids and reheat them in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Here are some other options if Salmon Tikka Masala isn’t your bag:

Meat/non-meats (you need 1- 1 1/2 lbs of meat/non-meats for this recipe)

  • ground beef/chicken/turkey
  • lamb chops
  • boneless chicken breasts/boneless thighs
  • beef (cut of your choice)
  • veggie crumbles/other faux meat
  • pollack/tilapia/fish of your choice

Sauce- All of these sauces are pre-made. Feel free to use your own recipe for your favorite sauce.

Kevin’s Sauces has a wide variety of sauces that would be GREAT!

Talk Back: I’d love to hear about your protein bowls- What combination of sauce and veggies would you use?

 

Family Recipe: DIY Salad Bar

The post is dedicated to Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes… RIP.

One of our family favorite restaurants pre-pandemic was Souplantation. So many great veggie and salad options all in one place. This summer I’m trying to find easy, simple lunch options for the family, so this week I’m making a salad bar.

It might sound like a lot of work, but I spend about an hour a week prepping veggies as soon as the CSA box arrives, so it’s just a slightly different prep this week.

First I got out our Rubbermaid reusable containers and lids, and I chopped the various ingredients. At lunchtime, I’ll set all of the containers out, and put the salad greens in a large bowl that is nestled in a baking dish full of ice to keep the greens crisp.

If you are having a salad bar for your July Fourth celebration, consider using a cold ingredient caddy like this one.

It keeps the components cold and at their preferred temperature for an extended period of time.

Here are just a few of the ingredients that we’ll be featuring in our DIY salad bar:

  • Salad greens (spinach, romaine lettuce, butter bibb lettuce, mixed greens, kale)
  • Radishes
  • Brocolli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Red onions
  • Green apples
  • Strawberries
  • Beets (raw or pickled)
  • Bell pepper or other sweet peppers
  • Pickled veggies
  • Capers
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese cubes (or crumbled feta or goat cheese)
  • Diced ham or diced turkey breast lunchmeat
  • Croutons
  • Salad Dressing- I like this vinagrette, and this one, and this ranch.

What do you like on your salads?

5/23/2021 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpg

The fridge was fixed on Tuesday and I filed claims for the lost groceries through the warranty, however, the check hasn’t yet arrived yet.

I have yet to shop for groceries this week, but at least I know what’s in our CSA box that arrives tomorrow.

The CSA emails us in advance to give us a heads up as to what may be in our boxes each week, and that really gives me an upper hand when it comes to meal planning for the week.

Veggies and fruit are delivered each Monday by Yasukochi Family Farms CSA. For $25, it’s a great deal. I don’t have to pick anything, go to the store, or carry it upstairs. I can’t go to the store and get the same amount we get weekly for $25. Seriously. It’s a deal. I spend about an hour on Monday afternoon cleaning and prepping veggies for the rest of the week.

I’ll be hitting up the grocery store this afternoon. Today I’m making a big batch of bolognese sauce today- I’ll be using it a few times this week, and freezing the rest for future use.  Tomorrow once the CSA box arrives I’ll prep the veggies and fruit for the rest of the week.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I try to update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for a kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day.

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids.  The kids are nuts about pancakes. The Big Kid has been on a protein shake kick in the AM.

Lunch: Kids take lunch to school. I eat leftovers. Everyone rejoices.

Dinner: Usually, I do a crockpot meal on Mondays, but now that we are home all the time, we’ve been having an odd combination of fully home-cooked, scratch meals, and frozen entrees and veggies. I have been posting our meal plans on Instagram too- As well as pics of stuff we are doing to keep busy.

  • Sunday:  Bolognese Sauce, pasta, roasted cauliflower
  • Monday:   BBQ chicken, salad, texas toast
  • Tuesday:   Soup Night: Soup, biscuits, fruit salad
  • Wednesday:  Nugget night (nuggets, fruit, crackers, milk)
  • Thursday:   Baked Ziti (with bolognese sauce, cheese, and veggies: zucchini, carrots, onions, celery)
  • Friday:  Pizza/Takeout Night
  • Saturday: Meal o’ Snacks and /or leftovers

Please stay safe you guys!

Talk Back: What are you cooking for dinner this week?

Irresistible Italian TryaBox Opportunity!

 

 

Bring authentic Italian flavors into your kitchen with new Tryazon TryaBox opportunity sponsored by Cucina Antica and Taste Republic. Cucina Antica uses premium, authentic Italian flavors to create award-winning pasta sauces. Each sauce is made with no preservatives and no sugar, water or tomato paste is added. They are gluten-free, vegetarian and Whole30 Approved. Taste Republic is revolutionizing gluten-free food with delicious, wholesome ingredients. The pasta is made fresh and kept in the refrigerated section to maximize freshness. Bring the Italian flavors to your home without the gluten!

We have 100 participant spots open this time and those chosen will receive Cucina Antica Nonna’s Recipe Sauce and a FREE coupon to pick up a fresh package of Taste Republic gluten-free pasta of your choice to sample and review! Learn more and apply here.

 

11/25/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

This week is Thanksgiving here in the US, so the kids are off school all week, and I’ve got tons of fun stuff planned! Zoo, making Turkey Cookies with the kids and my niece, playing at the park, and of course, daily visits to the YMCA. Meals will probably be light because we’re super stoked for all the yummy treats on Thursday.  I’m taking this dish on Thursday!

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. Last week I did a lot of veggie prep and I’ve got a bunch of bags of veggies in the freezer for meals this week.

  • Monday: Breakfast for dinner: Smoothies and Dave’s Killer Bagels with Cream cheese.
  • Tuesday: Quesadillas, green salad, fruit
  • Wednesday:  Chicken and Veggie soup
  • Thursday:  THANKSGIVING FEAST WITH FAMILY
  • Friday:  Some sort of Thanksgiving leftover based meal (perhaps a Moist Maker Sandwich- Friends fans know what I mean)
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:   Leftovers, as per usual

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

10/17/19 National Pasta Day!

d885edea4dac6850a5f9bdde459b5c86.jpgDid you know that 10/17/19 is National Pasta Day?

I didn’t. There aren’t tons of freebies. Like… None.

Olive Garden has some sort of shenanigans going on via Twitter, but ain’t nobody got time for that. IF you sign up for their email club, you can get a free app or dessert.

For those of us who don’t have time to chase deals, and want to eat a bowl of plain ‘skettis at home, here are some yummy pasta recipes to try:

The kids have requested Mac and Cheese for dinner- so we’re celebrating!

Family Recipe: Veggie Loaded Pasta Sauce

file3611341262531.jpg

I’m always on a mission to add more fruits and veggies into our diet. My pasta sauce recipe is full of veggies: Onions, peppers, carrots, zucchini, celery, fresh tomatoes.

And because I love meaty sauce, I can’t forget the 80/20 ground chuck!

I served it last night with both whole wheat pasta and Italian squash that I ran through the spiralizer (I have this one).

The kids aren’t too big on zoodles, but that’s ok. We paired our meal with a green salad (cucumber slices for the kids), and garlic bread (a family favorite).

 

Veggie Loaded Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs ground chuck or your favorite ground beef (don’t use super lean beef)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. each chopped or diced: carrots, celery, bell peppers (I used red)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) fire-roasted tomatoes 
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 t. Shallot pepper seasoning
  • 2 T. Italian Seasoning
  • 4 large zucchinis, spiralized, ends diced and reserved for sauce

 

Directions

  1. Brown meat in olive oil over low, breaking up meat as it cooks.
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and cook until soft and onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic, cook until fragrant.
  4. Add fresh and canned tomatoes, and tomato paste.
  5. De-glaze pan with wine, add seasoning, and small pieces of zucchinis leftover from spiralizing.
  6. Cook on low for 2+ hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. To cook zucchini spirals, steam for 6-8 minutes, drain and serve right away!

 

This sauce freezes well too and gets better overnight in the fridge.  You can also use this sauce to make lasagna.

Recipe: Pesto Chicken Bake

DSCF0043.JPG
That’s Basil, the key ingredient in Pesto

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a couple weeks, but with summer vacation and the kids needing to see me, talk to me, touch me every.moment.of.the.day….. I’ve been a little behind.

This is so easy, so tasty, and so cheesy. And it works with almost every dietary restriction:

If you are vegetarian but omit the chicken.

If you are Gluten-free, substitute GF pasta for what’s the recipe.

If you are vegan, use your favorite vegan “cheese”. And remember to check the pesto- sometimes commercially made pesto contains cheese!

Pesto Chicken Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Pesto (I Like Costco’s Pesto) If you want to make it yourself, I like this recipe.
  • 1 Box Farfalle Pasta. I like Banza– It’s made with chickpea flour and is high in protein.
  • 1 T. Butter or Olive Oil
  • 2 C. chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces. You can also use rotisserie chicken.
  • 2 c. cheese, divided- I like Italian Blend

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a baking dish with spray release and set aside.
  3. Cook pasta per box directions, drain pasta and toss with butter/oil.
  4. Mix Pesto, pasta, cooked chicken and 1 cup of cheese together.
  5. Pour mixture into baking dish.
  6. Top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is bubbly and browned (approximately 20 minutes).
  8. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving with crusty bread and a green salad.

Serves 6-8 as a main dish or 8-10 as a side. This is a great dish for potlucks!

00953.jpg
Yum!