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.

Recipe: Making Pie Crust!

Pie crust is easy to make. It has few ingredients, but there is some finesse involved in making a light, flaky pie crust.

There are no special tools needed, but a pastry cutter is nice (You can use a whisk instead, or your bare hands).

This is the pie crust recipe that I use. I know it by heart and I make it frequently. It’s great for sweet pies like pumpkin, or savory meat pies like chicken pot pie (that recipe is coming later this week).

This recipe makes 1 pie crust for an 8 or 9-inch pie plate, if you need two (top and bottom), double it.

Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon AP Flour
  • 1/3 cup shortening OR unsalted butter -It needs to be cold butter or room temp shortening. This part is SUPER IMPORTANT.
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water (You may need an extra tablespoon or so if the weather is very dry).

 

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add flour and fat.
  2. Using a whisk, pastry cutter, or your hands, mix flour and fat until incorporated into little (pea-sized or smaller) pieces.
  3. Slowly add water and combine to form a large dough ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will help ensure that your crust is flaky.
  4. Flour a clean, flat surface, and roll the dough out into a large circle. Do not over roll it or manhandle the dough- this will make it heavy and flat.
  5. If you are making a bottom crust, press it into a pie plate, and trim the edges.
  6. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times to keep it from bubbling.
  7. If you are making a pie that will be filled and baked again like pumpkin or quiche, bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Cool completely before filling and baking a second time.
  8. If you will be using the pie crust as a top only (no bottom crust), once the crust is rolled out, fill your baking dish with whatever you are cooking, top it with the uncooked crust, pierce it a few times (to vent the steam), and bake per the directions of the recipe.

Substitutions:

If you are vegan, use shortening. Do not use spread/oleo/margarine.  They contain water and will make your crust turn out funky. Butter flavored shortening is great.

If you are gluten free, use 1 for 1 AP flour.

Talk Back: What kind of pie do you like?

Penzeys: $3.95 for $24.95 Heal the World gift box!

Happy Earth Day Y’all! Penzeys is celebrating with a screaming deal on their Earth Day Gift Box.

This deal is available both in stores or online at penzeys.com, no coupons or codes are needed for the regularly $24.95 Heal the World gift box. This is a great gift box filled with some of the best goodness our Earth has to offer.

The Heal the World Gift Box includes 1/4 cup jar each of Pie Spice, Granulated Garlic, Smoked Spanish-style Paprika, and Northwoods Seasoning. Also includes a Heal the World Magnet and Heal the World sticker.

You can order online and pick it up in-store, if you have a local Penzeys location. In San Diego, there is one in Hillcrest.

Baketivity: Baking fun with kids!

Have you heard of Baketivity? I heard about it recently, and I’m really excited to try it with the kiddos. They both love making treats in the kitchen.

  • IT’S MORE THAN JUST A BAKING KIT: Baketivity Is A Wonderful Way To Bond With Children And Build Skills In An Informal Way; It Is Easy, Fun, And Mess-Free With The Most Delicious Results!
  • WHOLESOME INGREDIENTS: Create Everlasting Memories With Fresh, Certified Kosher Ingredients That Are Manufactured In An FDA Approved Facility In The USA
  • EASY BAKING: Mix and stir in a snap with pre-measured ingredients and simple, kid-friendly instructions.
  • RECIPES BOOK: Step-by-step instructions with colorful, kid-friendly illustrations to make sure every bite comes out perfectly.
  • ENJOYABLE LEARNING: Explore exciting, colorful lessons and play educational games while your treats bake.
  • SHOPPING LIST: Detailed shopping list for the wet ingredients and baking tools you will need in each kit.
  • FREE HAT AND APRON: One size fits all Baketivity kids apron with a chef hat; it will be the best addition for your little baker!


Enjoy sweet savings today! – Use code FAMILYGUIDE to get 18% on any subscription plans today at https://baketivity.com. IT’S MORE THAN JUST A BAKING KIT: Baketivity Is A Wonderful Way To Bond With Children And Build Skills In An Informal Way; It Is Easy, Fun, And Mess-Free With The Most Delicious Results!

I can’t wait to try it out with my two chefs!

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Season… 3 Recipe Ideas!

And that means cute little faces outside local stores, coming door to door, or like my kid, asking you politely on her mom’s blog to buy please buy Girl Scout Cookies from her personalized GS Cookie website here.

There is a really tasty new variety this year, adventurefuls, but like so many things in life right now, they are out of stock due to supply issues. You may be able to find them from a girl in your area.

Once you’ve got your hands on the cookies, there has to be more than eating them as is, right?

Yup, here are a few ideas that were brainstormed recently by some of us GS Cookie fanatics.

Thin Mint Brownies: Mix up your favorite brownie batter (either from a mix or scratch, your choice), and crumble 12-15 cookies (about 1/2 -3/4 of a sleeve). Mix into the batter, and bake per directions. Crunchy, minty bits in each bite.

Lemon Ups Cheesecake parfaits: I made these last week and they are BOMB.

For the no-bake cheesecake filling: Cream 1 8 oz. brick Cream Cheese, fold in 1 tub of Cool Whip, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

In a parfait dish (like this one), layer, Lemon Ups cookies (I cut each one into 4 pieces and scattered them across the bottom), then the cheesecake mixture, then a layer of sliced strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries (any combination), and repeat until the dish is full. Top with any remaining berries.

Refrigerate 4-6 hours, allowing time to set up (I made mine the day before I needed to serve it to give it enough time to set up).

If you have a hankering to use your Samoas, You can substitute those in for the lemon cookies and use strawberries or raspberries only (blueberries just don’t mesh well with Samoas).

We’re making Samoas Cheescake cups next week. Using the same no-bake cheesecake filling recipe above, line the wells of a cupcake pan with aluminum cupcake liners (like these). At the bottom of each, place a Samoas cookie. Fill the remaining space in the cup with the cheesecake filling. Top with half a Samoas.

Drizzle the top with caramel syrup and store in the fridge 4-6 hours before serving.

Starting off 2022 Right: How to save money at the grocery store and beyond!

Saving money is my bag. It’s what I’m good at, and I’ve made a name for myself as the resident frugalista in many of my friend circles.

A lot of people want to save money as one of their New Years Resolutions, and with the price of everything going up (thanks to inflation and the global pandemic), it’s becoming more important for people to learn and use some frugality skills.

So let’s get started on saving you some money at the grocery store and other places as well. Since I’ve been writing about these topics since 2016 on various blogs, I have tons of great posts that will be linked to throughout this post.

Start by making a list of what you already have at home. I use inventory sheets that I made on Canva.  I have one for the Pantry, one for the fridge, and one for the freezer. They live in plastic page protectors, and I update them when I am cooking (or afterward). It makes seeing what we’ve got on hand a breeze.

  • Shop sales- Buy and eat what is in season. This doesn’t only mean produce. Various items are on sale during the year, usually to correspond with holidays. My list of sales cycles can be seen here.
  • Buy in bulk if you are able.
  • Utilize Store apps to save money- CVS, Walgreens, Target, Vons, Ralphs, Food4less, Sprouts, etc.) all have apps with digital coupons and savings. With a few clicks, you’ll be saving money without clipping coupons! This tip is a great way to save on cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, and OTC meds. 
  • Utilize cash back apps. My list of favorites can be found here.
  • Take advantage of local farms and CSA’s. I love Yasukochi Farms CSA. They are a local farm and have great produce boxes.

Right now they are having a New Years Sale! Choose either a 1-month regular box subscription for $88, or a 1-month jumbo box subscription for $120. To learn more or order, check out their website.

For less than $30 a week, we get a big box of produce delivered to our door. It helps us stay on budget and eat healthy!

Basically, it boils down to being organized, which can be hard. Choosing 1 or 2 of the above to get started and adding them to your routine until they become second nature, and then adding in 1 or 2 more, and so on and so on.

 

Egg Bites: Quick, Easy Cook Ahead Breakfast (Starbucks CopyCat)

These are so good!
Ready to get into the oven.

I love the bacon and Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites at Starbucks, but… I’m frugal and those little dudes ain’t cheap.

So Sunday night, I set out to see if I could make them. This was a test batch, so I only did 6. I’ll be making more in the future. They are super easy to make, and you can customize them with ingredients you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 T butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 sour cream or Creme Fraiche
  • 4 Oz chopped/shredded cheese (I used Kerrygold cheddar)
  • 1/3 cup bacon pieces (I use the ones from Costco)
  • salt and pepper to taste
greased cups in the shallow baking dish with water.

NOTES:
I used small glass bowls from dollar tree, but you can use a muffin tin, custard cups, whatever fits into a shallow baking dish (I used a 9×13 baking dish).

Directions:

  1. Spray cups/muffin tin with spray release, set aside.
  2. Fill a shallow pan with 1-2 cups water (start with 1). You want the baking cups/muffin tin cups to be covered in water on the outside, but you don’t want to water to get into the cups.
  3. Set the cups/muffin tin into the water bath pan.
  4. Sauté onions in butter until the onions are clear (about 10 minutes). Take off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature.
  5. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, and sour cream until combined.
  6. Add cheese, bacon, and onions to mixture.
  7. Stir well to combine and add salt and pepper.
  8. Give it a quick mix and ladle it into the greased cups/ muffin tin.
  9. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10-ish minutes.
  11. Run knife around the edges to free egg bites from the cups and allow to cool on a plate.

Store in fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat in microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute.

Substitutions:

  • If you are a vegetarian, omit the bacon. You can substitute the same amount of chopped veggies (bell peppers, and spinach are two of my favorites).
  • If Cheddar cheese isn’t your jam, goat cheese, gruyere, mozzarella are all good choices.
  • Finally, bacon can be swapped with crumbled sausage.

Recipe: Crispy Onion Chicken

This is a delicious, easy recipe. And kids love it too!

Crispy Onion Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken (your choice, I like breasts or thighs)
  • 2 cups French Fried Onions, crushed
  • 2 T. flour
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (You can use coconut oil or margarine if you are dairy free)

 

Directions:

  1. Place onions in a Ziploc bag and crush onions with a rolling pin (or a bottle of wine, whichever is handy)
  2. Pour crushed onions, flour, and pepper in a flat dish, mix thoroughly.
  3. Dip each piece of chicken in melted butter, and rolleach buttery piece in onion/flour mixture.
  4. Place each piece in a greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked throughout.

I like to serve these with mashed potatoes, and a green salad (I really like this one).

 

New Recipe: Loaded Roasted Cauliflower

I’ve seen this kind of recipe before and I had never made it because it’s really hard to pick decent fresh cauliflower, and honestly, frozen cauliflower is always kinda… soggy (?) when you defrost it and cook it.

We’ve been getting a lot of cauliflower in our  Yasukochi Family Farms CSA box over the past 5 weeks, so I figured it was time to give it a shot.

This recipe is easy. And tasty. It does not duplicate potato skins. I don’t care what any low carb/potato hating website tells you.

Loaded Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of cauliflower, leaves and stem removed, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 T. Olive oil or your favorite cooking oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup bacon crumbles (use real bacon, not baco’s)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Sour Cream (optional, but tasty)
Served with a green salad, rotisserie chicken, and half an avocado. YUM.

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place cookie sheets lined with foil into oven to heat up with the oven.
  2. While oven/pan is heating, toss cauliflower in oil, salt & pepper.
  3. Once oven is heated to 450, remove pan, spread cauliflower out in a single, well spaced layer.
  4. Bake for 8 minutes, then turn veggies to roast evenly.
  5. Return to oven and bake for another 8 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven. Top with cheese and bacon. Broil for 2-4 minutes, until cheese is melty and bacon is hot.
  7. After removing from broiler, top with green onions and eat up ASAP.
  8. Serve with sour cream, or salsa. Or both.

This serves 2-4 people as a side dish, or be greedy and eat the whole recipe as a main dish. I won’t tell anyone. I make this at least once a week.

This recipe is gluten free. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.

4/5/2021 Weekly Meal Plan!

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The CSA emails us in advance to give us a heads up as to what may be in our boxes on Monday, so that’s helped me be able to meal prep and write up this post.

I usually spend time over the weekend getting the meal plan and prep started. Saturday I made banana bread (recipe here), and a big box of chicken brown rice. I portioned the cooked rice out so we can have it for lunch and dinner as a side dish a few times this week.

Sunday I made chicken stock using the rotisserie chicken carcass I had tossed in the freezer a few weeks ago, along with the veggie scraps I keep in a large bag in the freezer. It’s usually celery tops, carrots bits, onion skins, and the ends and pieces from various vegetables from my weekly veggie prep. I cooked the stock most of the day, strained off the solids, and used the stock to make a yummy chicken vegetable soup. I used this recipe, substituting the chicken stock for veggie stock.

I did a grocery trip on Saturday- Milk, eggs, cheese, and butter. We are pretty well stocked on most other stuff. I went to Costco last week and did the quarterly stock-up trip- Snacks for lunches, coffee, powdered peanut butter, trash bags, laundry soap, paper towels, and toilet tissue, and a few other things fell into my cart.

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.

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: The little kiddo and I usually have something quick and filling, lately it’s been sandwiches on croissants, and strawberry yogurt.  Big kid takes his lunch to school.

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: Vegetable Soup, homemade apple sauce, sourdough toast/Banana Bread
  • Monday:  Poached Eggs with Hashbrowns, fruit salad, Protein shakes (Big kid doesn’t like eggs)
  • Tuesday:   Tamales, Salad, Rice
  • Wednesday:  Roasted Veggies, Baked Potatoes (with an array of toppings)
  • ThursdayCheesy Bacon Meatloaf, Roasted Broccoli, Noodles (or rice)
  • Friday:  Pizza/Takeout Night
  • Saturday: Leftover Fiesta

Please stay safe you guys! The sooner we flatten the curve, the sooner life can go back to normal- whatever that means.

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