Pasta and Sausage Two Ways

IMG_3919Last week was busy and we really did not have many family dinners.  In fact between after school activities running late and Mr. Mixture being out of town I got quite a reprieve when it came to cooking dinner.  We were able to enjoy several leftover type meals and breakfast for dinner, as it seems to always be a hit.  When Friday rolled around and I knew we would all be enjoying dinner together after a busy week, I decided to try something off our Recipe Must Try List.  I figured a pasta dish that Little Miss Mixture had picked would be a nice way to end a busy week.

On my initial attempt at Quick Rotini with Sausage and Tomato Sauce, I made some changes that fit into our eating style better.  As it indicated in the initial recipe we found in Cooking Light May 2014, you could substitute spinach for the Arugula.  Well in the last few years, we have become fans of all greens, so when I found an organic spinach arugula mix at the store, I decided it would add a nice touch of flavor to the pasta dish.  I substituted whole wheat pasta for the original called for rotini, as I rarely eat anything else.  I made a few other changes as well as I created the dish for Friday evening.

In the end the dish came out nicely, it had a little heat to it from the crushed red pepper and adding more greens that originally called for provided a nice color to the dish as well as increased the nutritional value.  But the greatest value in this meal was as a family of three there was plenty left over for another meal.  I do not have a problem with leftovers in fact there are some foods that I think are even better the second time around, but leftovers can be hit or miss with the other members of the Mixture family.  So when I decided to revamp the pasta dish for a nice week night meal, I was pleasantly surprised with its versatility.  The pasta dish became a perfect casserole and hit the spot on a dreary overcast day.  In fact it might have been better received and enjoyed than the first go round.

Quick Rotini with Sausage & Greens**

8 ounces Whole Wheat Rotini

Olive Oil

3 (4oz) Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage links, casings removed*

2 1/2 cups Greens (I used arugula spinach mix)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1. In a large saucepan boil water.  Add pasta and cook 7-9 minutes.  Drain pasta over a bowl so that you can reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.


2. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add sausage to the pan and cook about 5 minutes or until browned.  Add 1 cup greens, onion, oregano, crushed red pepper, and garlic.  Cook 2 minutes stirring frequently.

3. Add reserved cooking liquid, tomatoes, sugar, and black paper.  Bring to a boil and add pasta to skillet.  Cook about 2 minutes and add remaining greens.  Toss greens throughout pasta and serve.  Top with fresh parmesan cheese, if desired.


Pasta and Sausage Take Two Baked

Leftover Quick Rotini with Sausage, and Greens

1/2 cup Ricotta or Cottage Cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup spaghetti sauce ( I used trader joe organic tomato & basil)

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup sliced or grated mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

2.  In a large bowl mix the pasta dish with Ricotta cheese and next five ingredients.  Once mixed well, pour into a ceramic or glass baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 20 – 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and pasta is bubbling.  Serve and enjoy.

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**We are a family of three so the original recipe that served four actually stretched to serve us twice since we enjoyed salads with it both times.  In order to get the benefit of this pasta dish two ways, you may want to double the original recipe.



If you enjoy pasta dishes, here are some others you may like as well

IMG_3029 Red, White & Greens Pasta


Snap Pea & Tortellini Pesto




For quite some time I had a go to easy dinner that was probably one of the most processed items in our house.  It was perfect as it was shelf stable and could be a last minute meal in about 30 minutes.  This was also one of the few meals Mr. Mixture could make himself and usually did when I traveled.  I will admit there is still a box in the back of the pantry for an emergency, but last summer I finally decided to give Jambalaya from scratch a try.

I had made versions of cajun meals before – gumbo, crawfish étouffée type item, but they never seemed as authentic as I wanted and though they were good meals they still left you yearning for the real New Orleans taste.  I say this yet I have never been to New Orleans so it is really a taste that I envision or one created by visiting some cajun restaurants over the years.

I follow 100 days of real food and though I do not think her lifestyle works for everyone and as a dietitian I have some differing ideas, we have spoken and definitely have a lot in common. I noticed there was a recipe for Jambalaya in her recipe index and though I knew I would need to make changes, as I am not a huge oyster fan, the recipe had great potential.

I already had creole seasoning as I had made a batch for another recipe we had tried previously from the Tupelo Honey Cookbook. A favorite restaurant of ours in Asheville, North Carolina.


2 Tbsp butter
1 lb of sausage (andouille or kielbasa depends on the level of heat you want in the dish)
1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 Large ribs celery, chopped
1 Small head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 tsp Creole seasoning (sold premixed or make some)
2 Large tomatoes chopped*
1/2 pound shrimp**
1 1/2 Cups quick cooking brown rice
2 Cups chicken stock/broth (if you don’t have any stock you could use water instead)*
1 Cup water
Hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Green onions and Jalapeños for garnish

* I find this is a great meal in the winter, but tomatoes have no flavor during that time of the year.  I substitute one can/ box diced tomatoes, partially drained.  When I make this substitution I reduce the chicken stock/broth to 1 cup and use the tomato juice to add flavor.

** Precooked shrimp and sausage can be substituted without a change to the recipe. If using precooked sausage add during step #3 in directions.

1. Combine the butter and sausage in a large skillet pot over high heat (I prefer my Le Creuset for even cooking). Cook for about 6 minutes stirring occasionally. Note if using precooked sausage skip to step #2
2. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery, garlic, Creole seasoning. Sauté over high heat for about 8 minutes, or until the veggies have browned and carmelized.
3. Add the tomatoes, shrimp, and sausage if using precooked, and stir for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the rice, stir gently, then add the broth and water. Gently stir the rice again to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Taste and if you desire a hotter taste add a few drops of hot sauce, stir and continue to simmer a few more minutes.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes (or until the rice is tender).
6. Garnish with green onions, jalapeños and serve.

Jambalaya Printer Version

Mr. Mixture whom continues to enjoy the boxed version that we had discovered during graduate school days.  A perfect meal when on a student budget, gave a raving review.  This new jambalaya from scratch recipe has become a regularly requested meal and for good reason.  It can be spiced up to suit everyones taste and it is a great weeknight one pot meal that can easily be prepared and held for different family members mealtimes.

Chicken Broccoli Mac & Cheese with Bacon


The apple does not fall far from the tree and in the case a smile comes across my face as I think about it.  I think as parents we face a lot of challenges in trying to ensure we raise good eaters.  Good eaters can be a term to describe a variety of types of people.  Someone who is not picky, someone who eats healthy, or to some the individual who cleans their plate.  However you chose to define it, as a dietitian, mom,  and self proclaimed foodie, I never thought about or worried about ” what if my kid will not eat it.”  I am not sure why as I think about food constantly, so why during those months of breast feeding Little Miss Mixture was I not concerned?  Here I was given her some of the best nutrition she could have to start her life and what if she refuses to eat the food I actually make.


Well I just have to sigh and admit I am glad I never stressed over that and still continue not to for the most part.  Don’t get me wrong Little Miss Mixture is a kid and at times there is no rhyme or reason to what she will or will not eat.  And yes she loves snack food and junk food, but then again that could be another inherited trait, so I cannot fault her.  I can only guide her as I guide myself to balance healthy meals, snacks, and treats as well.

As I referenced in my about me, I have always been a recipe ripper, collector, etcetera,  in the modern world of today that would be a blog reader, recipe pinner.  Little Miss Mixture has developed these habits early as well.  She is constantly looking over my shoulder when I am reading magazines or looking at stuff and commenting on how that looks good.  Typically she refers to sweets first but on occasion it has been pretty much anything.  She might be more of a food gawker than myself as her comments are directly related to the food pictures rather than the recipes.  But time will tell.

Recently we had time to kill between activities and we were looking through a new Cooking Light magazine.  As usual Little Miss Mixture had quite a bit to say, but I noticed she was not just referring to the pictures but rather reading all the recipe titles and letting me know I should make that.  As the day went on and she referenced a couple of the recipes when I began speaking about our evening meal, I realized she had given me a great challenge.  Rather than ripping and pinning and never actually making the items, I would create a “to try list.”  This is actually not my first attempt at these as I have made list in the past, but I feel as if this time I might be more accountable if I publish it.

While I am working on organizing the list into categories I am going to share the first recipe Little Miss Mixture requested – Chicken Broccoli Mac & Bacon.  A one pot skillet meal which is perfect for a weeknight. At times I am not sure what intrigues LIttle Miss Mixture as she has been known to be the typical kid getting Mac & Cheese at a restaurant or trying something such as calamari for her entree.  In this case I knew what caught her eye – Bacon.  Little Miss Mixture loves bacon and will in fact try anything with it.  Thus the night she ordered bacon wrapped dates off the menu.  The dates were great and enjoyed by all but she did not order the appetizer because she likes dates.  In fact she is not a huge fan but eats them without realizing in some snacks and smoothies.

So here it goes.  I made Chicken Broccoli Mac & Cheese with Bacon early one day as our schedule was busy.  I found it easy to prepare in advance up until the last step.  This also allowed me to taste as I went and enhance the seasoning as I have found lot of cooking light recipes to be very good, but I also have found some to be too bland for our taste.  With the new recipes as I try them I will also include how they were accepted – will they be added to our recipe book or not.

Chicken Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

8 oz. uncooked noodles (original recipe calls for elbow. I used whole grain rotini)

1 head organic broccoli

3 slices bacon

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken cut into 1” pieces

½ tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp. garlic

3/4 tsp. tumeric

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 ¼ cups milk

1 cup chicken stock

¼ cup plus 1 tsp. flour

6 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese


1. Prepare your ingredients – wash and cut the florets off the broccoli head. Shred your cheese, mince your garlic, and cut chicken into pieces.

2.Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add broccoli to pot during last 2 minutes. Drain.

3. While pasta is cooking, place bacon in oven proof skillet over medium high and cook about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from pan to reserve for later, leaving drippings in the pan.

4. Add chicken to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Add turmeric, garlic powder, and black pepper and cook an additional minute, stirring frequently.

5. Combine ½ tsp. salt, milk, stock and flour and whisk together. Add milk mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Add pasta and broccoli to the pan and sprinkle with 2 oz of shredded cheese. Stir to ensure all items are coated.

*If serving immediately you will want to turn the broiler on high at this time and proceed to step # 6. If preparing ahead of time refer to step # 7.

6. Sprinkle remaining cheese over dish and crumble bacon into pieces and sprinkle over top as well. Place ovenproof skillet in the oven and broil until cheese melts and begins to brown. Serve and enjoy.

7. Cover skillet and refrigerate until 30 minutes before ready to serve. Remove skillet and allow to come to room temperature on stovetop over a low burner. Meanwhile preheat oven to broil. Once casserole is warm sprinkle with remaining cheese and crumble the reserved bacon and distribute on top as well. Place in oven to broil until cheese melts about 3 minutes.

Chicken Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

This recipe was adapted from Cooking Light

We had mixed reviews on this meal.  It was good but not great.  My version above increases the turmeric, as well as adds additional garlic and some pepper.  The meal could have used more flavor still.  I think it was better received the first night.

I am working on finding a graphic and a creating a scale regarding the recipes.  In the meantime this was probably a could make again, but no one is requesting it as a weekly menu item yet.  Maybe with a few more tweaks it could become a family favorite.




National Spinach Day


Spinach is typically a staple in our house.

As a kid I remember my parents serving spinach steamed and possibly done in the pressure cooker. Remember I grew up in the South yet there are a number of southern foods that I never tried or was never introduced to until I was an adult. Spinach; however, I had eaten but only on occasion and rarely without chopped onions and vinegar atop.

Sometime in the last 20 years spinach has been revolutionized in my household and my parents. We eat it in, atop, or as the bed in a variety of dishes. I like spinach because it is more versatile than lettuce. If we end up having less salads than I planned that week, we’ll just toss it in a smoothie or sauté it and toss it in pasta, quesadillas, or anything else we may be eating before it wilts in the refrigerator. If I have spinach in the house then I may add a little extra green to just about anything, as it seems to be one of the greens that does not overpower other flavors.

A couple of weeks ago a friend dropped off a bunch of whole wheat lasagna noodles. Oddly enough this is an item that I have found difficulty finding on occasions and had just found it myself, but she was cleaning out gluten from her kitchen and I happily took her trash. So with the chill still in the air, I decided we would have lasagna this week.

My family does not have anyone particular diet/ food pattern that we keep, but luckily Mr. Mixture is agreeable to non meat focused meals. The last batch of lasagna I made was meat based, so in honor of National Spinach Day, I made a spinach based casserole.

I got a little creative and rather than sticking to my planned spinach and mushrooms, I tossed in some carrots and onions as well. I sautéed all the veggies lightly and then layered homemade tomato sauce, whole wheat noodles, my veggie mixture combined with ricotta, and topped with some mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

I will try and combine the different recipes I used and post this National Spinach Day creation.