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.

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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.

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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.

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

IMG_3029 Red, White & Greens Pasta

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Snap Pea & Tortellini Pesto

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Tortellini with Snap Peas & Pesto

IMG_2833Looking for a quick and easy light summer meal, well look no further.  I took this recipe from my Recipe Must Make list, as it was one of the Cooking Light recipes that Little Miss Mixture picked.  I am a fan of Trader Joe’s refrigerated ravioli and tortellini.  Yes I would prefer if they were whole wheat like the dried pasta I use, but for a weeknight meal they are perfect.  I find they cook quickly whether you store them in your refrigerator or freezer and with some added vegetables, meats, or sauces they can quickly be transformed into a satisfying dinner.

Here is a great recipe to pair with refrigerated tortellini as you can prepare the sauce ahead of time and then you can get dinner ready in less than 10 minutes.

Tortellini with Snap Peas & Pesto

Ingredients
1 pkg Refrigerated Cheese Tortellini
8 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Cup fresh mint leaves
1 Cup fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions
1. Cook tortellini according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add snap peas to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking; cook 3 minutes. Drain.
2. Place mint and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor or Vitamix; process until finely chopped, scraping sides of bowl once. Combine oil and juice in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. With processor on, slowly pour oil mixture through food chute; process until well blended. If using Vitamix simply add oil before other ingredients and process to combine (to get more detailed instructions on making pesto in the Vitamix refer here.  Combine tortellini mixture and mint mixture; toss gently to coat.

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* this recipe first appeared in Cooking Light

As I mentioned this recipe is on our must make list and we decided it deserved 4 out of 5 stars.  What does 4 out of 5 mean?  It means we will definitely use our fresh mint and basil plants again this summer to enjoy this fresh pesto dish.

Zucchini Walnut Feta Cakes

You know there are just some things that take you by surprise.  Well that would be the night I served my version of Zucchini Walnut Feta cakes.  

I consider our family adventurous when it comes to food.  I know we each have our hang ups, but don’t we all.  In recent years we have started eating a lot more meatless entrees and we enjoy them, though I have found certain ones tend to be more appealing to Mr. Mixture.  This recipe was one on the must make list from Little Miss Mixture.  I was excited to make it, though I had thoughts that I would be scouring the refrigerator for something else to ensure the other two were pleased and went to bed satisfied.  

Imagine my shock when not one but both Little Miss Mixture and Mr. Mixture enjoyed it and even stated they would happily eat it again.  Woohoo that is getting a 4 out of 5 Truffles rating.

The recipe was adapted from Cooking light Zucchini Walnut Feta Cakes.  I actually was going to follow the recipe but then I did not have enough dill and when it comes to seasoning I tend to go heavy rather than light.  So I improvised and decided to add fenugreek.  I have no idea why as I truly have very little knowledge of this spice, except to know that every time I order something with it at the Indian restaurant I enjoy my meal.  I have to admit I am not even sure when I bought fenugreek or what I used it for, but it worked with these flavors.  The result was a nicely seasoned cake that paired well with the cucumber sauce.

Zucchini Walnut Feta Fritter

  • 1/2 Cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/4 Cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 1/2 Cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium)
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 Cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2  tsp chopped dill
  • 2 tsp. Fenugreek 
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 Large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 container plain nonfat Greek yogurt (6 – ounce)
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 Cups mixed salad greens (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 tomato sliced
1. Place quinoa in a mini food processor; process 1 minute or until finely ground. Add chopped walnuts to processor; process until smooth.
2. Place zucchini in a colander, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss well. Let stand 10 minutes, tossing occasion ally. Press zucchini between paper towels until barely moist.
3. Combine zucchini, green onions, dill, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, fenugreek, cheese, and eggs in a large bowl; stir to combine. Sprinkle quinoa mixture over zucchini mixture; stir well to combine.
4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 4 (1/3-cup) zucchini batter mounds to pan; flatten into 3-inch cakes. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and batter to yield 8 cakes total.

5. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, yogurt, cucumber, and garlic in a small bowl. Divide greens evenly among 4 plates. Top each with a couple slices do tomato and 2 fritters.  Then add about 1/4 cup cucumber mixture and Serve

Chicken Broccoli Mac & Cheese with Bacon

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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

Directions

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.