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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Cilantro Serrano Pesto Pasta

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This is an herb that I am not sure I realized how much I liked it until about ten or so years ago.  It was around that time that I realized how nice the flavor was and what cilantro could do to a recipe.  Fresh herbs are great, but the problem I find with so many fresh herbs is you purchase them in bunches.  Rarely does a recipe call for that much.  Now if you are able to plan really well you can ensure that several foods you prepare that week will include the same fresh herb and then none is wasted.  But hello reality that does not work every time and some times just because you bought cilantro or another herb you may not want the same meals each time. Thus if you have the space or the energy growing you own herbs helps this dilemma considerably.  However I have tried growing cilantro and it is not easy.  You see I do not have a green thumb in fact I kill most house plants, but when it comes to garden herbs and plants I seem to manage usually, but cilantro is tough in the south.

The one good thing that came of my brief stint of trying to grow cilantro was some more recipes that utilized the herb.  When cilantro flourishes it does really well, but it has a short growing season and does not do well in heat.  Unlike basil and mint which as you snip them they grow more, my cilantro plants did not do that.  Rather they began to brown.  So in an effort to use all my nice cilantro I started cooking.  If you have been following my blog for anytime you know I love pesto.  So when I ran across this recipe that is a pasta dish but can just as easily be served as a pasta salad, I had to try it.

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Cilantro Serrano Pasta with Chicken 

Ingredients
1 1/2 Cups fresh cilantro
1/2 Cup fresh mint
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp toasted pecan halves
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast**
Cooking spray
3 Cups hot cooked penne pasta
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes)

Directions
Place cilantro and next 5 ingredients (through chile) in a food processor; process until well blended. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Place pesto in a large bowl; stir in vinegar and black pepper.
** Chicken can be prepared one of two ways.    1)Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. 2) Poach or boil chicken until cooked.IMG_3851IMG_3853

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Add chicken, pasta, and tomatoes to pesto; toss to combine.  Serve and Enjoy.

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* adapted from Cilantro Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne that appeared in Cooking Light Magazine

If you like pesto, be sure to check out these recipes that use different pesto sauces in a variety of ways.

IMG_2637Arugula Pesto

IMG_2644Shrimp Pesto Pizza

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Fancy Grilled Cheese

IMG_2833Snap Pea Tortellini & Pesto

Treasure Chest Thursday Recipe: Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

IMG_3708How have I not written about this meal yet?  This meal is regularly requested and I try to keep the ingredients on hand as it is a great way to use up a green that has been sitting around a little too long.  I tend to make this recipe most often with spinach, but I have been known to toss in some chard, kale, arugula, or even collard greens.

This recipe is definitely worthy of being a Treasure Chest Thursday post.  This is one of those simple meals that has just the right amount of flavor.  It is quick and easy to prepare making it a great weeknight (aka school night) meal.

As I am writing this post I really hope my search feature is working, as I could have sworn I have already posted this recipe but each time I have searched it comes up empty for gnocchi.  I guess I have written it in my head more than once because as I am typing the thoughts sound too familiar.  I have always been a fan of gnocchi since I first had it in a pesto dish years ago.  It has also been one of those items I swear I will try and make one day, but last winter I tried what I thought would be the easier version of gnocchi to make – gnudi.  Well turns out either I totally bombed the recipe or I really did not like gnudi.

I have never seen gnudi on a menu but I keep telling myself I have to try it again and try it somewhere out to see if it was me, the recipe or if I am just not a fan of gnudi.   Gnudi is really just gnocchi made with ricotta rather than potato. The mere switch to ricotta, an ingredient I love makes me worried it was me rather than the gnudi.  I have never brought myself to make gnocchi as I am not a big fan of complex recipes with a lot of steps.  Really to make gnocchi you then have to also prepare a meal using it.  Not my favorite type of cooking.  Besides after the gnudi incident a part of me thought maybe store bought is just what I prefer when it comes to pasta.  Now don’t get me wrong I have had fresh made gnocchi as well as the vacuum packed that is great for keeping on hand and I like them both.  It is just another excuse I keep giving myself on why I do not want to try to make gnocchi from scratch.

Enough of my gnocchi and gnudi tangent.  Okay one last thing what fun words.  I wonder if anyone has ever named their animals gnocchi and gnudi – filing that idea away for when I finally have to give in to a fish or something that comes in pairs.  I can just picture two cute little dogs with those names, but we have one cute little dog now and that is ample, especially since she is not high on my list this morning.  Really now enough on to the recipe that is a treasure chest recipe in our house.IMG_3701

Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

1 pkg gnocchi (16oz.)*

6 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp Toasted Pine Nuts**

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 1/2 – 2 bags Fresh Baby Spinach

1/4 tsp Black Pepper, optional

Parmesan Cheese, as desired

 Directions

Cook Gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions, about 5 minutes.  Omit any salt or oil.  Drain.

In a skillet over medium heat melt butter  and cook approximately 3-5 minutes stirring constantly.  The butter needs to start to turn golden brown.  Add garlic and pine nuts to pan and continuing stirring for 1 minute.  Add gnocchi and spinach and cook stirring occasionally until spinach wilts.  Season with pepper if desired.  I like to decrease my stirring once spinach is almost wilted and try to get the gnocchi to brown slightly.  Serve with parmesan cheese on top as desired.IMG_3706

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* I prefer whole wheat gnocchi, but any type works

** I use pre toasted pine nuts from Trader Joe’s, but if yours are not toasted add the pine nuts with the butter so they toast while the butter is browning.

Adapted from a recipe that appeared in Cooking Light MagazineIMG_3708

 

 

Homemade Pizza in Take Out Time

IMG_3822I love pizza. I am not sure where my love for this food comes from. As a teenager, I remember Friday night was generally pizza night but this was because we were a busy rushed family heading to football games. We were a family of two girls, but when you are on the dance team your Friday nights are just as busy. And what father would complain when the game he sat through to see his girls perform at halftime just happened to have the Barber twins playing for the same team.

Pizza night in high school was take out and it was around the time the “lovers line” became popular. Well in my mind pizza has come a long way since then.  I grew up in the south, so I know a lot of naysayers will claim I know nothing about pizza, but in my mind I do.

What you like when it comes to food is personal and when it comes to pizza, I like flavor. So whether it is traditional New York Style pizza, Deep Dish Chicago style, brick oven, or a flatbread if the flavor is there I enjoy it.

Today’s post is not a unique pizza but the type of pizza I make if we want a traditional flavor pizza.  So often you think homemade pizza takes forever, and yes it can.  If you make your own dough, you have to plan ahead.  If you make your own sauce, you have to plan and make it ahead, but this is your quick and easy homemade as in put the toppings on, make it what you want, and cook it at home.

This pizza takes a little bit of preparation as you cannot walk in from an afternoon of activities and have it on the table in 30 minutes, unless you plan ahead.  When I say plan ahead you need to have your dough room temperature for best results.  The Trader Joe dough recommends sitting out for 30 minutes.  I also find having a hot oven and pizza stone help ensure the crust cooks evenly.

Jamey’s Better than Take Out Traditional Pizza 

1 recipe pizza dough (I like Trader Joe’s pizza dough – you roll your own)

1 cup Marinara Sauce**

8 oz Mushrooms, washed, sliced

1/2 Red Pepper, chopped

1/2  Green Pepper, chopped

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cups Spinach

1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups cheese, mozzarella (Occasionally I use a combination of any of the following: Mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and cheddar)

20 slices pepperoni (optional)*

3 Tbsp. Olive OilIMG_3818

Preparing the Pizza Dough

Allow dough to sit out for at least 30 minutes to become room temperature.  This will make rolling the dough out easier.  I did not say it would roll into a perfect circle as that takes skill which I don’t focus on, I just roll and go.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees and allow to heat for 30 minutes with pizza stone.  Remove hot pizza stone from oven and pour 1 Tbsp olive oil over the stone.  Spread it around if you want or the quick and easy way just toss the dough on top.  I always try and roll a little more once the dough is on the stone to thin it out and reach the edges of my stone.

Place pizza stone with dough in oven for about 8-10 minutes to pre bake.

Preparing the Toppings

In a skillet over medium high heat, pour 2 Tbsp olive oil and minced garlic and heat for 2 minutes.  Add peppers, mushrooms, onions, and spinach and cook until lightly sautéed.IMG_3808IMG_3817

Assembling the Pizza

Remove the pre baked pizza dough from the oven and spread the marinara sauce over top.  Spread your sautéed vegetables, pineapple, and pepperoni evenly over the marinara.  Top with cheese.  Return to the 425 degree oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to bubble and brown.  Slice and enjoy.

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* perfect Meatless Monday recipe if the pepperoni is omitted

** I tend to use marinara sauce for my pizza base as I think it is lighter and more flavorful than pizza sauce.  This is just a preference as any sauce will work.IMG_3824

Corn, Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

IMG_3768It has been a busy week, and I was wrong about having more time to write.  With the start of school and my wanting to catch up on some errands and get ready for a busy weekend of parties, I feel as if the days have gotten away from me.  Of course we have been eating and I have been in the kitchen, but I have not found the time to sit down and write about our meals.  I know as we settle in to our new school schedule this will change.  In the meantime, I thought I would share a recipe off our must try list that I finally got around to making, per the instructions.  Well almost.

Several weeks ago I wrote about a chard naan pizza that I made.  The flatbread came about as I did not have all the necessary ingredients for this recipe for a corn, squash, and green onion flatbread that Little Miss Mixture had placed on our must try list.  This past weekend, I decided to try the recipe that helped to create those chard pizzas.  The reviews online at cookinglight.com were slightly mixed, but I read the recipe and a couple reviews and decided to give it a go.

I love pizza and these individual type flatbread, naan bread pizzas are great for an easy meal during the week.  I find this especially true during the school year when on occasion we eat in shifts.  As I stated I followed the recipe sort of.  I felt the need to make a few changes that would enhance the flavor.  The recipe is very basic in that it calls for yellow squash.  I love most vegetables and prefer many of them raw, but I just could not imagine raw squash with cheese melted on it.  The recipe does not indicate cooking the squash, but I chose to sauté it with some garlic as I knew the green onions would add some crunch.  I also chose to leave out the black pepper, salt, and thyme the original recipe called for.  I rarely add salt to anything as I find it is not necessary with most recipes and having sautéed the squash I wanted that sweetness of that to shine rather than thyme or black pepper.

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Corn, Sautéed Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

1 Frozen Naan Bread per serving

1-2 pieces yellow squash, cut into chunks

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ear of corn

2 green onions, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 cup Fontina cheese

3 Tbsp. Butter

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Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with pizza stone in it.

In a medium skillet heat 1-2 Tbsp butter over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and squash and sauté until browned and soft.  Meanwhile cut the corn from the cob.  I chose to use grilled corn as I had some extra for meals such as this, but you can boil it if you prefer.  Remove the squash from the skillet and add another 1 Tbsp butter.  Heat each of the naan breads to lightly coat each side with some butter.

On your heated pizza stone place the naan bread.  Top with corn, squash, and the green onions.  Lightly cover with cheese and heat in the 400 degree oven until the cheese melts.  Cut into small pieces and enjoy.

Okay so as I am writing my version of Corn, Squash, and Green onion Flatbread, I am realizing that once again I really did not follow the recipe.  However the idea was based on this cooking light recipe and the meal turned out well.  I consider that a win and another type of pizza has been added to our list of dinner ideas.

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