Monday, February 28, 2011

Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage

This is one of those easy meals that taste great while you spend virtually no time at all in the kitchen.

1/2 pound of uncooked pasta.  I used farfalle.
1 whole link of smoked turkey sausage. Use whatever you like and however much you like
a pound of broccoli florets
Parmesan cheese
Crushed red pepper
Salt and Pepper

This entire recipe is add whatever you like how ever much you like.  I used less pasta and used a lot more broccoli and sausage.  Cook the pasta according to package.  I usually throw in the broccoli into the boiling water two minutes prior to the pasta being done. Reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid.  Drain everything thoroughly.  In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and add the garlic -- finely chopped.  Add the chopped up sausage and saute until crisp. Add the drained pasta and broccoli. Toss everything together and add the Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.   If you need more "sauce" for the pasta, start add the reserved cooking liquid a little at at time, until you get the desired consistency.  You can add as much cheese and seasonings as you like.  Salt and pepper to taste.  That's it!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Menu Plan 02/28 - 03/04

This is getting easier.  Today is Thursday, and I have yet to eat out!  Hopefully, I'll be just as successful next week.

Lunch:  Leftover from Saturday -- Pasta with broccoli and sausage

Lunch:  Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Potato Salad

Lunch:  Chicken Stroganoff

Lunch:  Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Potato Salad

Lunch:  Chicken Stroganoff

Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Sheppard's Pie with roasted broccoli 

Blueberry Bread

I love blueberries!!  I never had made a bread from them, though.  I'm trying to have ready made (or almost) breakfast foods available to quickly grab as we leave for work.  Last week I made a banana bread that was delicious!  This week, I tried something different.  Earlier this week, I made the homemade version of a sausage McMuffin.  They were good and healthy, but not the most cost effective!  So I made the blueberry bread to supplement the sandwiches.

2 C of all purpose flour
3 Tbls of vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract (or zest)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 C sugar
2 cups of blueberries

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, milk, oil, vanilla, and lemon extract.  In another bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Combine the dry ingredients into the wet in small increments.  Once all the ingredients are all combined (Stir only until combined), gently fold in the blueberries. I used frozen blueberries, but I thawed and rinsed them so the whole bread didn't turn blue.  Once everything is combined, pour the batter in a greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

The bread is light and moist and, believe it or not, not too sweet. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fried Rice

 I love this dish because you can literally use anything you have leftover in the fridge.  The only thing you need is leftover rice.  Freshly made rice will just turn to mush when "fried". 

2 C of uncooked rice
Vegetables (any kind and they can be fresh, frozen, grilled, whatever you have in your fridge.  I used frozen corn and peas).
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic minced
several scallions -- sliced somewhat fine
Soy sauce
Chili paste or hot sauce ( you can also use crushed red pepper)
about 1/4 of sliced onion

Make the rice the night before. It needs to be slightly stale.

Okay, all of these ingredients don't have an exact measurement.  You can use however much you like and whatever kind of meat or veggies you have on hand.  I used one breast of fried chicken I had in the fridge.  I just removed the skin and breading and chopped it up.  I also used about 1/4 of a link of turkey sausage.

Place several tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan and let it get hot!  Have all of your ingredients on hand, because pretty soon you'll just start dumping.  Make sure your pan is pretty big too as this can get messy.  Once your oil is HOT, drop in the sliced onions and chopped sausage, and garlic.  Fry until sausage is crisp and onions are soft.  Dump in the frozen vegetables.  Cook until warm.  Dump in the leftover rice. Break up any lumps in the rice. The pan should be really hot and just keep stirring. Make sure the oil has coated the rice.  If you need to add more, add a little at a time until it is coated, but not greasy.  Add the chili paste or hot sauce.  Add cooked chicken.  Keep stirring.  Stir in some soy sauce.  Again, it depends on how much you like.  I tend to like my food somewhat salty.  When rice mixture is hot, add the toasted sesame oil.  A little goes a long way.  If you don't have it, don't sweat it, but it is a nice addition.  Check seasoning.  Add sliced scallions.  I like egg in my fried rice, B does not.  I usually scramble it separately and add it to my serving.  That's really it.  You now have a ton of fried rice and hopefully you used up a bunch of leftovers you had hanging out in the fridge.

This was so good, I kept sneaking bites out of it as I waited for it to cool enough to store.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Plan 02/21 - 02/26

This week, I've chosen to do a really easy menu that should eat up any leftovers I have in the fridge.  I love recipes that you can throw just about anything in.  This week is that kind of eating!

Lunch:  Leftover tater tot casserole

Lunch:  Chicken and vegetable  fried rice with chicken potstickers

Lunch:  Tamale Pie

Lunch:  Chicken and vegetable fried rice with chicken potstickers

Lunch:  Tamale Pie
Dinner:  Homemade pizza

Lunch: Finish all leftovers
Dinner:  Pasta with sausage and broccoli (I never made it that day last week)

Cooking for the Week

Our nightly food routine is not really working.  Last week, we ate out at least twice.  It drives me crazy as the point of this new way of cooking was for me not to cook everyday and to save money!  We end up eating at night anyway.  I mean, that's fine, but not when it is so poorly planned. 

This week, I made a batch of chicken salad to snack on if and when we get hungry in the evenings.  I also made a loaf of banana bread for breakfast or times you just want to snack on something sweet.  Last night, I also made a bunch of my version of Sausage McMuffins.  I just used turkey sausage patties and English muffins.  That should keep us going for the week.  Tomorrow, my plan is to make a blueberry bread as the banana bread is almost finished.  If I keep this up, then the time and money we spend eating out should decrease.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spicy Meatballs

I love meatballs!  I'm somewhat new to making them, though.  Sure, I've made some that sunk like the Titanic and others that were tasty, but fell apart.  I think I finally have a good recipe.  I've made these numerous times and don't even measure any of the ingredients.

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbls breadcrumbs (I use whatever I have on hand. Yesterday, I used panko)
2 tsp dried basil
1 clove finely chopped garlic
Salt and Pepper
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

Mix everything together by hand until just combined.  Don't mix too much otherwise the meatballs will become dense.  Make into balls. Do whatever size you like.  You can either bake them or brown them on the stove.  If you bake them, put them in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Last night, I did mine on the stove.  I browned them, removed them from the pan, drained the pan and made the marinara sauce.  The meatballs were still somewhat raw, I just wanted the slight crunch on the outside.  Once the marinara started to come together, I added the meatballs back in and simmered for another 20-30 minutes until done. 

I've made this many times and it is fool proof!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Convenience Foods

For the past several years, I have gotten away from most convenience foods.  Sure, I still love Velveeta Shells and Cheese and I always have a packet or two of Ramen noodles for the times I just don't feel like doing anything, but I do try to steer clear from such foods. 

This past weekend, B and I went to our Farmer's Market.  We snacked on doughnuts and pizza and just spent the time walking around.  We stopped in a store we love and I found a huge selection of soup mixes.  You know the kind where they have all the spices and ingredients premeasured and packaged for you.  I bought the Jambalaya soup mix.  All I had to do was add my own protein and water.  I made it last night and although it is tasty, the homemade version is so much better.  Either way, this mix made a ton for $4 and we'll be eating out of it for at least three lunches this week.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meal Plan 02/14 - 02/19

I made the weekly meal plan last night.  I'm still getting used to cooking a few nights a week for lunch, rather cooking every night for dinner and lunch the following day.  I'm still playing it by ear.  This week, we did okay, although we did get hungry Tuesday night.

Lunch:  Saturday's leftovers -- pasta with sausage and broccoli

Lunch:  Turkey sandwiches with chips or potato salad

Lunch:  Spaghetti and homemade meatballs

Lunch:  Turkey sandwiches with chips or potato salad

Lunch:  Spaghetti and meatballs

Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Tater tot casserole with roasted asparagus

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meatloaf and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Yesterday I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The first meatloaf I ate was the first one I made.  B who grew up on it said mine was the best he's ever had.  In fact, today he still considers my meatloaf as one of his favorite dishes. I paired that with garlic mashed potatoes.  The potatoes were a little decadent this time, because I actually had cream in the house.  I had some leftover from making tomato soup and didn't want it to go to waste. 


1 pound of ground turkey or beef
1 egg
2 Tbs ketchup (I have left this out with no real difference)
1 Tbs dijon mustard (I have also left this out at times)
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 C breadcrumbs  (when I do low carb, I leave this out, but add an additional egg yolk)
1 green pepper -- finely chopped
1 small onion -- finely chopped
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat the egg and add all other ingredients with the exception of breadcrumbs and meat.  Stir well.  Add meat and mix well with hands.  Start adding breadcrumbs.  You may need a little more or less than 1/4 cup.  Transfer meat mixture to baking dish and shape into a loaf.  Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

3 russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled.  Chopped into big pieces
1/4 C Cream
4 Tbs butter
1 tsp garlic powder

Boil the potatoes until fork tender.  Drain well.  Place back into hot pot and mash a bit.  Keep it still chunky.  Add butter, salt, and garlic powder.  Start with some of the cream.  Continue to mash.  Don't over mash, otherwise the potatoes will be gummy.  See if you need to add more cream.  If so, then go ahead.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Very good and rich potatoes!  I normally use skim milk in my mashed potatoes, so these were quite luxurious.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tomato Soup

I grew up on tomato soup from a can.  As I got older, I upgraded to tomato soup in  a box.  I am now officially a homemade tomato soup kind of girl!  I like tomatoes, but often when I cook with them, the dish is very "tomatoey".  I have a hard time getting a balance between the acidic tomatoes and spice without it tasting weird.  This past weekend, I made my first batch of tomato soup.  It was easy and it tasted delicious!  I'll never turn to can or carton soup again!

28 oz of tomatoes.  I used diced.
4 fresh tomatoes -- diced (I had these on hand and threw them you. You don't have to)
1 small onion
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp crushed dried oregano
2 tsp sugar
1 Tablespoon of butter
1  Tablespoon of olive oil
2 cups stock.  I used chicken, but vegetable would do too
1/4 C of cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pot with oil.  Add chopped onions and cook until soft.  Add oregano and garlic powder.  Stir for a couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock and sugar.  Add salt and pepper.  Bring to a slight boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Using an immersion blender puree the entire mixture until smooth.  Put the smooth soup back on low heat and stir in cream.  You may want more or less than 1/4 C.  I think I used slightly less.  Simmer for about ten minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings once more.  Serve and Enjoy!

On Monday, we ate this with the Spinach Orzo Pasta Salad.  Today, we're going to have this with chicken salad sandwiches.  This soup really is that good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spinach Orzo Pasta Salad

I love Whole Foods!  I REALLY love Whole Foods!  My budget does not.  Simple. Whole Foods has the most unbelievable prepared foods section. I have two favorites there:  1) Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad and 2) Spinach Orzo Pasta Salad.  Both run for approximately $7-8 a pound.   Not joking.

A couple of years ago, I decided I was going to duplicate both recipes and I did! I cannot even tell the difference between my version and that of Whole Foods.

Yesterday, I made a big batch of Spinach Orzo Pasta Salad.  It is so tasty and light!  B and I plan on eating out of it all week.

1 pound orzo pasta
3/4 of a bag of fresh baby spinach -- chopped pretty fine
1 small onion -- chopped fine.  My onion was really tiny.
1/4 C of crumbled feta.  Add more or less depending on how you like it.  I LOVE feta.
1/4 C of sliced kalamata olives
2 tsp. dried basil leaves.  I kind of crush them in the palm of my hand before adding to the dish.
1/4 C of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  You can use less, if you like
Approximately 1/8 C of balsamic vinegar.
Salt and Pepper

Cook the orzo pasta in a pot of salted water until tender.  Drain well and run cold water on it.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the chopped spinach, chopped onion, basil, feta, and olives.  Dump in well drained pasta and mix everything thoroughly.  Start drizzling the oil and vinegar.  Stir as you go along and taste.  If you want more oil, add it.  More vinegar? Sure!  This part depends on how tangy you like it...or not!  Season with salt and pepper.  I also add a couple of dashes to cayenne.  Mix everything and refrigerate.

Seriously, it is really tasty.  I have some in my bag now.  I'm tempted to go and take a couple of bites!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Menu Plan -- 02/7-02/12

I've just figured out my menu plan for next week.  Last night B and I had another discussion about food.  Who would have thought this would be so difficult?  Anyway, we agreed that if we have a substantial lunch, then we may not eat dinner and if we do get hungry, then it will be a light snack.

Lunch:  Spinach orzo pasta salad and tomato soup

Lunch:  Chicken salad sandwiches and tomato soup

Lunch:  Meatloaf with mashed potatoes

Lunch:  Spinach orzo pasta salad and chicken salad sandwiches

Lunch:  Meatloaf and mashed potatoes
Dinner:  Tacos

Lunch:  Finish off any leftovers
Dinner:  Farfalle with smoked sausage and broccoli

Possible dinner snack items will be:
Hummus and Pita
Canned or Box Soup (not too healthy, but will do in a pinch)

I'll post the recipes soon, along with any photos I may not be too embarrassed to share.  I've made these dishes in the past and they are easy, healthy, and very tasty!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chocolate Pudding

                                          Photo courtesy of

I have a bit of a sweet tooth.  Okay, I have a huge sweet tooth!  I'm always rummaging around for something to satisfy my craving.  The thing is, I know myself so I avoid keeping sugary stuff in the house.  Over the weekend, I decided I would make chocolate pudding.  I thought, I'll make a batch and make it maybe, kinda, sort of good for you.  Actually, it isn't really healthy, but at least it's natural!

4 cups of milk.  I used 1%
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup of cornstarch

Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  In the meantime, mix the sugar, salt, cornstarch in a large bowl.  Once the milk and vanilla warm through, add the chocolate and stir until smooth.  Be sure to scrape the bottom as the chocolate may settle at the bottom of the pot and burn.  Once everything is combined, add a few ladles of the hot mixture to the dry ingredients.  After each addition, whisk until smooth.  Once everything has been incorporated, add the entire mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir somewhat constantly so it doesn't burn.  The mixture will thicken after a few minutes (about five minutes).  Once it does, you can either ladle it into single serving containers or pour it into one large container.  Either way, lay a layer of plastic wrap directly on the pudding so it doesn't form a skin.  Once it has cooled for about an hour, transfer to the fridge and chill for several hours.


I took a photo, but I am too embarasssed to post it.  I'll take another one soon and hopefully that'll be good enough to post.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Disclaimer:  I suck at taking photos.  I know this picture is off center and lopsided, but like I said I could never take a good photo.

Yesterday I made black bean soup and it was a hit!  I used a crockpot and loved how dinner was like 99% ready when I got home.

The recipe is:

3 cans black beans -- drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn -- drained
2 cups water
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 link of a smoked turkey sausage -- chopped
salt and pepper to taste

I dumped everything in the crockpot in the morning minus the sausage.  I set it on low and let it cook for approximately 10 hours.  I came home and used an immersion blender and pureed the whole thing smooth.  I left it in the crockpot, while I lightly sauteed the turkey sausage.  I added that to the batch and let it cook for another 30 minutes.  The end result was so good and good for you!  It was creamy and the sausage added just enough smokiness.  I'll definitely be making this again.