Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Make Ahead Pizza Casserole


Make Ahead Pizza Casserole

I don't make a lot of make-ahead casserole dishes but this one looked good. I am so glad I tried it.  It was so simple to throw together on Saturday and so nice to have dinner nearly on the table when I got home from work on Sunday.  I just asked my husband to preheat the oven, stir the casserole, and pop it in the oven about an hour before I got home from work.  This dish is VERY similar to the Skillet Lasagna I've made dozens of times, but of course the casserole is baked in the oven.  As we had this for dinner, I was thinking of ways this might be made a little more healthful.  Whole grain pasta and turkey Italian sausage perhaps.  One could also add diced bell peppers when cooking up the sausage.  Just like pizza, you can add or subtract ingredients based upon our preferences.  I would have loved olives in this casserole but family doesn't like them.  Bummer.

I found this recipe on the Better Crocker Website:
http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/make-ahead-pizza-casserole

Ingredients

1 lb mild Italian pork sausage (I used 1.25 lb. Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage)
2 cups water (I added an extra 1/8 cup water since my pizza sauce jar was only 14 ounces)
1 can (15 oz) pizza sauce (I used Di Napoli Classico Traditional Pizza Sauce, 14 oz.)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with sweet onion, undrained (I used fire roasted diced tomatoes)
4 cups uncooked rotini pasta (10 oz)
1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained (I left this out but it would be great in this dish!)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or pizza cheese blend (6 oz)
(I added a bit of garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried Italian herbs, too!)

1. In 10-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until no longer pink; drain.

2. In ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish, mix water, pizza sauce and tomatoes. Stir in cooked sausage, uncooked pasta and olives (pasta should be completely covered with sauce). Cover tightly with foil; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 350°F. Stir casserole; cover with foil and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until bubbly.

4. Uncover baking dish; stir mixture. Sprinkle with cheese; bake uncovered 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Makes 6 servings (1 1/3 cups each)


This sauce was a good choice.  Good stuff!


Leftovers for work.  Love that!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Green Smoothie #1


An after picture of my "green smoothie"!  I must have been hungry!!!

I've been wanting to make a green smoothie for a really, REALLY long time.  I saw a "green smoothie chart" on Facebook the other day and looked at all the varieties.

When I was at the grocery store, I bought a small tub of organic spinach and some bananas.  I had some frozen mixed berries at home in the freezer. Today I made a green smoothie.  I tried it and it need a bit of sweetness to bring the flavors together. I added about a teaspoon of honey (from the bear shaped honey bottle because honey from bear shaped honey bottles TASTES much better... trust me, it's a scientifically proven fact).

Verdict... pretty darn good.  The seeds in the mixed berries is always a draw back but I am excited to try more green smoothies.  I think my tub of spinach should make a total of four smoothies.

Green Smoothie #1

1 very ripe banana
1 cup Simple Truth Organic baby spinach (1 to 1 1/4 ounces) from 5 ounce tub
1/2 cup water
1 cup (5 ounces) Simple Truth Organic Berry Medley (frozen) from 10 ounce bag
1 teaspoon honey

Blend like crazy in a blender, add a straw, slurp and enjoy!

Serves 1

My green smoothie was not "green" but I sure feel energized from starting my day with fruits and vegetables!

Here's the chart I found on Facebook. I am not sure to whom I should give credit?  Maybe you'll decide to give green smoothies a try?!

Crock Pot 3-Bean Chili with Pork


I found this picture on the Internet... sorry, chili all gone. No photo. 

Picture a steaming bowl of hearty chili with some sharp grated cheese on top.   Got it? Okay. 

I made a version of this a Crock Pot 3-Beah Chili awhile back. I would have sworn I wrote it down but I was wrong.  It was back to the drawing board this time around and it turned out good… maybe even better than the original version.  Hubby smelled it brewing in the kitchen and said he wanted to give it a try.  He was suspicious of the little cubes of meat in the chili and, not being a fan of chicken very much, he inquired, “Uhhh, is this chicken?” 

Nope.  It’s pork.

I made a pork loin roast in the crock pot a few weeks ago and the roast was too big for the recipe. I cut about a third of the roast off and froze it in the freezer.  When I was getting ready to make this pot of chili, I let the roast thaw in the refrigerator for a day or so.  When I went to use the roast, it was still partially frozen… which actually made it very easy to cut up into cubes.   I cut the roast into ¾ inch slabs, then ¾ inch slices, and then ¾ inch cubes.  Cutting the bits of roast so small resulted in the chili being ready in about  4 or 4 ½ hours.

CROCK POT 3-BEAN CHILI WITH PORK

INGREDIENTS

1 to 1 1/2 pounds uncooked pork loin roast, cut into bite sized cubes (about 3/4 inch)
1 1/2 cups beer (12 ounces) - I used Coors Lite
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
1 can Rotel Original diced tomatoes with green chiles (10 ounce)
1 diced yellow onion
1 diced red bell pepper
1 can pinto beans, rinsed/drained (15 ounce)
1 can black beans, rinsed/drained (15 ounce)
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed/drained (15 ounce)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon each ground coriander, garlic powder, and dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Throw all ingredients in crock pot (slow cooker). Give it a good stir. Cook on low for 4 to 4 ½ hours.  If desired, garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese or your favorite  chili toppings. Enjoy!

 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Little Ravioli Soup



 
I took this picture to help me remember what I put in this soup. Missing from the picture is a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and the spices I added the soup.
 

I found this package of Buitoni brand "Three Cheese Ravioletti" (9 ounce package) on clearance months ago.  I bought two and threw them in the freezer.  If you can't find these little ravioli, I am sure regular sized ravioli would be tasty in the soup.  The little ravioli are just nice in soup since they are bite-sized.  And also, the little ravioli are cute and it's a scientifically proven fact that cute food tastes better. 
 
Trust me!
 

Little Ravioli Soup

1 package (9 ounce size) Buitoni Three Chesse Ravioletti (Parmesan, Romano, and Ricotta cheeses)
1 to 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound Italian sausage (I used 3 links Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausage, casings removed)
1 bell pepper, diced (I used an orange one)
1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
1 can (14 ounce size) fire roasted diced tomatoes (may substitute diced tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups prepared, jarred tomato spaghetti sauce (I used Barilla Tomato & Basil sauce)
3 cups chicken broth (I used Organic Simple Truth brand from Kroger)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon  crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Prepare ravioletti (or ravioli) according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sausage, cook and crumble until no pink remains.  Add in the diced bell pepper and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add in the remaining ingredients (except the ravioletti or ravioli), bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and reduce to simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning. Add salt if desired.  I did not add any salt to this soup.

Add a little of the cooked ravioletti (or ravioli) to a soup bowl and ladle in hot soup. Enjoy!

Note:  I like to leave the ravioli and soup separate and just add a little bit of ravioli to each bowl of soup.  If you leave the ravioli in the soup and store it in the refrigerator, the pasta will continue to absorb more and more of the liquid from the soup and it alters the texture of the soup and  pasta... and not in a good way.  If you are feeding a large crowd and don't anticipate there being leftovers, feel free to add the cooked pasta to the soup.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate and Toasted Walnuts


I enjoyed making a healthy cookies last weekend so I had to give it another go this weekend.
 
My mother-in-law gave me a little package of Belgian chocolates; they were heart shaped.  She said she gave them to me because she loves me. Sweet!  I decided to put them in cookies.  I weighed the chocolates and they weighed about 2.5 ounces. I chopped them with my Pampered Chef food chopper and it turns out it was about 1/2 cup finely chopped chocolate.  Of course you don't need heart shaped Belgian chocolates to make these cookies.  Your favorite chocolate chips can be substituted.  I think my Belgian chocolates were dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate.  I don't know much about chocolate.  I was amazed when I chopped up the Belgian chocolates that just the warmth of my hands started to melt the chocolate... which meant I had to lick my fingers.
 
 
These cookies are just a slight variation of the Cranberry, Orange, and Pecan Oatmeal Cookies I made last weekend.  When my husband saw me making cookies today he said, "you should just make the cookies you made last week!"  I guess he really liked them.
 
Turns out he likes the Chocolate Walnut version, too.  Maybe he won't eat so many and he'll leave more for me if I tell them they are rather healthy? 


Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate and Toasted Walnuts

INGREDIENTS

Wet Ingredients
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 whole large egg
2 egg whites from large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (*)
1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (*)
1 teaspoon salt (I used iodized salt because it's finer than kosher salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 cups whole oats
3/4 to 1 cup walnuts (chopped)
1/2 cup chopped Belgian chocolate or 1/2 to 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking trays with parchment paper.

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts until they become fragrant and turn a shade or two browner; set aside to cool and then chop coarsely.

Combine all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine well and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the two flours, salt, and baking soda; stir with a whisk to combine.  (*) Lightly measure the flours. That is, fluff up the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup, and then sweep the measuring cup with the back of a knife to level (as opposed scooping the flour out of the canister or bag... this can result in compacting the flour in the measuring cup and adding too much flour). 

Dump the flour mixture into the wet ingredients all at once and stir by hand until almost combined.  Add in the oats, chocolate, and chopped walnuts. Stir until all ingredients are well distributed. 

Scoop dough onto parchment lined cookie trays. Each cookie should be about the size of a walnut or a slightly rounded tablespoon. I use a cookie scoop that look likes a little ice cream scoop.  Slightly flatten each cookie with fingertips moistened with water. If desired, sprinkle about 1/8 of a teaspoon (or less) of granulated sugar on top of each cookie.

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then transfer parchment paper and cookies to counter top to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cranberry, Orange, and Pecan Oatmeal Cookies



I made these cookies on Super Bowl Sunday.   I was on a kick a few years ago, trying to make healthy versions of cookies.  This recipe started out as an Orange Almond cookie with oats and white baking chips.  I altered the recipe a bit more this time as I was going for a cranberry-orange healthy cookie and I really like how these turned out. These cookies are soft and tender and flavorful, and only slightly sweet.  I did not feel too terribly guilty even eating these for breakfast. The only down side is that they do have a bit of sugar but all cookies have a little sugar, right?


Cranberry, Orange, and Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

INGREDIENTS

Wet Ingredients
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
finely grated zest from two navel oranges (use a Microplane grater)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 whole large egg
2 egg whites from large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (*)
1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (*)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 cups whole oats
1 cup pecans (chopped)
1 cup Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking trays with parchment paper.

Combine all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine well and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the two flours, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda; stir with a whisk to combine.  (*) Lightly measure the flours. That is, fluff up the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup, and then sweep the measuring cup with the back of a knife to level (as opposed scooping the flour out of the canister or bag... this can result in compacting the flour in the measuring cup and adding too much flour). 

Dump the flour mixture into the wet ingredients all at once and stir by hand until almost combined.  Add in the oats, dried cranberries, and chopped pecans. Stir until all ingredients are well distributed. 

Scoop dough onto parchment lined cookie trays. Each cookie should be about the size of a walnut or a slightly rounded tablespoon. I use a cookie scoop that look likes a little ice cream scoop.  Slightly flatten each cookie with fingertips moistened with water. If desired, sprinkle about 1/8 of a teaspoon (or less) of granulated sugar on top of each cookie.

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then transfer parchment paper and cookies to counter top to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.


 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup with Quinoa: Gluten Free


Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup with Quinoa
 
I have been wanting to try to make a Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup for awhile now and finally got around to it.  This soup was pretty easy to throw together.  We are trying to eat less processed starchy foods, so instead of putting pasta or white rice in this soup, I opted for quinoa.  If you've not jumped on the quinoa band wagon yet, quinoa is ancient grain and, if I understand correctly, it's the only grain which is also a complete protein.  I made and am storing the soup and the quinoa separately.  I  have found that things like pasta and rice get weird if left in soup, so I am just adding a bit of quinoa to each portion of soup when I reheat it.
 
1 to 1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
1 to 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 bell peppers, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 can (14.5 ounce size) of fire roasted diced tomatoes
3 cans (14.5 ounce size) reduced sodium, low fat or fat free beef broth
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (dried herbs)
1 cups quinoa
grated mozzarella cheese
 
In a large skillet, cook and crumble ground beef until no pink remains. Drain off fat and set aside.
 
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Add in the peppers and onions, the Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt, and some black pepper, and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the garlic and cook for one additional minute, stirring frequently. 
 
Add in the cooked ground beef, the tomatoes, and the beef broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover the pot with a lid and simmer to 20 to 30 minutes. 
 
Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa (it's just like cooking rice).  Rinse and drain the dry quinoa in a fine mesh sieve or strainer.  Bring 1 3/4 to 1 7/8 cups water to a boil in a medium sized pot.  Add in a pinch of salt and the drained quinoa.  Return to a boil, cover with a lid, and reduce temperature to lowest setting on the stove top.  Simmer, covered and undisturbed (no peeking) for 17 to 18 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  When done, fluff with a fork.
 
For serving, spoon a little quinoa into each serving bowl. Top with a little grated mozzarella cheese and ladle in hot soup.
 
Enjoy!