Recipes

Rotini with Sweet Italian Sausage & Spaghetti Squash

Did you know how easy it is to make spaghetti squash? I recently learned how, so I wanted to share a quick tutorial. Then I needed something to serve it with, so of course I turned to pasta! I’m Italian, it’s getting cold out, and I have a carb-hungry toddler to feed. I got the inspiration for this pasta from a former co-worker whose wife made a similar dish that came out so well he raved about it on Facebook (what a guy!) I thought, “you know what? I haven’t simmered sausage in tomato sauce for a really long time. I’ll bet Mark would like that.” So I did. And he did.

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Rotini with Sweet Italian Sausage

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package sweet (not hot) Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. rotini pasta, or similar shape
  • 1 jar marinara sauce, preferably something simple (I chose chunky roasted tomato and garlic from Classico, which is among the healthier brands)
  • grated cheese for topping, such as parmesan
  • optional: eggplant (I had some leftover from another recipe, sliced and grilled with fresh tomatoes, so I added it into the sauce)

DIRECTIONS

In a skillet, cook the sausage over medium either in an inch of water or plain in the pan until they start to brown. I chose to break mine up with the spoon to cook faster, but you can also leave them whole and then simmer longer once you add the sauce so they cook through and stay moist. You can choose to keep the fat and pan scrapings, or drain them off before adding the sauce.

Meanwhile, in a separate (good sized) pot, boil water for the pasta and cook until al-dente; drain and set aside.

When the sausage is sufficiently browned, add the eggplant (if using) to the pan, then the jar of tomato sauce. Cook on low until the flavors meld, as long as half an hour if you’d like. Finally, add both into the reserved pot of drained pasta, and cook on low for a couple minutes so the flavors blend.

Top with freshly grated cheese, such as parmesan.

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Now what better to pair with this hearty pasta than a light fluffy squash? The kind you can cook in a jiffy? Enter our spaghetti squash. Here are the simple steps to cooking this tasty vegetable, which I’ve seen people serve like they do regular spaghetti, complete with tomato sauce and other pasta toppings. I’m not sure it would quite satisfy my carb cravings that way, but I know many folks who swear by it as the staple of a weight-loss diet. I think it makes a lovely side, and all you have to do after cooking is top it with shredded cheese — or have it plain!

HOW TO: COOK SPAGHETTI SQUASH

I don’t know why I thought this was difficult, but it’s beyond easy. As long as you have a high-quality, sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board, the hardest part is the first slice to cut it in half.

Step by Step

1) Preheat the oven to 400.

2) Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds (they’ll look similar to pumpkin seeds) and discard.

3) Place face down in a glass baking dish and pour in water until the edges of each half are just submerged.

4) Cover with tinfoil and cook for at least 30 minutes in the oven, or until tender when poked with a fork.

5) Transfer to a bowl and scrape out the “spaghetti” strands with a fork.

6) Top with cheese or serve plain. That’s it!

In other news, have a great Halloween tonight! Maybe check out this network of dentists that will buy your extra candy to make care packages for the troops? — and while you’re watching the sweets, go easy on the soda, too! Apparently it can age you as much as a daily smoking habit. If you’re near a Chipotle tonight, you’re entitled to free goodies for showing up in costume. And when we are all candied out, this is the refreshing-looking fruit I’m going to share with G (all the yum, no tedious chopping and scooping just to get to the good parts). Speaking of G, here she is at our office “trick or treat” party, sporting her ladybug getup a few days early 🙂

Stay safe tonight!

Tips and Tricks

Did you know there’s a wrong way to organize your fridge?

Turns out, there is a right and a wrong way to store things in your refrigerator!  I always knew you shouldn’t store food on top of the fridge, but many other things in here were news to me. Olive oil in the fridge? Tomatoes on the counter? Read on and learn how to save money by preventing premature food spoilage while conserving the energy it takes your refrigerator to run every day.

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A couple of these were new to me.

I always used to throw onions in the crisper, but now they are hanging out on the counter so they don’t spoil as fast.

Conversely, I never refrigerate nuts or nut butters, and I didn’t realize you should!

Thanks to this graphic, I’ve started storing my eggs on the bottom shelf instead of the top, and dairy products off the door (although that’s very challenging, because my top shelf can only fit milk cartons along one side. I have the smallest fridge in the universe! And we go through so much milk now that we have Georgia around).

Thanks to the article accompanying this graphic, I now know that the lower levels are the coldest levels, which is why raw meat and eggs belong here, while the top levels have the most consistent temperatures.

I also discovered that packing your freezer full saves energy, but packing your fridge too much actually inhibits cold air from circulating freely and can jack up your energy bills. Good to know!

You can read the full article that goes along with this graphic here. What about you? Did any of these surprise you?

Happy Friday from me and the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead 🙂

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Holidays

The worst candies for Halloween

I have to re-blog Sarah Fit again today ~ she has a helpful and funny guide to the top five candies you should avoid on Halloween, with great tips on how to scan labels for sneaky hidden ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup masquerading under a different name. And tragedy of all tragedies, Butterfinger is the worst one. My favorite!! 

Real Simple also has a fun side-by-side comparison to help you pick the ‘better’ candies. I was happy to read in here that Snickers — my other favorite — edged out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and that Peanut M&Ms won out over Skittles. Read the whole article to compare your favorites!

Looking for more Halloween alternatives to giving out (and eating) tons of candy loaded with crap ingredients? Check out Mama Natural’s complete guide to Halloween, including information on her “80/20 rule” for eating the trick-or-treat haul, and some cool information on helping kids with allergies to enjoy Halloween. I’ll be busy decorating the house and my office for trick-or-treaters! We always put up these ghost lights to line our walkway, and how pretty is this Halloween-themed wreath from Etsy?

Etsy, $65, RedRobynLane shop.

In case you are wondering, Georgia is going to be a lady bug this year. Pictures, of course, are forthcoming!

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News

Join me @ the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival Oct 25-26!

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 Who’s going??? Ping me if you are! 

Recipes

Updating an old standby

When I do my Trader Joe’s run every few weeks, I always make a point of picking up the ingredients for this recipe because they are all pantry staples that never spoil and can pull together into a super basic meal very quickly. Pasta, sauce, and artichokes are a yummy combo, but the other night I made this and realized I had a couple other ingredients on hand that made it a little more special!

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I added in Kalamata olives (refrigerated, from Trader Joe’s), sun dried tomatoes and a few sliced pepperoncini that gave it the heat equivalent of red pepper flakes, and WOW — it was like a whole other dish! I realized that next time I should save some leftover sweet sausage if I make it on the weekend and crumble that in, and I think that would make it perfection. Chicken would also be delicious in here but sadly I didn’t have any on hand! I’m definitely going to make it this way from now on. Especially since it makes great toddler leftovers, too.

BASE RECIPE — Penne with Artichokes

  • 1 can three-cheese tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s (or similar)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts in water, rinsed and chopped smaller
  • 1 lb. penne pasta, cooked al dente

ADD-INS — mix and match

  • sliced pepperoncini and a dash of their liquid
  • sun dried tomatoes (not in oil, if you can help it)
  • Kalamata olives (Trader Joe’s refrigerated, or similar)
  • crumbled cooked sweet Italian Sausage
  • Leftover shredded chicken
  • what else??? you tell me!

Ugh this was so good that I almost ate two portions the other night when I was just lounging in my PJs trying to get caught up on Scandal! <<ahem>> I mean doing laundry and putting away clothes instead of leaving them in folded piles on my husband’s dresser.

Trader Joe’s had some fun, new ingredients the last time I visited, including cold brew coffee concentrate, coconut cookies, ghee (clarified butter),  coconut oil cooking spray and pomegranate vinegar. And of course, who can live without their pear cider at this time of year?? I’ll be sharing a recipe for using that cider to make some yummy apple topping for cooked pork chops in another week or two. I was so disappointed to see that they discontinued their mobile app, which featured lots of new foods just coming into stores. I guess I’ll just have to keep going in person to see what’s new and interesting.

Have a great week everyone!

Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Tortellini Roasted Red Pepper Soup

The pictures for this came out terrible, but it’s a hearty soup that comes together really quickly. We picked up all the ingredients at Trader Joe’s but you could easily make this from any store with comparable products! This isn’t soup from scratch, but it is fast, creamy and satisfying, and uses up leftover prepared pesto that you may have made yourself or bought for another recipe. Plus, it’s vegetarian and filling without being bad for you.

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Tortellini Roasted Red Pepper Soup

INGREDIENTS (all Trader Joe’s)

  • 1 bag dried tortellini, with cheese filling (pesto filling is also OK)
  • 1 carton creamy Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
  • 1 package frozen Melange a Trois (tri-color bell peppers)
  • 1/2 jar pesto (adjust amount to taste)
  • optional: grated cheese for topping

DIRECTIONS

Set a medium pot of water to boil. Boil the tortellini until they are just cooked (usually when they float to the top). Set aside.

In another large pot — I used a cast iron Le Creuset dutch oven — heat the entire package of soup over medium until simmering. Add in the whole package of frozen bell peppers and pesto, then stir in the tortellini. Once it’s all heated, it’s ready to serve!

Top with grated parmesan or pecorino and enjoy warm.

(This makes a thick soup; if you’d rather it be a bit thinner, use half to 2/3 bag of cooked tortellini instead).

The great thing about this recipe is that you can adjust it however you like. Don’t want to use frozen bell peppers? Go for frozen peas, or string beans. I threw in half a can of corn that was lying around from my Shepherd’s Pie a few days before! Love pesto? Add the whole darn jar. Not a fan? Scale it back or omit entirely. You can use any brand of creamy tomato soup, but I really like how the roasted red pepper element adds flavor here. It’s relatively healthy and will also leave you with a few tasty lunches for the week. Plus, even though I love that it’s vegetarian, you can always change that by throwing in some chicken sausage, kielbasa, ground beef or leftover rotisserie chicken. The possibilities are endless.

Dig in and enjoy!

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Baby · kid-friendly · News · Tips and Tricks

Food news you can use

Hey everyone! We’ve been busy with Mark’s show opening (check out his cool writeup in the Boston Globe last weekend) and as a result I’ve been eating pretty lame lately. One of my favorite things to do when I’m dining solo after baby’s bedtime is to whip up a fried egg over Trader Joe’s frozen tikka masala or palak paneer. As with any frozen entree, you have to watch the sodium, but they are great vegetarian options for those no-effort nights. I particularly love serving their soft Tandoori Naan Bread alongside, and boy does Georgia love nibbling on Naan as a snack! It’s a great size and consistency for babies to grab.

Has 4 p.m. got you hunting for something non-work-related to read? Here’s a roundup of some fun tidbits from the world of food. Have a great week!

Sarasota becomes 1st school district in FL to do “Meatless Monday”

A list of the best and worst pumpkin ales

Will you sign this pledge to end factory farming?

This recipe looks perfect for teaching kids to help cook

Taking the stress out of weekday breakfasts

Wondering why your cookies didn’t turn out right? Consult this FAQ

Easy toddler recipes: a printable guide! (with this sample menu)

Have you heard about men who drink breast milk for the “health benefits?”(seriously!)

…and then there’s this lady who makes jewelry out of it.

Last but not least, this roundup of the best new baby products from last month’s ABC Kids Expo in Vegas.

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My favorites are the Silly Skin Straw Tops, which turn any cup into a sippy cup; the Chicco Lulla Go basinnet; the new Aden & Anais toddler bedding sets that have a layer at the end so kids can’t kick off their sheets; the Puj Filla Cups for toddlers that attach to your fridge; and the new Britax Click Tight convertible car seats that use your seatbelt (not the LATCH system) to make moving form car to car simpler. (As I mentioned in my last post, we pre-ordered this immediately because we have three sets of grandparents, occasional sitters, taxis and flights to Florida to contend with). There were also some cool updates from Baby Jogger, Orbit, UppaBaby, Bumbleride and others, but I refuse to contribute to the culture of stroller-as-status-symbol in this country…if you are buying a new Bugaboo because it now comes in camo, you need something better to do with your time and money! ($1300 on that one, to be exact). I did drool over Balmoral bringing its line of totally old-fashioned, impractical and gorgeous prams to the US from across the pond, though. Now when Georgia meets her future husband Prince George she can do it in the proper style of buggy! 🙂