Mexican Stuffed Shells

I made this for my wifey Jennifer when she came over last Saturday night. It was a new recipe so I was a little apprehensive, but we both loved it. It is a nice twist on other stuffed shells recipes and has the added bonus of being vegetarian! AND, if you are able to do it right, actually kind of healthy. Unfortunately, both Jen and I liked it so much, there is no picture to share. But I think it’s pretty easy to visualize…

Mexican Stuffed Shells

(adapted from Skinny Mom)


  • 1 box jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup part-skim Mexican shredded cheese
  • 2 1/2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook jumbo shells in a large pot until al dente. Meanwhile, heat a medium-sized skillet over low heat. Add EVOO (that’s extra-virgin olive oil for you newbs) and diced onion and green pepper; saute until soft. Add black beans, corn, taco seasoning, and water to the skillet; mix well. Add cream cheese to the skillet and stir as it melts.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, pour the 2 cups of salsa over the bottom and spread evenly. Arrange cooked jumbo shells in the casserole dish and spoon about 1 tbsp of the black bean/corn mixture into each shell. You may need a second casserole dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the shells.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until cheese has melted.


I did not have reduced-fat cream cheese, only the full-fat good stuff, so that is what I used and my dish was less healthy because of it…do I care? Not really. Allegedly, according to Skinny Mom (she calls this recipe SKINNY Mexican Stuffed Shells), 2 shells will only run you 244 calories if you use the right ingredients.

I also don’t use packaged taco seasoning because it’s far too easy to do myself. A little cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, we’re good.

I recommend undercooking the shells a little bit so they hold up better to the filling. Too soft and they’re difficult to work with.



Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

I know…it’s been a million years. Get used to it. Two and a half weeks from the wedding, I’m surprised I’m posting at all! But, busy though we are, we still gotta eat…and I can only do so much wedding work before I HAVE to do something else for awhile. I actually made this recipe several nights ago and am just getting around to posting it now. It’s a different way to do mac and cheese than anything I’ve tried in the past…for starters, there’s NO butter! Weird, right? But it still turns out tasty.

veggie mac n cheese

Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

(adapted from The Comfort of Cooking)


  • 1 cup small broccoli florets
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 10 baby carrots, diced
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (elbows, penne, rotini)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 to 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs (I just had regular, which was fine)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta according to package directions.

Arrange a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking tray and coat with cooking spray. Toss your chopped vegetables with a little bit of olive oil (this isn’t the 1/4 cup, that comes in a bit) and salt and pepper. Pour onto the baking sheet in a single layer and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Heat the 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook until softened. Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute; then whisk in the milk slowly as it starts to thicken. (Start out with 3 tbsp of flour and add another tbsp if the sauce doesn’t become thick enough.) Remove skillet from heat and add shredded cheese, stirring until melted into the sauce. Add cooked pasta, the roasted vegetables, and crushed red pepper; toss it all together really well.

Pour the whole thing into a casserole dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top. Put the dish in the oven for just a few minutes until the breadcrumbs have started to brown.


Yummy, huh? V liked this a lot, which I didn’t really expect. The sauce was perfectly cheesy, but not in a super processed-cheesy way like the blue Kraft box (which I still love, by the way, always will, don’t care).

You may or may not hear from me again until after the wedding, after India…somehow I suspect you’ll manage. Happy summer!

Pasta w/ Navy Beans, Sausage & Tomato

So. Busy. So. Overwhelmed. Wedding. Taking. Over. Life. I’ve been here there and everywhere lately, but tonight I managed to make a decent dinner (last night, I am not ashamed to say, was Papa Murphy’s). This recipe is super easy to throw together and doesn’t take long at all.

pasta with beans sausage tomato

Pasta with Navy Beans, Italian Sausage & Cherry Tomato

(adapted from Good Life Eats)


  • 12 oz whole wheat linguine
  • 1 lb Italian sauage, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 (15 oz) can navy or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 or 2 cups fresh baby spinach (to your taste)
  • parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)


Cook pasta according to package directions and drain when finished.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, pour olive oil and add pieces of sausage. Cook until heated through. Remove sausage to a plate and set aside. Lower the heat a bit and add minced garlic to the skillet; stir, taking care not to burn. Add cherry tomatoes and cook until juices begin to come out. Pour in the well-rinsed beans and spinach and stir some more.

After 2 or 3 minutes, mix in the cooked pasta and sausage. Serve with grated parmesan cheese, if you know what’s good for you.


Seriously, start (boiling the pasta water) to finish (plating) I think the whole thing took 20 minutes. And would’ve taken less if I hadn’t initially forgotten about the spinach. I also had plenty of leftovers that I will be taking to work tomorrow. I LOVE not having to worry about what I’m going to eat for lunch at work. All in all, this one couldn’t be easier – enjoy!

Tuscan Sausage Soup

We’re having sort of a rough time of it, food-wise, in our household lately. Both V and I are attempting to diet, and for him, this means eating a lot of protein. (I haven’t really determined yet what it means for me – apparently so far, not much.) We all know I cook a lot of pasta, which has dubious nutritional value…but I also cook a lot of spinach, which has good protein…I’m just starting to run out of ideas because I have a certain comfort zone when it comes to cooking. HELP! This isn’t good!

I found this one on Foodgawker awhile ago and for some reason had never made it, even though it incorporates several of my favorite things. It seemed like a good choice for tonight, and it was – very hearty and very satisfying. I believe V found it to be sufficiently protein-rich.

tuscan sausage soup

don’t mind the weird spinach stem sticking out.

Tuscan Sausage Soup

(adapted from Dainty Chef)


  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • about 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can cannellini or navy beans
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 lb small pasta such as elbows or shells
  • 3 or 4 oz baby spinach
  • grated Parmesan


Cut up the Italian sausage into slices about a half-inch thick. Put a little bit of olive oil in the bottom of a deep, large pan and add the sausage slices. After letting it brown for a few minutes, add your chopped onion, carrots, and minced garlic. Cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the broth, diced tomatoes, beans, basil, Italian seasoning, and pasta; bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente-ish. Add in the baby spinach and stir around until it wilts. Serve with however much parmesan your little heart desires.


I love how simple this recipe is, and I love that it’s another one where the pasta cooks in the same pot as everything else so I’m only getting one pan dirty. It’s the little things, I tell you.

Spinach Lasagna

Lasagna has always intimidated the crap out of me. So many steps! So much patience required! Consequently, for a very long time now I have put off making it, despite having more than one serviceable recipe at my disposal. But tonight I did it. It definitely did not turn out perfectly, but it does taste really good and that’s what counts. I’ve never placed a lot of importance on the appearance/attractiveness of food. What’s the point? I’m eating it, not gazing at it framed in a museum.

Case in point.

Case in point.

Spinach Lasagna

(adapted from Easy Lasagna Recipes, via Pinterest)


  • 3 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese (or if you’re feeling really hedonistic, whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 box uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach (thawed, obviously)
  • 4 1/2 cups chunky tomato/marinara type of sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Gouda or Swiss cheese (slices may be used – I did)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.

Spread about 1 cup of the tomato/marinara sauce in the bottom of the pan. Place uncooked lasagna noodles in a row across the pan. Combine ricotta and parmesan together in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper as you like, and then spread about 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Top the cheese with the thawed chopped spinach and spread around liberally. Repeat the process until you run out of lasagna noodles. There should be a row of lasagna noodles on top when you run out, but I didn’t manage that for some reason, and in my opinion it’s not that crucial.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. When the time is up, take the pan out and add your grated or sliced Gouda or Swiss. (I cannot STAND Swiss cheese so the Gouda was a no-brainer for me.) Put back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown on top.


Lots to say here. The lasagna noodles I had (Market Pantry brand from Target, whoohoo!) were about an inch too long to fit neatly in my pan so I kept having to break them and trying to keep them somewhat uniform. Obnoxious.

More bothersome – I really don’t know why this recipe calls for frozen chopped spinach. Just convenience I guess? Frozen chopped spinach is pretty bland and unappetizing, if you ask me, and I think fresh spinach would have greatly improved this dish, even though it was still very yummy as written.

The choice between Gouda and Swiss is strange to me also; both seem too sharp to really go with the creamy goodness that is ricotta. The Gouda slices on top were okay, but it was kind of an odd combination for me. I’m not sure what I’d substitute. Whatever it would be, I would probably use the grated or shredded varieties instead of slices, just as a reluctant nod to the dish’s final aesthetics…

Anyway, despite its flaws, I really liked this lasagna and I will definitely be making it again, with the aforementioned tweaks. If you try it, let me know how it goes for you!

One-Pot Pasta with Sausage & Vegetables

I do not like to do the dishes. V and I are supposed to take turns, and we usually do, but sometimes I feel the need to bribe him to take my turn. It’s just the most boring chore! All this to say, that the recipe we have here today is a glorious one-pot dish, which I find rather hard to come by. And there’s so much goodness in here!

i found my camera! no more sh*tty iPhone pics!

i found my camera! no more sh*tty iPhone pics!

Pasta with Sausage & Vegetables

(adapted from The Galley Gourmet)


  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I love Klement’s)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 8 oz penne pasta (or other small shape)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste


Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add in the sausage pieces and cook until no longer pink inside. Remove from the skillet and set aside on a plate.

Put your chopped onion, bell pepper strips, diced carrots and spinach into the skillet with the remaining fat from the sausage; cook for 5-7 minutes or until spinach wilts and other veggies are soft. Add the pasta and cook for about 3 minutes until slightly toasted. Now add the garlic cloves and the liquids: white wine, heavy cream, and broth. Put the sausage back in the skillet as well and bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until pasta is al dente.

Remove the skillet from heat and add Parmesan cheese, basil, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.


Isn’t it crazy awesome that you don’t have to have another pot on the stove to cook the pasta!?!? As someone who cooks with pasta like…practically daily…this was so delightful for me. I used elbows, but you could use penne or rotini or medium-sized shells or just about anything.

The original recipe uses broccoli, and no carrots or spinach – this was just a case of using what I had around instead of making a special trip to the store just for broccoli. And I actually think it’s better this way. I also adjusted the proportion of wine to heavy cream, since I have had some less-than-tasty experiences with white cooking wine in the past. A half cup is really all that’s needed and the cream balances it out nicely.

Give this one a try and let me know how you like it!

Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake

My source for this recipe claims that it’s a great “pre-marathon meal”. I really can’t speak to that…I can just tell you that this is yummy. This is exactly what I mean when I say “classy comfort food”. There’s nothing sexy or sophisticated about chicken and spinach pasta bake, but it hits the spot.

chicken spinach pasta bake

Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake

(adapted from Bitchin Camero)


  • 1/2 lb small pasta (shells, elbows, rotini)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a large saucepan of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, or slightly less. Drain and set aside. While the pasta cooks, you can chop up the spinach.

Dice up your chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Pour olive oil into a skillet over medium heat and brown the chicken for 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

Add salt, spinach, and white wine to the skillet and stir for 3-5 more minutes or until the spinach begins to wilt. Pour your drained pasta into the skillet and mix well to combine everything. Now pour it all into a medium-sized casserole dish or a 9×9 pan*. (The one I used was kind of a weird size, about 10×10, but worked okay for this recipe.) Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top and bake for about 25 minutes, give or take.


*The casserole dish. I halved this recipe from what it was originally because it called for four chicken breasts and I only had two. If you used the original amounts, a 9×13 pan would probably work just fine. The only ingredient I didn’t halve was the mozzarella cheese…because I love melty mozzarella cheese…and I felt 2 cups was just right, regardless 🙂


Creamy rotini with grape tomatoes & spinach

This is the meal you cook when you don’t have a lot of time, or a lot of motivation, but are resistant to the idea of busting out the blue Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese box/ordering pizza/just saying “oh f*ck it” and eating ice cream out of the container. Not that I have ever done any of those things.


Creamy rotini with grape tomatoes & spinach

(adapted from The Comfort of Cooking)


  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup heavy cream*
  • a few squirts of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 oz baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan


Bring a pot of salted water to boil. While waiting, pour olive oil into a good-sized skillet and turn heat to medium. Add minced garlic and allow to soften. Pour in heavy cream* and lemon juice, adding salt and pepper to your liking. Stir together and turn the heat up to high so the liquid will boil. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat to low and cover the skillet, allowing the liquid to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add rotini to boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Once 10 minutes are up, the pasta should be done cooking as well. Drain it and place immediately back into pot on low heat. Pour cream mixture over pasta, cover, and allow to sit for a few minutes. Then add chopped grape/cherry tomatoes, parmesan, and chopped spinach, stirring together. Cover again and toss the whole thing around vigorously so it mixes properly.


*The heavy cream. I realize this isn’t the healthiest of ingredients, so tonight when I made it, I thought I’d try subbing Greek yogurt. They say you can substitute Greek yogurt for practically anything! Yeah…it didn’t work so well. When I got to the simmering step, it looked kind of lumpy and curdled and frankly did not smell great. Sooo perhaps this is not a recipe where Greek yogurt subs well.

Another note on the heavy cream. After my Greek yogurt disaster, I realized I only had about 1/2 cup of heavy cream. I went ahead with it anyway and it turned out all right; not as decadent and creamy as it is with a full cup, but definitely satisfactory. You can go that route if you’d like.

Start to finish, this recipe takes approximately 20 minutes. And it’s fabulous.

And we begin with…a major favorite

Welcome to Sconnie Sustenance! Just for fun, I have decided to share my amateur adventures in cooking with…whomever visits this random place. I do emphasize amateur; I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m decent at following directions, and so far that’s served me pretty well in this endeavor 🙂 I hope you enjoy the recipes and if you try them out yourself, please comment and let me know how it turns out!

Lasagna Soup. Mmmm, this is a very, very popular dinner at our house. Even when we’re trying not to eat meat, we can’t resist this dish. It’s easy to make and the flavors are just fantastic. (It sounds obvious, but choose your sausage with care; don’t just go grabbing the first one you see.) It’s good to eat with a nice crusty bread or a salad, but honestly, we usually eat it sans any kind of side…it’s that filling, and it’s that delicious.

Lasagna Soup

(adapted from 300 Sensational Soups)

Soup Ingredients:

*2 tsp olive oil

*about 1 pound Italian sausage

*1 large onion, diced

*2 garlic cloves, minced

*2 tsp dried oregano

*1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

*2 tbsp tomato paste

*1 28 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (or just regular diced tomatoes if that’s what you have)

*2 bay leaves

*6 cups chicken stock

*8 oz fusilli pasta

*1 tbsp dried basil

*salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cheesy Yum Ingredients:

*8 oz. whole-milk or part-skim ricotta

*1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*pinch of freshly ground pepper


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Chop sausage into about 1/2-inch pieces and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for just a minute. Add tomato paste and stir until it all turns a rusty dark red.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat; simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions in a separate pot. Prepare the cheesy yum in a small bowl by combining all 3 ingredients.

To serve, place a generous serving of the cheesy yum at the bottom of a bowl, then add pasta, and then soup on top of it all.


I personally find that the cheesy yum recipe sometimes needs to be doubled to suit my needs. It’s kind of the best part.

If you’re looking to do fewer dishes at the end of the night, you can cook the pasta along with the soup in that large pot; however, be warned that this may get the pasta rather soggy, especially if you have leftovers.


(I promise my photos will improve. I’m a newb.)