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)

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions

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.

Notes

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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Notes

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!

Sausage, Vegetables & Roasted Potatoes

Another sausage and vegetables recipe, this time with potatoes instead of pasta. Not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but I am a big fan of Italian sausage. Usually it’s Klement’s – gotta keep it Sconnie, obviously – but sadly Woodman’s was out of Klement’s so today it’s Hillshire Farm Gourmet. Also very good. Also, as it happens, this is another one-pot meal! Hallelujah praise Jesus.

summer vegetables with sausage and potatoes

Sausage, Vegetables & Roasted Potatoes

(adapted from Skinny Taste)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a skillet over low heat and add the quartered red potatoes. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper; place a tight-fitting lid over the skillet and cook for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, do all that laborious veggie-chopping and sausage-chopping.

Once the 25 minutes is up, remove the potatoes to a plate and set aside. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook until slightly browned; add peppers, onions, and zucchini and cook until softened. Put the potatoes back in and mix it all well. Add more seasoning if you’d like; cover the skillet and cook for 5 more minutes before serving.

Notes

You don’t have to use red potatoes, if you have regular ones on-hand. Nor do you have to use each entire bell pepper; it is a LOT of veggies once all is said and done. But that’s what makes it healthy! Enjoy!

What we like to call “Shrimpittu”

This is the only recipe, so far, that I can really claim as my own. It’s nothing wild – it’s basically a stir fry. But I think the story goes that the first time I was making it, I was actually trying to replicate one of V’s mom’s recipes, and was utterly failing at it…so we called what I ended up with “shrimpittu” because the name of the recipe I was attempting ended in “-ittu” in Kannada.

So this dish holds a bit of a special place in my heart, as one of my first accidental successes in the kitchen. It’s very tweak-able and amenable to changes to suit your tastes. But this is how I do it…

shrimpittu

Shrimpittu

(adapted from yours truly – serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 – 3/4 pound frozen shrimp, tail-off and deveined (the quantity depends on your feelings about shrimp more than anything else)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2/3 cup carrots, diced
  • a shake of dried basil
  • a shake of turmeric powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cooked whole wheat couscous

Directions

First you need to thaw out the shrimp; what I generally do is put them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, which usually breaks up the ice and helps thaw them pretty quickly.

Chop up all your vegetables and put them into a skillet with a bit of olive oil, on medium-low heat. Let them cook for a few minutes until soft. As you’re waiting, boil a pot of water on another burner (adding salt and, if you like, 1 tbsp of butter) and pour in 2/3 cup whole wheat couscous once it reaches the boil. Remove the pot from heat, put the lid on, and wait 5 minutes before fluffing it up with a fork.

Back in your skillet, now you can add the shrimp. Stir it together well with all the veggies and cook until the shrimp are heated through. Add the spices and salt/pepper. Put approximately 1 cup of the couscous on a plate and pour shrimp/veggie mixture on top of it.

Notes

Like I said, I’m a little sentimental about this dish. I also like to fool myself into thinking that couscous is a way healthier alternative to pasta, which may be somewhat true only in my case because I like whole-wheat couscous but cannot stand whole-wheat pasta. So there you have it. Yay carbs!

There are plenty of other spices you could add here (maybe cilantro or oregano) and certainly other veggies (zucchini or spinach). Happy experimenting!

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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Notes

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!

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

Three posts in four days?!? Man oh man. I guess I’m taking to this blogging thing more than I thought I would – plus, it motivates me to actually cook stuff. Today we have another rather non-glamorous dinner, but it felt right for today, after eating a heavy Easter lunch at my grandma’s…although, truth be told, this soup is somewhat on the rich side, rather heavy on the butter and cheese. No surprise I like it so much.

This is actually also another slow cooker meal. I feel like I use crockpots in a different manner than most people – it’s supposed to be a convenience, a “throw it all in in the morning and come home to dinner all ready” but as I’ve mentioned, I don’t pull that off too often. Apparently I use it more on the weekends. Anyhoo…let’s get to it.

tbps

This soup doesn’t photograph well…sorry.

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

(adapted from PinFoody)

Ingredients

  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 cup finely diced onions
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 32 oz box vegetable broth
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups half-and-half, room temperature
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Add first 8 ingredients (through the bay leaf) to the crockpot and stir well. Cook on LOW for 5-7 hours.

About 45 minutes before you want to serve, prepare what the fancy folks call a “roux”: melt the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes. Pour a cup of the hot soup into the skillet and mix; add three more cups and stir. Pour it all back into the crockpot and add parmesan cheese and warmed half-and-half. Stir everything well; you might need to add more seasoning since the soup has been cooking for so long.

Cook it for another 30 minutes on low. Serve with a baguette warm from the oven. This soup is freaking fantastic for bread-dipping.

Notes

I personally feel the baguette/other similar bread is a crucial accompaniment. That’s really about it!

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Butter chicken is up there with palak paneer as one of the most Indian-newb-friendly dishes. It generally isn’t that spicy, and in this recipe, really isn’t spicy at all – obviously you can tweak it to suit your preferences. The name sounds decadent, like it would just be dripping in gobs of butter, but the butter:chicken ratio here is actually very restrained.

I should probably also use the “admittedly inauthentic” disclaimer here too, as I did with my chicken tikka masala. This is definitely not the traditional way of making chicken makhani – it is the cheater version. This one’s for all my fellow cheaters out there.

butter chicken

Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)

(adapted from Canadian Family)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • approximately 2 or 2.5 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken drumsticks or thighs
  • about 2 paratha or naan per person

Directions

Melt the butter in the microwave and pour into your slow cooker. Add all the remaining ingredients except chicken; stir to combine into a smooth gravy.

If desired, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the slow cooker and make sure they are all coated well with the gravy.

Cook on HIGH for 2.5 hours or on LOW for 5 hours. As it gets close to finishing, cook your bread of choice according to its package directions (some are best in the oven, like naan, while paratha is definitely better on the stove).

Notes

It’s seriously as simple as that! I love this recipe because while I like to use my crockpot, I often don’t really have it together enough in the mornings to get everything necessary for a recipe all assembled and into the crockpot before I have to leave for work. Because this only takes 2.5 hours, and I get home around 4:30, I can have dinner ready by 7:00 as there is virtually no prep time.

As I mentioned, this is not spicy whatsoever, but if you wanted to kick it up a notch you could add some diced green or red chilies into the gravy.

Also, just an FYI: this is a MESSY dinner. You need a lot of napkins. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Minestrone Soup

V and I are watching “Chopped” on the Food Network. We’ve literally never watched anything on the Food Network before, but whaddaya know, it’s really enjoyable! And…stressful! You wouldn’t think it’d be that interesting or that dramatic, but it totally is, and they’re using all these crazy ingredients I’ve never heard of. Mamey? (apparently a fruit) Duck tongue? Okay I know what duck tongue IS, but…

Anyway – not relevant. We are a little more humble here at Sconnie Sustenance. Minestrone is pretty damn humble and is insanely easy to make. It’s kind of my go-to dinner when I a) don’t have a lot of food in the house, b) don’t want meat and c) want something healthy. Fortunately, these are all ingredients I pretty much always have on hand.

minestrone

Minestrone Soup

(adapted from Cookie Monster Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 32 oz box of vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you don’t care about keeping it vegetarian)
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into quarters
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup dried elbow macaroni (or shells, or something similar)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • as much grated parmesan cheese as you please

Directions

Heat the oil in a large deep pot. While it warms, chop up your onion and then add to the pan, along with the garlic. Swirl it around so as not to burn.

Pour in the box of vegetable broth and can of diced tomatoes. Add diced carrots, sliced zucchini, and chopped celery as well as the basil, oregano and sugar. Put the lid halfway on the pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes is up, add the elbow macaroni and cook for another 8-10 minutes.

Finally, add in your drained and rinsed black beans and salt and pepper. Stir it up good and pour into bowls. Now, this next part is my personal favorite: shake as much parmesan cheese as you want over that bowl. It probably goes without saying that I prefer a heavy hand with the parm. It’s all the better if you buy a quality bag of grated parmesan.

Notes

The original recipe also called for 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. The first time I made the recipe, I followed those directions and did not care for the taste the balsamic vinegar imparted on the soup. Too tart. I really don’t recommend using it.

Also, the original recipe did not include any celery, I just added that because I had some I needed to use up. And it called for 5 cups (40 oz) of vegetable broth, but the package of broth boxes that I get from Costco come in 32 oz containers, and 32 oz has worked just fine for me thus far.

Try it 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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Notes

*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 🙂

Enjoy!

Super healthy shrimp fried rice

This is the kind of dinner I should be making every night instead of like, once every other week. According to the site where I found this recipe, one serving of this shrimp fried rice is only 126 calories. Crazy right? It is loaded with vegetables so I suppose it’s not that hard to believe. If you’re looking for a really healthy, really nutritious dinner, this is it.

shrimp fried rice

Shrimp & Veg Fried Rice

(adapted from My Food Diary)

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • approximately 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

If you have a rice cooker, get your rice started cooking in there before you do anything else. It will be done about the same time you finish all your veggie chopping, if you’re like me and veggie chopping is a pretty laborious process.

Chop up the two bell peppers, celery stalks, and onion.

Pour the olive oil to a skillet on medium heat. After a moment, add your minced garlic; once that softens, add in the bell peppers, celery, and onion. Mix well and let it cook for 4 or 5 minutes.

Assuming your rice has finished cooking, add that to the skillet and stir well. Now add the shrimp and stir until heated through. Pour in the soy sauce and add the black pepper.

Notes

The original recipe called for sugar snap peas as well. I have nothing against sugar snap peas, but they were very expensive today at the store and I don’t LOVE them, so they got nixed.

And if we’re being fully honest here, I completely forgot about the soy sauce. Probably would’ve added some nice flavor and the dish is a little on the bland side without any other herbs or spices. You could add basil or oregano or hell, even chili powder. Go nuts.