Cooking Light: Turkey Sausage, Mushroom, and Potato Gratin

Jason and I are in saving mode. We have a February trip in the works for our dear friend’s 30th birthday and we are also saving to buy a house, one day. That being said, I decided that I wanted to look for some budget friendly meals and Cooking Light came to the rescue! This Turkey Sausage, Mushroom, and Potato Gratin was the perfect Sunday dinner and it only costs $2.27 per serving. That is downright economical! I also shopped at Trader Joe’s which also helps your wallet. However, you can’t always find the right ingredients which can be frustrating. They didn’t have spicy Italian turkey sausage, they only had sweet Italian pork sausage, so I had to get creative. The pork sausage added some additional fat, I’m sure, but it ended up tasting delicious. I added quite a lot of red pepper flakes to achieve the spiciness that was missing and it worked perfectly.

First, prep all your ingredients so you really only have to throw everything in the pan. Dice the onion, slice the mushrooms, dice the potato, and shred your cheese. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove the casings from the sausage and brown in a large skillet (as the sausage was browning I added the red pepper flakes for some heat). Once the sausage is cooked through remove it from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel. Wipe out the pan and add a tablespoon of butter. Sauté the onion in the butter until soft and fragrant and then add your mushrooms. Cook for about 6 minutes and then add your potatoes. Cook for an additional 4-6 minutes or until the potatoes have browned slightly. They won’t be cooked through which is fine. Add your chicken stock and sausage to the pan and stir to combine. Pour the sausage mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish and top with Swiss cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes and then uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. I let this sit for a couple minutes which I would recommend because it is piping hot! Spoon into a dish and top with fresh thyme.

Turkey Sausage, mushroom, and potato gratin

This dinner was so satisfying and flavorful. The spiciness from the red pepper flakes was a necessary addition since I was using sweet Italian sausage. The mushrooms just soak up all that butter flavor and honestly I just love mushrooms and onions together. The perfect combo. This dinner takes a little while to cook, so I would recommend this for a weekend. I liked it so much that I’m planning to make it for my family the day before Christmas!

Thanksgiving Sides: Brussels and Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it’s definitely time to start planning your menu! I am not cooking this year, instead we are heading over to Jason’s brother’s house, which will be absolutely lovely. We will get to spend time with their kids and enjoy everyone’s company and not have to worry about too much 🙂 Don’t you just love being a guest?? However, for all of you that are cooking, I thought I would share two recipes that I recently tested out and loved. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon and Sautéed Brussel Sprouts with Bacon. Both of these dishes are fantastic for a regular dinner but also fancy enough to serve over the holidays. And to be honest, these sweet potatoes are my new favorite. I love the addition of honey!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

They are sweet, filling, and warm. Sweet potatoes are essential for Thanksgiving cooking. Don’t forget to add a pinch of salt to bring out all the flavors.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Ingredients:
Several handfuls of brussels sprouts
4 slices of bacon
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the brussel sprouts for approximately 3 minutes and then drain. Cook bacon in a large skillet, set aside. While the bacon is cooking, halve or quarter your brussel sprouts. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings, discard the rest. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bacon drippings and heat. Sauté the sprouts for several minutes and then add your onion. Sauté for several more minutes until soft and add the garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Once all the veggies are soft and slightly browned, add the crumbled bacon back to the pan. Serve immediately.

Brussels Sprouts

This is comfort food. Everything is better with bacon, that’s for sure. But Bacon and Brussels go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. Perfection.

Cooking Light: Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup

Autumn is here, finally!

Autumn Trail
This was taken at High Point State Park which is where Jason works, lucky duck!

However, it actually felt like the start of winter over the weekend, which I did not sign up for. It was cold and rainy. This Sausage, White Bean, and Kale soup from Cooking Light is exactly what we needed. Jason is also really sick so soup was a must. I made a couple changes to this recipe, as I usually do, and I think it greatly improved the flavor.

I used spicy pork sausage instead of Cajun sausage. I removed the casings and browned the sausage in a large cast iron Dutch oven. Once the sausage was fully cooked, I drained the fat and added 3 cups of chicken stock and the can of diced tomatoes, undrained. I let that simmer for several minutes while I added 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Then I added one can of white beans, drained. I let it all come to a boil and then reduced the heat to low and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. I added the kale and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Right before I served the soup I added ¼ cup of light cream. The below picture is the soup before I added the cream.

Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup

This turned out great. Granted I know I added some fat and calories with the cream but it was worth it! It was rich and silky without being heavy. The kale cooks down a lot which is great because I cannot eat raw kale. It’s just too coarse for me. However it’s wonderful in a soup. The sausage had so much flavor and the red pepper flakes added even more of kick which was delicious. I do think it’s important to add the garlic powder and onion powder. It just gives the soup an extra layer of flavor which it needs. I would even consider sautéing fresh onion with the sausage to start.

This soup is wonderful and filling on its own, but I did make Jason a grilled cheese to go along with it. I opted out but you can’t ever go wrong with a grilled cheese and soup.

NomNomNom

Recipe Review: Grits ‘N Greens Casserole

I was browsing blogs on WordPress one day and I came across this particularly interesting recipe, Grits ‘N Greens Casserole, on Stalking Celery. I love Cheesy Grits and Collard Greens and having them in a casserole topped with bacon sealed the deal. Luckily my husband was leaving for the weekend because he absolutely refuses to eat collards, which makes me sad. Not only are collards delicious but they are also very healthy.

This recipe boasts only 260 calories per serving, but I think mine might pack a little more because I made a pretty big change. I use bacon instead of Canadian bacon and the rendered bacon fat instead of olive oil to saute the onion, garlic, and greens. I just couldn’t toss away that skillet full of flavor. Obviously I didn’t use ALL of the bacon fat, just a tablespoon. That being said, I still think overall this casserole wasn’t too caloric. Just minimize the frequency of your bacon consumption and you’re all good. It’s all about moderation!

I also added a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to my greens while they were wilting. The recipe suggest adding some water if they look dry but I added vinegar and it was a fantastic flavor addition. At first I though the addition of salsa to the grits was a bit strange but I went with it and I’m super glad I did. It added so much flavor without actually tasting like salsa.

Cheesy Grits and Collards

The cheesy grits, tangy collards, and salty bacon were the perfect combination. I would definitely make this again. I brought a little southern flare to New Jersey, y’all!

Thai Meatball Lettuce Wraps

I’m always looking for new twists on old recipes. These Thai Meatball Lettuce Wraps are just that. I love a good meatball! Almost as much as I love a good taco. It’s really hard to choose a favorite. Meatballs are also just oh so easy to prepare. Simply prep your ingredients and then mix them all together in a bowl. What could be easier? Also, the vehicle by which we eat these tasty treats is wonderfully simple, lettuce. Not only are we cutting down on calories but we’re also making life much easier.

I made these a few weeks ago when I had a friend in town who particularly loves Asian flavors. We all thoroughly enjoyed them. Be prepared to get a little messy, but it’s totally worth it. These meatballs are made with ground pork which adds a wonderful flavor dimension; however, you can easily substitute beef, chicken, or turkey.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine the pork, scallions, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, siracha, salt, and lime juice in a large bowl and mix to combine. Form into small meatballs and place on a greased baking sheet. Cook for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. While the meatballs cook, pull your dressing together for the slaw. I did not follow the recipe for this and used 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper and drizzled over pre-cut coleslaw. Seriously couldn’t be easier. Once the meatballs are done cooking, toss them in the sweet chili sauce. To plate, simply put 2-3 meatballs in a leaf of lettuce and top with the tangy slaw.

Thai Meatball Lettuce Wraps

I challenge you to eat these without a napkin.

Enjoy!

The one where the taco truck took forever…

There is this delicious little taco truck that sits at the Farmer’s Market in Montclair each Saturday. They serve little bites of happiness. There are few things that I love more than a taco, maybe my cats and my husband. That’s it. This past Saturday I strategically drove by the Farmer’s Market on my way home from Kettle-bells class just to see how long the line was. My heart fluttered when I saw there were only 3 people in line! I sped home to meet Jason so we could walk back together and stuff our faces with Mexican street food.

When we finally arrived the line was slightly longer, but it wasn’t terrible. I thoughtfully browsed the menu and oh so very carefully made my choices: Short-rib, Carnitas, Pollo. Done.

I begin to realize that we have been waiting in this standing line for quite some time. I investigate and discover that they want to send some orders out before they place any more. Fine. I can wait a couple more minutes…ten minutes later and nothing has changed. My anxiety picks up. I start to shoot the employees dirty looks. They pretend not to notice me, but they see me. I see them.

The line still didn’t move. Finally one of the girls comes out of the truck, walks to the chalkboard menu and ERASES Short-rib. WHAT? Nooooooooooo. I express my unhappiness with a series of sighs, grunts and more dirty looks. Jason is truly embarrassed at this point but he is equally unhappy with our present situation so he mostly ignores me. FINALLY they take someone’s order!!! Only to immediately stop, again. At this point I have given up. I will never eat again. I will die here.

Jason eventually drags me, kicking and screaming, away from the motionless line and into a nearby restaurant where we proceed to devour various brunch items. But I never got my tacos…

I suggest you try one of my taco recipes to avoid similar troubles and ensure that your belly is always full! I have previously blogged about my Salsa Verde Chicken Tacos and Short Rib Tacos. Now I bring to you, the Chorizo Taco. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:
1 package of chorizo sausage, casing removed
2 small onions, diced
1/2 of a red pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Corn Tortillas
1/2 of a cucumber thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
Mix together the olive oil, white vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Marinate the cucumber and 1 diced onion in the dressing for a couple hours before dinner time.

Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Try to break it up as much as possible. Drain fat, reserving a teaspoon in the pan. Add onion and red pepper and saute until vegetables start to get soft. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and tender. Sprinkle with salt & pepper but be careful not to over salt as the sausage is already very seasoned. Microwave corn tortillas between two paper towels for 30 seconds. Plate two tortillas per person and top with Chorizo and Cucumber Slaw.

Chorizo Tacos

I was very pleased with how this turned out. The cucumber cools down the spicy chorizo and the flavors meld together nicely. I love that you don’t need to add a lot of seasoning to the chorizo because it is already very flavorful. Enjoy!

Life Lessons with Tortellini

Life can be monotonous. It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in day to day tasks and forget to actually live. I am guilty of this, especially during the week. I live for the weekends. I made a list of goals that I want to accomplish each week that will hopefully help me slow down and enjoy life’s sweet moments.

1. Breathe. If someone pushes you on the subway, take a deep breath and give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in their anger, it serves no purpose.

2. Move. Every. Single. Day. It makes you feel alive. No matter what you do, commit to it and see it through.

3. Stop. When you get caught in the rain, stop and smile. Turn the moment into something positive and laugh at life’s jokes.

4. Laugh. Surround yourself around positive people and enjoy them! Don’t take yourself too seriously.

5. Love. Tell your family and friends how much you love them, as often as possible. You never know when it will be the last time. Life is nothing without love.

6. Eat something delicious. I love to cook. I love trying new food and recipes. I try to find something new to make each week and I always look forward to it. This Tortellini with Mushrooms and Pancetta recipe is a winner. You really can’t lose when it comes to pasta, mushrooms and bacon. It’s also super easy.

Tortellini with mushrooms and bacon

Until next time. Stay happy!