Monthly Archives: June 2008

Couscous with a Kick

My hubby Eric is a meat and potatos kind of guy. Nothing funny, nothing fancy. So you can imagine my frustration when trying to introduce him to new foods. I love to to try new things. New recipes, restaurants and menu items. It makes my otherwise boring life exciting. Every new flavor is like an adventure. Eric, on the other hand, wants to eat what he knows he likes.

One of the things I introduced him to when we got married is couscous. His face was priceless the first time I put it in front of him about 2 years ago. “It’s little pasta balls,” I told him. “What’s not to like?!” He was still skeptical. But, bless his heart, he’ll try whatever I give him because he doesn’t want me to feel bad. Plus, he’d starve if he didn’t. HA! So, surprisingly enough, couscous was added to his list of acceptable foods.

To keep it Eric-friendly, I would prepare it very simply….cooked in chicken broth with a little S&P and a bit of parm cheese and Italian seasoning stirred in. Good…but not good enough.

Since we were grilling steaks on Saturday night, I wanted to find a way to kick it up a notch. This recipe was FANTASTIC. I loved the light flavors and the crunchy veggies. Even Eric enjoyed it. I will never go back to my boring old couscous again, this is SO easy!



  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup NAKANO® Seasoned Rice Vinegar – Original
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  1. In a large saucepan, saute bell pepper, onion and garlic in oil, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add rice vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute.
  3. Stir in broth and currants; bring to a boil. Stir in couscous and spinach; cover and remove from heat.
  4. Let stand 5 minutes; fluff couscous lightly with a fork.

Enjoy! 🙂


Filed under pasta, sides, veggies

Sweet Home…

Whenever we go home to visit my mom and dad in the Chicago ‘burbs, I always have to make a stop at one of my absolute favorite places: PORTILLO’S!!! Yum! It’s classic Chicago food – hot dogs loaded with all the Chi-town favorites (no ketchup!!), Italian beef dripping with juice, Italian sausage piled with yummy grilled sweet peppers. It’s heaven on a bun, basically. Add a side of cheese fries and an ice cold root beer and I am one happy camper. Well worth the calories. Every.Single.One.

One of my favorites there is the Maxwell Street Polish. It’s polish sausage loaded with yellow mustard and grilled onions on a chewy Italian roll. Being that my trips to Portillosare few and far between these days (boo!), I was craving a little taste of home tonight. Here is my take on one of my hometown faves, with a couple twists. I saw a hamburger recipe in my Kraft magazine that called for caramelizing onions and mixing in a little A1 Steak Sauce. Sounded interesting to me, but I don’t love A1 and don’t keep it on hand. But I always have a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce on hand and thought it would go good with my sausage! So I mixed that in instead! I served the sandwich with a yummy pasta salad that’s below.

GRILLED POLISH SAUSAGE WITH BBQ GRILLED ONIONS (Recipe inspiration: Portillo’s!, with inspiration for the onions from this burger recipe from Kraft)


Polish sausage or Kielbasa (I cheated and used the pre-packaged, bun length links that are basically hot dogs. I’m sure there is better quality sausages out there, but I was feeling lazy)

Hot dog buns (I used brat buns from the grocery store bakery)

Your favorite mustard (I used honey mustard, because that’s my fave!)

Half a medium onion, chopped.

1 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 to 1 1/2 tps. of BBQ sauce


Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently until they are a deep golden brown. Stir in BBQ sauce.

Grill sausages until heated through. Add to buns, top with mustard, pile on those onions and stuff your face! YUM! 🙂

I wanted to bring in something a little different than the typical potato chips on the side, so I threw together a pasta salad. I have a huge problem with the typical mayo-laden pasta salad so this is my take.



1/2 box of your favorite pasta

1 head of romain lettuce, chopped

Grape tomatoes to taste

Roasted red peppers to taste, chopped (I used jarred, so I blotted off some of the moisture with a paper towel)

Fat-free balsamic salad dressing to taste (I used TJ’s brand, and used about half the bottle)

Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta, drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, add dressing and cheese, toss.

Refridgerate for about an hour to chill completely. Eat!

Enjoy! 🙂

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Filed under salads, sausage

That’s Amore

I am a pasta addict. I would eat it every day if I could. With chicken, with meatballs, with veggies, with just good old fashioned marinara, I love it all!

But what I love most of all is baked pasta. Hot and bubbly with little crunchy pasta pieces on top. Hello heaven!

This is one of my favorite go-to meals when I’m looking for something quick, hearty and satisfying. It goes together lighting quick and I love that I can get all my kitchen clean up done before it comes out of the oven. Plus, it’s delicious the next day!



1 box Rigatoni or your favorite pasta, cooked and drained.

1 pound hot Italian sausage

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste), minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Italian seasoning to taste

Red pepper flakes (optional), to taste

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2-3 tablespoons butter, melted.

Chopped fresh basil to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cook pasta according to directions, drain and set aside.

Brown sausage and onion in skillet, add garlic toward the end of cooking so it doesn’t burn. Drain if needed. Return to skillet. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, italian seasioning and red pepper flakes. Simmer about 15 minutes.

Combine Panko, parm cheese, and basil in a bowl and stir in melted butter. Add pasta to a cassarole dish coated with cooking spray, pour sauce over pasta and stir to combine. Sprinkle breadcrumb/butter mixture over pasta.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Serve in big pasta bowls with a more cheese and basil on top. Add a caesar salad and garlic bread and tada! An easy, yummy, weeknight meal!

Enjoy! 🙂 

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Filed under pasta, sausage