Category Archives: sausage

Soup Season!

Let me tell you why I love soup. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and there’s always enough left for lunch. And, let’s be honest, soup always tastes better the next day. There’s just something about soup leftovers. The best leftovers you’ll ever eat!

Soup is pure weekend food for me. This is how I roll with soup. Do all the chopping/prepping/simmering first thing in the morning. Then transfer to crockpot. Turn on low. Go about very busy day. This particular Saturday it was baking a TON of cookies and Christmas shopping. When feet are sufficiently tired and all urge to be in the kitchen has left your body, scoop into bowls and eat. Preferably in pj’s under a blanket on the couch. Perfect.

I actually don’t make soup as near as often as I would like. Mostly because Eric is not real big on soup. That said, he wolfed down this one. HA! I spotted this soup in a holiday cookbook my mom gave me a few years back. It sounded right up my alley. First, it contains The World’s Greatest Meat – SAUSAGE! Second, the broth is simmered with red wine. Oh my goodness – YES, PLEASE! Third, it’s loaded with pasta. And veggies. And it tastes really good with a sprinkle of parm cheese and a big ol’ hunk of bread dipped in it. Mmmm.

I liked this recipe because it’s pretty customizable. Lighten it up a bit by subbing turkey Italian sausage for pork (which I did. I always do.) Swap out the pasta for an assortment of your favorite beans. Add mushrooms. Or roasted red peppers. Even spinich or your favorite leafy green. Really, you can clean out your fridge with this soup. It’s perfect for these busy pre-holiday evenings when you’re pulled in a million different directions (out in the snow and cold, no doubt!)

ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP (Recipe adapted from: Coming Home for Christmas)


  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds of sweet or hot pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 64 ounces beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I omitted, because I accidentally bought cilantro instead. BOO!)
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups small, short pasta, cooked (such as elbow macaroni or small shells. I used mini-bowties.)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add green pepper and onion. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. Crumble and cook sausage in the same pot until cooked through and no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Return sausage and pepper/onion mixture to pot. Add beef broth, wine, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and parsley. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add zucchini and simmer 15 minutes more. Add pasta and simmer until heated through, about 5 minute.
  4. Serve with crusty bread.

Note: If you want to put the soup in the crockpot to simmer for most of the day, let it cook on the stove top for a half hour before transferring to the crock. Then let it simmer on low as long as you’d like. Do not add pasta until just before serving. You don’t want mushy pasta!



Filed under sausage, soup, veggies

NaNo? No Problem!

Okay, this novel writing stuff? Yeah, It’s ridiculously easy. 50k in 30 days? No problem. Go ahead, make it a 100k, I triple dog dare ya!

It’s only the 25th of the month and I am INCHES away from winning. Like 500 words away. Woo hoo! Eat my dust, NaNo! Next stop, the winner’s circle.

Of course, I’ve sacrificed every weekend afternoon and all my favorite TV shows in the evening to get this far. I ate Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix for dinner. Quite a few delicious Lean Cusisines as well. And, I have to be honest and admit that the entire thing a huge, gigantic pile of crap, that no will ever get to read, but hey, I’ve managed to crank out 49,000 words plus in just 25 days. That’s gotta count for something.

Why am I not getting paid for this?

Anyway, I’m pretty psyched I’ve been able to stay ahead of the game with NaNo and update my blog as well. Last year, I couldn’t do it. I could not multitask and write a novel and blog at the same time. This year, I’m more comfortable, cruising at a comfortable speed of anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 words a day. It must get easier the longer you do it.

Again, why I am not getting paid for this?? LOL.

I think the reason I’ve done so well with this is because I thought I was going to fail miserably. See, I woke up on November 1 sick. Sick, sick, sick. And remained so for the next three days. You might think, oh, it’d be easy to get a head start when you’re home sick, all you have to do is lay there with a laptop and type. Well, yes, in theory it should work that way, but in reality, my brain was so fogged and medicated I was having trouble concentrating. My word counts the first three days were dismal. I was off to such a rough start, I thought there’s no way I can do this. The minute I felt better I started working extra hard to make up for my loss. Which I did, and then some. Go me!

On one of those sick days, after deciding that the blinking cursor on my screen was making me dizzy, I tossed my novel to the side and turned on the TV instead. To Rachael Ray’s talk show. I’ve said it before, I like her talk show. (This is so embarrassing.) I can take or leave 30 Minute Meals but if I have the chance to catch her talk show on a weekday afternoon, I always do. Come on, Michael Buble was on. And he sang his new song ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ to an audience member’s pregnant belly. I coughed. I sneezed. I swooned!  He’s adorable.

And she made a delightful fall twist on lasagna that I knew I just had to try! Roasted butternut squash, layered with sweet Italian sausage and a creamy sage béchamel sauce. Sign me up, please!

Well. Making this was quite the ordeal. And all the while, I’ve got my novel breathing down the back of my neck. “Work on me!” It whispered in my ear. “You should not be cooking, you should be working on me! Order pizza!”

I had a few…issues. This recipe and I had a bit of communication problem. You will notice the recipe calls for TWO boxes of no boil lasagna sheets. You will then notice it says that it serves six. Say WHAT? Two entire boxes of noodles for 6 servings. No freakin’ way.

On the show she layered all the ingredients into one casserole dish. Okay, that must have been one HUGE honkin’ dish because there’s no way in h-e-double hockey sticks anything I owned was going to accommodate two entire boxes of noodles. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I was well into the assembly process.

So let me tell you how this ended up working out for me. In the end, it was edible. Not just edible, quite delightful actually. I really like the combo of sweet butternut squash and flavorful sausage. But it was touch and go there for a while.

I made a couple changes to lighten it up a bit, subbing 2% milk for whole and using my standard turkey sausage instead of pork. My package of sausage was 20 ounces, so not quite two pounds. I meant to pick up a second package when I shopped for groceries earlier that day, but for some reason they didn’t have any. Sigh…typical. I figured, okay I’ll just lighten it up even further by decreasing the amount of meat. I kept the quantities of squash puree and béchamel sauce the same.

So I start assembling. In a 13×9 inch pan. I realize when I’m half way through that I should have laid the noodles in the pan horizontally, thus allowing for four sheets per layer. No. I did them vertically and only got three. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two- I really poured on the puree and the sauce. I mean, practically drowned the thing. It was then I realized, I’m not fitting all these noodles in this pan. Meanwhile, it’s swimming in sauce.

Hm. Due to my error in laying my noodles, I actually didn’t even get ONE whole box in my pan. And even though I doused the thing in puree and sauce I still had quite a bit left. Scared and with the phone in my hand ready to call up for that pizza after all, I tossed that thing in the oven and said a little prayer.

When I removed the foil cover from the pan after 30 minutes, as per the recipes instructions, all I saw was a white, runny, bubbling mess. Eek. I left in uncovered for another 15, as the recipe says to do. Still didn’t like what it looked like after that, so gave it five minutes more. Finally, I decided to take it out and hope for the best.

I let it rest before taking a knife to it. I let it rest a good 20 minutes actually. And when I cut it into it and lifted the first piece out, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it held together. Yes, it was soft, but overall, not too bad. Plus, it tasted good! Really good actually! I’ve only recently started purchasing whole squash and this was a GREAT way to use one. Roasting it in the oven makes it easy to work with.

So, if you decide to take on this recipe, here are my suggestions. 1. If you make the entire recipe, be ready with a giant casserole or two 13×9 inch pans. Then be prepared to be able to feed at least a dozen people. Otherwise, I would plan to use one box of noodles, half the puree and the sauce, and use about a pound and half of sausage. That would probably fit nicely into one 13×9 inch pan and give you 6 extremely generous servings – Actually, more like 8 if you want to be realistic. I will be making this again for sure…with a few adjustments, of course.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SAUSAGE LASAGNA (Recipe adapted from: Rachael Ray)

Note: The recipe below is adjusted to make one 13×9 inch pan, serving 6 to 8. For the entire recipe, click the link above. If you know six people who can eat all that then…wow, you have some very hungry friends!

Oh, and in the interest of full discretion, the photo below was actually taken the following day, after the lasagna had a chance to set in the fridge overnight. The actual first pieces out of the pan after it was made were a bit oozier, so heads up there.


  • 1 pound butternut squash or pumpkin, halved and seeded
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for liberal drizzling
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshy grated nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1.5 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 6-8 leaves fresh sage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 box no boil, flat-edged lasagna sheets
  • 2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast cut-side down until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool until it’s cool enough to handle, then scoop the flesh out of the skin and add to a food processor. Puree the squash with the stock and honey and set aside.
  3. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage, crumbling it into very small bits as it cooks, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. While the sausage cooks, heat a pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then whisk in the flour, cook for 1 minute and then whisk in the milk. Season with salt, pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg and sage. Cook until thickened, about 7-8 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  5. Dot some squash puree in the bottom of a 13×9 inch dish, then add a layer of pasta. Top with a third of the cooked sausage and cover lightly with squash puree. Cover with another layer of pasta, a third of the béchamel sauce and 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano. Repeat with two more layers, ending each with béchamel sauce and using all of the remaining cheese for the top layer. Sprinkle parsley across the top, cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes more to brown the top. Let set a few minutes before serving.


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Filed under pasta, sausage, veggies

Grocery Anxiety

I don’t know about you guys, but when I go out of town for the weekend, I always come back stressed and annoyed. Maybe it’s because being away is like being on vacation. No obligations, no chores, there’s usually something fun planned with family or friends, someone’s mom is doing the cooking (LOL) But the time flies by so quickly and as soon as we get there, we have to turn around and come right back. Suddenly all those obligations and chores you left behind on Friday are looming ahead. The house is dirty, the fridge is empty and the laundry basket is full. And going back to work is a mere 12 hours away.

Scowl, grumble, curse, whine.

We’ve traveled A TON this summer and while it’s always fun while we are away, I’ve grown to loathe coming back. This weekend was no exception. We came back on Sunday, I decided to tackle laundry instead of running right out to the grocery store for the week. I put off the store until Monday. Well, time got away from me and I never had a chance to plan my menu and make my list for the week.

That’s right, Iwent in blind. No list, no plan, no clue.

Yeah…never again. That was the most stressful trip to the store EVER. Plus, it was crazy crowded for a Monday afternoon. And I thought I was beating the after work crowd too, seeing as my work day was shortened thanks to a dentist appointment (Look Ma, No cavities! YAY!) No such luck.

So there I am, wandering aimlessly around the store, picking up things and putting them down, anxiety and panic slowly settling in. When it was all said and done, I had no idea if I had anything that would even come close to producing meals for the week. Some random meat, some random veggies and fruit. I had no idea what I had.

When I got home, I surveyed the damage and tried to plan my meals around what I bought. Totally backwards, and not recommended. Among my random purchases I had frozen raw shrimp, turkey kielbasa, fresh sweet corn (Local even! That got me all excited since I missed the Farmer’s Market this weekend! Love living in the Midwest!), and small red potatoes. Well, well, well, somehow I managed to pick up all the ingredients for a Shrimp Boil. Whatta ya know?! The only thing I didn’t have was Old Bay, so I ran out at lunch today to grab some. Then I boiled up a delightful pot goodies for dinner that totally hit the spot! Something different and simple. Not bad for no plan for the week!

I adapted a recipe from and scaled it back to serve two. I guess, if you want to technical, it serves three because I had one lunch size portion left over (sans corn). I added a beer because some of the other recipes I looked at included it and I thought it sounded like a nice addition. Let’s be honest, beer just makes everything better. This was really easy and had great flavor. I loved all the different textures. I will be making this again for sure! 🙂



  • 12 ounces beer
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup Old Bay ™ Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound small red potatoes (cut into chunks for faster cooking)
  • 1/2 pound kielbasa sausages, cut into about 2-inch chunks (I used turkey kielbasa)
  • 2 ears corn, husked and halved
  • 1/2  pound unpeeled large shrimp (I’m sure unpeeled shrimp would add great flavor, but raw peeled shrimp works fine too, just thaw in cool water before adding to pot.)


  1. Fill a large stockpot with 2 to 3 quarts of water. It should come up the sides of pot so that it will cover all the ingredients. Add beer, onion, garlic, salt and Old Bay. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the water and add the lemon halves. Bring to a boil.
  2. Place potatoes and sausage in the pot, and return to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn; cook until tender, about 10 minutes longer. Add shrimp and simmer 3 to 4 minutes more, until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Drain off liquid before serving.


One year ago: Chocolate Crispy Cookies – YUM! These are SO good. Chopped up Crunch Bars and Rice Krispies are what make them crispy. A must try!


Filed under sausage, shrimp, veggies

Twwaaallk to me, Illinoi-sssssss!

My craving for all things saucy, cheesey and carby this weekend got me thinking about my one and only trip to New York City and a dinner a couple of my gals and I had in Little Italy. During my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to go to NYC over spring break. For 2 hours of credit. Um, I signed up quicker than a New York minute. What a great way to spend spring break and earn some points toward graduation!

(Most of ;)) that trip was A-MAZ-ING. I had so much fun! Of course, our professor was so rattled by the behavior of some (not me, I swear. I swear, not me! I was NOT a troublemaker) that he vowed he was never taking students on that trip again. Perhaps more structured activities in the evening would have been a good idea, instead of turning 20 immature and rowdy college students loose in Manhattan, but hindsight’s 20/20, right? 😉

Anyway, one night a couple of friends and I were wandering around Little Italy in an awful, horrible, cold March rain. We were tired of walking, soaked to the bone, and freezing. Not to mention starving. We decided the next restaurant we saw, we’d go in and eat because we couldn’t stand walking anymore. We stumbled on a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place that was practically deserted. Hell if I can remember the name. We went inside, sat down and were immediately approached by a hilarious waitress who pulled up a chair and sat right on down to join us at the table and asked where we were from. She told us dirty jokes and made fun of us three blond haired, blue eyed very un-Italian looking girls. When she got up to bring us food and drinks, every time she walked by she’d yell at the top her lungs and her thick New York accent – “Twalk to me, Illinoi-sssss!” Complete with a hissing “s” on the end. Best.Dinner.Ever. What a blast!

So I guess Iowa is pretty far removed from NYC and Little Italy, but luckily the ingredients to put together some yummy Italian fare is available everywhere. More importantly, they are usually available in my fridge/pantry. I was looking for something easy to throw together using some stuff I had hanging around in the house. The result: turkey Italian sausage and spinach stuffed shells with quick kicked up tomato sauce. Easy and comforting. Totally hit the spot.

ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE AND SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS WITH QUICK KICKED UP TOMATO SAUCE (Recipe source: This recipe came from me tossing together what I had in the house. I’m sure there are similar out there, but I really didn’t consult any sources before I put this together.)

‘Scuse the sloptastic photo, please. These types of dishes are never pretty on a plate. That’s just the way it is!


  • 1/2 box of jumbo shell pasta
  • 3 links sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you like. I like mine HOT!)
  • 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese (I always use part skim)
  • 1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess moisture
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. In a large pot of boiling water cook pasta until al dente (you can add a splash of olive oil if you are worried about them sticking together, but I just used a big enough pot so they had enough room to move around and had no problems.)
  2. In a large skillet, break up the sausage and cook until browned and no longer pink. Toss into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in the same skillet. Add onion and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add tomato, s&p, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  4. To the sausage add ricotta, spinach and parmesam cheese, stir to combine. Scoop rounded tablespoons of mixture into pasta shells. Place in a greased 9X13 inch pan, cover with sauce, top with mozzarella cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and the cheese melts.



Filed under pasta, sausage, veggies

I Dream in Sausage…

I have this…thing…for sausage. I love it. Any kind, any time, any place…if its full of sausage-y goodness, I’m pretty much in love. My favorite part is that it’s already perfectly seasoned… a lot less work. I have to say that Italian sausage is for sure one of my faves. I love it with pasta, in chili, on a chewy roll and smothered in sweet bell peppers. Hello, deliciousness!

Now the problem……you could choke a rat with the grease that renders off bulk pork sausage. Everytime I make it, I think, wow, now here’s something I shouldn’t be eating. LOL. In effort to save our hearts and our waistlines, I have given up my beloved pork Italian sausage (unless I’m at Portillo’s…which is a whole different ballgame) in favor of turkey Italian sausage. Man, I love that stuff! I honestly can’t tell the difference and I feel much better about eating it. I almost always have it in the freezer to break out whenever that sausage craving hits.

This recipe from Giada is perfect quick, light, sausage supper. This was on the table in 15 minutes. Add a salad and you’ve got a complete meal. Loved the kick of spice here. I’m for sure adding this to my quick weeknight meal arsenal.

ORZO WITH SAUSAGE, PEPPERS AND TOMATOES (Recipe Source: Giada de Laurentis as seen on Serious Eats)


  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound orzo pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 links (7 ounces total) mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 jarred roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped (The tomato selection at the store was a particularly hideous brand of nasty on Sunday for some reason…you’ll have that. I subbed two whole canned tomatoes.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (I subbed 1 tbs. dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth and 3 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey sausage and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

3. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer it to a large serving bowl. Add the sausage mixture, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine, adding the reserved cooking liquid if needed to loosen the pasta. Top with the Parmesan and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.



Filed under pasta, sausage

Guess who’s back…back again…

Erin’s back…tell a friend…

Hello!!! Miss me?? 😉 LOL.

I’m beyond thrilled to announce that I successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge and finished my 50k word novel on Thanksgiving afternoon. I gotta be honest though…I still haven’t read it from start to finish, so I’m pretty sure it sucks and makes no sense but I’m so tired of looking at it now, that I’ve decided to just put that aside for a while and get back to blogging! I’ve got boatloads of updates to do and now that the holiday cooking and baking season is here (yay!) I’m sure there will be a lot more coming in the month of December.

Eric and I were talking in the car on our way home that once it gets to be December 1, bets are off as far as the weather goes. Winter is officially here. What would have been some minor flurries just one week ago turns into a major storm as soon as the calendar clicks over to December. We actually had to cut our weekend at home short and head on back to Iowa to beat the snow…one day shy of the December 1 deadline! So here I am, cuddly and warm on my couch, watching the flakes fall outside our picture window and dreaming of a big bowl of comfort. Although it’s technically been weeks since I made this chili, tonight would be the perfect night to enjoy a big old helping of this. Mmmmm….

This is my absolute favorite chili recipe. Let me tell you why I love it…I’m telling you, it’s the BBQ baked beans in it. They give the whole dish a bold, smokey flavor that I adore. I also like the mixture of beef and sausage, it keeps things interesting. And I had never tried making anything with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce but…wow, love that smokey heat! I don’t care for chili when it’s all soupy…it needs to be thick and hearty. This one has the perfect texture.

I’m just going to say it flat out…this is the best chili ever. Seriously…ever. 🙂 It makes a HUGE pot and it freezes beautifully. Perfect for when you want something warm and quick.

TEXAS CHILI (Recipe Source: Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook)


  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease or vegetable oil (I use veggie oil)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (I use a 96% lean, but that’s just my preference)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage links, removed from casings and crumbled (I use turkey Italian sausage, again – just my preference)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 cans (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) BBQ baked beans, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus more as needed.


  1. Heat oil in an 8 quart heavy-bottom stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin and oregano and stir until the spices are well combined. Add the ground beef, sausage, and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and cook the meat, stirring frequently, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Adjust the seasonings with more kosher salt or chipotle chiles if necessary. Serve with your favorite chili fixin’s. (I’m a purist…just shredded cheddar for me!)



Filed under beef, sausage, soup

Looking Forward to Fall

Every year about this time, I start thinking of cool, crisp fall days filled with apples, pumpkins and falling leaves. Then I quickly come to my senses and realize that just behind fall is winter, which we all know I loathe! HA! Seriously though, I do love fall. September and October are my favorite months of year! I can’t help looking forward to it!

In honor of my love for all things fall, I decided to create a yummy autumn-inspired pizza for dinner for tonight. An interesting flavor combo I really love is that of sausage and apples. Seems weird, but it’s actually very good and flavorful. This pizza combines those flavors on a soft flat-bread crust. The flat-bread came out great! Very chewy and tender.

CARAMELIZED APPLE, ONION AND SAUSAGE FLAT-BREAD PIZZA (Dough recipe: Cooking Light, July 2008. Topping Recipe: Me)



  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Dash of sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 6 tbs. warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Cooking Spray


  1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife
  2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in 6 tbs. warm water in a large bowl; stir in 1/4 cup flour. Let stand 30 minutes or until bubbly. Add 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup warm water, and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tbs. at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85*), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Yield: 2 (11-inch) pizza crusts, 12 servings. (I divided my dough into 4 pieces to make individual sized pizzas, I have two dough balls left to use at a later time.)


**Note**: The recipe below is for two individual sized pizzas, feel free to adjust to feed more!)


  • 1 link sweet Italian sausage, casing removed (I used turkey Italian sausage)
  • Half a medium onion, diced
  • Half a large Granny Smith apple, diced (skin on)
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • Splash of Apple Cider Vinager (about a tablespoon)
  • 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese (I like Fontina because it reminds me of swiss but melts better, it’s one of my favorite cheeses!)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage


  1. Prehat oven to 425 degrees (I like a hot oven for pizza to add more crispiness to the dough, feel free to adjust temp to suit your tastes)
  2. Brown sausage in a skillet, remove from skillet and set aside
  3. Melt butter in same skillet, add onion, apple, vinager, brown sugar and cook until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes, scraping the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Coat a pizza stone or baking sheet with olive oil and roll dough to desired thickness, sprinkle with cornmeal, and flip dough so the cornmeal side is on the bottom. Spread the apple onion mixture on the dough. Add the cheese, sausage and herbs.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until desired doneness. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting.



Filed under pizza, sausage

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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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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