Red Lentil Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Veggies

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love a good quick weekday meal.  This one came together in about 10 minutes and I got all the ingredients at Trader Joe’s! And it is super healthy!  Winning all over the place!

Alternative pastas are having a major moment right now, but keep in mind they are not all created equally. Not all are as good as others. Studies* show this is one of the legit ones.

*Studies conducted by me.

1 bag of red lentil pasta

1 jar traditional marinara sauce (or your favorite tomato sauce)

1 package garlic and herb chicken sausage, sliced into coins

½ 12oz bag baby spinach

¼ to ½ bag frozen asparagus spears, thawed, cut into fourths

Grated parmesan cheese

While a pot of water is coming to a boil, slice the sausage and cut the asparagus.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil, sauté the sausage until golden brown and warmed through. Add the asparagus and cook until softened and warm. Add the spinach and cook until wilted (won’t take too long).

Drain the pasta and add back to the pot. Add the veggie/sausage mix to the cooked pasta. Add the jar of marinara sauce. Use as much or as little as you’d like.  Mix altogether and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

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Slow Cooker Brisket Enchiladas

I know Instant Pots are all the rage right now, and I do love mine, but my slow cooker is still the pride and joy of my kitchen gadgets. It is tried and true and never lets me down.

Not too long ago, there was a bulk meat sale at Bristol Farms. I went to “just check it out” and ended up a freezer full of brisket and pork shoulder. As much as I could just eat smoked meat all the time, smoking a brisket is a 12-hour process and we just don’t always have that sort of time commitment. Don’t get me wrong; we will still smoke the brisket at some point, but we have 4 good-sized briskets so at least one of them has to be less time-consuming to prepare.

That’s where these enchiladas came in. Not only were they super easy to make, they were really delicious too! And even though they still took about 10 hours, it was mostly all in the slow cooker so it was pretty much zero maintenance for me.

Slow Cooker Brisket Enchiladas

1 4-5 pound brisket

½ pound shishito peppers

1 brown onion, quartered

4 cloves of garlic

1 package taco seasoning (or homemade)

1 cup beef broth

6 flour tortillas

Shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend

Enchilada sauce (store-bought or homemade)

Put the brisket in the slow cooker fat side up. Sprinkle with the taco seasoning. Add the peppers (whole), garlic (whole), onion, and beef broth. Cook for 8-10 hours on low.

When the brisket is done, remove to a cutting board and shred with two forks. I also spooned over the shredded meat some of the cooking liquid for added flavor, but that’s optional.

Add about ¼ cup of enchilada sauce to the bottom of a baking dish.

Put a generous amount of the meat in the tortilla, enough that you can still roll it closed without a mess. Along with some shredded cheese. Roll up and add seam side down to the baking dish. Repeat until done.

Top the enchiladas with the sauce and more cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Sweet-and-Spicy Bourbon Peach BBQ Chicken

I used to think that finding healthy but tasty recipes was hard. People tend to associate healthy eating with plain baked chicken and broccoli, which is just not true. I love finding new flavor profiles and ways to eliminate overly processed foods and try to keep things as clean as possible while still having fun with the meal.

Food shouldn’t be complicated and it shouldn’t cause you to feel bad for eating. This dish, for example, uses peach preserves which have sugar. I could have used fresh peaches and maybe one of these days I will try that, but everything else in it is good, so the sugar from the preserves isn’t so bad. Plus, it isn’t like I’m eating the entire batch of sauce. Take that into account as well. The amount per serving makes a huge difference so enjoy yourself!

Sweet-and-Spicy Bourbon Peach BBQ Chicken

makes about 2 cups of sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil

½ poblano pepper, seeded and diced

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 10 oz jar peach preserves (try to get as all natural as you can)

½ cup orange juice (from 1 orange)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup bourbon (I used Bulleit)

½ cup ketchup (organic if possible)

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the chicken, I used a package of 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika.

In a 350 degree oven, bake the seasoned chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce:

In a pot over medium-high heat, add your canola oil, pepper, and onion. Cook until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the peach preserves and stir until melted in. Next, add the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, and bourbon.

Bring to a boil and add the ketchup, honey, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne.  If you don’t want any spice, don’t add the cayenne.   (Leave the poblano, though. It doesn’t really add any heat, just a nice flavor). Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium. Let it cook down for about 15 minutes. After it has reduced and thickened up a bit, add the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

Take the chicken out of the oven and pour/brush on at least a couple tablespoons of the sauce onto each piece of chicken. Then put the baking sheet under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce has cooked onto the chicken and is a nice golden brown.

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

If you’ve read any of my recipe posts before, you’ll know how much I like a quick and easy recipe. Like most families, our weeknights tend to get a bit chaotic, so anything that doesn’t take too much time but is still super tasty and can be considered healthy will always be a winner in my book.

When I was meal planning and grocery list writing for this week I was very unmotivated. Normally I have some ideas of things I want to make during the week, but not this time. This time, I was drawing a blank. I was looking at food images to try to get my creative juices flowing when I came across stuffed peppers. Perfect. Done. Put them on the list. I moved on through the rest of the week’s meals and hit up Trader Joe’s.

Often after grocery shopping and putting away the food, I don’t want to cook dinner. It is just a testament to how simple these are to make that I didn’t mind making dinner after I put the groceries away!

Stuffed peppers are pretty easy and can be totally customizable to whatever flavors you want. I went with a southwestern flavor profile for these and they were very good.

When buying your bell peppers, try to get the ones with four nodes on the bottom. The ones with three are fine, but four makes them a bit easier to stand up in the baking dish. Also, try to get round, fat ones. The longer skinny ones won’t work quite as well.

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

serves 6-8, depending on the size of your peppers

 

6-8 bell peppers, any color (*see above for tips on buying)

1 pound ground turkey

½ yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ package taco seasoning (or the equivalent of homemade)

1 4oz can diced green chiles

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

2 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese *optional

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup or so shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375.

In a skillet over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the turkey with the onions and garlic until the meat is cooked through and the onions and garlic are softened. Next, add the taco seasoning, green chiles, tomato paste, and corn. Stir.

If adding the cream cheese, do it now.  It is optional, but it does take the filling up a notch. It also makes it a bit creamy and less likely to dry out in the oven. It won’t seem like enough at first, but trust me. Keep stirring it in and it will cover the whole pan.

Meanwhile, cut the tops off the peppers and take out the seeds and core. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Stand up in a shallow baking dish.

Time to assemble: In the bottom quarter of each pepper, spoon in some rice. Sprinkle with a little cheese, then top with the meat filling. Pack it in and let it go over the top. Don’t be shy with the filling!  Sprinkle more cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese is all melty.

Crowd Pleasing Spinach Artichoke Dip

So, I suppose all spinach artichoke dip is crowd pleasing, right? I mean, who doesn’t love this stuff?? When I was deciding what to bring to this year’s Super Bowl party, the hubby suggested this dip. In a bread bowl. With the hollowed out bread for dipping.

That man just gets me, you know?

So here it is. And there it went. It was long gone by the time the game was over.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

*This is actually a double recipe because I used a big loaf of bread. Cut it in half if you use a bread bowl instead. Or don’t. It’s delicious. Make two bowls.

**The fat content of each item is up to you. Low fat? OK. Full Fat? Go for it. Non fat? Whatever you want, dear one.

 

2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, room temp

1 cup plain greek yogurt

½ cup mayo

2 Tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

3-4 green onions, white and light green parts, diced

A few dashes of hot sauce

16 oz bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed.

2 cans quartered artichokes, drained and chopped

3 cups mozzarella cheese

1 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top of a loaf of bread and remove the bread inside, leaving about 1 inch around the outside for stability. Set aside.

In a big mixing bowl, mix together the cream cheese, yogurt, and mayo until combined. Please note that I attempted to make this without mayo but I found it needed it for the right texture. If may freaks you out, use sour cream. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, green onions, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Put the thawed spinach in a towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Add to the cream cheese mixture with the artichokes. Add 2 cups of the mozzarella and the parmesan cheese and stir to combine everything thoroughly.

Scoop the spinach/cheese mixture into the hollowed out loaf. Don’t be shy. Fill her up. Then top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is all melty and the top is golden brown.

Serve with the bread you carved out from the inside or crackers or chips or pita or veggies or…. You get the idea.

Basic Frittata

I go to work really early during the week, so family breakfasts aren’t really a thing most of the time. I get up, get dressed, make whatever lunches need to be made, have some coffee, and head to the office. Everyone else is still asleep.

Weekday breakfasts tend to be oatmeal or cereal or toast. Something along those lines. That’s why I try to up my game on the weekends. I like breakfast burritos or French toast. Waffles and pancakes. Even just good ol’ bacon and eggs is nice for my family to sit down and have breakfast together. One breakfast I really like to make is a frittata.  I know, it sounds so fancy, but it is actually really quick and easy to make. You can pretty much put whatever you want in it: veggies, meat, potatoes, herbs & spices. I’ve even seen pasta in a frittata.

Frittatas are an Italian dish and the word means “fried.” It was just a meant as a general term for cooking eggs in a skillet, but has since come to be known for this dish in particular, which is sort of a cross between a crustless quiche and an open-faced omelette.

I made mine with some leftover cooked sweet potatoes, some veggie odds and ends, and goat cheese. Next time, I’ll use a whole new rotation of meat, veggies, and cheese.  That’s what’s so great about a frittata; it is so customizable. It’s also a great way to use up veggies so they don’t go to waste.

Here’s the basic “recipe” for a frittata, you just substitute whatever you want and use however much you want:

In a cast iron skillet (or any skillet that is oven-proof), add a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium high heat. Add your veggies. I used about a cup of chopped broccoli florets, a whole chopped zucchini, and a tablespoon or two of minced garlic. Once those were softened, I added my potatoes.** If you were adding herbs, you would do so at this stage as well.

**My potatoes were already cooked since they were leftovers. They also already had onions and peppers in them. If your veggies aren’t cooked yet, make sure to add them sooner.**

***Also, if you are adding meat that needs to be cooked, like bacon or sausage, make sure you do that first***

OK, back to the frittata: Once the veggies were ready, I sprinkled them with salt and pepper to taste and I topped them with goat cheese.

In a bowl, I whisked together 8 eggs and a large splash of milk.  Pour the eggs over the veggies and cheese.

Let it sit on the stove top for a minute or two then transfer to a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the eggs are set.  Serve in wedges like a pie.

This is a great option for breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner and a great way to use up just about anything you have in the fridge.

Minestrone Soup

I’ve been a bit in a slump lately. At least when it comes to blogging recipes. I’ve been making food I’ve already done on here or making other people’s recipe or even just making stuff that I ultimately deem “not blog-worthy.” (That parmesan French toast was pretty delish, though!)

I blame it on end-of-the-year laziness. I seriously get so lazy after Thanksgiving. I think I only worked out 2 times in the entire month of December. I barely do any housecleaning and the laundry starts when we are all on our last pairs of underwear. Well, it’s January now and a new year has started. I have a list of things I want to start doing. Work has been absolutely CRAZYPANTS but it should calm down in the next few days and my head will stop spinning and perhaps I can actually start accomplishing things.

First up, this soup. It’s been raining like crazy here in SoCal the past couple days. Now, I happen to enjoy the rain. I don’t like going out in it, but I do love being warm and cozy and listening to it pitter patter outside my window. I always like to think Fall weather is soup weather, but in SoCal that is not at all the case. It’s usually pretty warm until mid-December to January when it starts to get a little chilly.

Minestrone soup is a thick Italian soup made of a flavored broth and veggies with optional beans and pasta added in. There is no set recipe for minestrone since you can use whatever veggies are in season. This soup dates back to the Roman Empire, but the basic premise remains today.

This soup really hit the spot and was so easy to make. It hit my trifecta of easy, healthy, and delicious!  If I weren’t in the beginning of a Biggest Loser Challenge, I would have served this with a side of bread as well.

30-Minute Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1 16 oz bag frozen veggie medley (green beans, corn, peas, carrots. You can really use whatever veggies you want.)

Parmesan rind (optional)

1 28-oz can low-sodium crushed tomatoes

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

12 oz box of shell pasta (or other small pasta of your choice) *I used Banza chickpea pasta and it was DELISH! You can’t even tell the difference and it punches up the protein of an otherwise-vegetarian dish.

Add olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.

Add the frozen veggies, basil, oregano, some salt and some pepper. I had a leftover rind from some parmesan, so I added this as well. You don’t have to.  Stir and cook for a few minutes until veggies start to soften.

Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and pasta and cook about 10 minutes (or per package directions for the pasta). Remove the parm rind if you used one and taste the soup for seasoning. I ended up adding more salt, pepper, and basil, but make it how you like it.