Second Meal Sausage Pasta

This is a very simple way to revive leftovers and use up some OHI. I always save plain noodles if I make too many, because I know my kids will eat them plain, for lunch, or I can reuse them by warming them on the stove with sauce. Pasta is one of those dishes in which you can just kind of toss your OHI together and finish with a delicious meal. You don’t have to use anything specific – just whatever veggies you and your family like, and whatever you have on hand. This is a great meal to make when you need something quick, forgot to plan a meal, or your plans ran late and you’re out of time to make something more elaborate. Here’s what I used: image Here are some other veggies I’ve used: broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic. You can also substitute chicken or ground beef for the sausage. Or you can just make a pasta primavera and leave the meat out altogether. You’ll also need butter or olive oil, a jar of red pasta sauce, and some Parmesan cheese. I also like to add a very little bit of alfredo sauce or half & half to make a mock-vodka sauce. First, add the sausage to a large saucepan with a lid, over medium heat. Break it up into smaller pieces with a flat wooden spatula, a spoon, or whatever else you have on hand. You will probably need to break it up little by little as it cooks. While that’s finishing, you can prep your veggies (see below). Cook the sausage until brown – probably 5-10 minutes – and drain into a colander in the sink. Let sit while you prepare veggies.

Get rid of all the pink! That's how you know it's finished 'browning'.

Get rid of all the pink! That’s how you know it’s finished ‘browning’.

Add about a tablespoon of butter (or olive oil, if you prefer) to the pan. If you’re using garlic, mince and add that first. Then roughly chop half the onion and add it to the pan. wpid-20131102_170009.jpg (*TIP: Roughly chop the WHOLE onion, and save the other half in the fridge for an omelette or another meal. Save on prep time next time!) Stir a little and cook for a couple minutes until the onion is translucent. Dice the pepper and add it in with the onion. Add tomatoes or other veggies last.
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Now you can add half the sausage back into the pan. Save the other half for another meal. (Our favorites are biscuits and gravy, Southwest sausage & potato skillet, and savory sausage crepes.) Add a quarter of the jarred pasta sauce to the pan and stir. Let simmer for a minute or two so all the flavors can meld together.wpid-20131102_171818.jpg
Then, if you’re using it, add a little bit of alfredo sauce (no more than a 1/4 cup) or a splash of half & half. wpid-20131102_172203.jpg
You can add cheese directly into the sauce or you can save it to garnish at the end. Add the pasta last, and stir to break up any pieces that may have stuck together in the fridge. Serve with cheese over top.
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If it seems rich on its own, you can serve a salad with it as well. This should come together in 30 minutes or less. I love meals like this, that are quick and easy to prepare, healthy, satisfying, and thrifty. You can modify the ingredients to whatever healthy level you like. Use whole wheat pasta to minimize empty carbs. Leave out the alfredo to reduce the fat content. Add extra veggies to up the nutrition. Make your own pasta sauce if you want to eliminate preservatives. Keep those OHI staples in your kitchen, and you’ll never have to order out because you forgot or ran out of time again!

Stuffed peppers

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Wow! It’s been about 3 weeks since I last posted. I’ve got a lot in the wheelhouse but just haven’t had time to write! You can look for an update post sometime soon…

In the meantime, let’s cook!

This fast became one of my favorite meals. Especially now that my son loves bell peppers – I can’t believe I haven’t thought to make them in so long. These can be a First or Second meal using sausage. They’re great because they’re pretty healthy, very affordable, and easy too. You can buy the peppers on sale for $1 each. I often get the canned tomatoes for under a $1: $.88 actually. Usually one pepper per person is enough. The kids probably only need half of one. This recipe makes 5. You can do different variations of stuffed peppers, but here is mine!

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add to the pan a 1lb chub of ground sausage. I use the regular kind because of the kids, but you can use the spicy kind if you like more heat. If you don’t like sausage at all, you can also substitute ground beef. Then add about a tablespoon of butter in the side of the pan and add a generous handful of chopped onion.

Break the sausage up with a flat wooden spoon or spatula and mix in the onions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet with a lid, prepare the pan according to directions on the box of Spanish rice. I used the Meijer brand this time (got it for $.59!)
so I started with a couple tablespoons of butter and the Vermicelli mix. I have to give credit here to a former coworker, Kelly, who turned me on to the idea of using Spanish rice. It is by far the best way to stuff peppers. I could probably eat the stuff all day!
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It says to brown the vermicelli then add the rest of the ingredients…

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First the water. The pan should be hot enough that when you add it, it will sizzle and steam. Stir as you’re adding to avoid the rice sticking or burning.
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Next mix in the seasoning packet
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Then the canned tomatoes (do not drain! You want that delish juice!)
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I also added about half a chopped fresh tomato as I had it leftover from a grilled sandwich and wanted to use it up.
Now, as Chef Anne Burrell says, “BTB, RTS.” If you don’t know her it means Bring to Boil, Reduce to Simmer. Follow directions on the box. It will probably say to cover it. You’ll want to stir this maybe twice while it’s cooking just to make sure it’s not sticking.

By now your meat pan should look something like this:
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Be sure all the meat is browned. Then bring the whole pan over to the sink where you smartly have a colander waiting, and dump contents into it to drain the fat. It can hang out for awhile while you finish these other steps.

Preheat the oven to 350º and prepare your bell peppers. When shopping for these, get the biggest you can find with a sturdy, even bottom so they will stand up. You can use any color. I used red, orange and yellow. That’s what my family likes and they were on sale anyway 😉

Wash them of course, then what you will do is cut off the top/cut out the inside. Best way to get this done is by cutting a square shape in the top of the pepper around the stem and close to the outside edges. You want to put the knife as far down as possible, but not so much that it cuts through the bottom of the pepper.

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You should be able to just lift the stem up and remove that whole middle section. If not, you might have to go around your cut again, or a little further out, to make sure you’ve cut away all the white flesh inside. Even after removing the stem, you may still have to fish around with your knife to remove any excess white flesh. Afterwards they should look like this:
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Now cover a baking sheet with foil and set your peppers on it. Set aside for a few minutes.
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When your rice is finished (usually you have to let it set for a few minutes), add half the sausage/onion mixture to the rice and stir to combine. You can save the rest for another meal. Or, if you really like sausage, I suppose you could add all of if it.
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At this point you have 2 options. You can add some cheese directly into the rice and stir (the rice is still hot and cheese will melt and become all gooey! Yum…) I would recommend mozzarella and then have some cheddar on hand too.

I was trying to be good however, so I skipped this part. 😦

Scoop the rice mixture into the peppers, pressing down gently as you go to eliminate any air pockets.
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I then added the cheese on top only (AHEM, mozzarella AND Triple Cheddar), again pressing down gently with fingers to keep cheese from spilling over as it melts.

Put in the oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and peppers are significantly softened (you don’t want them super soggy though!) They will look like this…

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When the rice was cooking I also prepped some refrigerated rolls and prepared some of this favorite broccoli to serve alongside the peppers.
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I cut one in half for the kids to share:
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I hope you enjoy this version of stuffed peppers!