Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Baked Rotoni with Sausage

I spend a lot of my time thinking about food. Probably too much time. I consider the ingredients in my house, the ingredients I might need and the time frames I have to make some magic happen in the kitchen. Some days I'm overly ambitious and some days just don't care what plans you make---they just refuse to cooperate. In my own refusal to fold to cheap take out on such days I end up with some pasta and a jarred sauce that I might spruce up a bit and call it a day--and those days make me sad. This dish isn't sad, takes minimal effort and can be made in advance, frozen and popped in the oven for a fraction of the cost and calories of pre-made meals and take out. 

Inspired by Italian classics baked ziti and traditional lasagna, this dish really does come together in less than 15 minutes before being thrown into the oven to finish off (hello, shower time, laundry time or a guiltless dvr session of last night's New Girl). Make it for game day, family dinner or just a cold and dreary Tuesday-- and pack the leftovers for lunch.

Baked Rotini with Sausage
serves 6 to 8

What you need:
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage (I used the leftover links from this recipe. But sweet, mild, pick!)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 6oz tomato paste
  • 28oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 lb Rotini (or other short cut pasta like penne or ziti)
  • ~7oz shredded mozzerella cheese
  • ~1 cup grated parmesean cheese
  • ~ 1/4 cup loosely packed basil, thinly chopped
  • ~ 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
What you do:
  1. Cook 1 lb Rotini (the spirals) pasta according to the directions. (*I like the spirals for this to catch the crumbles of sausage and chunky pieces of tomato in the sauce*)
  2. In a deep skillet, heat the oil over medium, high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings and brown in the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and cook about 4 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add in the garlic and cook an additional minute or so.
  3. Add in the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes until those start to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste and heat for a minute until fragrant, then pour in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Make sure you stir really well to get all the tomato goodness combined. 
  4. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil.
  6. Grab a casserole dish (I used a 9x11 size) and add about half of the pasta. Layer on half of the sauce and sausage mixture. Evenly add half of both the mozzerella and parmesean cheese. Repeat the process layering again the noodles, sauce then cheese. **YOU CAN STOP HERE AND FREEZE THIS BABY FOR WHENEVER YOU WANT!!
  7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees until the top starts to get brown and bubbly with melted cheese.
  8. Try not to eat the whole dish in one sitting..or burn your mouth because you can't wait to dig into that melted cheese...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guacamole Shrimp

The calendar has flipped to October (one of the best two months of the year if you ask me!) and the days are growing shorter...but there's a few lingering warm days of summer that have yet to yield to the demanding chill of fall. To savor the fleeing season and give the grill a few more lights, I made this light dinner to pair with the last of the summer beers in the back of the fridge. (I've said it before and I'll say it again--give me a reason...ANY reason eat avocado and it's a win in my book). This fresh meal comes together in minutes and is perfect on its own as a simple salad, filled in a tortilla or with rice as a main meal or even served as a light appetizer. It can easily be adjusted into a dip or a party or customized to your liking (think about adding some diced jalapenos for some heat!)

Guacamole Shrimp
Serves 2 as a salad
Serves  4 with a substantial side dish or in tortillas 
Serves 6 as a first course

What you need:
  • about a pound of medium shrimp (about 30 shrimp), peeled, devained & tail off
  • two avocados
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 limes, zested & juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro (use about 1 tbsp for dried)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • one clove of garlic, grated
What to do:
  1. In a small bowl combine the juice and zest of two juicy limes,  1 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 of the cilantro. Add the shrimp and let marinate for 10-30 minutes. 
  2. In a large bowl combine the rest of the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and remainder of the cilantro. Add in the diced tomato, onion & garlic.
  3. Skewer your shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 3 minutes per side over medium-high heated grill (about 400-450 degrees). 
  4. Scoop out your avocado and cut into chunky cubes.
  5. Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss everything together--coating thoroughly with the lime juice and olive oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add in the avocado. Lightly toss again--careful not to mash the avocado too much...
  6. Serve long side cilantro lime rice or in a tortilla.  
**you can also dice up your shrimp and make your avocado cubes much smaller--serve as a "dip" with chips! or add a jalapeno for spice! forget about dicing the tomatoes just scoop out the insides and stuff them with the avocado and shrimp salad!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Zoupa! : Tuscan White Bean, Sausage & Spinach Soup

With fall comes shorter days, longer nights, winter chills and seemingly endless pots of soups and stews to feast on all season long. While the highs this weekend hit the 80s and the humidity level was pretty close to 100; the skies remained fairly dark, a drizzle fell and the calendar demanded that Fall was offered a proper welcome. A lazy Sunday required the making of a pot of soup to be slurped for the rest of the day as meals and snacks.  This soup packs some major flavor in some basic ingredients and requires just one big pot and a wooden spoon  (and a cheese grater). Plus, give me any (and I mean ANY) excuse to buy a baguette and I'm completely game--Paleo what?

*side note: my pictures recently have been sub-par. I get that. I've been cooking and eating at times when I don't have optimum sunlight and my kitchen kind of stinks as far as lighting (and space and functionality, but who's counting really) is concerned. I've got a treat for you kiddies coming up as I partner with a local photographer so you can feast a little more with your eyes before you make these dishes for yourself. Bare with me kids, it's a work in progress.

Tuscan White Bean, Sausage and Spinach Soup
Serves 6-8

What you need: 
  • 3 links mild Italian sausage (I used chicken because it was on sale, but pork would be just great, too)
  • 2 15oz cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 32oz chicken broth (low sodium preferred)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • about 4 big handfuls of baby spinach (if I had to guess I'd say 1/2 to 3/4 of a bag)
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, julienned (you know, rolled and sliced into thin strips)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste
What to do:
  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings and brown, about 6-8 minutes. Break up the sausage into crumbles with a wooden spoon while it cooks.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Sweat the veggies in with the sausage for about 4-5 minutes, until the onions start to get translucent and the garlic becomes aromatic. Season with the pepper.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and beans. Stir, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes (the idea is to get all those great flavors from the sausage into the broth mixture). 
  4. Stir in the oregano and cheese.  At this point if you aren't eating immediately you can leave the soup covered and turn off the stove. When you're ready to eat heat the soup back up and proceed....
  5. Add the basil and spinach. Stir to combine. The heat from the soup will wilt the spinach down into the soup. Taste the soup at this point to see if you need any salt *this will depend on how salty you like your food, how salty your cheese is and if you used low sodium chicken broth or regular. --I added about 1/4 tsp. 
  6. Ladle into bowls and top with additional cheese. Serve with a piece of crusty bread if you haven't eaten all of it while you made the soup ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Simple Substitution

photo via jeremiahhagler on flickr

photo via pintrest

So I've got to be honest here. A lot of times in my recipes I post for you guys I make lots of substitutions from an original recipe OR I make the whole recipe around things that seem like substitutions to make things lighter, healthier, more budget friendly...etc. They're all always noted and all have been successful at the completion of a dish (duh, obviously I wouldn't set you guys up to fail--also side note, this is why where's sometimes a lag between posts...I come up with a great idea, cook it, photograph it--and then realize it didn't quite work out and I end up drinking beer and eating snacks that night for dinner. Go ahead, judge me.) 


So these substitutions...a lot of times I make it 70% through a recipe and realize I'm out of something I thought I had on hand...which is what happened on that fateful morning that changed the way we make lazy day breakfasts around here forever. We do a lot of our basic shopping at Costco, so I almost never second guess that fact that we have things like eggs in the house..I mean 36 eggs for two people--it's a non-issue...most of the time. Nothing like getting all of the pancake ingredients together only to realize there are in fact, no eggs in the fridge (and no chickens in the backyard, also a possible solution to this problem).

Lucky for us we also purchase bananas 5 lbs at a time (we joke we have a pet monkey...Every. Single. Time...we're in a grocery line). I mashed that banana up and tossed it in with the rest of the pancake mix to take the place of the egg and we haven't looked back since. The banana does add a little bit of density to a fluffy pancake, but the slight moist sweetness is worth it. We tossed in a few chocolate chips and called it a day and almost didn't need any maple syrup... (but with 32oz of the good stuff laying around, why not right?).

*Moral of that ridiculously long post...skip the egg, add a mashed banana and enjoy!

Easiest Weekend Pancakes
makes about 8 (1/4c) pancakes
What you need:
  • 1 cup flour (all purpose, or whole wheat)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed 
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ~3/4 cup milk (whole, skim, 2%, almond..whatever you have)
  • chocolate chips, blueberries, coconut..whatever you wanna add in
What to do:
* okay so as a food blogger I should probably be a little more precise about this technique, but I am in fact a normal person. I work 40 hours a week, take care of my dog and my house and husband and rest of my life and I can't be bothered at 8:30 am on my day off with getting the exact order of pancake ingredients into a bowl.... that being said...
  1.   Heat a griddle over medium heat.
  2.  Throw all those ingredients up there in a bowl. I have found no real difference in what order they make it in...I'm sure there's some scientific order that will result in fluffier pancakes..but some bacon and get over it. Mix it up with a whisk or wooden spoon. 
  3. Add a small pat of unsalted butter to the griddle and melt.
  4. Turn down the heat to about 3/4 of the way to medium from low. 
  5. Spoon your pancakes onto the griddle (I use a 1/4c measuring cup and add your toppings.
  6. After about 3-4 minutes flip your pancakes (they should be beautifully golden brown).
  7. Another 3 minutes and you should have some great looking and tasting pancakes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Zucchini Squash Casserole

At the end of every summer there seems to be an abundant harvest of summer squash and zucchini. I'm down for consuming these guys any way, shape or form, but to mix things up and stretch the veggies I baked up this beauty (okay, so the picture isn't the greatest and I had a terrible time with afternoon lighting but fresh from the oven, this thing was lookin' good). While we enjoyed this along side some simple broiled salmon, it would be the perfect match for a Sunday dinner oven-stuffer chicken, a grilled steak or any other delicious entree you're cooking up.

Zucchini Squash Casserole
Serves 6 as moderate side dish
What you need:
  • 1 lb zucchini or zucchini/squash mix (~2 cups) cut into half moons 
  • 1/4 large (or 1/2 small) onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 sleeve Ritz style crackers (~20 crackers) , crushed
  • 1 cup herbed stuffing mix (such as Pepperidge farm)
  • 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 + 1/4 c milk
  • 1/4 c butter, melted & cooled
What to do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Steam the zucchini and onion until almost cooked through. (I used a microwave safe bowl and about 1/4 cup of water. Add the veggies to the bowl with the water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave 3-5 minutes. Then drain.)
  3. In a small bowl combine the crushed crackers, stuffing mix and cheese.
  4. In a larger bowl, combine the squash, onions and half of the cheese/cracker mix. *reserve the other half.
  5. Add the milk, egg and 1/2 of the butter (*make sure your butter has cooled so it doesn't cook your egg).
  6. Place your squash mixture in a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese/cracker mixture, and drizzle the rest of the butter over the top. 
  7. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes until golden brown on top and warmed through.
Check out these other Dressing on the Side zucchini recipes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Truth About Cooking...

Pretty much my entire life theory on cooking. What do you think?

*pssssst.. new recipe tomorrow !

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Welcome Back Party

Oh, hello there. Hi! Hey, yes you there! It's me. You know, me......? I know, I've been leaving you hungry for far too long and I'm so sorry about that. This thing called life kind of happened for a while and a few things may have slipped through the cracks, BUT now Dressing on the Side is back (for good this time) and better than ever! I have lots of exciting news, updates, upgrades and most importantly, delicious eats ready to be made in your kitchen. Bare with me as I get everything going again and check back often to see what's new. We're switching focus to mainly food and a few DIYs here and there, but most of the content is going to be your favorites--easy, weekday friendly meals based on pantry staples and whole ingredients that are easily accessible where ever you are trying to navigate a kitchen. 

Super yummy, super easy meal for you today to keep your house cool during these last sweltering days of summer. Seriously, this humidity isn't doing anything for my hair and it's been keeping my stove off for days. Some simple prep work gets this dish on the table in 15 minutes flat, so put down the takeout menu and get to the market right. this. second.  

Lemon Herbed Griller Bowls with Avocado Mash 

Serves 4 but can easily be adjusted to feed an army

What you need:
  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 really big zucchini, or 2 smaller ones, cut into rounds
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium to large avocado
  • juice of one lime
  • juice and zest of two lemons
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cups rice, quinoa or other small starch
What to do:
  1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon zest & juice, garlic powder, parsley, salt & pepper.
  2. Pour 1/3 of the olive oil mixture into a bowl and toss with the chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. (20 minutes works too if that's all you've got, but the prep time to do this the night before a busy day makes this dinner that much easier to enjoy). 
  3. In a separate bowl add your veggies (heck, if you're feeling crazy add some mushrooms or eggplant or anything else you want!). Toss with the remaining 2/3 of olive oil mixture. Cover and let marinade up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat grill to 400-450 degrees.
  5. Cook your starch according to the instructions. I used a microwavable brown rice & quinoa mix.
  6. Skewer your meat and veggies seperately for even cooking.
  7. Grill the chicken 6-8 minutes per side. Veggies can go anywhere 3-8 minutes per side depending on how charred you like 'em. (I went somewhere around 7).  
  8. Mash your avocado in a small bowl with the lime juice.
  9. Assemble your bowl. 1/2 C starch, chicken & veggies, top with a heaping tablespoon (or two, or all of the mixture and don't tell anyone it was part of the meal) of the avocado mash.