Skillet Baked Ziti

Happy Monday!! I hope that everyone had a restful weekend. Mine was certainly nice! I spent part of the weekend with my niece enjoying free slurpees! And now I have a great and yummy Monday recipe for ya – from Our Best Bites, skillet baked ziti.

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I was a little worried about my fry pan going into the oven, but it still worked well: AKA tasted good, no fires, and no ruined pan. Score!

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So I used regular ground pork (from my brother’s farm!), however you can use the sausage requested, or even ground turkey, beef, or possibly chicken! I also used tomato sauce instead of the tomatoes, since I don’t like the chunks, but to each their own.

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My husband LOVED this ziti. He said it was similar to how his mom and even grandma made it (read: Italians), minus the skillet part. We gobbled up a ton right away but thankfully still had leftovers for each of us. Yum!!

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Skillet Baked Ziti

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
-1lb Italian sausage or Italian turkey sausage (“hot” or “sweet”)
-1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
-1tbsp olive oil
-6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2tbsp)
-1/4tsp red pepper flakes
-Salt
-3cu water
-12oz ziti pasta
-1/2cu heavy cream
-1oz Parmesan cheese, grated
-1/4cu chopped fresh basil leaves (fresh is best, but it is ok to add a heaping tablespoon of dried if necessary)
-ground black pepper
-4oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
-Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.
-Pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain (or just use sauce).
Heat 12-inch or larger oven-safe skillet to medium high heat and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Remove the sausage from castings and cook, crumbling with a spatula until browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to sausage and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the processed tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit salt if using sauce). Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw, about 10 minutes.
-Stir in the water, then add the pasta. Cover, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is tender, about 15-18 minutes.
-Stir in the cream, Parmesan, and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top. -Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and browned, 10-15 minutes, then serve.

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Popcorn Chicken Parmesan

It has been SO LONG since I posted an actual recipe on here! I have been so busy with work and life, as well as promoting my new side nail wrap business (shop online at Never The Same Jams!). I have been so obsessed with this nail business. It is certainly not bringing in enough money to quit my day job, but I love being a social worker, so it works out. It does provide some fun extra spending money – plus I get to have pretty nails all the time!

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A few weeks ago, I made this popcorn chicken parmesan recipe from Eat at Home Cooks. It was simple and yummy, and you can’t go wrong with that. The main thing I did differently was make my own popcorn chicken from cutting up chicken breasts, instead  of using bagged popcorn chicken. I also didn’t have any mozzarella left like I thought I did, so I used cheddar cheese instead. Additionally, I used leftover pizza sauce instead of traditional tomato sauce.

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Popcorn Chicken Parmesan

serves 2

Ingredients:
-1-2tbsp olive oil
-2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
-1/2cu shredded Parmesan cheese
-1/2 bag frozen popcorn chicken (or cut up your own chicken and dredge in some panko)
-14oz crushed tomatoes (instead of this and the following spices, I just used sauce)
-1/2tsp basil
-1/2tsp thyme
-1tsp oregano
-salt and pepper to taste
-pasta, cooked to package directions
-extra Parmesan to garnish

Directions:
-Cook garlic in oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the parmesan and stir to combine.
-Pour in frozen popcorn chicken. Toss to coat with garlic and cheese.
-Put the coated chicken on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes (longer if you’re cooking with raw chicken breasts).
-If you’re making your own sauce, pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot you cooked the garlic in, then add herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat.
-When the chicken is cooked, remove it from oven and add it to sauce, stirring to coat and serve over hot pasta.
-Top with extra Parmesan.

Sloppy Joe Tacos

I have weird tastes. I am fully aware of this. So much so, that I had no shame while making (and devouring) these sloppy joe tacos by Gimme Some Oven.  I love sloppy joes and I love tacos and I love fusion! This happened because I was going through my Pinterest recipes one day, deciding what to make for dinner (I’ve been really bad at meal-planning ahead lately), and realized I had basically all of the ingredients at home already. I decided to forego the red bell pepper, because they were really expensive at the grocery store and my husband doesn’t like them anyway.
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This recipe is really good!!  You can basically make anything into a taco (or pizza, as I have done many times before, as well!) and the outcome is almost always fabulous. For my friends that don’t like sloppy joes (yes, I mean you, Alysha!), I highly recommend that you give it a shot and throw it into a taco! It has some normal fixings you’d find in tacos (ground beef, onion, etc.) plus the addition of the sauce that makes it a “sloppy joe” and topped with shredded cheese. Seriously – how does that sound bad? 😉 😉
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Sloppy Joe Tacos

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-1tbsp olive oil
-1lb lean ground beef
-1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
-1 small red bell pepper, cored and diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2cu tomato sauce
-2tbsp packed brown sugar
-1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-1tsp chili powder
-pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
-hard crunchy taco shells
-optional toppings: shredded Mexican cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, diced avocado, etc.

Directions:
-Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up the beef and stirring occasionally. Drain off as much excess fat as you can and discard it.
-Return the skillet to the heat, and add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic to it. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
-Meanwhile, While the veggies are cooking, whisk together in a bowl, the tomato sauce, brown sugar, worcestershire, and chili powder until combined. Once the veggies are done, add the tomato sauce mixture to the ground beef and stir until combined. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes (you may need to cover the pan to avoid red sauce splattering the stove). Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat.
-Place the sloppy joe filling inside the taco shells and top with your desired accompaniments.

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

I had a fun and food-filled weekend (more on that in coming posts!)…and also discovered the British comedy Coupling (which is a far raunchier version of Friends, if you will). My husband, our good friend, and I watched the first two episodes on Saturday night, and I think we are hooked! Well, our friend was already hooked, but now my husband and I are, too.
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It has also been raining a lot here (welcome to the Pacific Northwest, amirite?). Dreary weather really does call for delicious comfort food, and who doesn’t love homemade mac’n’cheese? Seriously, if you don’t, then we can’t be friends. ;);)

I made this skillet creamy macaroni and cheese by Life as a Lofthouse last month and it DID turn out so creamy and yummy! Mac’n’cheese can be difficult sometimes, but this actually worked pretty well. I decided I didn’t want to overload too much on carbs (please ingore the hotdog bun…at least it’s whole wheat!), so I turned this into a side dish and made our favourite Aidell’s chicken sausages as the main dish. I also got to use the pretty bowls my mom got me! Win-win.
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Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

serves about 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:
-3.5cu water
-1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
-12oz elbow macaroni
-1/2tsp salt
-1tsp cornstarch
-1/2tsp dry mustard
-3cu shredded sharp cheddar cheese
-2tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
-ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
-Bring 3.5 cups of water, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, the macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a simmer in a large skillet over high heat. Continue to cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the macaroni is tender and the liquid has thickened, about 12 minutes.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining evaporated milk, cornstarch and dry mustard. Stir that mixture into the skillet, then continue to simmer for another minute or so, until it begins to thicken.
-Remove the skillet from the heat and gradually stir in the 3 cups of cheddar cheese, just a handful at a time. Stir well until the cheese is melted, then stir in the pieces of butter and season with black pepper. Serve immediately.

Cheesy Meat Lasagna

I seem to be posting a lot of comfort food dishes lately! But hey, that’s what the winter season is for, right? Besides, lasagna is a great dish – it is fairly simple to do, is super filling, and usually creates plenty of leftovers! This 40 Minute Quick and Easy Cheesy Meat Lasagna from The Slow Roasted Italian did not disappoint me (or my husband) at all!

It involved hot Italian chicken sausage (which was kind of hard for me to find…not sure if that’s normal or not), which was really good! I have never used chicken sausage before, I don’t think, and definitely not for a lasagna. But it added a great flavour to it.
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Additionally, I did not leave the tomatoes as-is, but I blended them first. Normally when I see recipes with canned tomatoes, I substitute tomato sauce (which usually changes the texture/consistency a bit), but I’ve recently started using the canned tomatoes, but it’s more work (and more clean up), so I’m not sure if I will keep doing that, but we’ll see. I have also noticed that using canned tomatoes is REALLY bland, and far more bland than using tomato sauce. Does anyone else notice that, or is it just me, cuz I am new to using canned tomatoes?

By the way, I apologize for the pictures…it is hard to take a quality lasagna picture with just a cell phone camera. But you get the idea!
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Cheesy Meat Lasagna

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
-1.5lbs hot Italian chicken sausage
-2 (14.5oz) cans Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic
-1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
-2tbsp tomato paste
-1 egg
-1 (16oz) container part skim ricotta cheese
-1/2tsp fresh ground pepper
-1/2tsp kosher salt
-3/4cu grated parmesan cheese, divided
-lasagna noodles
-8oz Italian cheese blend, divided

Directions:
-Preheat oven to oven to 425°F.
-Prepare lasagna noodles according to package direction, then set aside.
-In a large skillet over medium high-heat, brown the sausage. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
-Meanwhile, combine ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 4 ounces shredded cheese and egg, and mix until well blended.
-Spread a small amount of meat sauce onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish (mine’s square, so it makes less). Top with a layers of noodles, half the ricotta cheese mixture, and some more of the sauce. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles then cover with sauce and sprinkle ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Spread remaining shredded cheese over the top, and cover with foil.
-Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake further, uncovered, 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving.

Beef and Bean Chili

A few months ago (aka…summer…) some friends of ours had their 3rd baby, and I signed up to make them a meal and deliver it to their house, so they didn’t have to cook. A bunch of people signed up, I believe 3 nights a week for several weeks, to give mama a break while caring for an infant plus two older kids, while dad is at work. It was fun to meet her baby and treat her to a nice and hot dinner. They had requested low calorie and low carb, which is hard to find in easily-transported dinners (soups, stews, spaghetti, casseroles, etc.), but then I found this beef and bean chili from Weight Watchers that I had been meaning to try and it seemed perfect! I made a double batch so that I could have dinner for my husband and I, as well.

For their batch, I used the canned tomatoes as-is, but I blended the tomatoes for my husband and I’s batch (I HATTTTTE tomato chunks, which I’m sure everyone is well aware).  It was so good! And you can’t even tell that it’s “healthy.” I have found that some WW recipes are touch and go – some are just bland and flavourless, and then some are really spectacular.

Oh, and we STILL have cooked beans left over in the freezer from this…a bag of dried beans makes a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT.

I did not get a chance to snap a picture of my own creation, therefore the photo used below is not my own, it is owned by Weight Watchers was obtained from their website.

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Beef and Bean Chili

serves about 6-8

Ingredients:
-1lb lean ground beef
-2tsp olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-2 ribs celery, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (I omitted this, since I was cooking it for two kids as well)
-2tbsp chili powder
-2tsp ground cumin
-1tsp dried oregano
-2 bay leaves
-1/2tsp table salt
-1/2tsp red pepper flakes, or more to taste
-28oz canned crushed tomatoes
-1cu reduced sodium beef broth
-8oz tomato sauce
-30oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2cu shallots, chopped

Directions:
-Coat a large stockpot with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Remove beef from pot and set aside.
-Add oil to the pot and set over medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, celery, garlic and jalapeño. Sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.
-Add reserved beef, chili powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt and red pepper flakes, and stir to coat vegetables and beef with spices. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce and beans, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.
-To serve, discard bay leaves, and ladle chili into bowls and top with chopped shallots (I omitted the shallots).

Note: According to the WW website, 1 heaping cup is 5 points. Sweet!!

Turkey Sloppy Joes

TGIF!!  Can I get an amen??  I feel like every post on a Friday has the same first two sentences.  I have a fun weekend planned, so I am particularly excited.  I am having a Girls Night with two of my closest friends tonight, visiting a bazaar tomorrow with my mom and mother-in-law, and either visiting with family or friends on Sunday.  Lots going on and lots to do!
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It also seems that every time I post a new sloppy joes recipe, I feel the need to reiterate that I NEVER HAD THEM as a kid.  I don’t know where, when, or why my love of them sparked, but it happened within the past couple of years and now I make them constantly (a different recipe each time, of course).  Today’s recipe is for turkey sloppy joes from Dixie Crystals.  Maybe I am just honing in on my kid-friendly dishes early on in life.  Like, pre-kid life. 😉
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In any case, none of my sloppy joe recipes have ever been duds, this one included!  This one includes carrots, also, therefore is a great way to sneak in vegetables (especially if you are making it for children).  The recipe also called for diced bell pepper, which I love, but my husband does not, so I decided not to sneak it in (and saved a couple of bucks too, since I didn’t buy a pepper). This dish is also great for one of those “quick weeknight suppers” – and it’s even quicker if you chop the vegetables ahead of time and refrigerate until it’s time to use!
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Turkey Sloppy Joes

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
-1cu ketchup
-8oz tomato sauce
-2tbsp worcestershire sauce
-1tbsp dijon mustard
-2tsp chili powder
-1tsp crushed red pepper flakes (if you can’t handle spice at all, even this teeny amount might make it too spicy)
-1tbsp brown sugar
-1tsp salt
-1tsp ground black pepper
-1tbsp olive oil
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 medium yellow onion, chopped
-1 small orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
-1/2cu julienned carrots
-1lb lean ground turkey (usually turkey comes in 1.3lb packages, which I find actually works better)
-whole wheat buns

Directions:
-In a small bowl, whisk together ketchup, tomato sauce, sugar, worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper; then set aside.
-Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium/med-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add onion, bell pepper and carrots and cook, stirring as needed, for about 5 minutes.
-Add turkey and cook until browned through, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Then add the ketchup mixture, stirring to evenly coat turkey and vegetables.
-Let everything simmer for 10 minutes more, or until thickened. Divide turkey mixture evenly among buns and serve immediately.