Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pasta with Sausage and Spinach

I love discovering kid-friendly, husband-pleasing workhorse recipes like this one! I've made this a LOT this fall and have doubled and tripled it on a couple of occasions. It works well straight from the pot (without being baked), but it also travels well in a 13x9-inch pan and reheats in the oven like a casserole. One of my go to recipes now when I bring food to people (as in the picture above), this is now in our permanent repertoire. It reminds me of the Mock Ravioli casserole I grew up eating. I've tweaked it just slightly from the original recipe over at Budget Bytes. She also has some terrific pictures of her method if you need the step-by-step type of directions (and you can print her recipe easily). So hop on over there and check it out. I'm posting it here partly so I can have it more readily available (although I nearly have it memorized). Oh--it also freezes well!

Pasta with Sausage and Spinach
~Budget Bytes

  • 1 (12-16-oz.) box chunky cut pasta (rotini, penne, macaroni, whole wheat, veggie, ...)
  • 12-oz. Italian sausage, squeezed out of casings and crumbed 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes (or two 14.5-oz cans), undrained
  • 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 t. basil
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 T. brown sugar
  • 8-oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2-oz. crumbled feta cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
  2. Brown sausage with garlic and onions in a large skillet (use a big soup pot if you're doubling or tripling). Drain and return meat mixture to skillet.
  3. Add tomato products and seasonings, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a slight simmer.
  4. Add in drained noodles and spinach. Stir well.
  5. Add in feta cheese and stir.
  6. Pasta dish may be eaten as is or spooned into a baking pan for reheating in the over later.
~Serves 6-8

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cookbook Review: My Perfect Pantry

My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients
Geoffrey Zakarian with Amy Stevenson and Margaret Zakarian
Clarkson/Potter Publishers, 2014

I'm thoroughly enjoying being part of the Blogging for Books program through which I get some truly interesting (and tasty!) cookbooks to preview and tell my readers about. Today's cookbook is such a one.

I cook just like this book's premise: keep essential ingredients on hand and buy the fresh ingredients that look good and/or are on sale (or come in the CSA box!) each week as I need them. Zakarian's 50 essentials comprise a solid list that is surprisingly ordinary. Anchovies and espresso powder are perhaps on the exotic end (although certainly not hard to obtain) and flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder on the more mundane end.

The book is organized around these pantry stars, so it essentially has 50 short chapters: one per key pantry staple. Chapters are organized alphabetically. Zakarian showcases each pantry staple's particular strengths in three recipes which cover a range of functions (appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, breakfast). In addition to the three recipes in each short chapter are an introduction describing the unique qualities of the ingredient and a gorgeous page of photos of the three recipes.

Are the recipes tasty? Good question! No cookbook can be truly rated without a sampling of its cuisine. According to my usual pattern, I set out to try three recipes: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn (from the "Popcorn" chapter), Cast Iron Burgers with Secret Sauce (from the "BBQ" chapter), and the Almond-Crusted Pork Chops with Apples (from the "Almonds" chapter). Um, yum!! I had planned to sample a few recipes, rate the cookbook, and loan it to a friend. The night I made the burgers, I called her and told her no such luck. I'm hangin' onto this bad boy a bit longer. The recipes aren't complicated or even truly innovative-sounding; just goes to show that perfect technique and blending of flavors makes the difference from ordinary to extraordinary.

This is not an all-purpose cookbook, so it won't hold that function in a small cookbook library. But for folks who enjoy cooking and are curious to see some new recipes using ordinary ingredients, this is one to check out. An index that included recipes listed by course/meal would be helpful as would page numbers on the photo pages, but as the chef becomes more familiar with the cookbook, these organizational details will seem less necessary.

Further information:
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cookbook Review: The Homesick Texan's Family Table by Lisa Fain

The Homesick Texan's Family Table: Lonestar Cooking from my Table to Yours
Lisa Fain
Ten Speed Press, 2014

The last cookbook I reviewed spoke to my mother's side of the family from Mississippi. But, y'all, I was born in Texas, so I come by this one honestly. My dad's from Texas, and we're right proud of that little fact.

The Homesick Texan's Family Table is a delightful cookbook to peruse. There are lots of recipes featuring the subtle heat from chipotles, some tried and true Texan favorites (chicken spaghetti and references to chicken fried steak--NOT "country fried"), and a host of true Tex-Mex recipes. I grew up eating burritos or tacos on a weekly basis and was rather shocked to find, when I got to college (out of the state) that not everyone had grown up eating similarly. Well done, tasteful food photography accents many recipes. Simplicity rules, and the organization follows suit. An index in the back as well as a mini table of contents for each section makes this cookbook easy to navigate.

Fain is a Texan by birth, but she lives in New York now. This cookbook springs from the work on her popular blog (Homesick Texan). The question is: does the cookbook work? Does it please fellow Texans? Do the recipes taste good? I've sampled three to date, but I plan to try lots more. So, yes, it pleases fellow Texans. The Cowboy Beans will be a regular feature around here. And the Caballero Cookies? YUM YUM. They remind me of the Ranger Dan cookies we ate at summer camp--in Texas, of course. Delicious!

If you know a Texan or enjoy Tex Mex, this is a fun cookbook to check out. You may also want to check out:

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review