For the record I am a horrible cook. Absolutely awful. I buy minced garlic instead of the real stuff for goodness' sake. I even made some baked chicken taste a lot like a rubber tire about a week ago, but I press on. I did continue to cook a few times a week while I was working (which, by the way, seems like a bad dream. Deciding to stay at home again was the best decision ever for me), but GrubHub was my family's best friend for dinner on many nights. Now that I'm a SAHM I do have a little more time to actually put thought into dinner, so I'm experimenting once again. Hang on, I need to laugh a second because Clint has Mimi bobbing her head to some Rhianna song. Hilarious. Anyway, it's not the most fun thing in the world to take two little ones to a grocery store, BUT I have a Jewel (similar to Kroger), Whole Foods, AND Trader Joes's in walking distance making it super-easy for me to stop by after we've been at the park to grab a couple of items I need rather than making a ginormous grocery trip.
This week I have been craving something really tasty but wanted to find a super-easy recipe. Then I remembered a fantastic Italian sausage pizza I made a few months ago that was so easy a two-year-old could make it (but probably not my two-year-old. She would eat all the toppings before even cooking the pizza). When I went to Jewel to grab the Italian sausage and a few other items, I noticed that the sausage only came in a 16oz package even though I only needed 8oz. I HATE to over-buy food that I know I'm going to waste such as when I only need half an onion, and I put the other half in the fridge to rot and stink everything up. So I bought the 16oz package while huffing and puffing about wasting the other half, and then, duh, it hit me that I can totally use the other half for dinner the next night.
So I am giving you two fantastic and easy-peasy recipes for very flavorful meals with ingredients that can be used in both (spinach, Italian sausage, goat cheese or feta, tomatoes, basil, Italian seasonings). Warning: I am NOT a health freak and I take as many short-cuts as possible. If you are a snob/foodie type of person then please do not judge. I'm sure you can totally take the recipes and "fancify" them if you choose. Also, I really, really wanted to take photos, but our mouths were watering so much from the smells coming from the kitchen that we couldn't wait to eat. I could take a photo of the dirty dishes or empty wine bottle, but I don't really thing you care about that sort of thing.
Meal #1: Italian Sausage Focaccia Pizza (feeds 2 if you're really hungry like my hubs and I always are. Maybe more if you add a salad). I ripped this from BH&G a couple of years ago.
-1 12-inch round flat rosemary or garlic focaccia. I could only find a tomato garlic on the day I stopped at Jewel, so I totally skipped the next ingredient.
-3/4 cup oil-packed dried tomato halves with Italian herbs (3oz). Honestly, I can never find these, so I just use tomato slices, EVOO, and some Italian spices.
-8oz Italian sausage (I bought mild)
-4oz (4 cups) baby spinach
-2oz goat cheese or feta (I always prefer goat)
-a little chopped basil if you have some
1. Heat oven to 250. Drain tomatoes (if you could actually find these tomatoes), reserving oil. Place focaccia on large baking sheet and brush with 2 tsp of the oil. Cut in 8 wedges (but keep pieces together) and place in warm oven.
2. Meanwhile in a 12-inch skillet cook sausage over med-high heat and break up with a wooden spoon. Drain sausage reserving 2 tsp drippings (don't you hate that word?) in skillet. Cook spinach in drippings just until wilted (just when you thought the spinach would make it a little nutritious).
3. Set oven to Broil. Top warmed focaccia with cheese, tomatoes, sausage, and spinach (and basil if you're up for it). Broil 4-5 inches from heat for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is softened and toppings are heated through. BE CAREFUL TO NOT BURN! Drizzle wedges with additional oil from tomatoes.
Meal #2: Italian Sausage Penne Pasta (this was enough for hubs, Mimi, and me)
-Penne Pasta (I used about half a 13.25oz box. I'm horrible at pasta servings)
-8oz Italian sausage
-1/2 yellow onion chopped (now I have to figure out what to do with the other half!)
-1 tbsp minced garlic
-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (or more)
-2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (do yourself a favor and just buy a basil plant)
-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or shredded if you're lazy like I am)
-1/2 can of tomato basil or traditional herb pasta sauce (I use Newman's)
-1 can of chopped tomatoes with Italian seasonings
-Tone's Spicy Spaghetti Seasonings or some type of Italian spices
-Side salad: Spinach (or 50/50 Spring Mix/Spinach is great), tomatoes, goat cheese or feta, balsamic vinegar, and EVOO
1. Cook the pasta according to the package (add a little salt and olive oil)
2. While pasta is cooking, cook the sausage in a large skillet over med-high heat while breaking apart with a wooden spoon for about 7-8 minutes or until evenly browned. (Meanwhile, warm the pasta sauce, chopped tomatoes, basil, Italian seasonings, and pepper in a pot on med-low.)
3. Add the onion to the sausage and cook about 7-8 minutes more.
4. Add the garlic, some salt, and pepper to the sausage while stirring and cook about a minute. Add some olive oil and basil to this mixture just for the heck of it.
5. Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the pot. Stir in both the sausage mixture and sauce to the pot of pasta. Add the parmesan and stir or leave it on top to get melty and gooey. Remember: you can NEVER have too much cheese so make sure you have a bowl of parm on the table (or bar since the Darbys are too cool for a dining room table).
6. Serve a yummy side salad made of spinach, tomatoes, goat cheese or feta, and a dressing made of balsamic vinegar and EVOO (I use about 2 parts EVOO and 1 part balsamic).
I picked up a fantastic Red Zin called Varietals at Trader Joe's for about $9 that went perfectly with the pasta.
Okay, so try them out and tell me what you think. Just please let Clint know when you plan on cooking the pasta so he can show up at your door with a fork :).