My little one is 2 years old! How did that happen so quickly?! For his birthday dinner we made his favorites: pasta, meatballs, and cake! I made meatballs to cook in the sauce which was a first for me. I mixed them, balled ‘em up, and dropped them into the sauce to cook on their own. They were great!!
I normally like the crispy exterior of cooking meatballs, and I thought I might miss that. These turned out very juicy from cooking in the sauce. I was relieved they stayed together and would totally make them this way again. These meatballs being pork meant that there wasn’t excess oil that I’d expect if they were beef.
1 pound ground pork
3 links Sweet Italian Sausage
1 cup breadcrumbs
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup baby Arugula, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups tomato sauce
Mix together the breadcrumbs and the milk, then add all the ingredients into a bowl.
Using your hands, mix everything together until well incorporated.
Roll into balls about 1.5 inches wide. Add into a crockpot with tomato sauce.
Cook on high for 2.5 hours. Stir occasionally.
Meatballs are always a hit here. We all liked them and I’m glad to have some leftovers. These could cook on the stovetop too, rather than the crockpot. The size of the crockpot was great for 1 even layer of cooking though.
‘Tis the season to totally need speedy dinners! This pasta dish involved so few ingredients. I often want leftovers for the little one, or for Mr. J to take for lunch, or for the night of the week that is “anything goes” on our menu- other times I know we just won’t get to it so I’d rather not have any left!
Need a bigger serving? Add in another sausage and some more pasta.
Ingredients: (for ~4 servings)
1/3 pound of pasta
3 chicken sausages
1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
1 cup ricotta
Boil salted water for the pasta.
In a large skillet, pan fry the chicken sausages (either whole, or sliced) to golden brown (about 5 minutes, flipping. Most chicken sausages come fully cooked so check your packaging and cook through if using a raw product).
Add in the roasted red peppers just to warm through.
Drain the pasta when cooked al dente and add into the skillet or into a large bowl with the sausage and red peppers. Stir in the ricotta until coated and warmed.
I loved the ricotta serving as a cheesy sauce without many ingredients. There are tons of ways to customize this so have at it!
+ other roasted veggies/olives/etc
- chicken sausage and use roasted chicken or go meatless!
- cook in brown butter and serve with a dollop of ricotta instead of serving it mixed in!
This Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese is not joking about the garlic. I loooove homemade mac and cheese and the garlic flavor was so great! The little one hasn’t been interested in boxed Mac & Cheese but he loved this! He has good taste!
4 tablespoons butter +2 tablespoons for topping
3-4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken/vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
1/2 pound pasta (elbows, shells, spirals, penne)
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (+2 tablespoons for baking)
1 cup shredded gruyere (or fontina/provolone/gouda)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (+2 tablespoons for topping)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (mine were seasoned)
1 cup fried onions, broken up
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
In a medium pot, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring the roux paste regularly.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Pour in the chicken broth to the roux and stir well to combine. Then add the cream, milk, and garlic, bringing to a low boil.
Add in the cheddar, gruyere, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
Cook the pasta until al dente & drain – return the pasta to the large empty pot.
Stir well as the cheese melts.
Add cheese sauce into the pasta, stirring to assess how much more is needed (I had some sauce leftover that I froze).
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.
Spoon half the pasta into the dish. Sprinkle the cheddar in the middle, then pour the remaining pasta on top.
Bake for 15 minutes while prepping the topping.
Melt the 2 tablespoons of remaining butter and mix in the panko, the fried onions, remaining parmesan, and garlic powder.
Sprinkle the topping onto the mac & cheese and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
I loved this. It has been awhile since I made some homemade mac & cheese. The topping was awesome and was kind of an afterthought. I happened upon the Frenches Fried Onions near the panko and thought it’d be perfect. They were!
I’m so glad I made this and that I tried! It seemed like something I should leave to the pros, but DO IT! It was so easy and I’ll totally make it again. Mr. J has recently gotten into pad thai and that’s precisely what inspired me to make it at home. That, and some shrimp in the freezer who gave me a little nudge. Also these noodles cook so quickly – everything I need for a weeknight meal! Who doesn’t looove a meal that gets all. the. toppings.
6 shrimp & 2 chicken tenders
1 package (9 oz) Refrigerated Asian-Style Noodles (that’s what they’re actually called – in the produce area – mine were soba but “Chinese Style” were sold out)
1 red pepper, chopped into match sticks
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-2 cups bean sprouts
chopped cilantro, to taste
chopped peanuts, to taste
wedge of lime
Boil salted water for the noodles.
Pan saute the chicken with salt and pepper over medium heat until cooked through in a large pan. Remove from the heat and quickly cook the chicken. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Mix together the sauce: brown sugar; soy sauce; rice vinegar; lime juice; fish sauce; and garlic. Whisk and set aside.
Saute the red pepper and when partway cooked, move to the outside and scramble the egg in the middle.
When the egg cooks, add in the bean spouts and cooked noodles – straight from the water once they’re done – save washing a colander!
Bring to medium heat and add in the sauce. Cook for about 3 minutes tossing to coat well.
Shred the chicken and mix in. Add the shrimp in and toss well (or serve the protein on the top).
Serve with chopped peanuts, cilantro, and lime. Enjoy!
Omg. So good! My noodles were too thick (think soba, not uber thin). The sauce was sooo delightful. It was perfect. I was afraid it might be drippy or something. It was spot-on.
We’ll totally have this again. Mr. J was pretty pumped! The babe loves slurping long noodles and we love seeing that! I realized while writing this that ‘poon was coming out in my head…toddler talk is real. Anywho, The peanuts, cilantro, and lime maaaaaade this. I love toppings! I don’t pretend to know what authentic pad thai is like, but this beats take-out!
Tomatoes were sort of a bust this year…we had a culprit nabbing them and the latest ones aren’t getting ripe. Herbs on the other hand…are going like GANG-BUSTERS. I wanted to highlight a few so they became part of my marinade. We grilled the chicken and I served it over some pretty basic orzo…like butter/tomatoes/basil/salt & pepper. The babe loved both the “chick-ken” and was thrilled to have his own bowl of orzo. It kind of was all over him, but Orzo-man was worth it.
I kept the yogurt-ness going with a tzatiki-like sauce to go with it. I don’t have any dill and I wasn’t about to buy more fresh herbs right now so I improvised with mint & oregano. Yay for all. the. herbs. Let’s count ‘em: basil, oregano, mint, & lemon thyme.
6 oz plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Greek or Italian Dressing
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons each: oregano & thyme
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon each: mint & basil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic
1/4 cucumber, with the seeds removed, diced or shredded
1/2 pound of orzo
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon butter
Mix together the 3/4 of the yogurt, milk, oregano, thyme, and add the chicken to marinade for at least 30 minutes. Mine marinated for ~2.5 hours.
Meanwhile, mix together the cucumber, yogurt, mint, oregano, lemon juice, and garlic. Then refrigerate until serving.
Grill the chicken until cooked through.
While the chicken is cooking, boil water for the orzo and cook according to the package (probably 8-10 minutes).
Toss together the orzo, butter, tomato and once it cools a bit, add the basil.
Serve the chicken over a bed of orzo, topped with the cucumber yogurt sauce.
I road tested this pasta salad out and turned it into a meal by making it a vehicle for taco salads. It features flavors of a margarita, lime, with a touch of salt. I heard a tip of tossing the pasta in vinegar while it cools so I wanted to try it out. I think it works a bit, I don’t know that is changes the pasta salad to out of this world, but it totally has more flavor than many run-of-the-mill pasta salads.
1/2 pound rotini pasta
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup margarita mix
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tomato chopped
1 cup roasted corn
Green onions, chopped
fresh lime squeezed & zested (optional)
Boil the pasta and drain then toss with the apple cider vinegar. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before dressing it.
Whisk together the mayo, sour cream, margarita mix, chili powder, and salt.
If the pasta hasn’t completely chilled, then cover the dressing and mix later. If the pasta has already been chilled, then toss in the dressing.
Add in the veggies and herbs.
I think this would be great at a BBQ. I think it could have had more lime-ness. Next time I’ll juice a lime and zest it up. We topped them with taco-salad toppings like taco meat, avocado, and salsa. It was great for a bit of change from the usual taco salad. I used up some taco meat from the freezer and it involved very minimal cooking…many birds, one stone!
‘What I Ate’ is a series of posts for so-easy-this-doesn’t-need-a-recipe but I’m sharing with you for the idea or inspiration.
I totally didn’t make this up by any means but there are lots of recipes out there. This is great warm or cold and for a very “pantry” dinner it is per-fect for those too-hot-to-be-creative or meals on a budget or what-the-heck-is-for-dinner meals. I wasn’t going to blog it, because hello, I’m sure you’ve seen this before or can find it 1,000 places. Every time I make something new and decide not to blog it I regret it. So, here’s a blogged the minute before taking a bite:
I mixed it right in the bowl I served it in. This is real life. Whisk together the sauce and mess with the ratios to your taste. I used this recipe to start with. I had to share it because it was tasty and we ate every last noodle and the little guy, who was finishing dinner gobbled up a bunch of this!
tiny bit of sriracha
sesame seeds & green onion to garnish
Boil salted water for the pasta.
Whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and sriracha.
Cook the pasta to al dente.
Mix most of the sauce into the pasta. Toss and add remaining sauce.
It was mild but additive. Interesting but comforting. Silky but with a small crunch. So good. I used black sesame seeds I recently re-descovered from sis’ trip to Japan a while back. I’d have loved sliced cucumber, chopped peanuts, and edemame on the side. Tonight it was just this and that was lovely.
I will absolutely make this again to munch with Mr. J while we watch the little one slurp long noodles beaming with pride when the whole thing makes it into his mouth.
Ohh yes I did. Mr. J’s birthday burger was a Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger! I’ve tried in the past making fried mac & cheese fritter to top a burger with, but haven’t had luck keeping it together. Stuffing it was a success! We topped them with bacon jam, caramelized onions, and sliced tomato.
1 box prepared mac & cheese (w/ butter & milk. There will be extra, also known as a side)
1/2 pound ground meat (I used ground pork for mine & ground beef for Mr. J’s)
1 slice of cheddar (or shredded)
suggested toppings: caramelized onions, bacon/bacon bits/bacon jam, tomato slices
Prepare the Mac & Cheese according to your package. Then refrigerate at least 10 minutes stirring a few times to cool it down.
Divide the meat into 2 halves and form the ground meat into a ball for each burger. Pull off about 1/3 to become the “cover”. Form the remainder of each into a patty.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of mac & cheese onto the center of each patty.
Add some extra sliced or grated cheese.
Place the remaining ground meat ontop and pinch with the edges of the patty. Work it with your hands to really connect the top to the patty. Form it into a ball and then flatten a bit.
Grill to cook through. The meat is thin but you want to be sure the meat cooks all the way through without any raw meat amongst the mac & cheese.
This was a fun one. It definitely felt unusual and like a good choice for a birthday burger. The little one got a head-start on dinner but then I gave him some mac and cheese when we were eating and he loved it! I mean, who doesn’t, but like father like son!
Happy Birthday Burger Mr. J!
Here’s the history of the Birthday Burgers:
2015 it was a Picnic Burger with slaw & potato sticks
2014 it was a German Burger with horseradish, caramelized onions, pickles and a pretzel roll
2013 it was a Vermont Burger with maple mayo, cheddar, bacon, and spinach
2012 it was a Bacon Wrapped Burger
2011 it was a Stuffed Burger stuffed with bacon & cheddar or bacon & blue cheese
We tend to be slaw/potato salad folks around here. I almost made this as potato salad, but that takes so. much. longer. This, as pasta salad, was super quick…like end of naptime quick. I boiled the pasta and started to fry the bacon while the pasta got a chance to cool. It got dressed to hang out in the fridge until dinner time. Voila! This is best when chilled for 1-3 hours and served then. To serve the next day it’ll need some mayo/plain yogurt/sour cream. The blue cheese dressing is more on the oily side versus the purely creamy side.
Bacon Blue Cheese Pasta Salad (serves 4)
1/4 box of large elbow pasta
2-3 slices of bacon
1 1/4 cup blue cheese salad dressing
2 tbs fresh chives, chopped (or green onions)
salt & pepper
crumbled blue cheese (optional)
hot sauce (optional)
Directions: (prep at least 1 hour in advance)
Boil pasta according to the package, cooking until soft, less than al dente.
Chop and pan fry the bacon until crisp, then drain.
Let the pasta cool. Stir a few times so it doesn’t become one chunk of pasta. Once cool, mix in 1 cup of the blue cheese dressing and the chives. Add in salt & pepper. Then cover and refrigerate at least an hour, preferably 1-3 hours.
Before serving, mix in the rest of the dressing and most of the bacon, reserving a little for the top.
Serve with the rest of the bacon on top. Enjoy!
This was great! I liked the flavor and the subtlety of it. I didn’t add in additional blue cheese or hot sauce, but this could totally become buffalo blue cheese pasta salad. I used the good, produce-area, blue cheese dressing. I think this is so easy that it is worth repeating and adds a great alternative to the normal, often-lackluster pasta salad.
I was feelin’ lasagna but wanted to speed it up and not have to bake it forever. This soup was quick and hit all the flavors I wanted! I went a tiny bit heavy handed with the red wine, so I cooked it down a bit to mellow that out. The dollop of ricotta allowed me to gently swirl it around to melt with the meaty bites and the wavy noodles.
2 Italian Sausage links
4 lasagna noodles
28oz can Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes
1 tbs garlic, minced
3 tbs cup red wine
1 tbs Italian seasoning
1 tbs Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbs ricotta cheese
In a large skillet, remove the casing and cook the sausage over medium heat. Break up the pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook just until cooked through.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add in the lasagna noodles.
Drain the sausage and add it to a heavy pot with the canned tomatoes, garlic, wine, and Italian seasoning over medium heat.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/2 inch pieces (think spoon size).
Stir well and reduce heat. Taste and add salt as needed and Parmesan.
Serve with a dollop of ricotta. Enjoy!
This is totally the speedy way to have the taste of lasagna without all the steps. I made this just before vacation so I also appreciated not having a lot of leftovers, or filling up the freezer. I have a serious love affair with ricotta so this was right up my ally. I would also try it in individual ramekins with ricotta at the bottom and mozzarella on the top. How fun would those be?!