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Chicken Florentine and Farfalle

For a little over two weeks the sons and the hubs and I were kicked back to the stone age while our internet was down and out. I know you’re probably thinking, and for a minute there so was I, what was I going to do without Pinterest and it’s abundance of delicious recipes to help me plan my meals? Ok, ok, not really but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic or anyhting about going off the grid for a couple of weeks. I mean I can’t keep all this awesomeness up all on my own all the time now can I? Well yes, I can, but then I start to feel like my life is as unorganized as the $5 bin at Walmart. So Internet, yeah, big help. Still, we didn’t let something like the lack thereof keep us out of the kitchen

Instead of habitually outsourcing ideas, we went back to the old days. We dug out and dusted off the family recipe box and got busy. And guess what? No internet meant no Netflix, and no online gaming. No teenagers trying to hide out in their little mini-man caves texting all afternoon. SO, not only did we rediscover some old favorites, I had lots of willing little helpers each day. And believe it or not (Sons 1 and 2 may have even been a little surprised themselves) they had fun. Good times.

So on our first day back, we’re still going to keep it pretty simple. Here’s an oldie, but a goodie from our recipe box to yours.

Chicken Florentine and Farfalle

chicken florentine and farfalle

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb box of Farfalle pasta
olive oil
1 bunch of fresh spinach, or 1 box of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and all excess water drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
4-5 oz cream cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
milk
1 jar of  Alfredo sauce
Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. For the best taste, grill the chicken, then chop it up and set it aside. The chicken can also be pan cooked and then chopped if you prefer.
2. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, and set aside.
3. In a large skillet add in 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, the garlic, and onions. Saute 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add spinach and allow it to heat through, or until wilted if it’s fresh..
4. Next, add in the cream cheese and stir in until it’s melted and evenly combined. The mixture will be thick and that’s OK.
5. Add in the alfredo sauce, again stirring to evenly incorporate. Now, add the milk, and tiny bit at a time, until the desired consistency is reached
6. Stir the chicken into the sauce, Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Add the pasta to the pan and stir it into the sauce until everything’s nice and ‘saucey’, err evenly incorporated! Serve warm with shredded or grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Don’t let this meal’s fancy sounding name fool you. It’s easy enough for any weeknight and can be surprisingly flexible.

Here’s our favorite alternative version: Italian Sausage Florentine with Penne (or whatever pasta Mom happens to have on hand) Pasta.

Sausage Florentine with Penne

Looking for a vegetarian version? Swap mushrooms for the meat! All you have is spaghetti noodles? Throw em in the pot. See? Flexible.

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Sweet Italian Sausage Soup with Kale

It seemed like there was this annoying, persistent cough that ran through our whole household. It also liked to linger, taking each person about two weeks to get over. After numerous doctors visits, we learned to ignore it since they assured us it was nothing over and over again. So two weeks ago when I started coughing I didn’t really think anything of it. Even when I started having issues with a lot of muscus. Thought nothing of it. Probably a bad case of bronchitis and I put myself on a self-prescribed regimen of mucinex, pseudophed, and copious amounts of Vitamin C which seemed to help at first. But I just couldn’t shake it, even after a week of heavy meds, sleep, and all my usual go-to remedies. I was tired all the time. Just sitting up was exhausting. Breathing? If that didn’t send me into a convulsive coughing fit, it too was excruciatingly tiring. I just wanted to sleep. And sleep. And sleep some more. I could have slept forever. But, after two weeks of trudging along the worst seemed to be over. Yea, I was still tired all the time and still coughing, but it did seem a bit better. Then I woke up with this persistent pain in my back that continued to get worse over a 48 hour period. All signs pointed to a kidney infection, so I finished work and then bundled up and headed off to the ER on a Friday night. 6 hours and 5 prescriptions later, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. Well … that escalated quickly. The kids seemed to think I was on vacation and not sick leave trying to recover. Out of pity, and because it was the only thing I thought I could stomach, I made one big pot of soup to last through the weekend. You wanted something else, I hope you know where the kitchen is because I thought this Italian sausage soup sounded perfect. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.

 Sweet Italian Sausage Soup with Kale

Don’t let the word soup fool you though, sick or not. This is a complete meal in a bowl and kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around, high in vitamins K, A and C with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. I was probably a tad bit heavy handed with the kale on this batch, but that’s where all the nutrients are and I was trying to stop that crud in it’s tracks.

This is also a ‘rough’ soup, so there was no need to feel the pressures of perfection. Which was good, because those veggies weren’t going to chop themselves and the precision required to give them a polished look might have cost me a finger at that point. It’s a rustic soup, and whenever you hear the word ‘rustic’ you’ve got my permission to hack away at the veggies. Relieve some stress. Take out your problems and frustration on the onion and carrots. Let them know you won’t take it lying down. Well, actually you probably will, because when you’ve got pneumonia, making a big pot of whoop-ass in your dutch oven will (not-surprisingly) sap the last reserves of your strength, but you get the gist.

Have you had Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana? This is the worldly Zuppa’s cousin visiting from it’s cabin in the woods. Heartier, healthier, and still just as flavorful. Whether you’re sick or not, this recipe serves up a heaping bowl of (guilt-free) comfort.

Sweet Italian Sausage Soup with Kale

Sweet Italian Sausage Soup with Kale

recipe adapted from The Housewife In Training Files

1 1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
6 cups beef broth
3 cups chopped kale, stems removed

Directions

1. In a dutch oven, or other large pot, add the Italian sausage and sauté until no longer pink. Drain, and return to the pan. Add in the onions, peppers and garlic. Cooking until just softened.
2. Add in the seasonings, tomato paste, diced tomatoes (with juice), broth and kale.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes to meld flavors. Ladle into bowls and serve. Add a sprinkle of cheese if desired.

Crockpot Lasagna

I love a good classic.

A classic novel. {i.e. Pride & Prejudice}

A classic movie. {i.e. Roman Holiday }

And I most definitely love a classic lasagna recipe. {i.e. this one!}

Let’s keep it real though. On top of it being an all-out yummy classic comfort food, lasagna is a busy mom’s secret dinner weapon. It’s such a great option, especially when we’re talking about a crockpot, not oven, version because it’s so easy to throw together and it’s really filling, so a little goes a long way.

Crockpot Lasagna 5

Plus, this recipe usually makes enough for leftovers, which is a bonus because lasagna is one of those foods that almost always tastes even better the next day. Lasagna also keeps well in the freezer, so if you have the carb-resisting strength, you can freeze the extra for another meal. Maybe a lunch or light dinner? It’s safe to say that given the sheer number of lasagna recipes out there, the secret to making great lasagna is finding a recipe with ingredients that you love. For us, the trick comes down to quality meats (that’s right, meats, plural), quality cheeses (again, plural), and a top notch sauce.

 crockpot lasagna 3

Just look at that? Does it get anymore perfect than this, cooked to bubbling perfection? I was always so tired of getting it wrong when I would bake them in the oven. We love a few crispy edges, but not throughout the whole thing! And, then… voila!

Crockpot Lasagna 4

 This is a no-fail recipe that guarantees you won’t end up with hard, crusty noodles or a totally dry dish. Just layer the ingredients in the crockpot, sit back, and relax!

Crockpot Lasagna 2

Three different cheeses simmer right along with delicious ground meats and perfectly herbed pasta sauce in this easy, no fuss, delicious lasagna.

Dinner is serrrved!

Crockpot Lasagna

crockpot lasagna

recipe adapted from Creating Through Life

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
29 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese + 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Directions

1. Brown the ground beef and ground sausage. When they’re about half way done add in the garlic and onions. When the meat is browned drain and return to the pan or skillet.
2. Stir the tomato sauce in with the cooked meat.
3. Spread 1/4 of the meat sauce on the bottom of a prepared (sprayed well with non-stick cooking spray) crock-pot.
4. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce, breaking them up to fit better as you go.
5. Combine the 4 cups of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Gently spread it out to form a layer that covers the noodles.
6. Repeat these layers twice.
7. Top with the remaining meat sauce.
8. Cover and cook on low for 4 hrs.
9. Let the lasagna stand in the crock-pot with the lid off for at least 10 minutes. 5 minutes before serving sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.

Do you love these classic Italian flavors? Need some more easy meal inspiration? Check out these other similar recipes.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

Italian Drunken Noodle

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baked Gnocchi

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato, and mozzarella

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Bubble Up Pizza

Sometimes you just need a really yummy go-to dinner that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and isn’t gonna require a whole lot of time. When it’s been a long day, say a Tuesday maybe (those tend to be long, I don’t know why) and I’m dog tired and my stomach is growling louder than a pit bull and I’m starting to get (let’s face it) grumpy, the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove just to get a good meal on the table. I want yummy food and I want it NOW. Oh you can relate?? Good. I’ve got just the cure for a day like that. Bubble Up Pizza is quick, and everything I crave in pizza-y taste with only 5 (yes you read that right) ingredients. Short on time, big on taste; this recipe helps keep hangry at bay.

Bubble Up Pizza

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bubble-Up Pizza

1 lb Italian sausage*
1 15 oz jar pizza sauce
1 tube Pillsbury Grands biscuits
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
pepperoni slices
Italian seasoning, optional

Let’s take a quick minute to talk about the sausage. The wait for the sausage to cook, at this point, would have been pure torture. Worse than if you’d pinned back my eyelids and forced me to watch Caillou on repeat for an entire day. Fortunately for me & you, Jimmy Dean has solved all my problems with these handy dandy fully cooked, sausage crumbles.

jimmy dean

Add as few, or as many, as your hungry eyes can handle and proceed with the rest of the recipe. I now keep a bag of these on hand just for night’s like this, and while these work perfectly with this pizza recipe, don’t stop there! These make great omelets/ quiches, and can be subbed in place of cooking sausage in virtually any other recipe as well. You can find them in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store near the other sausage products.

Now back to the show recipe…

Directions

1. If you’re not using pre-cooked sausage, brown your sausage now. When fully cooked and crumbled, drain the sausage.
2. Cut each biscuit into eighths.
3. In a bowl, combine sausage, cut biscuits, and pizza sauce. Stir to combine.
4. Spread this mixture evenly into a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish.
5. Top the mixture with the shredded cheese and pepperoni.
6. If desired sprinkle the top with a bit of Italian seasoning.
7. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, or until the biscuits are cooked through. Enjoy!

**I was not compensated for this post. These are my opinions and my opinions alone. I was not required to write a positive feature and was not influenced in any way.**

Saucy, Italian “Drunken” Noodles with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

By far, the hubby’s favorite Thai dish is drunken noodle. I can’t stand the stuff. Too peanut-ty for me. When I saw this, a little light bulb lit up in my head. The perfect compromise! The same noodly texture he loves, drowning in a robust sauce. Plus, being Italian, he’s obligated to like anything with the ‘I’ word in it. Right? right.

The recipe ended up being a smashing success! Everybody loved this. Gourmet flavor for a budget price using ingredients I always keep on hand. Family & Mom approved. If you’re feeling risky, spice it up by adding more crushed red peppers, or try using spicy Italian sausage links. Don’t have sausage? Ground beef will work just fine. This meal is totally forgiving, so feel free to just ‘go with it.’ Don’t you just love a liberating recipe?!

Saucy, Italian “Drunken” Noodles with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

recipe adapted from The Cozy Apron

4 Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
4 tsp minced garlic
½ cup white wine
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided use
8 ounces Pappardelle or lasagna noodles (broken up), uncooked

Directions

1. Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side; once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan/pot with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment; next, add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary); once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers, and allow those to saute with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden; next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced; next, add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off; to finish the sauce, drizzle in about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a silky, rich flavor, and add in the chopped parsley and about half of the julienned basil; stir, and keep warm while you prepare the noodles.
2. Prepare the pappardelle noodles according to instructions on package; then, drain the noodles very well, and add them directly into the sauce, using tongs to gently toss and combine the pappardelle noodles with the sauce and all of the ingredients in it; check the seasoning to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.
3. To serve, add equal portions of the “Drunken” noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil; you can even top with shaved Parmesan, if desired, and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Warm Sausage & Kale Soup

Even when we’re all bundled up, with the cold weather settling in, after an afternoon spent outside with the kids I tend to need a little something extra to warm me up when I finally make it back inside, after herding the boys in to wash up for dinner. A pot of this soup hot on the stove is always just what the doctor ordered. It’s incredibly hearty & flavorful, and it includes an abundance of ‘good for you’ ingredients. Just one warm bowl of this Winter-weather fighting soup and the chill you brought in with you will magically melt away.

Warm Sausage & Kale Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Warm Sausage & Kale Soup

recipe adapted from Wine and Glue

1 lb package of Sweet Italian Sausages, casings removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 tsp minced garlic
8 oz package white mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
32 oz chicken broth
1 cup noodles, elbow or small shells
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Directions

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook sausage until no longer pink, between five and seven minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, drain sausage.
2. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and mushrooms, breaking up the mushrooms as you add them.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft, about five minutes.
3. Toss in the kale, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Cook until the kale is wilted, about five minutes.
4. Add the chicken broth, and bring it to a boil.  Then add the noodles and cook about a minute shy of the package directions.
5. Toss in the beans, and stir in until they heat through. Serve with crusty bread & let it warm you up!

Lazy Day Casserole

Lazy Day Casserole

This week has just been plain crazy. The hubs got sick, was in and out of the ER for two days, and is now scheduled for a procedure tomorrow that will leave him incapacitated the rest of the week. In between all the traveling, arranging emergency babysitters, making appointments, filling prescriptions (you get the idea) I’ve still had work to do, and a household to run and feed.

While it does take some time to cook, this wonderful, one-dish recipe is perfect for nights like I’ve had this week. This hearty meal filled the sons up and, without a lot of prep or real work involved on my part, I was able to get laundry done, and everything in order that I had neglected earlier in the day while it cooked.

I don’t think before this week, I had ever really taken time to appreciate the beauty of throwing all of these ingredients into a pan, popping it in the oven, and basically having time to do whatever else I needed to get done, be it chores, read a book, return phone calls. Whatever. And have a healthy, piping hot dinner ready in a little over an hour later. It’s impossible to be in two places at once, and after the start to this week, I just wasn’t capable of any ‘exceeds expectations’ multi-tasking.

While I wasn’t able to have a ‘lazy day’ this week, this recipe was the perfect solution for my dinner-time dilemma. And on those days where I am just being lazy (Shhh! Don’t tell the hubs. He thinks I slave away perfecting gourmet meals all day, everyday) this meal gets my ‘meat & potato’ loving mens’ mouths watering!

So whether you’re trying to throw something together that doesn’t require constant vigilance and hours of actual preparation, or if you’re just trying to enjoy an evening without any extra ‘work’ for Mom, this recipe will make your day.

Lazy Day Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: Lazy Day Casserole

Recipe adapted from Kayotic Kitchen

  • 5 -6 Italian Sausages
  • 1 lb potatoes, washed, peeled, and cubed
  • 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced (optional)
  •  1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Put all the prepared vegetables into a large roasting pan, or a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. In a bowl combine the garlic, oil, herbs, broth, and vinegar.
  3. Pour the mixture evenly over the vegetables and season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes.
  5. Lightly brown the sausages and cut them in half.
  6. After 45 minutes add the sausages to the dish and spoon some of the juices back over the vegetables and the sausage.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 25 minutes, flipping the sausages after 15 minutes and placing back in the oven for the final 10 minutes. 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Lazy Day Casserole

 

Oh, and please excuse my dirty burners! I’ve been putting their much needed scouring on the back-burner, pun intended. Now that you’re aware of their sad state, I will make sure I move them up on the to-do list!

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