Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Orecchiette with Sausage, Escarole and Beans in a Creamy Garlic Sauce

I have several friends and family members who have told me that they just cannot get into whole grain pasta.  They like the "real" stuff.  So they eat regular white pasta only one day a week.

We eat pasta about one night a week, too.  I do like the whole grain pastas (hubby Dan tolerates them).  Once every other week I make us the "real" stuff.  When I do, I try to come up with something that isn't all that bad for us.  Okay, once and a while we splurge with a traditional spaghetti and meatballs, but there are lots of things you can do with pasta that give it a healthier slant-

-- like this dish:  It's orecchiette pasta (little ears), with sausage, escarole, and white cannellini beans, tossed in a creamy garlic sauce. 

I'll confess, I took a little help from the store tonight.  Sometimes you need to do that on a busy weeknight.  Because I used the store-bought sauce mix, I didn't add any extra salt to the dish. 

Trade-offs equal a healthier you!

Serves 4.

Here we go - 


1/2 lb. orecchiette pasta, cooked per package directions
1 tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. hot sausage or hot turkey sausage, removed from casing
1 large bunch escarole, washed and chopped
Pinch or two of freshly ground nutmeg, more to taste
1 can (15 ounces) cannnellini beans
1 packet Knorr ® brand Garlic and Herb Sauce*
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 cup 2% milk (1 1/2 cups if not using the wine)
1 tbs. butter
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Sprinkle or two of Paprika


Cook pasta per package directions and keep warm.

In a large skillet, add the oil and the sausage.  Crumble the sausage using a wooden spoon.  Brown evenly and remove to a bowl and keep warm.

In the same pan, add the escarole in batches.  Wilt and add the fresh nutmeg. 

Add the cannellini beans and return the sausage to the pan. Cook for about two or three minutes until warmed through.  Turn heat off.  Cover the skillet to keep warm.

Whisk together the wine (if using), the milk and the Knoor® sauce.  Add to medium sauce pan along with the pat of butter.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer; whisk sauce until thickened.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the sausage, escarole and beans.  Add the sauce and toss.  Plate and serve immediately topped with Pecorino Romano cheese and paprika.

Enjoy and see you soon!

*No product was supplied to blogger and not an endorsement.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bigos (Hunter's Stew) - Lightened-Up

My friend from Poland, Gosia, gave me her recipe for Polish Bigos, or Hunter's Stew.  She promised to make it very soon and send me pictures.  In return, I told her I would make my version -- changing her recipe up a bit to go along with my "JFC" lightened-up guidelines.  I cannot wait to see Gosia's version.  I promise I will post Gosia's recipe as the "Authentic Polish Bigos."

This makes enough food for a crowd.  All you need is a loaf of crusty bread, a little butter for the bread, and spicy mustard.

And as Gosia will tell you, Bigos is even better the next day.  You will definitely love the leftovers!

Oh, and I made this in the slow cooker!


1 cup porcini mushrooms (dried/reconstituted)*
1 1/4 lb. boneless country pork ribs
1 1/2 lb. beef back ribs, bone in
Fine sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, divided
3 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 Pumpkin Ale (12 oz) or 12 ounces cold water with 1 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning
1 lb. sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
1/2 medium head cabbage, chopped
1 cup apple juice
1 tbs. horseradish mustard
2 dried bay leaves
14 oz. turkey kielbasa, cut into bite sized rounds
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, no salt added, do NOT drain
1 medium onion, sliced
Fresh thyme (optional)
1 tbs. butter
2 slices bacon,  cut into 1/2 inch pieces


*The day before you plan to make the bigos, add the dried porcini mushrooms to a bowl.  Cover with water.  I like to add a little sea salt and garlic powder to the water but that is entirely optional.  Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours (at least).

When you are ready to make the bigos:

Preheat your slow cooker to high.   Season the pork and beef ribs with salt, pepper and 1/2 of the garlic powder. 

Bring two tablespoons of the olive oil to a smoking point in a skillet.  Add the pork ribs first and then the beef ribs, in batches, browning on all sides. 

Add browned ribs to warm slow cooker.  Add the pumpkin ale or water with seasoning.  Cover and cook on high for one hour.

Mix the kraut and cabbage together.  Mix the apple juice and mustard together.  Pour the apple juice and mustard over the kraut and cabbage and combine.  Pour this over the meat in the slow cooker.  Add the remaining garlic powder and lots of salt and pepper (to taste).  Add the bay leaves.  Cover and continue to cook for 90 minutes on high.


Reduce slow cooker heat to low.  Add the kielbasa and the canned tomatoes and juice.  Cover and cook for about four hours.  Turn slow cooker to warm.  In a medium skillet, add the remaining olive oil, the onion and the mushrooms (drained).  Add the butter and the thyme.  Cook for about five minutes. 

Add the sliced bacon with the onions and mushrooms.  Continue to cook for about five more minutes until the bacon is crisped.  

Add the onions, mushrooms and bacon to the bigos. 

Enjoy... and I know you will.

Adult beverage suggestion: I call this drink Apple Rum:   2 shots of white over ice, topped with apple juice.  Also great with a seaonal Oktoberfest or Pumpkin beer.  That and the bigos will get you toasty warm on a cold, rainy fall day!

If you like this recipe, you will enjoy the recipe I posted the other night:

Happy Autumn, everyone!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Skinny Baked Ziti

I'm going to let the photos do most of the talking tonight.  This dish is delish!  It is a lower calorie version of a favorite comfort food, baked ziti.  It is prepared with a simple sauce, hot sausage, and it's loaded with vegetables.  You don't even need to make a salad!

Here we go!


1/2 lb. hot or sweet ring Italian sausage or turkey sausage
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs. minced green bell pepper, seeded
1/4 cup sliced cubanelle pepper, seeded
6 large white mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounce) crushed tomato
1 spring fresh oregano, plus 1 tbs., chopped (extra sprig for garnish - optional)
3 whole basil leaves plus 3 for garnish
2 tbs. dry red wine (optional)
1 tsp. fine sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 packet Splenda ® or two tsp. sugar
1/2 pound cooked ziti pasta
2 cups broccoli florets
2/3 cup low fat or fat free cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
8 ounces part skim or low fat shredded mozzarella
Sprinkle garlic salt with parsley

Other:  Cooking Spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub sausage with one tbs. of the olive oil.  Bake for one hour, turning once, until crispy.  Let sausage cool for about five minutes.  Slice cooked sausage into rounds and halve each round.  Keep warms and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil to a small skillet.  Add the bell pepper, cubanelle, and mushrooms.  Cook for three minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add crushed tomatoes to a sauce pan.  Add the cooked peppers, mushroom and garlic to the tomatoes along with the fresh oregano spring, three basil leaves, the red wine, salt, pepper and Splenda®.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cook, covered, for about 25 minutes.

Stir occasionally.  Remove the oregano sprig once cooked.

Cook pasta in boiling water about two minutes under package directions (approximately 10 minutes).  Add broccoli during the last four minutes.  Drain well.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray.  Add pasta and broccoli to the baking dish.  Add the cottage cheese and the remaining chopped fresh oregano.  Stir to combine. Add the cooked sausage slices. Add the sauce with veggies and stir well to coat the pasta.  Top with grated cheese, mozzarella and the garlic salt. 

Bake for twenty minutes.  You can turn the broiler on for the last two or three minutes if the cheese is not bubbly and brown enough to your liking.

I don't even have to say this, but enjoy!

See you soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Roasted Pork with Mushroom Sauce, Kraut and Cabbage

My friend, Gosia, from Poland asked me the other day why I don't post more Polish food on this blog.  After all, I am of Eastern European culture.

I love Polish food!  Growing up near Pittsburgh, PA, I learned that Polish food is the ultimate comfort food.  In fact, I recently read where the people of Pittsburgh eat 11 times more pierogies over people in other US cities.

The trick for me is not in the making of the Polish food; it is preparing it to be healthy enough so that it doesn't pack on a lot of extra pounds.

With her permission, I am actually going to be posting one of Gosia's Polish Hunter Stew recipes very soon.  I will try to make her dish this weekend. Since I am part Polish, part Slovak and part Ukrainian, I added an Eastern European label on to the right so that you can see the collection of these recipes as I occasionally post them. 

This dish that I am posting tonight I made the other day.   It kind of reminds me of a cross between a Polish and a Hungarian meal.  It's slow cooker-easy, so I know you will love it on a busy day.  I like this dish because it's economical, too!

Slow cooker recipes don't really lend themselves to a pictorial as you throw everything in the pot together.  I think the final result tells you what you're in for here! 

Start with partially frozen chops to keep the meat juicy.  And, yes, this dish is even better the next day as all the flavors marry overnight.


1 1/2 - 2 pounds boneless pork sirloin chops (partially frozen)
1/2 tbs. grill seasoning for chicken (I used Weber Canadian)
1 tsp. ground sage
2 tsp. onion powder, divided
1 can (10.5 ounce) low sodium, fat free cream of mushroom soup
1 bay leaf
1 pound sauerkraut (drained but not rinsed)
2 cups chopped green cabbage
1 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)
2 tsp. Hungarian Paprika, divided
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
2 or three drops of gravy enhancer (optional)


Place partially frozen pork chops in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with the grill seasoning, ground sage and onion powder.  Add the mushroom soup and the bay leaf (dried is fine).  Cook over low heat for about four hours.

Add the sauerkraut and chopped cabbage on top of the pork along with the caraway seeds.  Top with the rest of the onion powder and half of the paprika.  Continue to cook for two more hours. 

Add the chopped mushrooms.  Continue to cook for one more hour. 

Transfer pork and vegetables from the slow cooker to a serving bowl and keep warm.  Remove bay leaf.  Add the sour cream and the gravy enhancer to the pan juices.  Turn slow cooker on high and cover until the mixture bubbles and warms through.  Pour the gravy over the pork and the vegetables and toss.  Top with remaining paprika. 

I like to serve this with whole grain pierogies with onions. Yum!

Note:  Fresh chopped sage for garnish is optional.

Look for more fall, Eastern European and Oktoberfest recipes coming soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dinner for One: Weeknight Salmon with Marinated Vegetables

On busy weeknights, we could all use a few more "semi-homemade meals," especially when you are dining alone.  Sometimes your significant other works late or the kids are out and it's just you for dinner.  If you like salmon, you are really going to like this post.

You don't have to go to a gourmet supermarket today to find pre-made dishes.  My supermarket sells great fresh/frozen seafood already seasoned.  If you cannot find something like this where you live, simply purchase fresh salmon and sprinkle with a little lemon pepper seasoning.  If you are using fresh or defrosted salmon, you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly depending on how thick your fish is and how well done you like it.

If you can't find the salad bar fixings, canned mushrooms, olives and capers from a jar and a little seasoned olive oil should do the trick.  You can toss a little Italian Seasoning in there if you like.

For this dish I used:

1 Wild Alaskan  Lemon Pepper Salmon Fillet (6 ounces) frozen (do not defrost)
1/2 cup marinated mushrooms, Greek Olives and capers (in oil) - from your store's salad bar
4 canned artichoke heart quarters, chopped
Splash of vermouth or white wine (optional - you can substitute low sodium chicken broth)

Other:  Olive oil cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray.  Bake frozen salmon for 12-16 minutes until fish just about flakes.  Remove from oven and let rest for two minutes.

In a saucepan, add the mushroom, olive and caper mixture along with the marinating oil.  Cook over low heat for one minute. Add the artichoke hearts and the wine.  Simmer for about two minutes until the wine (or broth) begins to evaporate. 

Pour the mixture over the salmon and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

I'll see you next with with a couple of fall recipes I know you are going to love.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lower Sodium Chicken & Vegetable Soup with Rice

So many people are watching their sodium intake these days.  It's not always easy to make delicious lower sodium soups at home.   I eliminated the salty soup base or broth which I normally use and opted for flavorful seasonings which make the soup tasty without all the salt.  The cannellini beans add in extra protein.  You can substitute red kidney beans if you like.

You can always add a little extra seafood seasoning at the table if you feel that you really need it.  I don't think you will.  

The vermouth is optional. 


1 chicken leg quarter, skin removed
2 chicken wings, skin on
1 chicken back, skin on
6 cups of water plus one reserved
4 stalks celery, divided
1/2 large onion, peeled and halved again
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp seafood seasoning (I used Old Bay)
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup extra dry vermouth
2 tbs. baby carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tbs. Italian seasoning
Cooked white or brown rice


Add chicken to soup pot and pour in six cups of cold water.   Add two of the celery stalks, whole, the onion, and the bay leaf.  Sprinkle in the garlic powder, onion powder, seafood seasoning, salt, ground sage, and pepper.  Stir and add the vermouth to the pot.

Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, covered, for at least an hour and a half.  

Remove the wings and the chicken back.  Using two forks, gently debone the chicken leg quarter and remove the bones from the pot, leaving only the chicken in the soup.  

Add in the remaining celery, chopped, the carrots, the beans and the Italian seasoning.  Add an additional cup of cold water.  Bring to boil again and reduce to simmer, covered, for another 45 minutes. 

Skim fat as needed from pot. 

Serve over cooked rice and enjoy.

Here's to healthier eating!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Garlic and Mint Meatballs in Bloody (or Virgin) Mary Sauce

My husband, Dan, makes the best basic meatballs.  When we opt for the traditional take, I ask him to prepare a batch for us.   I like to play around with different flavors.  These are really good.  I use a combination of ground chicken and lean sweet Italian sausage to cut out some of the fat and calories.  The mint and garlic flavors, along with the cheese, really give these a nice delicious taste.  Perfect for making and freezing for those busy school nights.

I used a jar of sauce in this recipe, which I doctored-up with a little veggie juice cocktail and onion powder.  The vodka is entirely optional.  You can keep this family-friendly and you won't really miss the vodka but if you want to add it, it does bring an extra layer of flavor.


3/4 lb. ground chicken
3/4 lb. lean sweet Italian sausage
1 jumbo egg, beaten
1/3 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 dashes soy sauce
1 tbs. tomato paste
2 tbs. garlic powder
1 tbs. dried mint flakes
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
2 tbs. olive oil, more as needed
1 jar (16 ounces) traditional pasta sauce (your favorite brand)
1/2 cup 100% vegetable juice cocktail (regular, not spicy)
Pinch or two of onion powder
Dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Vodka, optional


Combine all ingredients up to the olive oil in a large mixing bowl.  Mix with hands until combined.  Form into meatballs.  Yield at about 14 meatballs.

Add olive oil to non stick skillet.   Heat oil until hot.  Add meatballs in batches and lightly brown on all sides.  Set aside and keep warm.   You can add a little more oil between batches if needed.

Once all meatballs are browned, add to a sauce pot along with a jar of your favorite sauce, the vegetable juice cocktail and the onion powder.  Stir gently as not to break up the meatballs.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover an simmer over a low heat for at least one and one half hours; longer if you have the time.  

Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  

You can serve these meatballs as a starter.  These are excellent halved on a meatball sub or over whole grain pasta and/or with broccoli (both pictured).

If you like this post, you might also enjoy:

I'll see you soon!