Creamy Cajun Pasta with Andouille Sausage

cajun pastaA pasta dinner is such a nice comfort meal. And I’m all about comfort food!! Especially when I can do a double carb overload. I love eating pasta with bread. Don’t judge. It’s like a must for me.

But it’s nice to change things up a bit so this pasta recipe doesn’t have a red sauce. Instead, it’s creamy and got a little kick to it! So watch out for the little people in your house in case they can’t handle spicy. I got my Andouille at the butcher counter and it was fresh made so it was actually pretty mild but it’s typically packing some serious heat.

This recipe also makes for a really quick weeknight meal because it comes together so fast. And it’s pretty inexpensive. So if you’re tight on time and money, try this one out!

Creamy Cajun Pasta with Andouille Sausage (serves 6)

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4- 1 lb. Andouille sausage
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. crimini (aka baby bellas) mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 c. half & half
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and heat on medium. Add the Andouille sausage. I removed mine from the casing. But other types are fine to slice into coins. Brown up the sausage and break it up. Add in the onions, bell pepper and mushrooms. Continue cooking and stirring for several minutes or until sausage is cooked through. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more. Then add the wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to stir and remove any bits from the bottom. Let cook until the wine has almost completely reduced. Add in the half and half, as well as all of the spices and cheese. Cook for a few minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Add in the pasta and stir to combine and coat the pasta. Serve immediately.

cajun pasta 6cajun pasta 5cajun pasta 4cajun pasta 3cajun pasta 2

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

pulled pork 7Thursdays are a busy day for me this time of year. My oldest daughter has softball after school and that means I don’t have much time to make dinner. So the slow cooker it is! That way when we get home from practice, we can still enjoy a home cooked dinner that’s waiting for us. I’d much rather prefer that instead of having hungry, complaining little people walking around, whining and asking repeatedly when dinner will be ready.

I like to start this recipe the night before but if you’re pressed for time, it can always be put together the morning of. Just skip the night before step.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • 3-4 lb. bone in pork shoulder
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. each of ground cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each of paprika, garlic powder and onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper
  • Dash of cayenne
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 6 oz. beer

The night before: Mix together all of the spices in a bowl. Sprinkle and rub the spices all over both sides of the pork. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning: Add the sliced onions to your slow cooker insert. Unwrap the pork and place on top of the onions. Pour the beer over the meat. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 8-10 hours.

When the meat has finished cooking, remove the bone and the layer of fat on the pork. Using forks or tongs, pull the pork apart into smaller pieces. Serve on buns with BBQ sauce.

pulled porkpulled pork 2pulled pork 3pulled pork 5pulled pork 4pulled pork 6*If you don’t drink or like cooking with alcohol, you can omit the beer. I’ve cooked this both ways and I like them both. But the beer adds just that little extra flavor. And I used a whole beer and only poured half of it over the meat. If you’re into morning drinking, finish the beer. If not, you can put it in the fridge and give it to your husband when he gets home from work. Mine asked me why the beer was so flat and why there was only half of it. But seriously, if your husband likes beer as much as mine, he really won’t mind.

Momma J’s Bolognese

bolognese 2I have a confession to make. I’m not a big tomato fan. But I like ketchup. I like sliced tomatoes on sandwiches and burgers. I like salsa. I like pico de gallo. But I’m not a big “red sauce” fan. As in spaghetti sauce and the likes. I like spaghetti though. Confusing, I know! I just don’t like big chunks of tomato. Canned tomatoes specifically. Yet, every time I go to Costco, I buy the huge box of diced tomatoes. Seriously.

So this recipe, created by me (Momma J) :), is just right because it has crushed tomatoes in it. Hallelujah! No big chunks that I have to pick out and push off to the side. This sauce is a definite nice change from regular spaghetti sauce. Super simple, but I just love the flavor because it doesn’t taste simple. And it’s budget friendly, which is always a plus in my book.

Momma J’s Bolognese

  • 2 tbsp. each of olive oil & butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 lb. each of ground pork & ground beef
  • 3/4 c. white wine (I used Chardonnay, surprise, surprise!)
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 2, 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. each of salt & pepper (if you feel the need, add more)

Heat a Dutch oven (or a stockpot) over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter, let melt. Add onion, carrots and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes.bolognese 5 Add both meats and cook until browned. bolognese 3Add wine and let cook for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and add tomatoes, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring up to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer covered for 1 hour, and then uncover and let simmer for 1 hour or until sauce has thickened.bolognese sauce Serve over your favorite pasta (I used linguine) and freshly grate some nutmeg over the top, along with some fresh cracked pepper.

This recipe made enough for my family to have TWO meals. The other half is in my freezer and begging to be eaten every time I open that freezer door. I love having sauce in the freezer like that, but if you don’t, just cut the recipe in half.

bologneseBon appetite!

Asian Chicken Meatloaf with Sriracha Ketchup

asian meatloaf 2There are so many kinds of meatloaf recipes out there. I typically stick with my good ole standby, my mom’s recipe made with ground beef. But as I’ve said before, we don’t use ground beef around here much anymore so I almost always have ground chicken. That being said, I had ground chicken but wanted something new. Thus, this recipe was born! It may sound strange, but the flavors are spot on and yummy. This meatloaf is literally bursting with Asian flavors. And it’s such a nice change from the standard meatloaf you’re used to.

Asian Chicken Meatloaf w/ Sriracha Ketchup

  • 1 pound dark meat ground chicken
  • 2 tbsp. minced white or yellow onion
  • 1 green onion, (green part only) chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • Just under 1/4 c. hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. each of ground ginger, garlic powder, white pepper & turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3/4 c.-1 c. panko crumbs
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. sriracha

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, add the first 10 ingredients and mix together by hand until combined. Scoop into a loaf pan.

meatloaf 2In a separate bowl, mix together the ketchup and sriracha and spoon over the top of the meatloaf, making sure to cover the entire top in a thin layer.

meatloafBake in the oven for 60-65 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

asian meatloaf

Meatless Monday

lasagnaCutting out meat for one dinner a week actually adds up to quite a bit of savings in the long run. Carnivores live in my house so we don’t always do this, but we try.

This recipe is a great meatless Monday entrée and is quite filling. Plus, my dad gave the thumbs up on this one, and he literally cannot have a meal WITHOUT meat. He was so surprised that he didn’t even miss it with this dish!

P.S. This dish was a real time saver for me. I put it together and baked it in the morning, let it cool for quite some time and then put it in the fridge. We had a super busy night ahead of us and all I did was cut out some portions, heat them up in the microwave and served with a salad. Saved me lots of time in the evening.

Spinach Lasagna

My mom turned me onto this stuff. Perfect in this recipe.

My mom turned me onto this stuff. Perfect in this recipe.

  • 2 cans (15 ounce) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  •  2 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 tbsp. olive oil
  •  1/4 c. white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  •  2 basil cubes (fresh or dried basil will work too)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 container (15 ounce) ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach (10 ounce or half of a family sized bag), thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 6 uncooked lasagna noodles
The frozen basil I'm always using

The frozen basil I’m always using

First, start off by making the marinara sauce. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes, then add chopped garlic. Pour wine into the pan and let cook for about 3 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

marinaraPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella, spinach, egg, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Set aside.

lasagna 4In a lasagna pan (the disposable ones are perfect) pour about a ladle full of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Lay three noodles side by side. Top with half of the cheese mixture and then a little less than half of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with approximately 3/4 c. of the mozzarella. Add 3 more noodles, the remaining cheese mixture and pour the rest of the sauce over the top. (It will look like a lot of sauce) Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

lasagna 3Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and let cook for an additional 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and let sit for about 20 minutes before cutting into it and serving.

lasagna 2

Best part of this is that if you’re using the disposable lasagna pan which I highly recommend, you can throw away the pan when it’s all gone. Who likes scrubbing a lasagna dish anyways?

Cabbage Salad with Peanut & Sesame Dressing

dressing and cabbage salad 2

This is so good that I could eat it everyday. Actually last week, I did eat it everyday with my lunch. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s delicious, and it’s that good! This would make a great accompaniment to any Asian type of dish (i.e. me love you long time house special chicken!) or teriyaki chicken, katsu, chow mein…. you get my drift.

The star of this dish is the dressing. It is incredibly flavorful. It’s pretty much the perfect dressing. Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that dressing tastes better when it’s homemade? Example, RIGHT HERE!!!! This is so delectable and the possibilities for this dressing are endless. It would be great on grilled chicken, or as the dressing for a Chinese chicken salad, or you can just grab the bottle and squirt it straight in your mouth. Whatever floats your boat. And it’s so simple to make.

Peanut & Sesame Dressing (adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up)

Roll out the red carpet, the star has arrived!

Roll out the red carpet, the star has arrived!

  • 3/4 c. mayo
  • 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic (or 2 garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 c. dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients except the peanuts to a blender and blend on high. Then add the peanuts and blend until smooth. Makes approximately 2 cups.

*If you do not have peanuts, peanut butter would be a great alternative. Out of sesame oil and sesame seeds? Use tahini! I’m all about making adjustments and substitutions. Use what you’ve got. Who likes running to the grocery store for one or two items anyways?!?!

Like that bottle up there? Only $.98 at Walmart and they are absolutely perfect for dressings and sauces.

Now onto the cabbage salad. It’s super simple and very affordable. This is a perfect dish to serve to a crowd. I usually only do cabbage and carrots but this time added julienned red bell peppers. cabbage salad

Cabbage Salad

  • 1 head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned

Great additions to this salad would also be sliced green onions and cilantro, which also adds great color. Wonton strips would also add additional crunch. Customize it to your tastes!

Now who likes a soggy salad? Not me! So I scoop out individual portions and then squirt the dressing over the top and mix on my plate/bowl. It’s a salad, not a coleslaw, so no dressing it beforehand.

Eat up, and I hope you love it as much as I do!

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!

I have three young children, so it’s no surprise that we like pizza in this house. But ordering out and having it delivered can become quite spendy in the long run, so I turned to making my pizza at home. Not with a premade crust, but with homemade dough, and oh does that make the difference! We still order out occasionally, but I really do prefer to make it at home, and once you try it yourself, you’ll understand why.

I do have to say that pizza making in my house is not an exact science. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not like to measure, and pizza is the perfect example of cooking using a method, rather than a recipe. Making your own concoctions to suit your individual tastes, and also the tastes of your family. However, the pizza dough DOES need to be measured and you do need to follow a recipe for that. As for the sauces and toppings, that’s up to you.

I’ve made plenty a pizza, and here are some helpful hints I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Use a pizza stone! I received one as a gift and I absolutely love it. It gives your crust a great crispness to the bottom and a more authentic taste. It is definitely not necessary though, any baking sheet will work. But that stone does elevate the pizza.
  2. Cornmeal! I always sprinkle cornmeal on my stone or baking sheet before I place the dough on it. The cornmeal helps to slide the pizza off the sheet easier and also adds a slight crunch.
  3. Use parchment paper to roll out your dough on. This makes it much easier to transfer to your stone or sheet. All you have to do is flip the dough onto the stone/sheet, and peel the parchment paper off.
  4. Sprinkle just a little bit of flour on your pizza dough rolling surface (parchment!) and also on top of your dough. This will help the dough roll much easier and also won’t stick to your rolling pin.

Onto the magical dough. So this is by far the best pizza dough I’ve ever used. I’ve tried a few different recipes and this is THE ONE! I knew it after my very first bite. You can find the original recipe over at Lauren’s Latest. She’s got some really great pictures and tips for making pizza dough so please check it out. I’ve adjusted her recipe to work better for my family size, so if you have a slightly larger than average family, this is the one for you.

Pizza Dough (serving size- 2, 14 inch pizza crusts):

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
4 cups all purpose flour, give or take half a cup

In a large mixing bowl, preferably that of a stand mixer, stir yeast and honey into warm water. Sit for 5-10 minutes or until bubbles form and mixture starts to foam. This tells you that the yeast is alive and kicking. Pour in salt, oil and half the flour and mix. Once that flour is incorporated, start adding flour in bit by bit until you get the pizza dough to the consistency you want: slightly tacky, but when you touch it, it doesn’t stick to your hands. Once you reach this stage, knead for 3-6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. And the bowl should be clean! Lightly grease the bowl & the dough so it doesn’t dry out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise 1-2 hours. Now it’s time to make pizza!

I’d just like to note, you do not need a stand mixer to make this dough. So if you don’t have one, never fear, your two hands are near! Yes, manual labor it is for you. Follow the recipe, except you use your hands to knead the dough, simple as that. I used this method for a long time before I bought a stand mixer.

Now, onto the pizzas I made. The first was a “kid friendly” pizza, which included red sauce, pepperoni and mushrooms. Like I said before, pizza making is a method, so I’m not going to give exact amounts but just tell you how I made it. The amount you want on your pizza will likely differ from the amounts I like on my pizza. Here goes….

  • pepperoni & mushroom pizzaOrganic tomato sauce went onto the dough first, sprinkled with garlic powder.
  • Then came shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Next was pepperoni and sliced baby bellas (one of my favs!).
  • Last, I sprinkled Italian seasoning all over.

I baked this at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. My oven cooks very slowly, so yours may be done faster than mine. You can tell it’s done when the crust starts turning brown and you can also lift up the crust a bit and peek at the underside. It should feel crisp, and not soft.

Time for the “adult” pizza! I did my version of a “margherita” pizza. Except instead of using basil though, I used kale. kale & tomato pizza

  • First, I spread my homemade softened basil garlic compound butter (see recipe for butter below) all over the crust.
  • Then I sprinkled a light amount of shredded mozzarella cheese over it.
  • After that came thinly sliced tomatoes.
  • Finally, some torn kale and cracked black pepper.

I also cooked this at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Give pizza making a try. It’s not hard, and the results are worth it!!!

This is great in pasta, on potatoes, pizza, the possibilities are endless!

This is great in pasta, on potatoes, pizza, the possibilities are endless!

Basil Garlic Compound Butter

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 3 tsp. frozen basil (remember those cubes I’ve talked about?)
  • 4 garlic gloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until blended together, scraping the sides as necessary. Scrape butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roughly into the shape of a cylinder. Wrap the butter up, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap. Can be stored in the fridge or freezer.

Me Love You Long Time, House Special Chicken!!

I was craving Chinese food last night. I actually crave it often! Want to know why? Well that’s because I live very close to a Chinese restaurant, like 5 minutes walking distance, and a lot of time when I’m outside, I can smell what they’re cooking. And it smells so good! So yesterday as I got out of my car, I was overwhelmed by the aromas wafting my way and decided that Chinese food must be had by all, well, at least all the people in my house.

Again, I’m going to mention budget friendly. This is my thing people. I like to recreate dishes that I’ve eaten at restaurants, and spend a fraction of what it costs to eat out. Now don’t get me wrong, going out for a meal is great. You have someone else waiting on you, someone else cooking the food for you and someone else cleaning it all up too. But there’s also that price tag at the end that pays for all those services. At home, I’m all those people, waitress, chef and dishwasher. But on the bright side, I am saving a lot of money, still eating a delicious meal, and bonus, I can wear my pajamas if I want to. If you enjoy cooking like I do, this isn’t a bad deal at all. And if you want less work? Have your husband or kids do the dishes. I prefer to do my own dishes as I have serious issues with my dishwasher. Like, I don’t like anyone touching it, or loading it. I am the only person who knows how to load it efficiently. I can come to your house and show you how to efficiently load yours too?? I’ve actually done this before. I’m sorry, you know who you are.

So, this recipe is for House Special Chicken, and if you’ve ordered Chinese take out before, you know about this dish. If you’ve never had it before, think along the salty and sweet lines. And you will get those restaurant flavors at home with this recipe, I promise!

house special chicken 2

Where are the green onions, you ask? Well, I never claimed to be perfect!

House Special Chicken

  • 3/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, minced (omit this if you’re not a ginger lover)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. sriracha
  • 1 -1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Canola oil
  • Cornstarch
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Whisk the first 8 ingredients together and set aside. Heat approximately 1/2 inch of oil (this is a shallow fry) in a skillet, on medium high. (I used a 12 inch cast iron skillet) Dredge chicken cubes in cornstarch, and shake off excess. (I used 1/2 a box of cornstarch and it was a perfect amount) Add chicken to heated oil and shallow fry for approximately 3-4 minutes, stirring the chicken around to make sure it evenly cooks. You will have to cook the chicken in at least 2 batches, depending on the size of your skillet. Using a metal slotted spoon, set cooked chicken aside. When done cooking all of your chicken, heat a separate pan (a wok works perfectly for this), and add sauce. Heat to boiling, and carefully add cooked chicken. Add sliced green onions and stir to coat. You can add toasted sesame seeds, if you would like, either in the pan or when you plate. Also, if you like things spicy, red chili flakes would be great in this!

house special chickenVoila! It looks like you ordered that in a restaurant. Oh, me love you long time house special chicken. Hope you love it long time too!

Olé! Olé! Olé! Olé!

The essentials to starting your fiesta off right

The essentials to starting your fiesta off right

Craving Mexican food? Me too. Don’t feel like spending upwards of $50 at a restaurant? ME NEITHER! Well I’m no math wizard, but those ingredients to your left sure look like they cost a lot less than $50. And that right there, turns into shredded chicken that you can use in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, or whatever your Mexican food craving little heart desires.

Here’s the breakdown as best as I can manage. I only used four of those chicken thighs and the entire package was under $5. That bell pepper was $.50, and I used half of it. The three pound bag of organic onions cost me $2.99 and I used half of one onion. One stick of celery? Cheap! A can of tomato sauce, cheap! You get the idea. I’d venture to say this whole meal cost me under $7 to make, which fed my family of five, and had enough leftovers to make a burrito for Adam to take to work the next day. But wait, we still have shredded chicken left over. Can you really beat that? I didn’t think so. So what are you waiting for?

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

Shredded Chicken

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I highly recommend thighs, I’m not a big fan of chicken breasts in the slow cooker)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce, or one of those smaller cans
  • 1 tsp. chicken base
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder, or 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin

Place all ingredients in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours. Shred with a fork when it’s done. Olé!

Taco Tuesday anyone?

Making your own laundry detergent

detergentSo I’m sure you’ve seen this on Pinterest. I noticed it a couple of years ago and thought it was a pretty cool idea. I tried quite a few of the different recipes.  I made my own body wash, dishwasher detergent (which I don’t recommend) and laundry detergent. By far, the most successful was the homemade laundry detergent.

I’ve been using this recipe now for almost two years and I highly recommend it. It’s so incredibly economical, I really could never see myself going back to buying detergent at the store. This is an approximation, but it costs around $6 for a SIX MONTH SUPPLY.

As for the storage containers to keep all of this detergent in, I recommend that you save those really durable store bought laundry detergent containers. They have that handy spout for dispensing and I have not had one leak or break. I will typically also use 1 gallon milk containers, but I have had a couple of those leak/explode, especially when it’s super hot out. So be careful if using those. Another good type of container is a 2 liter soda bottle, or any other juice bottle.

detergent container

This is obviously not lemonade. Keep out of reach of children!!

To get this recipe, check out the My Li’l Pumpkin Patch blog. It is very detailed, with a price breakdown and pictures to guide you along the way. However, I do have to add that when I make this recipe, it only takes about 10 minutes for the soap to melt, and not the 45 minutes stated in that blog.

Hope you like the recipe, and all the money you will be saving!