Pasta e Fagioli

{i <3 soups}

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Fall has officially started, on the calendar and weather-wise.  I love hot hot days (preferably by a pool or beach), but I also love the beginning of fall.  To me, it seems like a cozy time of the year.  Jeans & a sweatershirt, soups, candles, and colorful leaves.  Clearly I already embraced the fall flavors when I made my Apple Cinnamon Bread and I plan to continue experimenting with them more and more.

Last weekend, we took our annual trip to the apple orchard which has become one of my favorite annual traditions.  We got to pick all types of apples, it was a great weekend to go!  My thinking cap for apple recipes is still on and I hope to post some new recipes on them soon.

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Since I started my blog, soups have appeared several times.  I believe in one post I talked about how I disliked them growing up.  There are endless recipes for all different kinds of soups, I can’t imagine how one can dislike them.  Typically, my soups are brothy or creamy so I decided to try a different base with a tomato sauce.  In addition, I never have tried to make an Italian soup before.  I wanted to create something meatless for Monday and this can be made meatless, but I really liked the heartiness and spiciness of the sausage.  Feel free to leave it out, but double your beans if you do (2-15oz cans).

I think my food hiatus has come to end and my food love is back again… for now… if you read my last post, you are aware that my food and cooking enthusiasm comes and goes.  So stay tuned for more recipes and not so doughie tidbits.  Oh and hey!  Great news!  My blog’s 1st birthday is next TUESDAY – you will really want to read then because I have a little giveaway going on!

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pasta e fagioli
Recipe by: Sara
Prep Time:  5 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 15 minutes   |||   Servings: 4  |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients
4 oz (3 links) hot turkey sausage
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 cup water
2 cups organic, low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup organic tomato sauce
1 cup uncooked whole wheat pasta shells
1/2 cup Romano cheese, shredded + more for garnish
1 can (15oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Directions
1.  Cooked pasta according to directions on box, cooking al dente.  Set aside.
2.  In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Cut the casing off of the sausage and add to the pain.  Use a wooden spoon to break apart the sausage.
3.  Add the garlic and oregano once the sausage is nearly cooked and saute about 2 minutes.
4.  Add the chicken broth, water, and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil.
5.  Stir in the beans, cheese, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, pasta, salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes.
6.  Serve with additional cheese and fresh parsley.

Enjoy!

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Alaskan Salmon with Mustard Chive Yogurt Sauce

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These past two months I have focused on eating clean and healthy as often as possible.  My healthy eating tends to be not as strict on the weekends, but I figure that is okay as long as I am focused on healthy eating during the week.  I also have been working out about 3 times per week.  The number on the scale doesn’t seem to want to budge.  It’s frustrating and I know I shouldn’t go by the scale, but I am human.

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Picking up a 4th work out day each week hopefully will help as well as learning a bit more about nutrition.  I recently finished reading the book Clean Green and Lean.  The book is a bit extreme with clearing out the toxins – no candles (combustion fumes), get rid of all carpet (ok I don’t have the funds for that project), no febreeze spray.  I mean some points in the doctor’s book were at bit extreme.  However, he definitely explains the benefits of eating certain foods organically and what foods to avoid entirely from your diet.

There’s a portion of the book that discusses fish and how farm raised salmon contains a lot of toxins.  I knew this from reading other articles and nutrition books, but this book had a lot more detail on the subject.  Although it is cheaper and bountiful, the benefits seem to be not worth it.  The night I finished the book I went to the store and stocked up on organic produce, Alaskan salmon and other organic goods for the week.  In a future post, I will what foods I always buy organically and what ones are clean enough to buy regular.

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I love this recipe for a simple weeknight meal and also when you aren’t interested in making a fuss in the kitchen.  The Mustard and Chive sauce is not cooked at all and the salmon is baked or grilled in under 10 minutes.  Prepare this simple meal on a hot night to avoid having to use much heat.  The oily, protein-rich salmon is complemented nicely with the creamy, slightly spicy, fresh lemon sauce.

Do you eat organically?  If so, what foods are your MUST eat organic?

salmon with mustard chive sauce

Recipe by: Sara
Prep Time:  5 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 8-10 minutes   |||   Servings: 4  |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients:
4 Alaskan salmon fillets
1 lemon
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp chives, chopped
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of cayenne
sea salt
black pepper

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or grill to medium heat.
2.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
3.  Cut 1/2 of the lemon into thin slices and place on top of the salmon.
4.  Bake or grill for 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness.
5.  Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the yogurt, chives, juice of lemon, mustard, oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
6.  Once salmon is done, top with yogurt sauce and serve with a lemon wedge.

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Enjoy

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Penne + Shrimp & Cilantro Pesto

From the beginning of our relationship Bryan knew I was a foodie – he may have known before we even met since all I contributed to the camping gear was food.  We met on a camping trip up in Ludington back in September 2011.  On that trip, I brought a ton of food.  On our second “meeting”, I made a delicious meal while up north skiing in Boyne.  Third date, I prepared homemade pasta carbonara for him in Chicago.  Needless to say, he caught on for my love for food and knew he had to step it up on his kitchen knowledge.

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The first homemade meal Bryan prepared for me was this Shrimp Pasta with Cilantro Pesto.  We lived together at this time and for the most part I had done most of the meal prep.  However, one day he said he was going to try out a recipe and cook for me.  I was very excited and came home to find him in the kitchen adorning an apron.  He was slowly removing each leaf of cilantro off of the stem.  It took him a really long time to pull off all those leaves and I didn’t mention that you can use a little bit of the stems., but I won’t forget him tearing all those leaves.. it was his meal, his preparation and boy was it good.

This dish has become a regular in our weeknight meal rotation.  Super quick to make, minimal dishes and a delicious and satisfying result.  Do you remember my Tilapia with Cilantro pesto post?  This pesto is basically the same, but with a couple adaptations to the pesto.  It is made a bit thinner so that it coats the pasta nicely.  Also, I don’t use nuts because I want to avoid the nutty flavor in order to maximize the cilantro flavor.  Over the years, we have tweaked our version of the pesto and continue to make improvements to it.

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I strongly recommend this dish when entertaining guests too.  It is a very pretty dish and since it is easy to make (pesto can be made ahead) you have more time to hang out with your guests instead of spending the whole evening by the stove.  Use whole grain penne, wild caught shrimp and organic ingredients in the pesto for a clean & wholesome meal.

Penne + shrimp & cilantro pesto

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  15 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 8-10 minutes   |||   Servings: 4  |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients:
half box whole grain penne pasta
1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 bushels of cilantro, leaves only
1 garlic clove
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan
1 tsp dried oregano
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Directions
1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add penna when boiling and cook according to package directions.  Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the water once the pasta is drained.
2.  Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the cilantro, parmesan, oil, garlic, and seasonings.  Pulse until combined then slowly add 1/4 cup of water at a time, pulsing until smooth.
3.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
4.  In the pasta pot, combine the pesto, shrimp and pasta.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
5.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

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Enjoy & have a wonderful weekend!!

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Easy Shrimp Tostadas

It’s been over a week since I logged into this bad boy.  I didn’t really have an agenda for this week’s menu and as you know if you have been following along for awhile, I tend to come and go from my blog from time to time.  There are 3 recipes that I have been dying to share so I want to take the time to get back at it.  Sometimes, life just gets in the way.  There has been a ton going on at work, some great things actually, that have required my undivided-extra-time-in-the-office-outside-of-work attention.  Possibly more on that to come at a later date.

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Anyways enough of that mumbo jumbo and onto this post because it does not disappoint!  I get a lot of food magazines and I never will stop getting the actual magazine.  I have gotten one on my Nook before, but I love tearing the magazine articles out and stashing them in my “to make” binder.  This binder has been around for quite some time so if you have lived with me before you’ve probably seen it.  I use these clippings as blog inspiration and that’s where this post comes into play.

The binder is expanding each week and so I been making a good effort to try out all the recipes I saved.  If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw my post a few weeks ago of the picture of the shrimp tostadas.  My binder is organized (somewhat) according to genre.  There are about 6-8 shrimp tostada recipes so I learned from those clippings to produce this one.  The main recipe is based off of a Cooking Light original.

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No time for dinner?  No problem.  This is yet another Dinner In Twenty recipe.  It actually can be prepared in less time than that if you make your toppings ahead of time too.  If you saw my post on Paige’s blog last week, you read that I like to try to incorporate Mexican into my weekly dinner routine.  We love the spicy, bold flavors of Mexican cuisine and they typically are quick to prepare.

One of my favorite components of this recipe is the Spicy Black Bean Salsa I posted on A Dose of Paige.  You will have to visit her website to get that portion, trust me it’s definitely not one you want to leave out!  The link is below.  I hope you enjoy this yummy and Not So Doughie recipe!

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easy shrimp tostadas

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  15 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 4-5 minutes   |||   Servings: 4   |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients
8-10 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 avocado, diced
1 Roma tomato, small dice
1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 lime, juiced
1/4 tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
Chipotle Black Bean Salsa
4
 oz queso fresca
chopped cilantro

Directions:
1.  On a baking sheet, toss the shrimp with the cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Spread evenly and bake at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes or until pink.
2.  In a bowl, combine the avocado, tomato, Greek yogurt, and lime juice.  Season with salt, pepper and chipotle seasoning.
3.  Lay out your corn tortilla and layer with the bean salsa, shrimp, avocado spread, cheese and chopped cilantro.
4.  Serve with a dash of hot sauce if preferred.

Enjoy!

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Grilled Chicken with Chiptole Peach BBQ Sauce

{a spicy peach}

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Who doesn’t love a sweet, juicy peach during the summer?  Seriously, if you don’t like peaches I am curious as to why not?  I get pretty excited the first time I see the stocked peaches at the grocery store.  Chase loves peaches, he would eat 10 in one sitting if we let him.  They are frequent visitors on our dinner plates (and breakfast and snacks for me) during the summer.  A fresh cut up peach stirred into some yogurt with a bit of granola – such a yummy (and healthy!) breakfast.

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What’s in a peach?

For a medium peach, there is about 60 calories.  These delicious gems contain a dose of vitamin c, potassium and vitamin A.  If you need a bit more fiber in your diet, grab a peach!  Nutrients in peaches aid in inflammation and help lower your cholesterol.  Careful however, because they do contain sugar, but it nature’s sugar so no added crap here.  The peach is actually from the rose family, originating from China.  China & Italy are the top peach growers.  Be careful not to eat that pit though!  They are poisonous, but if you dry it out on the counter then put it in the fridge for a bit, plant it and you could maybe have yourself a little peach tree!  You will have to move south to keep it growing and if you are lucky it may sprout.

So there’s a bit of peach info for you, now onto the recipe!

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I love incorporating peaches into different recipes, their unique flavor is subtle, yet noticeable.  In addition, they add the perfect amount of sweetness to a recipe.  Two summers ago, Chase and I grilled some chicken and topped it with a peach salsa of sorts.  We left it raw and it was a refreshing touch to the smokey chicken.

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This time around, I wanted to combine it with the smokey and spiciness of chipotle peppers.  If you aren’t a big spicy food fan, this isn’t quite your recipe, but there’s an easy switch!  Just eliminate the chipotle pepper :)  The peaches are cooked on the stove until melted, their natural sugars completely exposed.  A quick pulse in a food processor and this meal’s star is ready.  Definitely another Dinner in 20!  I hope you enjoy my perfect summer BBQ recipe!

grilled chicken with chipotle peach bbq sauce

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  2 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 20 minutes   |||   Servings: 4   |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
1 small shallot, minced
2-3 medium sized peaches, diced
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup prepared BBQ sauce [Sweet Baby Rays]
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle pepper & 1 tsp of the adobo sauce
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp cilantro, finely chopped
salt & pepper

Directions:
1.  Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.
2.  In a small pot, add the garlic and shallots.  Cook for about 2 minutes.
3.  Add the peaches, ketchup, BBQ sauce, lemon juice, and chipotle peppers + adobo.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat.
4.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the peaches have completely softened.
5.  Remove from heat and pour contents into a food processor.  Add the cilantro.
6.  Pulse until completely smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.
7.  Using a brush to paint the BBQ sauce onto the chicken breasts.
8.  Heat a grill over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken on the grill, not directly over the heat.
9.  Cook on each side about 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness.  Paint a bit more BBQ sauce on each time you flip the chicken.
10.  Cut into slices and serve with additional sauce.

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Enjoy!

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Summer Corn & Shrimp Chowder with Bacon

{the summer soup}

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I used to hate soups.  I never was a big fan of them growing up.  Chicken noodle soup was served when you were sick, but soup was never a frequent visitor to the dinner table.  I did LOVE beef stew.  However, stew is not soup is not chowder.  In my old age, I have grown to love soups, stews, chowders, bisques, gazpachos etc etc.  They definitely appear on my dinner menu often, but in the fall & winter more.

However, I don’t discriminate soup in the summer so I add some delicious summer flavors to keep it light.  You’ve probably noticed a decent amount of posts including corn lately.  Well, it is summertime and I really cannot get enough of it.  [I will be posting a Mexican Corn Salad shortly where I use the corn straight up off the cob.]  This recipe uses the corn’s kernels and “pulp” to add creaminess to the broth.

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So what exactly is the difference between a stew, chowder, and soup?  I did some research to answer this question for you…..

  • SOUP:  Liquid is very thin.  Can be cream based or broth based.  It is majority liquid with some, if any, added pieces
  • CHOWDER:  Broth is thickened using an agent such as flour and has more “stuff” in it than liquid.
  • STEW:  Mainly solid pieces of veggies & meat cooked in a small amount of liquid (beer) cooked slow resulting in a gravy base.

Based off of these Sara-determined definitions, this is a soup because I didn’t use any flour as a thickening agent.  I am still going to call it a chowder because I like the word chowder and there is more “stuff” than liquid.

This is the ultimate summer soup.  It has many bold flavors, is light, creamy, salty, sweet, and in my chowder, spicy.  If you aren’t a shrimp fan, substitute crab or lobster – yum!  This dinner sounds a bit fancy, but it is yet another “Dinner in 20″ meal.  It requires one pot too which makes for easy clean up :)

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summer corn & shrimp chowder with bacon
Recipe By:  Sara
Prep Time:  5 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 20 minutes   |||   Servings: 4   |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients:
3 slices of thick bacon, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
4-6 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined, cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk [I used fat-free]
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
dash of cayenne pepper
salt & pepper
Optional:  cilantro, cheddar cheese

Directions:
1.  Cut the corn kernels off the cobs over a bowl.  Squeeze any excess “juice” from the cores.
2.  In a dutch oven or large pot, heat over medium and add the bacon.  Cook until crispy.  Remove about 2 Tbsp from the pot & set aside.  If there is a lot of grease, discard all but about 2 tsp.
3.  Add the onion and celery & saute until softened, about 6 minutes.
4.  Add the garlic & thyme and saute an additional minute.
5.  Add the corn and any pulp acquired during cutting and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.
6.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add the shrimp.  Cook for 2 minutes.
7.  Stir in the milk.
8.  Season with salt and pepper and cayenne.
9.  Serve with cheddar cheese, cilantro and remaining bacon pieces.

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Enjoy!

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Beef Enchilada Stuffed Peppers {Dinner in 20}

{low-carb Mexican}

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Working full time + an hour commute to & from work + squeezing in a work out makes dinner time a little challenging during the week.  Dinnertime at our house is no earlier than 7:30pm so senior citizens wouldn’t be too pleased.  However, it works for us and cooking is my favorite!

So many people ask me, why do you take the time to make such elaborate dinners at night.  In all seriousness, my dinners are not elaborate at all.  They typically are 30 minutes or less or made ahead of time.  Not to mention, it is my outlet, my passion and I love the satisfaction in pleasing Bryan & Chase when he’s with us.

Added bonus:  lunch the next day for me.  I typically make recipes for four servings.  Chase usually eats “half a serving” and Bryan will eat about 1.5 servings.  The remaining two go to me for dinner & lunch.  Bryan is always out and about during the day and he has some weird fear of certain leftovers.

Stuffed peppers are a frequent character on my dinner menu.  They also keep nicely for lunch the following day.  I have made original stuffed peppers, southwestern stuffed peppers, and peppers stuffed with quinoa.  Last week, I was going to make enchiladas, but I have been trying real hard to eliminate carbs from our dinners.  I decided to ditch the tortillas and stuff the insides of the enchiladas into a pepper.  Clever, huh?

I wasn’t going to blog this recipe, but I want to show my readers that dinnertime can be delicious yet quick.  So these pictures don’t really do the meal justice.  I served them with corn muffins {59 cent box} and a salad.  Dinner was ready and on the table at 7:45 and my family was able to set aside our busy schedules and spend time together.  Take the time to research some quick & easy dinners that your family can enjoy together.  Here are some by me:

Pad Thai Pork Tenderloin

Speedy Shrimp Scampi

Tilapia with Cilantro Pesto

In the meantime, I will be compiling a list of other Dinner in 20 meals to share on the blog!

beef enchilada stuffed peppers

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  5 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 15 minutes   |||   Servings: 4   |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients
3-4 green peppers, cut in half length-wise
1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (15oz) can of red enchilada sauce [I used Old El Paso]
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
6 Tbsp sharp cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

Directions
1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2.  Once boiling, add the peppers and submerge and boil for about 3 minutes.  Remove and place in a casserole dish.
3.  In a medium pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute about 4-5 minutes.
4.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute.  Remove onion and garlic from pan and set aside.
5.  Add meat and brown until still a bit pink.
6.  Add enchilada sauce and spices.
7.  Stir in cilantro.
8.  Spoon the meat mixture into the pepper shells and top with 1 Tbsp per pepper.
9.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.
10.  Serve with hot sauce and sides.

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