Tasty Tuesday – Smoked Sausage, Tomatoes and Okra Skillet

I know, I know, another recipe featuring sausage. You guys are probably getting tired of them. But these are literally turning into my favorite meal. They’re easy, usually one pot, I can load them up with delicious vegetables, and they’re so colorful. Plus they just taste so good!

I made this on Sunday night and my fiance took it to work on Monday. I was genuinely excited that he brought some home uneaten so I can eat it for lunch today.

Alright, first of all, slice the sausage and chop a green pepper. Gather other ingredients like diced tomatoes and chick peas. Chick peas are my new favorite food. This recipe didn’t even call for them, it called for corn. I thought they would be a nice complement to it and I was right. Also, start cooking the rice.

Cook the sausage and green pepper. My favorite part about these meals is that they have all different ingredients, but they all cook the same. Infinitely customizable.

Once the sausage is browned and the peppers have wilted a bit, add everything else in. I bought frozen okra because the recipe said I could, and I’ve never cooked it before so already chopped and frozen is a great way to incorporate something new.

The recipe says to serve over rice, but I prefer just mixing it all up in there. You get a much more varied bite instead of an unbalanced ratio of rice to everything else.

Love this, it’s going on the list of favorites for sure! To try it out for yourself, find the full recipe (with corn) here. Don’t get me wrong, I love corn, especially on the cob, but warmed up in recipes it just turns me off. Especially when I think about the fact that corn chowder exists. Just the name grosses me out.

Menu Monday – June 29

Yesterday we met with an officiant who is going to do our ceremony. All of the planning is officially done except for a few small things like buying the food, flowers and making a music playlist.

Also, yesterday morning my fiance became an uncle again and I’m an (almost) aunt. So excited to meet the newborn twin boys.

For this week:

  • Bay Scallop Stir Fry – Scallops were on sale for $5.50 for about a pound again. I thought I’d try something new.
  • Pasta with Eggplant and Tomato – You’ll see this recipe later in the week. I’ve eaten eggplant maybe once before and I’ve never cooked it.
  • Honey and Soy Baked Chicken with Corn – Simple chicken and side dish.
  • Smoked Sausage, Tomatoes and Okra Skillet – I was born in the south where okra is a much bigger thing but I’ve never eaten it besides fried. This should be interesting.
  • Baked Chicken Legs with a rice side – I think this will be thighs, I don’t have any legs.

Dinners for the week once again came out to about $30.

Fitness Friday – Challenge Complete!


Last night was day 30 of my fitness challenge! I did not skip a single day.

On the first day I tried starting with 50 squats, which was such a bad idea. I was sore for probably a week after. After that I started doing both crunches and squats on the same pace as the push-ups, and last night I completed 50 squats again, but I’m not sore today. I’d call that progress.

The one category I struggled in was planks. By about day 20, I still couldn’t go past 2.5 minutes. This was mainly when I was doing multiple push-ups, wearing out my arms and they couldn’t hold me up for the plank well. I’m thinking about starting the plank challenge over and adding in a different squat challenge, like this one:

We’ll see how that goes.

Thrifty Thursday – Birdseye Protein Blends Copycat Attempt

Hello, it’s Thrifty Thursday! On the topic of being thrifty, I made my own ice cream for the first time the other day with our new ice cream maker my future sister-in-law got us. I just used the packet of ‘mix with cream’ powdered ice cream she also got us, so free ice cream, cool! I think I could do better with a homemade recipe though. It just kind of tasted like frozen, sweetened milk.

Anyway, here is my weekly project.

Birdseye Italian

This is a relatively new product you can find in most grocery freezer sections next to the frozen vegetables. It’s an awesome thing to have in your freezer for a quick side, but you get maybe 2 servings out of this little bag for $3 normal price. That’s not very thrifty.

I tried both the California and the Italian style blends and they were delicious. The California one was on the spicy side, which we don’t like, but the blend is great. I’m going to do my best to make my own versions of these with homemade ingredients.

Here is the ingredient list for the Italian blend:
Vegetables (Cooked Lentils [Cooked Lentils, Soybean Oil, Salt], Spinach, Broccoli, Cooked Great Northern Beans [Great Northern Beans, Water, Calcium Chloride]), Cooked Whole Grain Tomato Acini Di Pepe Macaroni Product (Water, Whole Grain Tomato Acini Di Pepe Macaroni Product [Whole Durum Wheat Flour, Semolina Wheat, Dried Tomato, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid]), Cooked Whole Grain Bulgur Wheat (Water, Whole Grain Bulgur Wheat), Sauce (Water, Parmesan Cheese [Pasteurized Park Skim Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Kale, Light Cream Blend [Cream, Skim Milk, Nonfat Milk Powder], Soybean Oil, Garlic, Corn Starch, Butter Concentrate [Butter (Cream, Salt), Flavor], Salt, Spices, Onion Powder, Basil).

Nothing overly concerning there, at least in my opinion. But that should give me my clues to making it myself for cheaper and a larger batch. The original mix has acini de pepe pasta and bulgur wheat, but for my first attempt version, I used quinoa and rice. 

Voila, my first attempt. I realized when writing this up that I forgot the Great Northern Beans, and I even had a can in the cabinet. What I did include:

  • 1 cup of parboiled rice (cooked separately)
  • 1 cup of white quinoa
  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1+ cup of frozen broccoli
  • A large handful or two of spinach
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder
  • Mozzarella cheese

I cooked the rice separately while bringing the quinoa, lentils, chicken stock and water to a simmer. I let that cook until the liquid was almost absorbed and then I added the vegetables to steam.

It was okay, edible at least. It wasn’t overly flavorful though. I also just really don’t like quinoa all that much, at least this white quinoa. It always has a little bit of a gross flavor and yes, I rinse it.

For my next attempt, I’m going to use rice and try to find the acini di pepe (tiny pasta). I’ll also add the beans, and chop up the spinach. And maybe season a little more than I did.

Any seasoned cooks have any ideas for making this more like the protein blend? Something I should try?

What I Read Wednesday – Books You Can’t Finish

No review today as I’m between books at the moment. I was reading one from NetGalley and after 40 pages I had to stop. I did message the publisher to say that I had stopped and why.

The book was written with dialogue including “thee” “thy” and etc., and that was seriously a slow read. I really liked the idea of the book so I kept going. Then the main character, who comes across as a preteen boy but may be older, meets a girl tending an inn and sleeps with her. Now I don’t mind sex scenes or even gratuitous ones, but that one was just so random and made me uncomfortable, especially after the tone of the book was so proper and old fashioned. This was on page 40 something of a 500+ page (edit: got to stop writing these first thing in the morning sometimes, page not word) book.

I hate not finishing books but I just couldn’t spend any more time on it. There are very few books I don’t finish, the ones I remember putting down I can count on one hand: Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, by Jane Austen, A Tale of Two Cities by Mark Twain, and Folly by Laurie R. King. There may be more but none I can remember. I might go back to these sometime, Folly especially because I love all of her other books, this one was just slow.

What are some books you couldn’t finish, and would you try again?

Tasty Tuesday – Two Timing Pasta Bake

This was one of the very first recipes I ever made when I started learning to cook. Four ingredients, no measuring, it could not be simpler.
One box of pasta, any medium shape will do. One jar of pasta sauce and one jar of alfredo sauce. You will also need some cheese, I used shredded mozzarella. Put the pasta on to cook.

Dump both jars of sauce into a large bowl and mix together. It turns this lovely orange shade. Mix in the cheese here, about a handful will work.

Drain the pasta when it’s finished cooking. I love how colorful this garden pasta is. Then mix it into the bowl of sauce.

Pour the pasta and sauce into a 9×13 pan.

Bake for 25 minutes until hot and bubbly. You can throw Parmesan on top for the last five minutes if you want, I didn’t have any.

And that’s all there is to it. A delicious, filling dinner in about three steps. Find the whole recipe here.

Menu Monday – June 22

New week, not much to say. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to use my new KitchenAid mixer this week for something. The theme of the week is back to basics.

  • Two Timin Pasta Bake – It’s not very healthy, but this was one of the recipes I did when I first started learning to cook. The sauce is absolutely delicious and it makes a ridiculous amount of leftovers. I’m cool with eating it all week personally. I’ll be making it with vegetable based penne and marinara sauce, so we’ll get at least a serving of vegetables.
  • Crispy and Tender Baked Chicken Thighs with Corn – More baked “fried chicken” but this one doesn’t require coating in flour.
  • Honey and Soy Glazed Chicken with Broccoli and Brown Rice – This recipe goes to Honey and Soy Glazed Tofu, but I thought I’d try to substitute chicken and see how it turns out.
  • Simply Great Chicken with secret Thrifty Thursday project – Simply Great Chicken is another one of my oldest and most favorite recipes. It can’t be easier and the flavor is amazing. Come back on Thursday to see what I served with it.
  • Sausage and Chick Peas – Similar to my other chick pea recipe but this one has bell peppers instead of tomatoes.

This week’s dinners came out to just under $26.

Some cool deals I found this week:

Frozen black bean burgers were $2 off so I’ll have a good option for protein filled lunches. I’ll be working on making them myself more in the future.

Toilet paper was $4 off, so that’s a good deal.

Shredded cheese was only $1.77. I wish I could find a place to buy blocks to shred myself that aren’t tiny for $5 or more.

Bone-in chicken thighs were $.99 a pound. By waiting for these under $1 sales, I’ve been keeping a good stock of chicken in my freezer and a good supply of bones for stock.

Strawberries were $1.88 for a pound, I love when my store actually gives us deals on berries. About a pound of raspberries were $5 though and they advertised that as a deal. Not so much.

Organic carrots were $1.29 for a pound, that makes a great healthy snack.

Corn was only $2.99 for 8 ears so I grabbed 4 for the week.

And finally, turkey sausage was $2.99, $1.50 off from regular price. Not bad.