Category Archives: Pasta

Frank Sinatra’s Sausage and Peppers

Would it sound as good if it were “Frank Sinatra’s Tuna Casserole?”

Hey, you know what? Frank tells you to make tuna casserole, you make the tuna casserole.

Fortunately for us, it’s sausage and peppers.

Frank Sinatra died this week (May 14) 13 years ago. I still remember it so clearly. I was getting ready for work when my mom called to tell me the news. ‘Oh man,’ I thought, ‘How am I going to break the news to Don Corleone?’

We had been married only nine months, and this was the first “big” news I had to break to him. He was (and is) a HUGE Sinatra fan. I knew I had to be gentle and sensitive. How would I, in my new role as a loving wife, handle this momentous occasion?

I hung up the phone, went into the bedroom where The Don was dressing for work, and blurt out, “Guess what! Frank Sinatra died!”

Smooth.

Don’t beat around the bush, that’s my motto.

This is the recipe that Frank Sinatra prepared when he appeared on Dinah Shore’s television show, and you can also find it in her cookbook:

Someone's in the Kitchen With Dinah

Frank Sinatra’s Sausage and Peppers

  •  1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper (optional)

Directions:

  1. Remove stems and seeds from peppers and cut into large chunks. In an ovenproof baking dish that can be used on top of the stove, saute green peppers in oil until they begin to soften. Sprinkle with a little salt. Lift green peppers out of dish and set aside.
  2. Brown the sausage in the same baking dish. When browned, add the red wine.
  3. Cover the pan and bake the sausages in wine in a 350F oven for 40 minutes.
  4. Uncover and add green peppers back to the dish. Bake for another 30 minutes and serve in the same dish.

I used half hot and half sweet Italian sausages, because I thought the hot would be too much for the kids. I served this with crusty garlic bread and spaghetti with marinara sauce. And salad, which nobody ate because we were all too stuffed from the pasta and sausage.  

Frank Sinatra's Sausage and Peppers

Wow. This was good. I mean really, really good. And I’m not just saying that because I think Frank will send some of his goons to haunt me from the grave. It really was fantastic.  My critics agreed:

Don Corleone: It’s ring-a-ding-delicious!

Sarah Crewe: I really love the sausage. The peppers are bad.

Batman: The sausage and peppers are really good!

Curious George: I like the sausage. I don’t like the peppers.

Elmo ate only pasta. But she didn’t have a nap today, so I think it’s unfair to take her opinion too seriously 😉

If you’re interested, click here to watch a video on youtube of The Chairman cooking his marinara sauce with Dinah Shore in 1970. It’s fun to watch!

 I always loved Phil Hartman’s portrayal of Ol’ Blue Eyes on Saturday Night Live…

Best of Phil Hartman

Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra

Enjoy 🙂

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Healthy Tuna Casserole

Steve McQueen, were he still alive, would have turned 81 on March 24. I think we should all take a moment to reflect on our favorite Steve McQueen movie. And if you don’t have one, here are a few suggestions:

The Magnificent Seven

"We deal in lead friend."

Bullitt

"Look, you work your side of the street, and I'll work mine."

The Towering Inferno

"It's a fire, mister, and all fires are bad."

The Great Escape

"You aren't seriously suggesting that if I get through the wire... and case everything out there... and don't get picked up... to turn myself in and get thrown back in the cooler for a couple of months so you can get the information you need?"

I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of what my favorite movie is. I have never been able to answer that easily. As I mentioned in a previous post, I adore cheesy movies.  But just because I can (and have) watch You’ve Got Mail 1,000 times, doesn’t mean it’s my favorite.

On the other hand, a movie I love that is generally considered to be a great Film isn’t necessarily going to be something I watch again and again, but can it still be my favorite?

How do you choose a favorite? Am I the only one who struggles with this question?

Anyway, I have to place The Great Escape into my top 5.  It might be my favorite.  I’m just not ready to commit.  My husband will probably be shocked to learn that my maybe-favorite movie doesn’t have a love interest plot line.  In fact, I’m pretty sure there isn’t even a woman in the entire movie.  But there are lots of cool guys.  Super cool guys, like The Cooler King.

So in honor of Steve McQueen’s birthday, and my almost choosing a maybe-favorite movie, I am serving an adventurous meal.  That’s right, I am going to be bold and daring, just like The King of Cool himself.  Picture race cars, motorcycles, reckless adventures and dauntless courage.

Tuna casserole.

You heard me.

Laugh if you must, but it truly is an adventure for my family. I haven’t made tuna casserole since I was first married. My kids have never had it. My husband learned years ago that although he loves tuna, every time he eats it, he gets sick. So the beginning of my cooking career was also the end of my tuna casserole career.  But one night I found myself at home with just the kids for dinner, and it was a Friday during Lent (no meat) so I decided to resurrect an old favorite.  With some changes.

Healthy Tuna Casserole

  • 1 12-oz package Wacky Mac pasta (you can use regular pasta, but it won’t be as much fun as saying, “I have to go to the store to get some Wacky Mac”)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cans (drained) white albacore tuna
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 handfuls chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and  cook for about 7-8 minutes, until soft.
  4. Add flour and cook for one minute. Add milk and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook for one more minute, then remove from heat.
  5. Stir in peas, tuna, and dill. Pour into ungreased 2-qt. casserole dish.
  6. Add drained pasta and mix well. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Wacky Mac

 

I am such a lazy cook. I am just so terribly busy caring for my little critics! I keep the ends of loaves of bread in the freezer to make bread crumbs, but whenever I need bread crumbs, I’m too lazy busy to toast the bread and crumb it. So for this dish I crushed some whole wheat Ritz crackers on top instead. It was really good. Take that, bread crumbs!

I like tuna casserole with rye bread and butter. I guess because that’s how my mom always served it, so it just feels right.

Healthy Tuna Casserole

My adoring fans critics thought:

Curious George: This would be really good if there was no cheese, no grassy things, no peas, and no meat.

Sarah Crewe: It’s okay. The tuna tastes like chicken.

Batman: I think this is delicious!

Elmo ate every bite.

Don Corleone had a small taste.  He said: The dill is a nice addition. It’s like the tuna and a pickle met at a bar. It’s really good; I wish I could eat more.

My little Curious Georgewhat am I going to do about him? He hates everything. He’s the Mikey of my dinner table. I asked him that very question once: “What am I going to do with you, you hate everything?” and he said, “Mommy, I don’t hate everything. I like lots of things. I like plain pasta. And there’s other things I like, too, that I can’t think of right now.”

It does make dinner time an adventure, I’ll give you that. And those nights that I do serve plain pasta are such a treat! No crying 4-year-olds at the table! It’s bliss! I’m going to have to treat myself to one of those nights soon, to give my cooking ego a little boost.

Oh well. Happy Birthday, Steve McQueen!

"Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting." -Steve McQueen

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

Today we mourn the loss of an icon.  Elizabeth Taylor died today at age 79.

National Velvet

"I want it all quickly 'cause I don't want God to stop and think and wonder if I'm getting more than my share." -National Velvet

I wish I could write an obituary to honor her, but I wouldn’t be able to do her justice. I’ll just share some pictures instead:

"You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. She looks up to you. You're her oracle. You're her hero. And then the day comes when she gets her first permanent wave and goes to her first real party, and from that day on, you're in a constant state of panic." -Father of the Bride

"Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye." -A Place in the Sun

"Maggie the cat is alive. I'm alive." -Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

"There are never enough hours in the days of a queen, and her nights have too many." -Cleopatra

"I'm loud and I'm vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house because somebody's got to, but I am not a monster. I'm not." -Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

"Why, there's a wench! Come on and kiss me, Kate." -Taming of the Shrew

Well, you know what they say. When you are mourning a Hollywood legend, the best thing to do is to eat lots of pasta.

They do say that, right?

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

  • 1 lb pasta, any variety (I used spaghetti)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 5 chicken sausages, sliced (I used garlic flavor)
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz package baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp garlic & basil flavored vinegar (see note)*
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken sausage and saute for about 5 minutes, or until sausage is browned.
  3. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Remove from heat.
  5. Add pasta to pan and top with remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss well.

*A few notes: One of my husband’s students gave him homemade garlic & basil flavored vinegar for Christmas, so that’s what I used. It was fabulous in this dish. If you have a flavored vinegar that you think would work, then by all means, go for it. If not, I would suggest red wine vinegar. Don’t be afraid to play around with the flavors to see what you would like.

A second note: I used dried sun-dried tomatoes. If you use tomatoes packed in oil, drain them, and then cut back on the olive oil a bit in step 5. You can always add more if needed.

 

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

I have to say, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I really love marinara sauce, but it’s so nice to have something different for a change. And I love sun-dried tomatoes, and don’t use them enough! And chicken sausage is so tasty and easy! Since it’s pre-cooked, you really don’t have to do anything to it. I just like to brown it for personal preference, and because I think it looks more appetizing.

The Critics:

Sarah Crewe: Mmmm! This is pretty good! The sausage gives it a real flavor.

Batman: It’s delicious!!!!

Curious George: It’s good, but I don’t like the tomatoes. They taste like red raisins.

Elmo: Me too! Me too! Me too! (She wouldn’t stop eating!)

Don Corleone: It’s a piquant and delightful blend of pasta and pig. Oh, it’s chicken? It’s a piquant and delightful blend of pasta and poultry.

Ah, well. Rest in peace,  Elizabeth. We will miss you. Say hi to Michael Jackson for us.

On a brighter note, a special shout-out goes to Steve McQueen who would be 81 tomorrow, March 24. Happy Birthday, Big Guy!

More about The King of Cool later…

Steve McQueen

Cheesy Chicken and Ham Bake

Whoa, Momma! I have two words for you.

Comfort. Food.

Get out your slippers and your snuggle blankie because this is one of those meals that makes you want to forget your troubles and curl up on the couch with a plate of cheesy goodness.

This dish is called “cheesy” for a reason. Because it’s loaded with cheese. But that’s not the only kind of cheesy I’ll be discussing today. One definition of “cheesy” I found is:

of poor quality through being overdramatic, excessively emotional or clichéd

Boy, do I love cheesy movies. In fact, I love cheesy movies so much that I’m having a hard time narrowing down my favorites.  So I will randomly pick a few and revisit the topic sometime in the future.

1. Mannequin

"That teaches him to mess with a man and his mannequin."

Long before Kim Cattrall was wreaking havoc in New York City with her girlfriends, she was wreaking havoc in a department store with Andrew McCarthy as a mannequin come to life. It’s pure gold!

2. Dirty Dancing

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

She did it! She did the lift! Every time I watch, my heart leaps into my throat in anticipation, but she nails it every single time! Way to go, Baby!

3. 13 Going on 30

"I'll have a Pina Colada, not virgin. Wanna see my ID? Totally have it!"

Genius idea- a 13 year-old-girl magically becomes herself at 30… and many shenanigans ensue! Okay, maybe it’s not completely original. But I don’t care. I LOVE this movie. It’s one of my bad day go-tos.

4. Clueless

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl."

Mel: You mean to tell me that you argued your way from a C+ to an A-?
Cher: Totally based on my powers of persuasion, you proud?
Mel: Honey, I couldn’t be happier than if they were based on real grades.

Such a cute movie!

5. The Brady Bunch Movie

"Put on your Sunday best, kids; we're going to Sears!"

The title and picture say it all.

Which brings us to…

Cheesy Chicken and Ham Bake

  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 5 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 2 oz. swiss cheese, cubed
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, dvided
  • 2 cups cooked, diced chicken
  • 2 cups cooked, diced ham
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Cook and drain macaroni.
  2. Combine bread crumbs,  1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 tbsp melted butter in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. While macaroni is cooking, melt 4 tbsp butter in saucepan over low heat. Add flour, salt, and pepper. Cook until bubbly, stirring constantly. Pour in milk and bring to a boil. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in cheddar, swiss, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Stir until melted. Mix in chicken and ham.
  5. Pour the drained macaroni into a 9×13-inch ungreased baking dish. Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and mix well.
  6. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the whole dish and top with tomato slices. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cheesy Chicken and Ham Bake

"You gave us too many vegetables"

This is what they serve in heaven on the cheese cloud, right in between the french fry cloud and the giant “All Exercise is Strictly Prohibited” sign. Not all of my critics were quite as enthusiastic, however:

Sarah Crewe: It is extremely unique and pretty good. (High praise, indeed)

Batman: It’s a little too cheesy and I don’t really like it. (He’s the one that doesn’t like cheese, so no surprise there)

Curious George: It’s good. Do I have to eat all my vegetables?

Elmo loved it. She’s getting to be a better eater every day!

Don Corleone: Is one of the ingredients ‘deliciousness?’ This might be my death row meal. (We all should have one, just in case)

6. Titanic

"They've got you trapped, Rose. And you're gonna die if you don't break free. Maybe not right away because you're strong but... sooner or later that fire that I love about you, Rose... that fire's gonna burn out..."

Oh, come on! We all loved that movie when it came out! It wasn’t until years later that it became “cheesy!”

Here’s wishing you a very cheesy day!

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken

I have a friend who is the kindest, sweetest person you could ever meet. She never has a bad word to say about anyone, even people she doesn’t know. Whenever a celebrity gets into trouble, she says, “Oh, that poor girl! She really needs help, it’s such a shame what happened to her.”

It makes me feel bad, because most likely, earlier in the day, I referred to that same celebrity as “jerk,” “idiot,” or the Bugs Bunny classic, “maroon.”

I haven’t talked to my friend yet about Charlie Sheen, but I’m certain she’d be somewhat sympathetic.

She is a much better person than I.

Charlie Sheen, what a mah-roon!

Remember Lucas? He was so dreamy in that movie.  And he was nice.  It wasn’t his fault that Maggie liked him and not Lucas. Corey Haim (may he rest in peace) never stood a chance.

"Are you interested in being kissed?"

So, anyway, enough about Charlie Sheen. Seriously! Enough about Charlie Sheen already!

This slow cooker chicken is really, really good. I will probably never roast a chicken in the oven again. It’s so much easier to plop it in the crockpot in the morning and then forget about it, instead of having to carve out several hours in the afternoon to watch it in the oven.

Did you like how I used the word “carve” when talking about a chicken? The word popped into my head, and for the life of me, I just couldn’t think of any other word.

"Either you're an athlete or you're not an athlete."

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken

This recipe is from crockpot365.blogspot.com

  • 1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  1. Skin the chicken and discard all the yucky stuff from the cavity.
  2. Combine all of the spices in a small bowl and rub all over the chicken, inside and out. I only do out. I just can’t put my hand inside that chicken and rub spices in there. I just can’t.  Put the garlic and onion pieces inside the bird. Place the whole thing, breast side down, into the crockpot.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken

Sometimes I make this and we eat it with traditional sides, like stuffing and mashed potatoes. But it’s also good to just carve the chicken and use the pieces in another recipe. Last night we had chicken tacos, and tonight we had fettucine alfredo with shredded chicken.

"You can't ever make me quit, EVER!"

Wow, I got soooo many compliments from the critics when they saw the chicken! Curious George thought it looked “so good” and said “I am definitely going to eat my dinner tonight!” And I’m pretty sure Don Corleone was salivating when he came home from work and saw it sitting on the counter, ready to be carved.

Sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce

Fettucini Alfredo with Chicken

 

This is what they thought of the fettucine alfredo (just used a jar of sauce, nothing fancy).

Don Corleone: It’s good!

Sarah Crewe: I think it is pretty good.

Batman: I like it. It’s deliciously good!

Curious George: I kind of don’t like it. It sort of tastes like pizza, but I don’t like it.

Elmo ate three helpings, so I’d say that’s a “good” as well!

"Not everybody has to be beautiful to have someone fall in love with them."

Look at little Winona Ryder in her very first movie! Now she’s all grown up and shoplifting just like a big girl.

Boy, the things my friend could say about the stars of this movie!

Happy Cooking 😀