As I mentioned in my post earlier today, I need to increase my protein intake. Normally, my preference on from-scratch red sauce for pasta is a chunky garden-style sauce, with lots of fresh veggies and tomatoes I put up from the previous year’s garden… and absolutely NO added sugar (a high quality sweet balsamic vinegar does the job quite nicely). The ingredients and amounts always vary and I never really measure anything. Well, tonight I’m adding some meat to the mix *and* I carefully measured everything, except the herbs. Hopefully this beautiful gravy will have my muscles nice and happy and ready to take on the chicken kicks tomorrow at MMA!
Yummy gravy in the making…
Easy Soup in the slow cooker…
This is going to be tonight’s dinner. Hopefully it will be tasty…
As always, all measurements are approximate.
Get out the slow cooker and put the following in it:
- 2 quarts diced tomatoes (or 2 28-oz cans)
- 1 16 oz can chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, mashed up a bit
- 1/2 c brown lentils
- 3 links Italian sausage, cooked and chopped
- 2-3 c frozen chopped spinach
- 1 c carrot pieces
- 1/2 c roughly chopped celery
- 1 tbsp dried minced onion
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried herbes de provence
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 3 c water
Give it a stir to mix everything up and cook on high for 6 hours.
I’m guessing it will yield about 8 hearty servings. If all of my guessing, between ingredient quantities & final yield, is accurate, then the nutritional info is as follows (based on calculator at recipes.SparkPeople.com):
Fat 9.2g (Sat 4.8g)
Carbohydrate 18.9g (Fiber 5.3g; Sugar 7.0g)
-I used leftover cooked sausage that was in the freezer. I recommend chopping it before you freeze it.
-I don’t like putting frozen stuff straight into the crockpot, so I stuck the spinach and water in a container and microwaved it for a few minutes, then added the chopped sausage to the container and microwaved it for a few more minutes.
-I chopped up the remainder of a package of baby carrots and did not measure them at all. There were probably 12-15 of them.
-The ingredients should be fairly flexible here. No tomatoes? Try salsa. No chickpeas? Try navy or cannellini beans. No spinach? Try collards, kale, mustard, or beet greens. No carrots? Either skip ’em or maybe try some sweet potato chopped small. No celery? Add a bit of celery salt and don’t stress over it. Use fresh or frozen onion instead of dried. No thyme or herbes de provence? Replace them with Italian seasoning blend, or, if you used salsa instead of tomatoes, maybe try cilantro and oregano instead. No garlic or onion at all? Replace the tomatoes with salsa and/or replace the water with a well-seasoned broth that you like. Yep, like I said, it’s pretty flexible!
The soup turned out quite nicely and received rave reviews from the family. Next time I make it, though, I’ll be a lot more heavy-handed with the seasonings… a whole sweet onion and 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped, and probably closer to a tablespoon of thyme… plus maybe a drizzle of a sweet & fruity balsamic vinegar to round it all out. All in all, though, it was a very tasty dinner and took all of 5 minutes to prepare. So yeah, it’s a win!
My seedlings are in that stage where I’m just waiting for them to get big enough to begin hardening off. The only news on that front is that about half of my mouse melons, aka Mexican Sour Gherkins, sprouted yesterday- this is my first year growing them, and I am very excited about that! I was surprised that it only took about 4 days for them to begin poking up through the soil! My seedlings are all in that stage that requires an abundance of patience, as I watch and wait for them to get big enough to begin hardening off. I have a circulating fan that will be set up to blow on them later today, and I’ll probably begin re-potting and thinning the tomatoes tomorrow. So anyway, that’s the ‘State of the Garden’ report.
Since I don’t have any garden tips today, I figured that this would be a good time to share one method of stretching the food budget. There is a lot of food waste in this country, and I often shake my head at the price of convenience. I try very hard to use up everything I can, and waste as little as possible. As well as being earth-friendly, it’s usually good for the body and less expensive than making ‘convenience’ purchases, too. I’m not going to go all preachy about that stuff, though. I’ll simply say that there was a time when boxed or canned broths were not available, and people needed to make them from scratch. With all of the food allergies and sensitivities people are beginning to recognize, it’s become a necessity for some of us, but it’s surprisingly easy to do, and is a great way to give your recipes an extra punch of both flavor and nutrition, and bonus- it’s pretty much free!
What do you do with leftover mashed potatoes & spinach? Make soup!
Another squash recipe! It’s gluten-free, it’s vegan, and it uses up a lot of squash! Oh, and it’s pretty darn tasty, too! This soup recipe works great with either just zucchini or a mix of zucchini and crook neck or straight neck yellow summer squash… I’m sure it would work well with patty pan squash, too, but I haven’t tried that yet. It’s also excellent if you add a couple of cloves of minced or chopped garlic in with the onions, but since Mom can’t have garlic, my standard recipe doesn’t include that. Oh, and it fits in with my ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy- you know those giant zucchini that seem to appear overnight, with the giant seeds and tough, spongy flesh? They are perfect for the broth base!
Two giant squash from my garden, with playing cards and veggie peeler for scale
This is just a quick post to give you a quick n easy ‘recipe’ if you’re in the mood for something new to put on your pasta. It’s very flexible on the ingredients, too. As a bonus, the version I made tonight used up some leftover hot Italian sausage- and I love being able to give the leftovers new life!
What you’ll need: (more…)
Do you have a garden? Are you growing any summer squash- yellow crook neck, yellow straight neck, zucchini, patty pans? Are any of your neighbors or local friends growing summer squash? If so, then odds are good that you, like me, have begun looking for new and interesting ways to use it up!
Aside from the standard steamed squash, I’ve got a few other ‘go to’ recipes for the annual summer squash glut. They include stuffing & baking, making squash soup, grilling, and fritters. That list of go-to recipes now also includes this one…
Oven-Baked Squash ‘Fries’ (more…)