Saturday, March 26, 2016

Traditional Spaghetti Alternative - RECIPE

Desperation is the mother of invention, and while I'm sure that the recipe below has probably been done a thousand times by a thousand different people, I can honestly say that this particular one never occurred to me until I was stuck in the house and had to throw some kind of dinner together.

But it's moments like these that are another reason why cooking can be a blast.

The most recent Reinvention of the Wheel occurred just a few weeks ago. For now, until I customize it a bit more and give it its own personality, I'm just going to call it:

Italian Sausage Spaghetti
- one package Italian sausage (that night I only had a package of Johnsonville Italian Sausage links)
- one box fettuccine noodles (I had Wild Harvest organic whole wheat on hand)
- two cloves garlic (crushed)
- one jar spaghetti sauce (I used Classico Tomato and Basil)
- oregano (to taste) (oregano is my favorite spice for anything that even hints at Italian origin)

- slice the Italian sausage (if you have links) and cook in a pan with just enough EVOO in the bottom to keep the sausage from scorching.
- boil the noodles per the instructions
- once the sausage is cooked, add the sauce, garlic, and oregano to the pan
- combine noodles and meat sauce (although around here we usually keep the meat sauce and noodles separate so that each person can decide how much of one or the other they want)

I didn't collect the calorie information this time around because of the situation, but next time I prepare this I will.

I don't take any pictures of this dish either, so it'll just have to wait until next time.

Until Next Time...
Here's a video from the Johnsonville Kitchens on something else you can do with Italian sausage - yep, make a pizza.
Desperately Yours,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Unnamed Chickpea Side (a.k.a Garbonzo Bean Love) - RECIPE

As a rookie cook (yet an experienced griller), I made the the mistake that many make - I didn't consider the sides. When grilling, I usually went with the standard potato, corn on the cob, or asparagus, but beyond that, sides dishes were just an after thought to me.

When I slowly began to migrate to indoor cooking, my attitude didn't change much. At the last second, I'd open a can of peas or maybe steam some Brussel sprouts, and ta-da, dinner was done.

It wasn't until recently when I pulled a recipe from Real Simple magazine that had the entree and the side paired that I understood my mistake. Of course, the ecstatic reaction from The Boss is what brought on my epiphany.  

It's all about pairing.

You can have a killer entree, but if you're sides are average or terrible, no one will be overly excited to eat your food.

So thanks to the magazine above, a bit of personal modification, and a little urging from my most honest critic, I have a great little Go-To side that I can experiment with on different entrees. No name yet other than "Chickpea Concoction Side" or maybe "Garbonzo Bean Love" (I just love saying the word "garbonzo" - it's just a fun sounding word). Any suggestions would be welcome.

Unnamed Chickpea Concoction Side (a.k.a "Garbonza Bean Love")
 - one can chickpeas (15.5 ounces)
 - one avocado (sliced)
 - one shallot (thiny sliced)
 - one-half cucumber (sliced)
 - extra virgin olive oil (two tablespoons)

 - combine the chickpeas, sliced avocado, sliced shallot, and sliced cucumber in a bowl.
 - add the two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
 - stir well and serve
(I made this with baked chicked breasts flavored with turmeric and coriander and spooned three tablespoons of the broth in with the mixture)
 - Makes four servings

I did some notebook calculations on the nutritional content of this side and came up with the following per serving approximation:
226 total calories per serving
121 fat calories
85 carb calories (31 fiber calories)
21 protein calories

So there you go - a great side that pairs well with baked chicken and is light enough for spring or summer. It's a little higher in fat than I would like, but it's avocado, so it's the "good fat," and the chickpeas are a great source of protein.

Until Next Time...
Here's a video about the most popular use of Chickpeas/Garbonzo beans - How To Make Hummus.
Garbonzoly Yours,

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's Spring - Are You Ready?

Yes, here in the Midwest there is a light dusting of snow on the ground, the temperature is in the 30s-40s, but today is most definitely Sunday, March 20, the Vernal Equinox.

You know what that means!

Around here, that means we'll be outdoors any chance we get. Biking (The Boss's passion), hiking, walking, and I'll be grilling. In fact, I've already put the gears in motion for our first deck party of 2016.

That also means food festivals. There'll be plenty to choose from. For instance, we've already inked on our calendar the CHOMP Regional Food Truck, Music and Film Festival at our local community college. Chili and Rib Cook Offs are coming soon, and I can guarantee you'll see me and The Boss at one or two of them. (She and The Kid are the chili experts around here, each in their unique way, and each not willing to give up their secrets, but that won't stop them from attending and sampling some of the other great recipes out there.)

Early May I'll start planting my chili peppers - a family tradition I unconsciously carried forward that I was completely unaware of until a few years ago when my dad revealed to me his father's obsession for chili peppers.

We may also bring back the herb garden this year, but instead of the raised bed we had at the old house, we may go with potted herbs right outside the kitchen door. Either way, our hands will be getting plenty dirty with organic potting soil.

Recipes will start lightening up - fewer and fewer heavy comfort foods and more fruits and veggies in our diet (we should really eat more of them anyway)

So stay tuned as Winter leaves us once again and Spring returns in all her glory. To quote a great man, American, and grill master: "Woo-Hoo!"

Until Next Time....
Watch this little clip Top 10 Grilling Tips from
Springly Yours,

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bangers and Mash - RECIPE

I have to admit, St. Patrick's Day snuck up on me this year. General busyness and a random cold bug left me unaware of how quickly the Irish holiday was racing down upon me. I didn't even realize that it was this Thursday until this Monday! I tossed the idea of cornedbeef and cabbage at The Boss, but I made that last year and the particular cut I had picked up then seemed extra fatty. So having to think fast, I quickly offered up a more general traditional British Isle staple  - Bangers and Mash.

In some of the few authentically Irish restaurants in the area, this entree is on the menu, so I felt safe making it up as a St. Patrick's Day meal, and I had a general idea how to make it. So after a brief search of different recipes and variations, I found one that seemed like a nice, easy template to work from. The great thing about this version is that if you can't find authentic English sausages at your local supermarket, you can substitute basic bratwurst or even breakfast sausage.

potatoes (mashed)
onions (minced)
onion gravy
garlic (minced or powder)


 - Prepare the potatoes (either mash real potatoes or go with instant, whatever you have time for) and toss in the chopped onions and scallops.
 - Pour just enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan, sprinkle crushed garlic (or garlic powder) in the oil. Place the sausages in the pan and cook until both sides are a good color if you are using precooked sausages such as brats or breakfast sausage. If using non-precooked sausages, follow those cooking instructions.
 - Make the onion gravy (because I'm terrible at gravy, I have no shame in admitting I use packaged gravy mixes.) 
 - Once everything is done, plate it, and enjoy (with a few pints of Guinness, of course).

(Business Side Note: Guinness had one of my favorite ad slogans in answer to all the other beer distributors promoting ultra-lite beers. "Guinness: Only 125 calories; not on purpose")

One serving which includes two sausages and does not include the beverage is 650 total calories(205 calories from fat, 14g of protein, and 21g carbohydrates).
A delicious filling dinner, good drink, and some traditional Irish drinking songs made this year's St. Patrick's Day a safe and fun holiday without the bother of leaving home. The great thing is that this is truly an entree that can be enjoyed any day of the year.

Until Next Time...
Forget your troubles with these videos of my two favorite Irish drinking songs.  Johnnie Jump Up, a song about a kick-ass beer/whiskey blend, performed by Gaelic Storm; and The Dubliners' version of Black Velvet Band about a man duped by a trickster woman.

Bangerly Yours,

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Betcha Can't Buy Just One - BUSINESS

The goal of every business is to get their customers to buy more of their product while at the same time convince the customer to be happy about buying twice as much as they intended.

Lay's has found a way to compel you to buy at least two (or even up to eight) bags of chips instead of only one. They lure you in by instilling in you the sense that you're making a difference in the direction of the company. In other words they give you a voice. Lay's marketing pitch is "Do Us a Flavor" and asks you to help determine the next permanent flavor in their line-up of chips.

The first contest took place in 2013 and pitted three flavors against each other: sriracha, chicken and waffles, and cheesy garlic bread.  You simply bought a bag of each and went out to their website to vote on your favorite. Cheesy Garlic Bread won that year, and the marketing campaign was so successful, Lay's brought it back in 2014 and 2015.

The most current one involves eight different flavors in what appears to be a kind of bracket contest. The eight flavors are pitted against each other in pairs and you can vote for you favorite of the two at As an added bonus, you're entered into a contest and eligible to win cash.

It's a great marketing scheme, and one that can continue into each successive year with many options, including bringing back second place finishers and pitting them against each other. Don't be surprised to see other companies adopt this strategy (if some haven't done so already).

Until Next Time,
Watch these two cute rambunctious kids take on a Pringle's Chip Challenge (one of my favorite brands of chips).

Chiply Yours,