an army wife's guide to life

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Pizza-Stuffed Zucchini

Pizza Stuffed Zucchini || An Army Wife's Guide to Life

They look a little messy, but they are really delicious. Zucchini has been something I’ve discovered that I LOVE over the past two years, and even though Dan doesn’t agree, I use it a lot over the summer months. Last week at the farmer’s market, I got four big ones for a dollar! It was more than I needed, but individually, they were $.50…I’m my mother’s daughter, for sure.

This is an easy recipe to throw together and then toss in the oven and forget about. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. 3 links Italian sausage, uncased (any flavor would do. I used mild and then added some spice on my own)
  2. 1-2 large zucchini
  3. Pizza Sauce
  4. Mozzarella Cheese
  5. 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  6. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  7. Salt & Pepper
  • First, you’re gonna preheat your oven to 350°.
  • Start the sausage in a pan over medium-high heat along with the garlic. I’ve found that cooking ground meat like this over lower temperatures helps it break up into smaller pieces, and that’s important for stuffing the zucchini.
  • While the sausage is browning, slice the zucchini in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You can reserve the flesh to add to the pan, but I didn’t, I fed it to my dogs, who LOVE zucchini and are terribly spoiled. Add a small layer of cheese and sauce to the bottom of the hollow zucchini boats and set on a greased baking sheet (preferably lined with tin foil or parchment paper)
  • When the sausage is cooked through, add about 2 tablespoons of pizza sauce to the pan, along with the salt and pepper and crushed red pepper, all to taste. Once it’s all incorporated, use a spoon to fill the zucchini to fairly heaping. I had left over filling and I only used 1 zucchini, it will probably fill two just fine.
  • Top with more mozzarella and gently cover with foil.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake 5 minutes more, until cheese is browned.
  • Slice into manageable pieces (I made them a few inches wide) and serve.
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(Almost) No-Cook Pizza Sauce

I love garlic. If you know me at all, you know that already. I always have it in my kitchen, and if you’ve read any of this blog, you know I use garlic cloves and garlic powder in pretty much every recipe, and this one isn’t an exception. This could be a no-cook sauce, if you’re short on time, but I love the toasted garlic part of it, it’s great. Now, this sauce makes enough for quite a few pizzas, even if you like a saucy pizza like I do, and it stores great in the fridge. It does get a little weird when you bring it back out of the fridge, and it’s better if you leave it out for a few hours before so it get back to a normalish temperature, but once you stir it and it gets cooked, you can’t tell the difference.

Here’s what you need:

  1. 3-5 large cloves garlic
  2. 1 (12 oz) can tomato sauce
  3. 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  4. A few tablespoons olive oil
  5. Salt&Pepper
  6. Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder

Here’s what you do (and it’s so simple, that there’s no reason to skip the cooking part):

  • Peel the cloves of garlic and put them into a small saucepan with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Turn the stove on meduim-low heat and let them roast slowly, until they’re just starting to look a little burnt.
  • Once they’ve cooked, remove them from the heat and add them, and the rest of the ingredients to a blender, and blend until everything is melded together. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

This is seriously simple and takes all of five minutes to make and lasts through several weeks of constant pizza eating.

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My Quickest Pasta Sauce Recipe

This is not my grandmother’s sauce.
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And i put that in bold, because, in my family, that’s a huge no no. This is my sauce, the sauce I make when I’m pressed for time or just don’t feel like starting to cook in the morning but I want pasta. This is different. It’s not as tasty because it hasn’t simmered for hours, but it’s still good. And it’s more than good enough to share. This is one of those recipes where you can dress it up however you like, just remember to taste often and season well.

What you’re gonna need:

  • 1 lb (or less) of ground meat. I usually use ground beef, but Italian sausage out of the case is delicious, too.
  • 1 (28 oz) can, crushed tomatoes w/ basil. That was the only kind they have in my grocery store and I haven’t wished there was anything else.
  • 1 (12 oz) can, tomato sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder
  • Salt&Pepper

Super simple, and the meat is totally optional. I’ve made it without before and it was delicious just like that, too. Basically all you’re gonna do is brown the meat with the garlic (or cook the garlic in a little olive oil if you’re omitting the meat), add your canned goods, then fill the crushed tomato can with water (slowly, so it doesn’t get weird and foamy) and add that to the pan as well. Season with Salt, Pepper, Italian Seasoning, Onion and Garlic Powder to taste and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. That’s it. Leave it longer if you have time, but 15 minutes should do the trick for getting it ready. Then just serve it over your favorite pasta. Simple and delicious.

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Garlicky Tomato Candy :)

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Ok, so first of all, I’m sorry about the quality of the pics…my camera is sans batteries right now and I’ve been too lazy/forgetful to buy more. So here’s an instagram pic instead.

Second, this isn’t really candy, but it’s as delicious as candy for those of us who love savory a little more than sweet. And I’m firmly one of those people. Savory wins about 99% of the time. You can ask my mother, I ate spaghetti for dessert once.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. This is a super simple recipe, the biggest thing you really need is time. And patience. And the self control to resist the smells coming from your kitchen.

Ingredients are as follows:

  1. Tomatoes. I used cherry tomatoes. You can use any quantity, I’m not even gonna tell you how much to make. You can use any size, anything, you just need tomatoes, as much as you think you’ll need.
  2. Garlic. I used about 5 cloves. You can use less, or more, or whatever.
  3. Olive oil (or, you know, pam or something to keep everything from sticking).
  4. Balsamic vinegar.
  5. Onion Powder.
  6. Salt and Pepper (cuz, duh.).

First, you’re gonna preheat your oven to 250°. The aim of this game in nice and slow and easy.

Second, cut up your tomatoes. I sliced mine in half cuz they were tiny, but you can do slices if they’re bigger. Put them on a baking sheet, preferably lined with tin foil, cuz, you know, less cleanup.

Then mince your garlic. Make it as fine as possible, and toss it over your tomatoes. Season with Salt and Pepper and Onion Powder, not a lot, just a sprinkle of each. Next comes the olive oil, just sprinkle it over the top, so the tomatoes have something to cook in. Lastly, add the balsamic vinegar, just a bit, splash it over the top until you’ve got a modest amount of coverage.

Bake for 1 hour and check on the progress. Mine took about 1 hour 15 minutes, but yours could take longer…or shorter depending on how done you want them.

They’re delicious by themselves, but I added them to Alfredo sauce. If you are adding them to a sauce, reserve the oil and chop it all up really finely. It’s freaking delicious!

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Roasted Balsamic Broccoli with Onions, Garlic and Bacon

This is one of those recipes that can either be a side dish or a main course for one person. For me, it was that main course option, because cooking for one person is kind of miserable for me. But this was a dish that was worth the effort I put into it and I ended up enjoying eating more than I usually would. This was originally going to be a side for Bruschetta Chicken, but since it was just me, I nixed the chicken (at least for today).

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This recipe is ridiculously simple, here’s what you’ll need:

→ 3 small heads of fresh broccoli, cut into florets

→ 1 medium onion, halved and sliced

→ 3 cloves of garlic, minced

→ 1/2 package of bacon

→ about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

→ salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder

 

Step 1

Do Not preheat your oven. I’m serious, don’t do it. Do not skip ahead to see where the oven will be heated to, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go directly to jail if you peek. Seriously. Don’t do it. Instead, line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and put a roasting rack (or a cookie rack) over it. Line that rack with bacon. Then put the bacon in the cold oven. I’m serious. Put the oven on 400º and set the timer for 20-25 mintues (25-30 for thick bacon). You will thank me for this when you realize you now have bacon jerky that’s perfectly cooked.

Step 2

While the bacon is becoming perfect, chop your veggies. Then wait, because you’ll have time left before the bacon comes out and you probably don’t want to stand in the kitchen smelling the perfection while you wait for dinner. Go browse Pinterest, or better yet, pin this just for fun.

Step 3

When the bacon has reached perfection, remove it to your cutting board with tongs, and remove the rack from the pan. Don’t get ride of the lovely bacon drippings, don’t touch any of that. Instead, line the bottom of the pan with the onions and garlic, and then layer the broccoli over that. This is also where I added the balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. The vinegar will smell a little strong, even while it’s cooking, but it come out so, so sweet, so use a little more than you think you’d like.

Step 4

Slice the bacon. Try not to eat all of it before it you add it back to the pan. Sprinkle it over the mixture, if you have any left.

Step 5

Bake for another 15-20 minutes in your now-preheated oven. The broccoli should be a really deep greed with slightly brown edges and there shouldn’t be anything slightly burnt smelling, like mine was (I put it in for 25 minutes, oops).

Easy, right? There might be a bit of chopping involved  and a lot of self control, but this is a side dish (or main dish) that pretty much puts itself together. Now, if you wanted to cut down a bit on the fattiness of this dish (or you’re just not into bacon), you can omit it and drizzle olive oil along with the vinegar. It would still be really good, but the fat in it really was good. It wasn’t overly greasy, the broccoli does a good job of soaking it up, and the bacon was just a really delicious addition to it.

 

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Split Pea and Andouille Soup

We have had so much snow here in Kansas the past few weeks, and that makes me just want to curl up with a cup of coffee and a pot of soup on the stove. And living here in Kansas means that I’m in the mood for soup way more than I ever was in the south.

Which led me to this experiment. My mother-in-law makes split pea soup every Christmas time with the leftover Christmas ham, and it’s really good. But I’m all about twists. And I like to make things a little spicier for me. Hence the Andouille added to the soup.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. 1 medium onion, minced
  2. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  3. 1 rib of celery, minced
  4. 1/2 cup shredded carrot (about 1/2 a large carrot)
  5. 2 boxes (32 oz.) beef stock
  6. 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  7. 1 can tomato sauce
  8. 2 cups dried split peas
  9. 1 large link of Andouille sausage, sliced in half
  10. Garlic Powder
  11. Chili Powder
  12. Creole Seasoning
  13. Salt and Pepper
  • cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in a deep pot with an inch of oil, until the vegetables get soft. add the remaining ingredients, including the seasonings, to taste. i would totally recommend you start out with a little bit, and then add more as you go. it’ll get deeper as you let it cook down, plus, overusing the creole seasoning is always a bad idea. it’s too spicy and just tastes funny if you use too much.
  • let it simmer until it’s all cooked down together, and sear and cut the sausage before adding it back to the soup.
  • i served it with fresh bread and fried okra.
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Making use of Everything

One of the things I’m trying very hard to do with this new year is reduce my waste. This especially includes things like leftovers, which before this year, we’ve been terrible about eating. Usually, we’d end up with a fridge full of leftover food and it would just slowly go bad and mold until we finally decided to clean it out. Which was always disgusting and I’d refuse to do it all on my own.

This year, we’ve done much, much better. There has been maybe 2 containers of leftovers from this year that I ended up throwing away, one of them because it just wasn’t very good and shouldn’t have been saved in the first place, but that’s another story. Which brings me to today’s recipe.

It’s a black bean soup made using the leftover cooking liquid from a pot roast. The recipe for that pot roast is here on The Pioneer Woman‘s website. Of course, I didn’t make it the same way she did, and I’ll point out the differences as I go, like always. 

Obviously, you can start this recipe the day before, like I did, and make your crock pot really work, or you can just put together the ingredients and make the soup. As far as money-saving goes, though, the best idea is to make the pot roast, and the soup. Here’s what I did different from the original recipe: I didn’t add the cherry peppers (hubby can’t take food that’s too spicy) or the pimientos (cuz I don’t particularly care for them) and I did add the tomato paste (because I love it). That’s the only difference. And it was DELICIOUS. We both loved it. If you’re just feeding two, that mean’s there’ll be leftovers (there were plenty here), and I left them on low overnight, to keep cooking and getting more tender and delicious.

The next morning, you’ll fish out the beef and some of the liquid and put it away, it’s leftovers for another night. If you finished all the meat the night before, just leave the crock pot on the low setting so it keeps developing flavor. Then you’ll want to add a pound of black beans and half a box ( or 16 oz) of stock to the pot and turn it back to high. I don’t soak my beans overnight because I’m lazy and they come out just fine on the high setting.

Once the beans are cooked, blend the soup with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender. Saute a small onion and some garlic in olive oil and add it to the pureed soup. And that’s it. Serve it with a nice, crusty bread and you have a warm, delicious meal for a snowy day.

I’m going to show you the picture of this soup, but be warned: it’s not pretty…like, at all.

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See, not pretty. But it is DELICIOUS, and you should just take my word for that.

Italian Black Bean Soup Recipe

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Cheater’s Ravioli

I’ve been finding some awesome ravioli recipes, but I haven’t even started to master making fresh pasta…so I needed a different way to try my ravioli recipes.

And then it came to me: I could stuff it into manicotti. And that is what this recipe is. It’s portobello mushroom manicotti. Instead of using any recipe I found online, I just made it up on the spot.

Here’s most of what you’ll need:

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I added a few things along the way (there was no real plan, I was completely improvising.), and, you’re obviously going to need some kind of pasta sauce (I used the pot of sauce I have in the fridge), but I’ll let you know what you’ll need.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

So, you’re gonna want to start a pot of water to cook the manicotti (this recipe will make more than enough for the entire box, if that’s what you’ll need. For two people, half the box will do. Go ahead and wash the mushrooms and let them drain in the sink while you chop the onion and garlic (I used 4 cloves) very finely. In a somewhat large pan, go ahead and start cooking the onions and garlic in a little bit of oil over medium heat, until they’re soft and the onions are translucent.

While the onions are cooking, chop the mushrooms finely, adding them to the pan once the onions and garlic are soft. Add salt and pepper while the mushrooms are cooking, letting them go until they’re soft. Add the mushroom mix to a blender, including all the liquids in the pan, add a little heavy cream (or milk will work, too), and blend until at least somewhat smooth. It doesn’t have to be that smooth, there can be some texture to it. Fold the pureed mushroom and ricotta together until completely mixed.

When the water boils, cook the manicotti according to package directions, then drain. You’ll want to let them cool a little before handling them, and you’ll probably be working on other things while that happens anyway. Go ahead and put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan. Once they’re cool, unless you have a pastry bag, you can split them down the middle, so they can lay flat, and fill them with the mushroom-ricotta filling before rolling them back up. If you have a pastry bag, or know some other, brilliant way of filling manicotti, leave them whole and fill them. Also, if you know some other brilliant way of filling them, you should let me know.

If you do it my way, they’ll look like this when you’re done filling them:

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Cover them with another layer of sauce. If you want to, add a layer of mozzarella over the sauce, but I didn’t because I ran out of cheese (which is a total crime in our household). Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered if you don’t have cheese, but I’d cover it if you add cheese for the first 15 minutes at least.

And, enjoy!

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I know I sure did.

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Tomato-Alfredo Tortellini

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Or as my husband called it: something you could get at the Olive Garden. Which is high, high praise in his book, since the Olive Garden is the have all and be all of Italian cooking.

This is a super easy dish to throw together, and really, it doesn’t have to be tortellini if you don’t want, it’s just way more filling and that’s what counts here since I have an active husband (he ate all of his and finished my bowl after I was full). My original plan was to use bowtie pasta, and that would work just as well. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 jar of Alfredo Sauce (or make your own, which I did not)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, in sauce
  • Fresh or frozen tortellini (portioned for your family’s needs)
  • Garlic powder
  • Crushed Red Peppers
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Salt and Pepper

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions.

In a medium saucepan, pour half a jar of alfredo sauce (I use Bertolli’s Garlic Alfredo), your can of diced tomatoes, and the seasonings (to taste) and heat over medium heat. I would taste the sauce before adding any seasoning, to see if you prefer it that way, but I find the the sweetness of the tomatoes is a little overwhelming for me (I don’t like sweet meals much). I went moderate on the spices with this one, only adding a little bit of each, to get the sauce to what I wanted it. If you don’t like spice, completely omit the crushed Red Peppers, but I didn’t really taste the spice too much, and my husband didn’t comment on it if he tasted any real spice, either.

To serve, just put the tortellini in a bowl and ladle the sauce over top. I wanted to add fresh basil as well as a garnish, but since it’s the dead of winter in Kansas, it’s not really something I can easily find for a reasonable price. You could also use parsley as a fresh garnish if you’d like.

This meal took less than 30 minutes to put together, from the time I put the water on to boil until it was on the table. To make this a non-vegetarian meal, I’d add a single link of spicy Italian sausage, freed from its casing and crumbled.

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Gazpacho

This is a post with no pictures…I meant to take them, but I didn’t, and it’s a complete original, too. I actually wrote down what I was putting in it and how much, just for y’all. I started at the grocery store, knowing that I wanted to make a gazpacho to go with a dinner, so I picked up a few tomatoes and a cucumber and left it at that. Without further ado, my gazpacho recipe:

3 large tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs)

1 cucumber, peeled

8 oz of tomato sauce

8 oz water

3 cloves garlic

dash of cayenne pepper

salt & pepper to taste

red wine vinegar to taste

about 10 drops of lime juice

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Roughly chop the tomato and cucumber and blend with olive oil until smooth, in batches if necessary (if you want a chunky soup, reserve some of the tomato and cucumber and chop them smaller)
  2. Add garlic, tomato sauce and water and blend until mixed
  3. This is where I ran out of room in my blender, so I poured it all into a serving bowl and added everything else, to taste.
  4. Let chill in the fridge at least an hour before serving.

I made the mistake of over-seasoning a little bit, though, so I would recommend stopping just before you feel like it’s seasoned enough. Especially with the vinegar. I like things a little more of the sour/salty side, but take my advice, stop before you think it’s done. Once you put it in the fridge, the flavors will build on themselves and get stronger. After it’s been in the fridge for a while, taste it and adjust the seasoning to be more exact for you.

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