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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Making Canned Alfredo Sauce your own

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It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been busy and not making anything all that interesting lately. I’ve been in a blah mood food wise (honestly, I’ve been more excited about getting Mexican food, lol). Also, this isn’t any kind of sponsored post, I just really like Bertolli brand. (I’m putting that in for future reference when this blog is awesome and has a ton of followers…not that I’m counting on it).

This is one of my favorite things to do, though, when I don’t feel like putting a lot of effort into dinner. You can use whatever brand, but this is my favorite, and I still can’t make sauce like I can buy yet…that’s a work in progress. Here’s a list of simple dinner ideas using canned sauce:

  1. Chicken and Pasta. But everyone adds chicken, don’t they? Still, if I didn’t add it, I’d feel weird.
  2. Broccoli and Pasta. I love this. It’s so good.
  3. Pour it over fresh, steamed cauliflower. It could be as a side dish or add some meat in with that, too and make it a one pot sort of meal. If you haven’t worked with fresh cauliflower, you don’t know what you’re missing.
  4. With Tortellini or Ravioli. Especially the meat filled kind to make you feel like you’re getting everything in one place.
  5. Make it spicy! This is my favorite, one, too. Add spicy Italian sausage or a ton of crushed red pepper to the sauce when you’re heating it up.
  6. Add tomatoes.
  7. Add sun-dried or oven roasted tomatoes.
  8. Add Mushrooms.
  9. Add Extra Garlic…or roasted garlic…or garlic powder…mmmm, garlic…garlic is good
  10. Add Sausage. Cased or uncased. Any Italian variety is good and I really wanna see how diced Andouille is in the sauce. Cajun Pasta is usually pretty good.
  11. Make Lasagna. Or stuffed shells. Or manicotti.
  12. Add veggies. Zucchini, eggplant, spaghetti squash, whatever else sounds good.

I’ve found that pretty much anything you do with Alfredo sauce turns out pretty good. Just follow my tasting guidelines and you should be fine. That advice is, of course, add a little, taste it and keep adding until it’s perfect. If you aren’t sampling as you go, you’re doing it wrong. Tonight, for example (and the whole inspiration for this post), I’m doing homemade oven roasted tomatoes and meat tortellini. I’ll probably add a little spice with some crushed red peppers. And, as always, a little extra salt and pepper.

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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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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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Cheese Steak Calzones

Just a recipe today.

What you’ll need:

  1. 1 medium onion
  2. 1 lb beef (I used ground, but you can use some kind of steak as well)
  3. Butter…yes, butter
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. Worcestershire sauce
  6. Brown Mustard
  7. Tomato Paste
  8. Red Pepper (I used the canned roasted type)
  9. Mozzarella Cheese
  10. 1 Recipe of your favorite Pizza Crust or the store bought type
  11. 1 egg (optional)

Start by melting the butter in a small frying pan, and slicing the onion in half then into thing slices. Go ahead and start the onions on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they’re starting to turn brown and delicious.

In another, larger frying pan add olive oil and let it heat, while mincing the garlic. Add the garlic and let it cook until it starts to soften. Add the meat and brown it with the garlic. Once it’s browned, add Worcestershire sauce, mustard and tomato paste, to taste. (I used just enough Worcestershire to coat the bottom of the pan, and about a tablespoon each other the mustard and tomato paste.)

Once the onions are nicely caramelized, add them to the beef and let the mixture start to simmer, letting the liquid start to cook down and thicken. This is also when you want to add the red pepper. I used a can of roasted red peppers, and maybe about 2 or 3 large chinks, which you’ll wanna mice finely and add to the mixture.

While the meat mixture is cooking down, preheat the oven and prepare your dough (or make it, if you have a quick dough to make).

Put one layer of Mozzarella on the rolled out dough before using a slotted spoon to put the meat mixture on one side of the dough (you won’t use the whole pound, and if you do, you’re doing it wrong). Put another layer of cheese on top of the meat, just for kicks (and for cheese lovers).

Fold the dough closed and seal the edges closed, folding them over generally works best. If you want a nice, shiny crust, whisk one egg in a bowl and use a pastry brush to give a light coating on the outside of it, but you don’t have to do that. Just bake according to the directions that come with the crust.

Then enjoy. I served it with ketchup and mustard as the condiments, just like you would with the sandwich. It’s as easy as that.  This fed the two of us, but it can easily feed more. I used less than half of the meat mixture on this calzone, you could easily make so many more on this, or just have really yummy leftovers of the filling.

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