Monday, September 30, 2013

Italian Sausage and White Bean Stew

This is one of those that I wasn't sure would thrill me to death, but went with it for the sake of finding something that might just unexpectedly twang my thing. After all, I do like sausage and beans and peppers, so why wouldn't it work?

Going into the recipe I deviated by using one pound instead of 1.25 lbs of sausage.

Italian Sausage and White Bean Stew
from Cooking Club magazine Fall 2013
click to print

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb mild Italian sausage links, cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c baby-cut carrots, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 (14-oz) cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 c lower-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot.

Cook sausage 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides.

Add bell pepper and carrots; cook 1 minute over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in all remaining ingredients; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to medium-low to low; simmer 15 minutes or until slightly thickened and sausage is thoroughly cooked and no longer pink in center.

Easy to prep, the execution of the dish took less than thirty minutes, yielding a hot, filling meal. The flavors went very well together and I liked the various textures. When reducing the liquid I simmered just a few minutes longer than 15 minutes to make it thicker than what most would probably prefer. Doing so, many of the beans split open and that gave even more texture variation.

Cutting the sausage quantity by a quarter pound didn't leave me thinking the sausage was lacking so pick a package with a flavor you like rather than buying something else because the package size fits. Not that long ago I would've gone that.

  • extra-virgin olive oil: $0.18
  • mild Italian sausage links: $2.99
  • red bell pepper: $1
  • carrots: $0.50
  • garlic cloves: $0.20
  • cannellini beans: $2.58
  • broth: $0.13
  • fresh rosemary: $0.25
Total: $7.88 or about $1.97 for each of four servings.

S&W Cannellini Beans

There's a handful of recipes posted on this here blog calling for cannellini beans. I didn't know for the longest time that they are considered a white kidney bean. I didn't know that cannellini beans pack 6 grams of fiber per serving either; yet prunes are stereotyped. And no wonder meatless people eat beans, there's even more protein than fiber.

Like all canned beans, these white beans are packed in a syrupy goo of water, salt, sugar, calcium chloride (a firming agent), and disodium EDTA (to promote color). It's so gooey that a bunch of beans will stick to the bottom of the can when you dump them into a colander.

Use water to get all the beans out of the can(s) and be sure to rinse them well.

S&W cannellini beans available in the bean section of the canned vegetable aisle of Stater Bros. for $1.29 a 14-oz can.

Stater Bros. Mild Italian Sausage

I liked Stater Bros. Hot Italian Sausage so when I needed a mild one, I knew exactly where I had to go.

The ingredients are almost exactly the same as the Hot Italian except there's less water. And guessing, less hot spice. Still no corn syrup!

Stater Bros. New York Style Mild Italian Sausage available in the meat section at Stater's for $2.99/lb.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pasta with Smoky Angry Tomato Sauce

Smoky angry tomato sauce? Hell yeah, bring it! I plowed ahead with the original specified quantity of eight ounces of rigatoni and substituted two 14-oz cans of diced tomatoes for the 28-oz can of whole tomatoes. Maybe I still have more to learn, but the idea of crushing whole tomatoes with the back of a spoon as the sauce cooks was not a dream of mine.

Pasta with Smoky Angry Tomato Sauce
adapted from Cooking Club
click to print

12 oz. rigatoni or penne (tube-shaped pasta)
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4-1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta; drain.

Get the salted water to a raging boil; add rigatoni and start checking it for doneness after 6 minutes. The package said to cook 14 to 16 minutes; mine was ready after 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently.

Add onion; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally.

Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pasta. Serve sprinkled with cheese.

And then because it was saucier than I prefer, I cooked the remaining 4 ounces of rigatoni and stirred that into what was left in the skillet. The pasta:sauce ratio was much more my speed.

With an increase in pasta, the sauce didn't turn out very angry. Consider upping the pepper even if using only eight ounces of rigatoni. Very clean tasting, which I think reflects nicely how simple food with only a handful of ingredients can be so good. The dish is subtly smoky from the bacon and I think next time I'll crank it up a notch by using fire-roasted tomatoes.

If you don't cook pasta twice, this is easily done in 30 minutes.

  • rigatoni: $0.99
  • bacon: $1.13
  • onion: $0.31
  • garlic: $0.20
  • diced tomatoes: $0.96
  • Parmesan cheese: $1.08
Total: $4.67 or about $1.17 for each of four servings.

Stater Bros. Rigatoni

This is the first time I've ever bought rigatoni in my life.
The ingredients are exactly the same a the ingredients for Barilla's jumbo shells. The nutrition facts are almost the same.

The rigatoni is like giant macaroni, minimize the curl and add ridges.

Stater Bros. Rigatoni, find it in the pasta aisle at Stater Bros. for $0.99 a 12-oz bag.

Grocery List, 092913

Italian Sausage and White Bean Stew
Pasta with Smoky Angry Tomato Sauce
Sugar and Spice Cupcakes
Pork and Apple Braise

Stater Bros.
  • sour cream: $1.49
  • breyers vanilla: $2.99
  • Bertolli olive oil: $10.99
  • cannellini beans: $1.29
  • cannellini beans: $1.29
  • powdered sugar: $1.99
  • rigatoni: $0.99
  • sausage: $2.99
  • red bell pepper: $1
  • rosemary: $2.99
  • carrots: $1.89
  • onions: $2.49/3 lbs
  • TOTAL: $32.39
  • apple cider: $2.50
  • bacon: $1.16
  • boneless pork butt: $8.52
  • boneless pork butt: $7.24
  • chives: $2.49
  • gala apples (4): $1.50 
  • TOTAL: $23.41
Grand Total: $55.80
Total for the year: $1434.00

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 092713

Monday: Deemer's for two: $20.36
Tuesday: Bravo Burgers for two: $14.88
Wednesday: on a coworker
Thursday: on a coworker
Friday: on a coworker

Total: $35.24
Total for the year: $1286.74

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Eggplant-Vegetable Lasagna

Aren't lasagna's enough work already? Does a lasagna really need breaded and fried eggplant slices in it? There's only one way to find out how that would add to the texture overall. Here we go, my third meatless lasagna ever. Oh, while the recipe called for a 14.4-oz package of frozen pepper stir-fry, I rolled with a 12-oz bag of frozen onion and pepper blend.

Eggplant-Vegetable Lasagna
adapted from Cooking Club
click to print

4 to 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 c chopped celery
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 (14.4-oz.) pkg. frozen pepper stir-fry, thawed
1 (2-oz.) can anchovies, drained, chopped
1 c panko
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3 eggs, divided
1 (1-lb.) eggplant, unpeeled, sliced crosswise (3/8 inch)
9-12 lasagna noodles
1 (15-oz.) container ricotta cheese
1 (9-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
3 (14-oz.) jars pizza sauce
4 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil; heat until hot.

Add onion and celery; cook 5 to 8 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.

Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add tomato, bell peppers and anchovies; cook 3 minutes or until softened, stirring frequently.

Remove vegetables.

Place panko in shallow bowl; place flour in second shallow bowl. Whisk 2 of the eggs in third shallow bowl.

Dip eggplant slices in flour to coat, shaking off excess. Dip in eggs, then in panko to coat completely.

Place on large foil-lined baking sheet.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.

Cook eggplant in batches 3 minutes or until browned, turning once and adding more oil as necessary. Drain on paper towels.

Heat oven to 375ºF. Coat 13x9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.

Prepare lasagna noodles; drain.

Combine ricotta cheese with remaining egg in medium bowl.

Arrange 3 of the lasagna noodles in bottom of baking dish; top with 1/2 each of the ricotta mixture, eggplant, spinach and tomato mixture. Spread with 1/3 of the pizza sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.

Do you ever notice that lasagna noodles don't fit the length of a 9x13" dish? For each noodle layer, I lay down three noodles and break fourth noodle into pieces to fit the gaps.


Top with remaining noodles, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges.

Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

This looked so freakin' good when it came out of the oven. It's probably the tallest/thickest lasagna I've ever seen! After letting the lasagna stand an hour (I was worried 10 minutes wouldn't be enough time for the lasagna portions to stay stacked), I cut into it and served myself a twelfth. The layers held together very nicely, and maybe the fried eggplant helped preserve structural integrity!

Three jars of pizza sauce turned to be the right amount even though it sounds like overkill. Every bite was slightly sweetened and perfectly moistened by the sauce. I liked the Delallo sauce in this a lot. And still with all that sauce and vegetables, there wasn't a pool of water at the bottom of the baking dish, also a huge plus.

The vegetables tasted great and I couldn't tell that the eggplant was fried. I couldn't tell there were anchovies in there either. I'd completely forgotten all about them, so maybe their role is just to add salt. I dunno. Don't let the anchovies freak you out. This is a recipe worth doing again.

  • olive oil: $0.36
  • onion: $0.41
  • celery: $0.17
  • garlic cloves: $0.20
  • tomato: $1.69
  • frozen peppers and onion: $1
  • anchovies: $1.69
  • panko: $0.38
  • all-purpose flour: $0.04
  • eggs: $0.82
  • eggplant: $1.49
  • lasagna noodles: $1.79
  • ricotta cheese: $3.99
  • frozen chopped spinach: $1
  • pizza sauce: $6.57
  • mozzarella cheese: $4.99
$26.59 or about $2.22 for each of 12 surprisingly filling servings.