Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Italian Sausage and Pepper pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce (in a Vitamix)


After clean eating all week, we indulged this past Saturday.  My weakness is pasta and bread.  My husband and I are not Italian but based on our favorite meals, you would think we were! 

I've been using our Vitamix quite a lot lately. It really is a fantastic machine.  With it, you can prepare the perfect smoothies, sauces, dips, nut butters and much more.  Plus the company is headquartered in Cleveland and you know how much I love our local businesses!  

This was such a simple dish to put together.  The sauce is equally fresh and indulgent at the same time.  It made great leftovers that were gone the next day.  

I cooked the sausage in the oven at 375 for about 30 minutes and came out great.  

Very easy to slice.

Looks like Christmas... or the Italian flag!

Don't overcook these.  When added to the pasta, you want to preserve the color and crisp.  

No one likes mushy veggies.  

It doesn't matter what type of tomatoes you use for this.  My cherry tomatoes were on their last breath.  Fresh herbs from our garden.  

Everything goes int he blender.  How easy is that?

Time to blend!

I almost forgot the cheese.  This is a great time to use up the almost exhausted rinds that are sitting in your fridge.  

It starts to turn a bright orange color after a bit.  Gorgeous darling. 

You don't have to use fresh pasta but in my opinion, it is better.  If you are going to take the time to make a fresh meal, why not make it special?

Time for all the players to get happy in the pan.  

Now they are really happy...


Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce (in a Vitamix)
1 pound Italian sausage in casing
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups tomatoes (whatever kind you have on hand)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
2/3 cup whipping cream
10 fresh basil leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves removed)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (leaves removed)
1/4 cup cubed parmigiano reggiano (plus more for garnish)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 pounds fresh pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place the sausage on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Slice into discs and set aside .  

Slice peppers into strips.  Preheat large pan over medium heat. Drizzle in olive oil and add peppers.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5-7 minutes until soft.  Remove from pan and set aside into bowl to cool.  

Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, cream, basil, thyme, rosemary, parmigiano, salt and pepper in a high powered blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec).  Gradually turn to high speed and run for about 10 minutes.  The sauce is ready when it is hot and steam is coming out of the blender. Taste when finished and add seasonings to taste.   If garlic and onion flavor is too strong, blend for 2-4 minutes longer.  

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of each olive oil and salt.  In a large, deep saute pan over medium heat, add the sausage, peppers and sauce.  

Add the fresh pasta to the boiling water and cook according to instructions.  Using a slotted spoon, add pasta directly to sauce.  Place 2-3 ladles of the pasta water into the pasta and stir to combine everything.   Garnish with fresh basil and parmigiano reggiano.   

Note:  If you do not have a high powered blender, you can easily make this with a saute pan and regular or immersion blender.  Preheat a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add chopped onion and garlic and saute until translucent.  Add chopped tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper and cream.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Garden Update

I am thrilled to let you know that our first garden is not a complete failure but rather a small success!  This has been my first real attempt to grow something other than herbs and I've definitely learned a lot.  
  • For the amount of plants we planted, this bed is way too small. Next year we plan on making it substantially larger.  
  • We have tried a bunch of different remedies to deter the rodents and deer from getting to the garden such as cayenne/red pepper flake water sprayed on leaves, Sweeny's Deer Repellent and rodent repelling granules.  None of which worked.  Chicken wire, I'm told, is the the best method.
  • Planting in the ground versus pots has proved to be very successful.  I'm no gardening expert but I'm pretty sure that the soil allows for proper drainage.   
  • A couple of times a week, I remove and dead leaves from the plants.  This allows the energy to focus on the healthy fruits. 
  • I save my eggshells and coffee granules and sprinkle them over the soil once a week.  My grandma swears by this and it seems to be working for us.  
Here are a few pictures of the progress so far.  Hopefully I will have some recipes coming soon using some of the fruits of our labor.  

This is the garden the day we planted everything.   

And here it is now.   

We planted three different types of tomatoes.   

Way too close to each other and the deer have chomped off a bunch of the branches.  So devastating.   

These are our first two tomatoes.  We haven't picked them yet but will soon.  I read that the best way to ripen tomatoes off the vine is to place them in a brown paper bag with a banana.  

Cabbage and endive

Cute little jalapenos


Banana peppers 

Eggplant is blooming but no fruit yet.  

                              My Thai basil has these gorgeous purple blooms on the top.  

 Italian basil and parsley

Mint.  Perfect for mojitos! 

My sage and oregano are not doing so hot.  I realized after I planted these, that the pot did not have any holes for drainage.  I think I will try to transfer these into the ground.   

I love having fresh chives.  My scrambled eggs have never tasted so good.  

And everyday when I go out to tend to our humble, little garden, this is what I have to look at in our neighbor's yard.  Someday...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Green Smoothie

Why hello there!  So sorry for my extended absence.  To be quite honest, I have been really focusing on eating very healthy... at least during the week. I've been allowing myself one "cheat day" and I made a fabulous pasta dish last night.  Recipe to be posted soon! My brother is getting married on September 7th and that has been motivation to get my butt in shape!  

For the past two weeks. my weekdays have consisted of a pretty regimented routine; green smoothie in the morning, raw vegetable salad for lunch, green smoothie for afternoon snack and a lean protein and vegetable for dinner. I feel incredible and am convinced it is because of the green smoothies I have been drinking.   

Each morning before I head into work, I make an entire blender full of this green powerhouse of a drink.  Since I drive 40 miles to work, my commute allows me ample time to sip on this smoothie and I kid you not, I feel amazing and full of energy when I get there.  This recipe makes enough for another large smoothie for you to enjoy when you start feeling that 2:00pm lag.  I don't know about you but that is the time each day where I need some instant energy. 

I used to drink at least 1-2 cups of coffee each morning and if it was a rough day, another one in the afternoon.  Not anymore. I find myself making better choices throughout the entire day when I start my day with one of these smoothies. 

The contents of the smoothie vary but usually consist of a large portion of leafy greens, carrots, berries, flax seed, fresh ginger, raw honey and almond milk.  I have even thrown in raw almonds, celery, green beans, broccoli, organic unsweetened coconut, coconut water and citrus.   

Speaking of raw honey, I bought the jar below at the Howe Meadow Farmers Market.  It was $13 for a 3 pound jar and worth every penny.  I have been using this honey in smoothies, tea, oatmeal, marinades and salad dressings.  Unfiltered and never heated, the honey has a cloudy appearance which is in contrast to the clear, gold, teddy bears you find at the supermarket.   After speaking with the darling girl from the Schmidt Family Farm, I was blown away at all of the health benefits that come from raw honey.  Here is another article that explains why you should steer clear of grocery store honey.  

Make this smoothie your own.  If you are not accustomed to them, gradually work your way up to increased vegetables and leafy greens.  A good way to start off is by adding handfuls of spinach to a fruit smoothie you would normally make.  

Try to buy organic when possible.  

Blueberries and blackberries 

Peaches and apples.  No need to peel. 

Nectarine and grapefruit.  I do peel all my citrus because the peel is bitter.   

Grapefruit and banana.  I use half of a banana and throw the other half in the freezer for the next day.  

Avocado.  I used 1/4 in each smoothie. 

 The vegetables.  

Carrots and ginger.  Again, no need to peel either.   

The amazing raw honey.   

I just feel good looking at this stuff.   


For digestive health 

Spinach and beans 

Kale and Swiss chard.  

Green Smoothie

Fill your blender about half full with your fruits of choice.  Add 1 tablespoon of flax seed, raw honey and 4 capsules of psyllium seed husk.  Top the other half of the blender with leafy greens, carrots and any other vegetables you like.  

Fill blender about half full with almond milk and then the remaining half with water.  Top with ice and blend until combined.  

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