Sausage and Broccoli Casserole

Sausage and Broccoli CasseroleThis broccoli and sausage sauté with noodles and tomatoes makes a great, quick dinner – with simple gluten free substitutions to make it your own!   Plan this meal the week after the Kale and Kielbasa Soup to use up any leftover sausage (because no one likes to waste food!).  Oftentimes, you can plan on having the same protein more than once in one week to simplify your planning.  Kielbasa, however, has a very strong flavor, so putting it on two different weeks saves you from feeling like you are eating the same thing twice.  If you want to have them on the same week, you can try out one of the substitute proteins below!

Sausage and Broccoli Casserole

Needs Fulfilled: Quick Meal, Prep Ahead, Cook Once-Eat Twice (with rice substitution) Allergy Friendly (with substitution)
Serve With: Applesauce (if you like – this meal is complete on its own)
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Time to Table: 30 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan, skillet
Serves: 4

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut sausage and broccoli according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup macaroni
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ lb kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • ½ lb broccoli, chopped (you can substitute frozen if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions or with the following quicker-cooking method: Use a regular size saucepan filled about half to three-quarters full of water, then add the pasta right away. Add salt as desired (it helps to improve the flavor but is not necessary). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high so that the water continues to boil well. The whole time stir often! (This is the key because the smaller amount of water tends to make the pasta stick together.) Continue cooking the pasta until it is done (about 5-8 minutes after the water starts boiling). Drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and brown (cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to turn brown). Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and the cooked pasta. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes until the broccoli is nicely cooked.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • For a gluten-free version, use 2 cups cooked brown rice (about 1 cup uncooked); omit step 1.Pair this recipe with a meal that uses rice the night before, saving the rice in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day until ready to use.
  • Switch up the vegetables with the same amount of yellow squash, zucchini, or cauliflower.
  • If you cannot find kielbasa that will work for your family, you can use the same amount of ground meat or use this substitute recipe for 1 lb of breakfast sausage:
    • 1 lb ground pork
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ tsp dried parsley
    • ¼ tsp dried sage
    • ¼ tsp pepper
    • ¼ tsp dried thyme
    • ¼ tsp coriander
  1. Mix together in a bowl, then use as directed in the recipe.
Credits: The sausage and broccoli casserole recipe is adapted from Healthy Lunchbox by Rallie McAllister.

Kale & Kielbasa Soup Dinner

Kale and Kielbasa SoupWhen I made this hearty kielbasa and kale soup with potatoes and red beans, I made WAY too much, which turned out just perfect as it was even better as leftovers!  So, go ahead and make a double batch to have later in the week (but don’t freeze it – those potatoes will turn into watery nastiness).  I served this with hoecakes (fried cornmeal cakes), which were an adventure, but I recommend pairing this with regular cornbread.

Kale and Kielbasa Soup

Needs Fulfilled: Prep Ahead, Leftovers, Allergy Friendly, Low Carb
Serve With: Cornbread – I like this Old Fashioned Gluten Free Cornbread or Jiffy Cornbread Muffin Mix
Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 45 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 6
STARTING PREPARATION:
-Cut the kielbasa and potatoes according to the directions (you can do this ahead of time and store the sausage for up to 3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator and the potatoes covered in water in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 lb kielbasa, sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, cubed (you can peel first if you prefer)
  • 15 oz red beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ Tbsp dried minced onion
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ bay leaf (or a small one)
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned a bit on the outside. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients except the kale. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat (or turn it very low if you have a gas stove) and leave the pot on the burner. Stir in the kale and let sit for 5-10 minutes until slightly wilted.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
  • For a low-carb option, substitute 1 lb of turnips, peeled and cubed for the potatoes.You can cut them ahead of time according to the directions and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • For a legume-free option, substitute 1 lb ground meat for the beans.Brown the ground meat with the sausage, then drain any excess fat after sautéing the garlic.
  • You can use other greens, including spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, or collard greens, in place of the kale if you prefer.
  • If you cannot find kielbasa that will work for your family, you can use the same amount of breakfast sausage or use this substitute recipe for 1 lb of breakfast sausage:
    • 1 lb ground pork
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ tsp dried parsley
    • ¼ tsp dried sage
    • ¼ tsp pepper
    • ¼ tsp dried thyme
    • ¼ tsp coriander
  1. Mix together in a bowl, then use as directed in the recipe.
Credits: This soup was inspired by a recipe in At My Grandmother’s Knee.

Why Bother Meal Planning? Top 3 Reasons to Start Today

FalafelLife is so busy that it may not feel worth it to meal plan.  So why bother?  Because meal planning lets you slow down and reconnect (plus save you time and money!).

1. Quality Time with the Family

Imagine sitting around the dinner table with your family – chatting, laughing, sharing a meal.  How great would that be?  With meal planning, it’s possible!  Those magical family moments don’t take place when you swing through a drive-through and then stuff your face while watching in-car entertainment system.  They only happen when we intentionally plan to spend time together, and the dinner table is the perfect place for that: everyone is gathered together, facing each other, and the electronic devices are put away (seriously, put down that iPhone and look at your spouse!).  Meal planning is a gift to your family, allowing you to spend time together that you will cherish for years to come.
Eating together as a family has added benefits for children.According to The Atlantic, children who eat with their families are less likely to be truant or obese, while doing better in school and being less stressed.  You can boost those benefits even more by having your kids help you cook, teaching them valuable life skills all while helping out the family.  Make family dinner a priority today, starting with meal planning!

2. Save Time – and Stress!

This is the hidden benefit of meal planning, because of course it takes time to choose recipes, make a schedule, and go to the grocery store.The thing to remember, though, is that you are already deciding every day what you are going to eat, and that takes time (not to mention mental space in your day, causing stress).  Sure, cooking food from scratch takes some time, but let’s compare that with how much time eating out takes:
                Eating Out                                                                   Eating In
10 minutes to decide what to eat
10 minutes to wait for a table
5 minutes to wait to get your order taken
15 minutes to wait for your food                                    30 minutes to cook a simple meal
15 minutes to eat your food                                            20 minutes to enjoy your meal
10 minutes to wait for and pay the check                     10 minutes to clean up
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes                                           Total Time: 1 hour
By planning ahead of time what you will be having each night, you can save yourself the 5 o’clock what’s-for-dinner panic for less time each night than it takes to eat out.

3. Save Money

According to Zagat, Americans on average eat out 4.5 times per week and spend an average of $36 per person when they do.  By cutting out 3 restaurant visits per week, you can save $5,616 per year!Yes, your grocery bill will go up, but cooking at home from scratch saves you BIG money.  Whenever you break out your cookbooks to meal plan, just imagine yourself on the cruise that you can now afford with all the money you are saving, not to mention being able to save for your kids’ college education and your retirement.  Now, I’m not saying that you should stop eating out altogether (I personally LOVE to eat out), but by planning your meals ahead of time, you can avoid going out to eat simply because you don’t know what else to do.  And THAT can have a huge effect on your wallet.  How can you afford not to meal plan?
So why bother meal planning?  It will make your family life better, plain and simple.
Need help getting started with meal planning?  To get a free copy of The Basic Plan of Attack: Meal Planning in 1-2-3, sign up for the e-mail list on the right.  For even more help, check out our Meal Planning Coaching!

 

Toasted Quinoa Southwest Salad

Toasted Quinoa Southwest SaladAll-in-one meals are my favorite, and this easy quinoa dish with avocado, tomato, corn, beans, and some serious Southwestern flavor is no exception!  Not only do they make fewer dishes (yay!) but they also make meal planning a breeze!

Toasted Quinoa Salad

Needs Fulfilled: Quick Meal, Prep Ahead, Vegan, Whole Grain, Allergy Friendly
Serve With: Nothing!
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Time to Table: 30 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan with lid and skillet
Serves: 4
STARTING PREPARATION:
-Cut up jalapeno and tomatoes. You can cut up the jalapeno and tomatoes ahead of time and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
INGREDIENTS:
  • 8 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cup canned corn, drained (about 1 can)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, and diced
  • 15 oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, stems removed and minced (about ½ bunch)
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Rinse quinoa if needed according to the package directions. Add the quinoa and saute (cook stirring occasionally) for about 10 minutes until it starts to brown (be careful not to turn the heat up too much as you can burn it). While that is toasting (browning), cut up the avocado and cilantro.
  2. Add the water to the quinoa, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the “tails” start to pull away from the center of the quinoa and it is soft.
  3. While that is simmering, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and let cook for about 1 minute. Add the jalapeno and garlic and let cook until the jalapeno starts to soften (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. When the quinoa is done cooking, put the jalapeno mixture in a large bowl and whisk in the remaining oil (6 Tbsp), apple cider vinegar, and salt; taste for seasoning (you may need to add a bit more salt or vinegar). Add in the quinoa and the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.
MAKING IT YOUR OWN:
  • Not a fan of beans? Substitute 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped and warmed
  • You can omit the corn, tomatoes, and/or avocado – you could substitute in some peas or sautéed zucchini if you like
  • Like some heat? Increase the amount of jalapeno
  • Refrigerate and serve as a salad for a flavorful and refreshing dish
Credits: The quinoa salad recipe is adapted from the “Toasted Quinoa, Corn and Avocado Salad” in the Fresh & Fast Vegetarian cookbook by Marie Simmons.

Fettuccine Alfredo So Good…You’ll Wonder Why You Ever Ate It From a Jar

Fettuccine AlfredoIf you ever needed an excuse to eat butter and cream (I don’t know why you would), this is definitely it, because this creamy masterpiece will NOT turn out without them.  So indulge with this easy peasy mac and chees-y…well, fettuccine alfredo!
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Fettuccine Alfredo

Prep: 0 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 30 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan, large skillet (preferably not non-stick)
Makes 3 Servings
STARTING PREPARATION:
None
  • 8 oz fettuccine noodles
  • 8 Tbsp butter (yes, that’s a whole stick)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (buy a half pint rather than a big container if available)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (I just get a bag of the store brand)
  • Dash salt and pepper
1.Cook fettuccine according to package directions or by this quicker method. Drain pasta.
2.In the skillet, heat the butter and cream over medium heat until it starts simmering. Reduce heat to medium-low so that it continues simmering and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until it starts to reduce (be patient – letting it reduce a bit is what gives you the lovely thickness of the sauce).  You can tell it is ready when it starts clinging to the sides of the pan a bit.
Alfredo Sauce CookingSLXLM

3.Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir gently until the cheese melts (again, patience is the key here). Pour over the drained pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately.  Go ahead and it all, it doesn’t make good leftovers anyway!
Credits: The alfredo recipe is adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, Bridal Edition.