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Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Sweet Sausage, Peppers and Onion

10 Oct

Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Sweet Sausage, Peppers and Onion-001

This was fantastic!  I love using bratwurst in my pasta dishes in place of ground beef.  It bursts with flavor and adds sweetness.


  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 4 to 5 bratwurst, casings removed
  • 2 bell peppers, your choice of colors, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Halve spaghetti squash and place cut side down on buttered baking sheet.  Bake for 40 minutes or until tender.  Cool to the point of being able to handle, remove and discard seeds then shred pulp gently with a fork so that strands resemble spaghetti noodles.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

While squash bakes, cook and crumble bratwurst in a skillet over medium heat.  Add peppers, onion and garlic and continue cooking until vegetables are crisp tender.

Add squash, tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper to skillet and heat through.  Remove from heat and drain excess liquid.  Mix in 3/4 cup Parmesan and transfer to a greased 9×13 or oval 2 quart casserole dish.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, topping with remaining Parmesan for the last five minutes of baking time.

Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Sweet Sausage, Peppers and Onion b

Recipe and photo by me

Spicy Sausage Sauce

23 Feb
spicy sausage sauce01I’ve made this one a number of times.  An easy and tasty twist on the classic spaghetti sauce.  For some reason though, we generally eat it over hot, cooked rice.  Pasta.  Rice.  You choose.  It’s great either way.  And if you prefer your food heat-less, use sweet Italian sausage and nix the jalapenos.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage links, removed from casings
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced or finely diced
  • 1 cup lightly packed, torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, pureed with their juices
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until done, breaking them up into chunks with a wooden spoon.  Remove the sausages from the saucepan and drain them on paper towels. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the saucepan. Add the sliced garlic and chiles and cook until the garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the basil and cook for 15 seconds, then add the tomato puree. Simmer the mixture for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Return the sausages to the saucepan and heat through.  Serve over your favorite pasta or hot, cooked rice.

Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s recipe

Photo by me, My Little Food Spot

Creamy Spinach Mushroom Orzo

10 Dec
creamy spinach mushroom orzo 4
I buy huge tubs of spinach at Sam’s and can never get through it fresh before it starts to get oh so slimy.  I’m always looking for ways, other than a basic sautee, to serve it, and found a winner here.  But don’t take my word for it.    IMG_8693-001
  • 12 ounces orzo
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 4 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed well & chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
Cook orzo according to package directions.  In a large skillet over med-high heat, cook garlic, onion & thyme in oil for about a minute.
Add mushrooms, cook about 8 minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to brown& their juices begin to run.
creamy spinach mushroom orzo
Sprinkle with flour& stir about one minute, then slowly begin to add the milk, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Stir in the spinach, basil, salt& pepper& cook until the spinach begins to wilt.
creamy spinach mushroom orzo 2
Serve sauce over pasta & grate fresh parmesan cheese over individual servings.
creamy spinach mushroom orzo 3
Recipe inspired by Moody on
Photos by me, My Little Food Spot

Cannoli Cream Cups

7 Aug

The filling in these is really tasty; I could eat it on its own, like pudding.  They look pretty in these little cups but, the next day with the leftover cream, I decorated graham crackers.  That was way easier than baking cups and I preferred the flavor.  Derek missed the cinnamon flavor from the cups so perhaps using cinnamon grahams would be a success.  The key point is that they’re totally customizable.  I think they would be great on waffles with strawberries as well.  Or, instead of topping them with mini chocolate chips, you could use colored sprinkles.  I’ve even heard of people replacing the vanilla extract in cannoli cream with almond or orange extract.  The sky’s the limit.

The ricotta should ideally be drained over night so plan ahead.  I drained it for an hour which took off some moisture, so, if you don’t have all night, some time is better than none.  Even with the drained ricotta, cups should be filled shortly before they are eaten so they don’t get soggy.  If you wish to make them ahead of time, you can make the cups and the cream and keep them separate. Once you are ready to eat, you can fill, decorate and serve.


For Cups

  •  2 refrigerated pie crusts
  • 3 tablespoons coarse natural sugar (Turbinado)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For Filling (If you want the cream to be extra thick see my tips below)

  • 1 (15oz) container of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting finished cups
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips


Line a colander with cheese cloth.  Spoon ricotta into cheese cloth and tie cloth closed around cheese.  Place colander in a bowl and allow ricotta to sit in colander overnight to drain excess water.  This step may be omitted if you don’t mind a softer cream.  If omitted, it is important to fill cups immediately before serving or the pastry will become soggy very quickly.

Remove the ricotta from the cheese cloth and, in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine all ingredients for the filling except the chocolate chips and mix well until creamy.  Mixture will not be completely smooth.  Cover and chill the filling while you make the cups.

Heat oven to 425°F.  Unroll the piecrusts onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top of each crust with the natural sugar and the cinnamon.  Lightly roll over it with a rolling pin so that sugar and cinnamon are pressed into the dough.

With a 2 1/2-3 inch round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter (or the rim of a drinking glass), cut out circles and lightly press them inside an ungreased mini muffin or mini cupcake pan to create a pastry cup.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until cups are golden. Remove from oven and allow cups to cool. Once cups are cool they can be removed from tin and filled.

Remove filling from refrigerator, and spoon slightly less than a tablespoon into the cooled cups.  If desired, using a gallon ziploc bag, cut one of the bottom corners off the bag and pipe the filling into the cups.

Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Recipe inspired by

Photos by me, My Little Food Spot

Grilled Chicken with Italian Salsa

20 Jun

Simple, healthy, delicious.  The salsa is like a bruschetta, minus the oil.  Excellent served over a bed of fresh baby spinach or with sauteed spinach on the side.  Slice a loaf of ciabatta, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss it on the grill just before the chicken is done.  I just made it for a friend who recently had a baby.  It’s perfect for a summer “gift meal” because you can get the chicken marinading in a zip-top bag, package up the salsa in a reused sour cream tub and drop it off early.  All they have to do that evening is throw it on the grill.  On those super hot days your friends won’t have to heat up their house with the oven and they will have absolutely zero clean-up.

Ingredients for Salsa:

  • 2 1/4 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Chicken and Marinade:

  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Cooking spray

To prepare salsa, combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Cover and chill 1 hour.

To prepare chicken, preheat grill.

Combine oregano and next 10 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Add chicken to bag; seal.  Marinate chicken in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade.  Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done.  Serve with salsa.


Recipe from

Photo by me, My Little Food Spot.

Garlic-Artichoke Pasta

14 Jun

If you like artichokes and you LOVE garlic, this recipe is da bomb.  It is simple and very flavorful.  This works as a vegetarian main dish, but because, in my husband’s opinion, no meal is complete without meat, I like to serve it with grilled or sauteed chicken on the side.  Tonight we accompanied it with grilled sweet Italian sausages topped with sliced, grilled bell peppers.  A winning combination.


  • 3 14-1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 14-oz. cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 6-9 cloves minced garlic
  • a few leaves of fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 12 oz. dried linguine, angel hair or other favorite pasta
  • Finely shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Coat the inside of a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Drain 2 of the cans of diced tomatoes (do not drain remaining can). In the prepared cooker combine drained and undrained tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and garlic, basil and oregano.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours. Stir in whipping cream and let stand about 5 minutes to heat through.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Serve sauce over hot cooked pasta. If desired, top with cheese. Makes 6 servings.

Recipe inspired by Better Homes and Gardens

Photo by me, My Little Food Spot

Grilled Chicken and Pesto Farfalle

30 Dec

This has met with great success in the past.  Since it’s the mid of winter in Nebraska, tonight I’m trying it with baked chicken.  And since one batch of white enchiladas on Tuesday was not enough for the five of us plus kids (Andy, Nichole and my mom were the extras) I may just double this.  Which means I’ll have to go shopping for more pasta.  Nuts.


  • 1 3/4  pounds  skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 3/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 20  ounces  uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2  cups  1% low-fat milk, divided
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  (3.5-ounce) jar commercial pesto (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3/4  cup  half-and-half
  • 2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4  cups  halved grape tomatoes (about 2 pints)
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh basil

Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes or until done, turning after 6 minutes. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces; keep warm.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Place pasta in large bowl.

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Combine 1/2 cup milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in pesto. Gradually add remaining 1 cup milk and half-and-half, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 8 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1 cup cheese; stir until cheese melts.

Add chicken and sauce to pasta, tossing well to coat. Add tomatoes and basil; toss gently. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information

Calories:508 (30% from fat)
Fat:16.7g (sat 7.7g,mono 6.5g,poly 1.1g)
photo taken from

Herbed Shrimp and Pasta

17 Dec

Not low-caloric, not cheap (the only real cost lies in the price of the shrimp), but full of salty, creamy, seafood-y yumminess.  I always short-cut and cost-save with dried herbs, which I did last night, but we’ve used fresh parsley before and I will admit that it does make for a better dish.  Serve with some soft, crusty bread to scoop up the leftover sauce and you’ve got yourself an a-ok meal.


  • 8 oz dried angel hair pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 lb peeled, medium-size fresh shrimp
  • 4 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp dried dillweed
  • Garnish: fresh dillweed sprigs

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add shrimp and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp, and set aside, reserving garlic and butter in skillet.

Add half-and-half to skillet; bring to a boil, stirring gently. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp, parsley, salt, pepper and, if desired, dried dillweed; stir until blended. Serve over pasta. Garnish, if desired.

recipe from Southern Living: Easy Weeknight Favorites

photo by knorrbuzz

Tomato and Tortellini Soup

24 Oct

Love this soup.  It has a chicken stock base but the burst tomatoes give it a little more depth.  It’s really pretty perfect the way it is, however, I am thinking of adding a little cream or perhaps some milk and a thickening agent sometime, to make it creamier.  UPDATE: I tried it with the half and half.  It turns out a milky, pinky color, not really a creamy red.  It tasted sweet, salty and creamy, though.  So…aesthetically, not the best, but tasted really great.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 pound fresh cheese tortellini or ravioli
  • 1/2 cup half and half (optional)
  • 1 cup basil leaves, torn or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • A chunk of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for shaving
  • Crusty bread, for dunking

In a large, deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid, or a Dutch oven, heat the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes burst and a thick sauce forms, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tortellini and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.  If desired, add the half and half towards the end of the tortellini cooking time.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and scallions to wilt.

Serve the soup in shallow bowls and top with large shavings of the parmigiano cheese. Serve with the bread for dunking.

Recipe inspired by Rachael Ray

Photos by me, My Little Food Spot

Green beans and tomatoes with basil

8 Oct

green beans tomato basilThis was a tasty way to prepare my big bag of Sam’s Club frozen green beans.  It was very simple and the ingredients basic.  I used quartered campari tomatoes and dried basil because I had them on hand.  I steamed the green beans in the microwave long enough to thaw them and let them simmer until we were ready to eat.  It was a nice accompaniment to our meal of pasta and garlic bread.  Charity and Uncle Kolby gave them two thumbs up.


  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen green beans, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil or dried equivalent
  • 2 cups cherry tomato halves
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in sugar, garlic salt, pepper and basil. Add tomatoes, and cook stirring gently just until soft.  Add green beans to the mixture and simmer until heated through.
Recipe idea based upon one from
Photo by me, My Little Food Spot