Tasty Tuesday: Bow Tie Sausage Skillet

I’m a sucker for pasta.  Its kinda amazing, and if you give me half a chance I could probably give you a few reasons why pasta could be the answer to world peace.

Don’t believe me?

Ask yourself this- have you ever seen anybody ANGRILY eating pasta?

Yeah.  I thought not.

So, needless to say, sites like Pinterest help feed my addiction- literally.  Search for “pasta” and you’ll pinning for hours.  I found a version of this and I knew it was something I had to try out on my family.  I messed with it a little to suit what my family likes, and voila!

Ingredients

2-3 cups bow tie pasta
About a lb of sausage (you can use sausage links, too, if you can’t find bulk sausage- just take them out of their casings)
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, diced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more- my family can take spicy, so I actually added closer to 3/4 tsp)
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 dashes salt
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can cut tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
2 tablespoons cut fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried parsley)
About 2 cups of shredded mozzarella
About a cup of ricotta
parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Boil the bow tie pasta until it’s al dente.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add the sausage. Cook till its in med. sized crumbles. If you’re using links, you can save time by squeezing out 1 in. pieces out of the links into the pan.

If you’re using turkey sausage or something low fat, you might want to add a bit of olive oil to add moisture.  Yes, you WANT fat in this dish.

As the sausage is cooking, add the onions and bell peppers.  Oh, and I also added about 2 cloves of minced garlic.  If you like garlic, feel free to add it in.  If not, don’t.

Then, add the red pepper flakes, and the pepper.

Add the oregano, and salt. Gently stir all of the ingredients in the skillet together.

Then, add the cut tomatoes and water.

Stir all of the ingredients together.

Add just 1 tablespoon of the parsley; reserve the other tablespoon for garnish.

Add the drained al dente pasta, and gently stir the ingredients together.

Add ricotta to the pan. Mix in a bit to help it melt.

Add mozzarella on top of the ingredients.

Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.

Cover the skillet with a lid and let simmer until the mozzarella cheese is melted (about 5 minutes).

Lastly, garnish with parsley.

Serve hot right out of the skillet.

Enjoy!  Let me know what you think!

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Happy SITS Day to me!!

Its my SITS day!!  Yay me!  You have NO idea how excited I am about this!

…Aaaaaaand you also might have NO idea what in the WORLD I’m talking about, lol, so let me bring you up to speed:

SITS is an amazing community with 40,000+ awesome women bloggers who support each other through comments, bloggy learning opportunities, and wonderful forums where you can REALLY get to know each other.  Wanna learn more?  I know everyone would LOVE to have you stop by, so go check SITS out!

If you’re new here, you might be wondering who I am, so let me introduce myself.  I’m Amber- the self proclaimed SortaSuperMom and co-Mayor of Boystown.  I’m an outgoing, future-chef hopeful that’s been having a love affair with coffee for years.  I’m girly and nutty and SO not grammatically correct, but -around here?- that’s the perfect combination for survival.  I’m the SAHM of 3 Natural Disasters (boys…whatever) and 2 angels, and while it might SEEM simple, if you read HERE, you’ll see just how extensive my job actually is.

My blog is ABOUT my life with the Disasters, so its just LIKE my life- there’s no THEME.  I write because its therapeutic- I’m able to re-read what I’ve written and laugh at the crazy instead of being consumed by it.  Sometimes that means discussing recipes I’ve tried; sometimes it means doing a devotional to remind me WHO is actually in charge; and sometimes it just means venting.  So, while Boystown might LOOK chaotic to the average viewer, there IS a method to the madness…I swear.

If you’ve been here before, I’m glad you’re back, and if you’re visiting Boystown for the first time, allow me to give you a road map to some of my favorite haunts:

~A post I wrote on the 2 year anniversary of losing my first angel baby.

~A little something about how -no matter what I am- I’ll NEVER be good at THIS.  It goes against the laws of nature.

~Ya know how I said I love to cook?  THIS is one of my FAVORITES.

Actually, I have quite a few posts I’m fond of, so if you want a bigger list, check out ‘Best of Boystown‘.

And if you’re looking for something to help that rumbly in the tumbly (Winnie the Pooh reference- sorry), check out some of Boystown’s fav RECIPES.

So, grab a cup of coffee (or tea, or wine- I like those, too), grab the road map, and hit up some of Boystown’s destinations.  I’m happy you stopped by!

To Whom It May Concern

Before every birthday or holiday, I am asked what the boys would like to receive.  This year I’m beating you all to the punch and posting this.

 

Yesterday I got out of bed- MY bed- and stepped on a Lego, kicked a Hot Wheel, and tripped over a block all before I reached my bedroom door.

After I got past the baby gate -which had OBVIOUSLY not done its job- I collided with a xylophone, 3 balls, a dump truck, and a toy drum stick.

When I got to the boys’ room, I had to yell for Bug to wake up- “yell”, because I didn’t want to wade through the sea of toys that carpeted their bedroom floor.  When it was apparent that no amount of hollering was going to wake up my sweet middle child, I inched my way through the toy Chernobyl toward his bed.  Even taking care to only step on soft, fluffy items didn’t save my feet from being gouged by a Spongebob figure and more Legos.

Part me hoped that he would stub his toe on a Thomas the Train figure so that MAYBE he would realize the need for cleanliness, but as I watched him deftly maneuver his way through the maze like a professional ballerina, I knew it wouldn’t happen.  This wasn’t his first dance in the ring- he’d long ago figured out where the land mines were.

After I left, I passed back by the dining room where a remote control car -sans remote- and an Optimus Prime mask sat waiting under the table.  I also happened to notice more colorful blocks with that well known logo that had been pushed to the wall in a long line, as if waiting for their turn to be a part of a sculpture that would never come to be.

And a glance at the wine cabinet revealed that it now housed -not wine bottles- but crayons.

I really needed coffee at this point, but a look at the kitchen -which was APPARENTLY the “happening” meeting place for MORE Hot Wheels- persuaded me to wait a bit longer.

After the older boys left for school, I went to turn on some PBS for the Mini Master so I could finally make some coffee, but I couldn’t find the remote.  I looked under the couch and found 3 more Hot Wheels.  I looked in the laundry room and found a plush Woody doll.  I looked near the office area and found 2 fake phones and a couple of plastic dinosaurs.

I finally found it, though.  It was in the laundry basket in our room, along with “Creepy Cat”, 2 ‘Little People’ animals, and another car, all covered by clean clothes.

After the boys got home, I demanded they clean.  I had just spent a good couple of days straightening up, and they destroyed it in 1, so this time THEY were cleaning.  Their lives -and my sanity- depended on it.  So they did.  They did a pretty good job of it, too.

But last night, when I went to tuck them in, I waded through a fresh sea of toys and stepped on the remote for that remote control car I’d seen earlier.  I put up the baby gate to the bathroom and saw a multitude of bath toys everywhere.

And everywhere I went, Legos created a path, like a trail of plastic bread crumbs, marking my path to freedom.

Now, I’m sure many of you would read that and say,”Well, kids need toys and they OBVIOUSLY make use of them,” but I feel I must point out some crucial info:

  1. Nicholas was the Lego and Hot Wheel culprit, and he wasn’t playing with them, as I later found out; he was using them as projectiles to bomb Stever the cat with.
  2. And neither of the older boys could find their shoes earlier on in the day (Nicholas likes to wear everyone’s shoes around the house so we can play the fun game of ‘Where are they?’), so the boys had torn all the toys BACK out to search for their much needed footwear.

To top it all off, once home, after finishing up with their chores and schoolwork and what not, both had claimed they were “bored”.  They’re both grounded from video games currently for unrelated reasons, so I told them,”You have a million toys- go play.”  Did they?  No.  I later found them making paper airplanes while the Mini Master walked around with his brother’s underwear on his head, growling.

So, the moral of my little story: they do not need toys, games, blocks, Legos, crayons, etc.  My feet and sanity cannot take it anymore.

Don’t want to show up empty handed?  Get them printer paper, or -apparently- underwear.  Please.

Maybe that won’t be the gift that has them shrieking from excitement, but I guarantee you, a week from the day, the rest of the toys will be strewn about, broken, missing parts, maybe never even having been played with, and there my boys will be.

Sitting among the chaos.

With paper airplanes.

And underwear on their heads.

Tasty Tuesday: Kahlua Chocolate Cheesecake

So, last Tasty Tuesday I told you I’d share 2 of my versions of favorite dishes from one of my FAVORITE restaurants- The Cheesecake Factory.  If you still haven’t made that dish I gave you, well, that’s a bloody shame.  Its good.  Its REAL good.  As I type, I’ve got leftovers from the batch I made yesterday, and – although I had it for lunch- I’m contemplating having it for dinner.

But, that’s not what this week’s Tasty Tuesday is about.

THIS week, I’m going to share with you happiness.

THIS week, I’m going to share with you a good day in creamy, goodness-y (yes, its a word) form.

THIS week, I’m going to share my recipe for my version of their Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake.

Like every other time, like I said, I searched the internet for a fabulous homemade rip off version to help quiet my craving, but after trying a couple of these poor excuses for replacements, I came up with my own.  That’s right- its all mine.  Pretty proud of myself, if I may say.

Now all I have to do is remind myself that just because I CAN make this fantabulous version at home whenever I want, I shouldn’t.  My taste buds thank me, but my waistline is NOT on speaking terms with me at the current moment.

Sooooo… you ready?  Good.  Here’s the recipe:

 

Kahlua Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust
10 chocolate graham cracker rectangles, broken up and pulverized… what?  Too harsh?
5 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup Kahlua or 1/4 cup coffee-flavored liqueur
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
Directions:
Before beginning, let the eggs, cream cheese, and sour cream come to room temp for around 4 hours.  This is VERY important.  Do NOT skip this.
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Prepare chocolate crumb crust and press firmly into a nine-inch springform pan.  I like to use a straight edged measuring cup to really pack the crust down and help with pacing down the sides- something that can be kind of difficult to do normally.  Bake for 5-7 minutes.  You’ll be able to smell when its ready, but if not, don’t let it go over 7 minutes.  Set it aside to cool.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate with the Kahlua and butter; stir until smooth.  Try not to eat just that.  You’ll need it all for the cheesecake.  Now set it aside.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the room temp cream cheese with the sugar and salt at med./low speed until smooth and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  You can do this using just a really good hand mixer, but I like my stand mixer best.  It takes less time and less work.  It CAN be done without a stand mixer, though, so you have that option.
Next, beat in the flour on LOW, followed by the eggs- one at a time, and mix only until each egg is fully incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and add in the sour cream.  Once again, only mix until its fully incorporated.  Gradually blend in chocolate mixture.
Pour into prepared crust and bake for 35 minutes or until filling is barely set in center.
Turn off heat and let stand in oven for 15 minutes with door open; then take out of oven and let stand at room temperature for one hour. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Garnish with a spoon.  Ok, maybe some whipped cream and chocolate shavings would be nice.  A chocolate ganache would probably be pretty tasty, too, but I never got that far.  I dove into it the moment I was able.
Enjoy!  Let me know what you think!

Armegeddon: The Tween Years

Lately, I feel as though there should be an announcer in our home, yelling over a microphone,”Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!”

I say something, I get a snarky comment.  I make an observation, I get a rude look.  I ask for something to get done, I get an argument.  I demand for something to get done, well, let the battle begin.

Nothing is easy lately- not that it ever really WAS, but it certainly isn’t getting any easier.  People told me it would get easier once kids get older, but now I have to ask- how old?  13?  16?  18?  21?  The day they have their own kid hit their tween years and they get it?  HOW OLD???

I can’t even ask for a simple request of,”Can you please put your dishes into the sink?” without it turning into a throwdown worthy of Pay Per View.  Suddenly, I’m the witch from a thousand Disney movies, all rolled into one horrifying mother figure, all because I’m trying to teach my son skills that will keep his future wife from maiming and/or killing him.

Its a scary thing, puberty.  If the changes could JUST be confined to his voice, we could all just have a laugh and call it a day, but no.  Suddenly, along with the hair, height and hilarity, there are evil things called “Hormones” lurking about.  Testosterone runs wild, waiting for the chance to take a joke too seriously, overreact to an everyday situation, or duel to the death over an imagined injustice.

Its enough to make a mom want to throw up her hands and ask,”Brangelina have adopted so many kids- maybe they’d be interested in 1 more…?”

And, I know, “This too shall pass”, but- really?  You’re going to put your brother in a head lock because he messed with your deck of Pokemon cards?  Come on.

Soooo… yeah.  Now that puberty has hit, its apparent that everyday will be a battle; sometimes us parents will win; sometimes heads will roll; but in the end, I’m almost certain the hubby and I will win the war and our obnoxious tween will come out a mature young man.

I think.  I hope.

How long does puberty last again?

Tasty Tuesday: “Evelyn’s” favorite pasta

We don’t go out that often.

Apparently, trying to offer up your kids as payment for a meal at restaurants is frowned upon and looked at as “wrong” and “poor parenting”.

Anyways, when we DO go out, one of my FAVORITE places to go is The Cheesecake Factory.  If you’ve never been there, I pity you- but never fear!  For the next two ‘Tasty Tuesdays’, I’m going to share MY recipes for two of my favorite dishes there.  Its one of my favorite things to do- figure out a way to make my favorite meals or items from favorite restaurants at home.  Even better is when Corey and I can work together to make the dish- bonus!

Anyways, on one of mine and Corey’s date nights, I tried a dish at The Cheesecake Factory (Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta) without even really knowing I had ordered a vegetarian meal.  Maybe not a big deal to some of you, but if you’ve learned ANYthing about me, you should know that I am NOT a vegetarian.  I’m actually under the mindset that God gave the world pigs JUST so I could have bacon.

This is all beside the point, though.  It wasn’t until I was gushing to the hubs about how yummy the leftovers were going to be, that my hunny said,”Yeah, maybe, but I need meat in my meals.”  I hadn’t even realized this was sans meat- it was THAT good.

So, I wrote down the ingredients and decided to wing it.  I think it came out pretty fabulous, if I DO say so myself.

The following is Amber’s Fantabulous Pasta.  I’m allowed to change the name since I’m not TECHNICALLY copying it.  I’m sure they did some sort of C.F. magic to make it a tad bit better.

1 can of NON marinated artichoke hearts

1 small bag of pine nuts, roasted

1 large eggplant, cubed and roasted on a sheet til soft

1 red bellpepper, roasted and cut into strips

1 small bag of sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 med. bag of broccoli florets, steamed

a container of Kalamata olives, halved

a few cloves of garlic, minced

a med. bag of penne pasta, cooked to your preference

Toss it all together with some olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh Rosemary, and oregano.  And don’t even THINK about digging in til you’ve added parmesean.

And, if you’re stomping your foot and saying,”Nope.  Not gonna happen.  No meat?  No way.”  Well, just add some meat.  Chicken would probably be pretty yummy in this.  I don’t think you’ll need it, though.

Oooo- roasted mushrooms would be AMAZING, too!

Now eat up.  You can thank me once your mouth isn’t full.

And, FYI- the leftovers of this dish were just as good.

***Tiny tip: If you’re wondering about the whole “roasting thing”, here are some pointers***

For the eggplant:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the eggplant in half and then slice a diamond pattern in the flesh.  Sprinkle salt over both sides and try to get salt in the sliced pattern (about 1 1/2 tsp. total).  Set the halves aside for about 30 minutes to draw out all the moisture. While you’re waiting, line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.  When the time is up, gently squeeze out the moisture and pat the sides dry.  Brush the sides with olive oil (about 2 tsp. total), place on the baking sheet flash side down, and roast for about an hour.  You’ll know its ready when the eggplant has kind of collapsed and the bottoms of the sides have turned a deep caramel color.  Once they’re cool, scoop out the flesh.  It should come out diced and ready to go.

For the roasted bellpepper:  Peel it as much as possible with a veggie peeler, scrape out the insides, and cut it into 1/4-1/2 strips.  Toss with olive oil and roast with the eggplant on a separate baking sheet.  It should only take about 30-50 minutes to reach the right tenderness.

For the pine nuts:  Roast your pine nuts on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, shaking halfway through. You can also toast them on top of the stove in a heavy skillet, stirring often until they turn golden.

While Mom’s Away…

For the last 6 years (roughly), I’ve had a weekly date night with my bestie, Alli.  What started out as a night designated to watching our favorite TV series together gradually became an excuse to hang out, drink coffee, and eat stuff we wouldn’t have to share with our little people, all while speaking in complete sentences and using adult words.

With her being a single mom and without a ready sitter at all times, I usually happily head to her house for our get togethers, and my hunny has always supported this.  Many times he’s even all but PUSHED me out of the house, claiming I’m nicer when I’ve had my girl time.  I do NOT disagree.  As a mama, I’m more relaxed when I’ve had time away- even when its just a couple of hours a week.

My hunny is a terrific dad, so I’ve never questioned what happens while I’m away…

until last night.

All I can figure is that our children multiplied like gremlins after I left and terrorized dear hubs into submission.  Toys had been strewn about the room, crammed into every corner, and paper planes littered my once-clean table, counters, and kitchen floor.  Goldfish crackers had been smooshed into the sofa and carpet, and a bottle of milk was on its side, slowing dripping its contents onto the floor.  But if that wasn’t enough evidence that a 3:1 ratio is bad in this house, sweet hubs elaborated:

“You know how, when you left, Cameron was holding Nicholas?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, as you were driving away, Cameron looked at me and said that Nicholas had peed and he could feel it through his shirt.”

“Ew.”

“Yeah, he thought so, too, when I pointed out that it wasn’t pee.”

After I finished gagging/laughing, he went on:

“Oh, and Jacob tried to jump the baby gate after his bath, but it ended up falling over- on Nicholas.”

“So, what you’re saying is, our youngest almost died from massive internal trauma?”

“Pretty much.”

And, if I thought I could escape by curling up in my bed, I was wrong.  The Mini Master left me a snack on my side of the bed.  Always the little sharer, he must’ve realized he was almost finished with his cracker and he hadn’t left me any, so he spit some of it out for me.

Now, I’m really wondering if this was a fluke or if last night was a regular occurrence and I just happened to come home before Haz Mat showed up.  In any case, one thing is for certain: while the mama’s away, the mice don’t just “play”- they throw a rave on steroids.