Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage

Baked-Pasta-with-Sausage-3Pasta is a great family dinner because it is easy to prepare, delicious and cost effective.  Being a cheese lover, I actually prefer a baked pasta over just plain pasta with tomato sauce.  The added cheese mixture of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella adds great texture and flavor to the dish.  It also can serve more people because it is more filling (extra bonus).  Plain baked pasta is great, but I’m also always trying to find ways to add some meat to dinner dishes for the hubby.  He likes his meat, so I try to always add some in somehow into dinner.  Having extra sausage in my freezer, I decided to dress up baked pasta with some delicious hot sausage.  Feel free to use sweet as well, it will be equally delicious.  This recipe serves a bunch, so feel free to half the recipe, or even freeze the leftovers for another dinner.  Two in one, how great is that.  So jazz up your baked pasta and enjoy.  Make the first bite count!



Total Time:  1 hour

Servings:  6-8



1 box (16 ounces) pasta, any kind you prefer (I used Farfalle)

5-6 sausage links, hot or sweet (depending on your preference)

1 (15 ounces) container of ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)

2 eggs

1 and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

3 1/2 cups tomato sauce (a jar or homemade), divided

fresh basil, optional (for topping)



1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Season generously with salt and add the pasta.  Cook about 2 minutes less than the time on the box for al dente.  It will continue to cook in the oven.  Drain and reserve.

3.  While pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Remove the sausage from its casing and add to the pan.  Break up into pieces and cook until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain some grease.

4.  While sausage is cooking, in a medium bowl combine ricotta, eggs, 1 cup of mozzarella, parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley.

5.  I like to use a tin foil pan (for easy clean-up) about the size of a 13×9 pan.  Add the pasta, cheese mixture, and 3 cups of sauce.  Stir to combine right in the foil pan.  Spread to make an even layer.  Pour the remaining 1/2 cup over the top of the pasta and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

6.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top melts.  Serve with fresh basil on top, if desired.


BBQ Bacon Chicken

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-2

BBQ, bacon and cheese… What could be better? This recipe comes from wanting to spruce up plain old BBQ chicken. And what makes anything better? Bacon and cheese, of course. By adding crunchy, crumbly bacon and gooey cheese, it brings BBQ chicken to the next level. This recipe would be even better during the heart of the summer and cooking the chicken right on the grill, but unfortunately it is 10 degrees where I live so that is just not an option. It tastes just as good in the oven though, especially if you broil it for the last few minutes and make the edges golden brown and crispy. So improve your BBQ chicken and try this recipe. Make the first bite count!

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-3

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-1

Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise
2 cups BBQ sauce, divided (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
5-6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

1. Place chicken in large Ziploc bag or large dish. Cover with 1 and 1/2 cups of BBQ sauce and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375. Place foil on a large baking sheet. This makes clean-up easy. Spray foil with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet. Discard any remaining BBQ sauce from marinating chicken.

3. Evenly distribute bacon over each piece of chicken. Combine the 2 types of cheeses and sprinkle over each piece of chicken.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink. The chicken will cook faster because it was cut lengthwise making them thin cutlets. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.

Pulled Pork Pizza

Pulled Pork Pizza Recipe-2

In the beginning of the week I made the Pulled Pork Pockets and had leftover pulled pork. I had not made pizza in while, so I decided to make a BBQ pulled pork pizza. What a great use for any leftover meat you have, make a pizza! By adding a drizzle of extra BBQ sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and even a drizzle of honey mustard over the top for an extra tangy flavor, you have yourself one easy pizza. And it was delicious! I have invested in a bread machine a few months ago, so I even made my own pizza dough. So easy and delicious, it took no effort at all and was so fresh tasting. I used this pizza dough recipe and it was very good. But feel free to try your own, or even just grab a can of dough from the grocery store. Either way, pizzas are a great weeknight dinner because they are easy yet still healthy. So take your leftover pulled pork, or any leftovers you have, and create this pizza for dinner tonight. Make the first bite count!

Pulled Pork Pizza Recipe-1

Total Time: 30 minutes (not including time to cook pulled pork)
Servings: 4

Pizza dough, enough for 1 pizza
2 cups BBQ pulled pork (recipe HERE)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
2 Tablespoons Honey Mustard (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease baking pan or pizza pan and roll out dough to desired thickness.

2. Evenly spread pulled pork over dough, leaving space on the edges for a crust.

3. Drizzle the BBQ sauce over the pulled pork. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top. Then drizzle the honey mustard over the cheese. It gives it a nice tangy flavor, but this is optional.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Let cool a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Pulled Pork Pockets

Pulled Pork Pockets Recipe-4

My aunt and cousin had the great idea of using crescent roll dough to make little pockets, “hot pockets” if you will. They put some pulled pork in the middle, sealed them up, and baked them. I had to try it and I’m glad I did. The only thing I added was a little cheddar cheese in the middle, because everything is better with a little cheese. 🙂 The hot pockets brand definitely makes money off me and my husband, but now I can make my own and they taste just as good, if not better. What makes it really simple is if you use the seamless crescent dough that Pillsbury now has available. It is the crescent dough without the perforations for the crescents, so you don’t have to worry about pinching those parts together. Genius! I will definitely be trying more combinations of these little pockets, so look forward to some more pocket posts. They are so delicious and portable too. You will love the ease of them as well as the deliciousness. Make the first bite count!

Pulled Pork Pockets Recipe-3

Total Time: 6-8 hours (including crock pot time for pork)
Servings: 4 (2 pockets per person)

1 pound pork tenderloin
1 cup BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cans Pillsbury crescent dough (I bought the seamless)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten

1. Place pork tenderloin in the crock pot. Combine BBQ sauce, chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and stir. Pour over pork. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours until meat easily pulls apart with a fork.

2. When pork is done cooking, remove any fat and shred using two forks. Stir to coat shredded meat in sauce.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll each can of dough. If using crescent dough, pinch together seams. Otherwise, you simply roll the dough out and cut each one into four sections. You should have 8 total pieces.

4. Place a piece of parchment paper onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Place 8 pieces of dough onto lined baking sheet. You can hang one end of the dough over the edge if there is not enough room, as they will simply get folded over anyway.

5. Place about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pulled pork onto one end of each piece of dough. Top with 1 Tablespoon of cheddar cheese. Fold over the other half to cover the filling. Line up the edges and use a fork to crimp and seal the edges.

6. Brush each pocket with the beaten egg to give it a nice golden color. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Monterey BBQ Turkey Burgers


This crazy fall weather has not felt much like fall in our area. I was outside sunbathing after work the other day and by the middle of October it is usually time for boots and sweaters. Oh well, still keeping up my summer tan doesn’t bother me one bit. And neither does being able to grill dinners. Food on the grill just tastes so good and, bonus, it is easy clean up too. My husband is a grill master so any chance I can get to plan meals around the grill, I take full advantage of. With warm weather in the forecast this week, I wanted to try a turkey burger recipe. It is a mixture of some spices, BBQ sauce and shredded Monterey Jack cheese right in the burger mix. Be careful when grilling, though, that the cheese does not melt onto the grill. My husband suggests using a little cooking spray before throwing on these delicious burgers. Top with your favorite condiments (lettuce, tomato, some extra BBQ sauce… YUM!!!) and enjoy. Make the first bite count!



Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4-5

Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)
Hamburger buns (I like potato buns)
Toppings: extra BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, ketchup

1. Heat grill to medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with your hands. Try not to overmix. Form about 5 patties, using your thumb to press down the center of each burger. When cooked, the middle will bubble up and if it is pressed down, it will bubble up to be the same height as the rest of the burger instead of too high.

3. Grill about 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Serve on buns with your favorite toppings.

What’s for Dinner? Week of October 13, 2013


Well the weather is finally starting to cool down in our area and it is feeling more and more like fall. I decided to start the week off on Sunday by making a delicious Baked Ham. Served with cheese and chive potato casserole, it was a great comfort food meal on a cool, fall day while watching football. The rest of the menu covers a little bit of everything from sausage to pasta to steak to chicken. If I have trouble coming up with dinners to make for the week, one of the first things I do is try to very the protein selection. As you can see, this week I did just that, which is why there is such variety. It is also helpful to cook for the weather. In cooler weather, people tend to gravitate towards hearty, comfort foods. So that can always be a way to give you ideas as well. I hope you enjoy. Make the first bite count!


SundayBaked Ham | Corn | Cheese and Chive Potato Casserole

MondayPasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

TuesdayHam and cheese sandwiches (from the leftover ham on Sunday)

WednesdayStuffed Flank Steak with Gravy | Mashed Potatoes

ThursdayChicken Francese with Pasta | Roasted Parmesan Broccoli


Gruyere Broccoli Bake


What better combination is there than broccoli and cheese? And when you pair broccoli with the creamy, silky gruyere cheese, you have a simply divine side dish. The gruyere in this dish melts into a creamy sauce that coats the broccoli and gives it tons of flavor. And the toasted bread crumbs on top add an extra crunch. Paired along side baked chicken, grilled steak or breaded pork chops, this broccoli side will complete any meal. You will not be disappointed. Make the first bite count!




Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

2 bunches of broccoli, stalks removed and roughly chopped (about 4-6 cups)
2 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup (4 ounces) gruyere, grated
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375. Place broccoli in a microwave safe dish and add water. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and microwave on high 3-4 minutes to steam cook.

2. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the flour. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and simmer until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until cheese is melted. Add the broccoli to the pot and stir to coat. Transfer broccoli mixture to a 2- or 3-quart baking dish.

3. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the broccoli. Melt remaining Tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat in the butter. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.

4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and bread crumbs are golden brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.