Creamy Pesto and Sausage Penne

Creamy Pesto and Sausage Penne

Creamy Pesto Sausage Penne

After making all that great Pesto for holiday gifts, I did sort of keep some for myself and found a great way to use it for a quick weekday meal.  It took about 15 minutes, just long enough to cook the pasta.  Considering all the basil, I’m counting this as healthy (ignoring the cream sauce and sausage of course – but I did use chicken sausage so I get points for that).  The other great thing about this recipe is it hardly even makes a mess (something I am normally really, really good at).  It takes only two pans, one for the pasta, one for the sauce.


1 lb penne pasta

1 lb sausage (I used a chicken with mozzarella sausage this time) sliced into 1/2 inch slices

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup pesto (homemade if you have it)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan


Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, brown the sausage pieces in the olive oil in a large skillet, then remove them and set aside on a paper towel to drain.

Pesto and Cream


Add the pesto and cream to the skillet and bring to just a boil

Adding the cheese

Add cheese and stir until melted.

Return the sausage to the sauce.

When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the sauce, mixing well.

That’s it – time to eat!

Creamy Pesto Sausage Penne





French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

I really love soups.  They are tasty, generally easy to make, great for using up leftovers in a way that doesn’t seem like the same thing again and most are pretty healthy (remember I’m trying to balance my natural inclination to the “no carbs left behind” plan).   I always thought that this would be difficult to make, but it is really pretty easy yet looks impressive.  The most important part of the recipe is to use a good quality broth and have patience browning the onions, the browner the better!


  • 6 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of red or dry white wine
  • 8 cups of beef stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices of  French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere

Onions in the pot with olive oil and sugar

Brown the onions in a large heavy pot over medium high heat in the olive oil and with the sugar which will help the onions caramelize.  (Just a hint, once I tried sweet Maui onions with a sweet white wine and it wasn’t a good choice – stick to the yellow onions and a dry wine.)

Onions nicely browned

When the onions are browned, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes to reduce, then add the stock, salt and pepper and simmer for about 1/2 hour.

Toasted bread

While the soup is simmering, prepare the bread by placing on a single layer on a baking sheet and brushing generously with olive oil.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes or until nicely browned (the fresher the bread, the longer it will take).  Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Ready to Broil

To serve, ladle into a heat safe bowl, place one or as many slices as will fit of toast on top and cover with shredded or sliced Gruyère.  Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese.  Serve immediately but be careful, the bowls will be hot so use hot pads and don’t put them down directly on the table – use small trivets or cloth placemats.

Ready to Serve

Recipe test:  Rachael Ray’s You Won’t be Single for Long Vodka Pasta Sauce

Recipe test: Rachael Ray’s You Won’t be Single for Long Vodka Pasta Sauce

You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Penne

I know I haven’t always been kind to some of Rachael’s recipes, but this is one of my favorites.   I make it quite often and even follow the recipe You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Pasta Sauce pretty faithfully, which is quite unusual for me.  The only change I make is to start with 1 pound of hot Italian sausage removed from the casing and fried (leave the fat in the pan and continue on with the recipe for the best flavor).  It gives it a little more kick and of course makes the meat eaters happy.  I find that the fresh basil is what really makes it, so definitely don’t skip that.  Otherwise, it is a great, simple and quick recipe that you can easily make after a workday, serve in a bowl with some garlic knots or garlic bread and if you must, a salad (sorry I don’t do salad).

You won't Be Single for Long Vodka Penne and Green Beans with Bacon

I also sometimes serve it with green beans (with bacon of course).

Green Beans with Bacon

While frying the bacon in a large skillet, steam about a pound of green beans in the microwave for 3 minutes.   I get the packages from Costco that you can steam them right in or you can just do them in a bowl.  Fry 4 slices of bacon cut in small pieces until very crisp, then remove it from the pan, leaving the fat.  Add the partially cooked green beans and finish for a couple more minutes in the pan to the doneness that you like, then add back the crispy bacon.

The Daring Cooks Challenge: Simplified Cassoulet with Garlic Confit

The Daring Cooks Challenge: Simplified Cassoulet with Garlic Confit






Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.  Their great recipes and instructions for the challenge can be found on Jennie and Lisa’s sites above.  Thanks to them for a great job and I have to admit it was better than I was expecting!

As usual, I just can’t seem to follow a recipe and have to go off on my own tangent (probably because I’m a pretty picky eater so I leave out anything I don’t care for).  Not being a big fan of duck and not really having time to figure out where to get it anyway, the duck went by the wayside.  Also because of an unexpected trip to take Daughter back to college, my schedule was a little tight so I looked at many recipes, then went with a simplified version combining them and using what I had on hand – bacon, Italian Sausage, thick boneless pork chops and the garlic confit I made before the trip.  You can make this version in about 3 hours with a small amount of prep the night before but it is really flavorful (lots of fat and garlic of course) and if you didn’t have the garlic confit, you could just use garlic.

First the garlic confit:

I like to use what I have, and I happened to have a giant jar of peeled garlic  cloves (maybe a pound – a really big Costco size jar) that I bought for my holiday cooking, forgot about and it was getting close to its expiration date.  Into a roasting pan it went, in a single layer, just covered with olive oil (about a cup) and roasted at 350 for about an hour and a half until it was nicely brown and soft.  I then took the cloves out of the oil, smashed them in the food processor, placed in jars and covered the top with a thin layer of the reserved olive oil.  I gave away several jars for holiday gifts and kept some for myself for the cassoulet.

After returning from the trip with only one day to complete the challenge, it was time for step 2 – place the beans (1 lb)  in a pot of water and put them in the fridge to soak overnight.  I retrieved the pork chops which I had sealed in a packet with garlic and olive oil and frozen some time ago and put it in the fridge to thaw.

The Big Day:





1 lb white navy beans

2 Tbs olive oil

1 lb bacon

2 onions (1 quartered, the other chopped)

sprig of fresh rosemary

5 carrots chopped

3 celery stalks

8 hot Italian sausages

4 large, thick (1-2 inch) pork chops cut into 2 inch chunks

2 quarts chicken stock

4 Tbs Garlic Confit

2 Tbs Italian seasoning



Beans cooking and bacon browning



First,reserve 2 slices of the bacon and cut the rest into small pieces and start it frying in a large oven safe pot that you have placed a couple Tbs of olive oil in.  Then in a separate large pot, place the quartered onion, 2 slices of bacon cut in half, the sprig of rosemary and the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer while you do the following (about 1/2 hour).




When the bacon is crisp, remove it from the pan and set aside, leaving the oil and bacon fat in the pan.


Chopped celery onion and carrot




Vegs in starting to cook



Add the carrots, celery and onions and fry until they are just starting to brown.


Vegs ready


Remove them from the pot and add to the bowl of bacon, leaving the oil in the pot.


Vegs set aside




Sausages in the pan


Now brown the sausages well.


Sausages browned


Remove and set aside the sausages with the bacon and vegs.


Pork chunks


Now brown the pork pieces in the olive oil, bacon fat and sausage fat – it’s hard to get better than that! (I also added the garlic and olive oil that I had marinated the pork chops just because you can never have enough garlic.)


Pork browned


Now add back the bacon, vegs, sausage, drain the beans and add them along with the broth, garlic confit and spices.  Bring to a boil, then place uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.


Ready for the Oven



Garlic Bread Crumbs

Pulse 4 ciabatta rolls in the food processor to fine crumbs, add 3 TBS garlic confit and pulse until well mixed.  Spread on baking sheet(s) in a thin layer and place in the oven 15 minutes prior to serving the cassoulet.  Sprinkle on top after plating (or in my case bowling) the cassoulet.


Cassoulet ready to eat



2010 in review

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 92 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 515 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 748mb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was September 11th with 106 views. The most popular post that day was LA Times Prosciutto and Onion Frittata.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for white chocolate peanut butter cookies, 72 oz steak, peanut butter cheesecake bars, cook’s country lemon pudding cake, and ribolita.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


LA Times Prosciutto and Onion Frittata September 2010
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72 oz steak – only in Texas June 2010


White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies August 2010


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