Veggie Marinara Bake

This is what happens when you let a girl like me loose in a grocery store.  I just go wild.

I have been a very good girl lately with my food shopping excursions- always having a plan for the week including a list and a budget.  This past week, I was feeling rather uninspired and only had one dinner pre-planned.  When I got to the market and saw all of the bright, fresh produce… I finally got the inspiration I needed.  I decided that I wanted to take the idea of baked ziti (not sure why but I had a bad craving for it) and put it together using veggies instead of pasta.

I went through the different areas of the produce section picking out what looked to be the best local veggies I could find.  I went home and threw it together and this is what I came up with:

Veggie Marinara Bake

Makes 4 Large Servings


1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon chopped Garlic 

1/2 Vidalia Onion, diced

2 small Zucchinis, sliced into thin circles

1 large Yellow Squash (or 2 small), sliced into thin half-moons or circles

1 Baby Eggplant, cut into small chunks

3/4 cup Shredded Carrots

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 small can Sliced Black Olives

Italian Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

1 package Hot Turkey or Chicken Sausage (I used Wegman’s brand, it came with 4 patties)

1/4 cup Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

1/4 cup Shaved Parmesan (divided, optional)

1/4 cup Grated Parmesan 

1/8 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs


1.  Wash and cut all of the veggies.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and saute, stirring occasionally to re-distribute.  Stir in Italian Seasoning blend of your choice or just some Salt, Pepper, and Crushed Red Pepper.  Once the squash and eggplant are soft, add the can of crushed tomatoes (reserve some if you’d like to dip).  Simmer over medium-low heat.

2.  In a separate pan, cook the sausage over medium heat and chop.  Stir and chop and cook until the sausage is cooked through and browned.  Put aside.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray.  Add a layer of the veggie/tomato mixture to the baking dish.  Place half of the chopped sausage ontop.  Using a spoon, dollop little sections of the ricotta cheese onto the top.  Add the rest of the veggies, then the sausage, then more dollops of ricotta.  Top with half of the shaved parmesan if using.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly ontop, following with the grated parmesan.  

4.  Pop in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the top is browning just a bit.  

*Note: Serve carefully- since there is no cheese or egg throughout the dish, it will not hold shape like a baked ziti or lasagna will.  Just scoop and serve… it’s delicious, trust me.

Before: So pretty :)

Before: So pretty 🙂

The after:  Not so pretty... but it's going to be pretty tasty!

The after: Not so pretty… but it’s going to be pretty tasty!

After it's done baking

After it’s done baking


Served with a side of garlic bread... nom nom

Served with a side of garlic bread… nom nom

Even good for lunch while I'm working at home!

Even good for lunch while I’m working at home!

At first I was disappointed that my faux-baked ziti did not turn out very pretty.  But then I started thinking about it, and who really cares what it looks like?  This was just a dinner for Dave and I to sit in front of the TV and watch the Eagles game.  I’d much rather have a healthier meal than have it look pretty.  Because this recipe is chock full of fresh veggies, we were able to only divide it by FOUR and still have the total calorie count under 300 (depending on whatever type of sausage/meat you choose).  Amazing.  Don’t you just love pigging out on food when you  know it won’t do any damage!?

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s something different from your typical same-old.  Try it with whatever veggies you have or whatever veggies you prefer.  You can also go crazy and take out the sausage to make it vegetarian! Oh, and the leftovers?  I’m eating them right now for lunch… they are even better!!


Posted Last year:  Lunchtime Tuesday

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

"New" Chicken Parmesan

“New” Chicken Parmesan

Mom's Baked Tomatoes

Mom’s Baked Tomatoes

Supreme Pizza Stuffed Baked Potato

I’m like… really into stuffing baked potatoes.  I think that a baked potato is a super interesting vessel for a complete dinner.  Right?  Who doesn’t love a good baked potato?

My first “stuffed” baked potato was my Breakfast Baked Potato… such a natural combination yet it was so special.  YUM.


Next, I tested the waters with my absolute FAVORITE, my Buffalo Chicken stuffed BP.  This one will remain my favorite forever, not just for my love of spicy buffalo things but for this gorgeous photo.


Finally, I rocked my socks on Election Day with this Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato.  This one was really delicious too.


Now I’ve got my mind on creative ways to stuff a baked potato.  I have a few ideas down but would LOVE to hear from you… do you have any you’ve done or any suggestions for me?!  Let me know!

For now, let your mouth water at my latest BP combo:  The Supreme Pizza.  Drooling.

Supreme Pizza Baked Potato


2 Large Baking Potatoes 

1/2 Jar Prepared Tomato Sauce 

1/2 Onion, sliced & diced

1 can Sliced Black Olives (small)

1 Bell Pepper, sliced and diced

1 Sausage Link

1 handful Pepperoni (I used Turkey Pepperoni)

1/2 cup Mushrooms, sliced (I left these out, Dave refuses to eat them!)

1/4-1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Fresh Basil, Red Pepper Flakes


1.   Wash the potatoes and pat them dry.  Cut a line down the middle (lengthwise) so the potatoes don’t burst.  Put them right in the oven that’s preheated to 400 degrees.  Don’t use any oil, salt, foil, etc.  Just stick them in there, cut-side-up and bake them for an hour.

2.  Meanwhile, when there is about 20 minutes left in baking your potato, prepare the stuffing.  Remove the sausage link from the casing and cook in a pan over medium heat, chopping it up as it cooks.  Add in the pepperoni, all of your veggies, and about 1 teaspoon of Olive Oil (just a teeny bit).  Stir and cook until the sausage is completely cooked and the veggies are soft.

3.  Add the tomato sauce to the pan and stir.  You might want to add the whole jar if you’d like it to be saucier (i did!).  

4.  Remove the potatoes and after letting them rest for a couple of minutes. open them up by squeezing on both ends.  Spoon the mixture into the potato… you can be messy here!  I like mine when they overflow.  Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and red pepper flakes.  Enjoy!

photo 1 (13)

If you want to get really fancy with things here, feel free to stuff and cheese the potatoes and then pop them back into the oven on broil (make sure they are on a foil-covered baking sheet).  That would be a nice extra touch- one I was too hungry for when I made these 🙂

SO, let’s go people… give me some ideas for my next Stuffed Baked Potatoes!

Today's adorable pic of my Stella Girl!  We recently hired a WONDERFUL dog walker, Elizabeth who has been saving my life one afternoon at a time!  This is a picture she took for us of Stelly smiling on one of their walks :)

Today’s adorable pic of my Stella Girl! We recently hired a WONDERFUL dog walker, Elizabeth who has been saving my life one afternoon at a time! This is a picture she took for us of Stelly smiling on one of their walks 🙂




I LOVE New Orleans.  Love love love.  Dave and I traveled there a few years ago on a mini-vacation during Halloween.  I don’t think I’ve ever gained so much weight in such a short period of time.  We walked everywhere, exploring and of course eating (and drinking) our way through the city.

In honor of one of my favorite cities and to celebrate Mardi Gras, I cooked up a pretty sweet Jambalaya recipe on Fat Tuesday.  I think this is one of my best ones yet!

The recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s “Kicked-Up Jambalaya” from way back when in 2000.  I was really excited because he included the recipe to make his Cajun Seasoning… and I actually even had all of the ingredients!  I made a whole batch and have a little baggie of leftovers for another time.  YUM BAM!

And please, let the records show that I was an Emeril fan long before his “Emeril Live” show even aired its pilot.  My Aunt and I used to watch “The Essence of Emeril” and “Molto Mario” when I’d sleepover back in the late 90’s.  How is this the first recipe of either of their’s for me to try?!

Let’s kick this up a notch and get started… 


Recipe adapted from Emeril’s Kicked Up Jambalaya

Serves: 6-8


2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Emeril’s Creole seasoning (See below)
4 Thin Sliced Chicken Breasts (1 pkg)
14oz Andouille Sausage, cut into slices
2 cups chopped Onion (1 large)
1 cup chopped Celery
1 cup chopped Red Bell Pepper
2 Tablespoons minced Garlic
3 Bay Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dried Thyme
1 (14oz) can Diced Tomatoes, partially drained
6 cups Water
2 cups Uncooked Brown Bismati Rice (Quick Cook)
Salt & Pepper
1 cup chopped Green Onions
1/2 cup chopped Parsley


1.  In a large Dutch Oven, heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium-high heat.  Cut Chicken into 1-inch strips or pieces and season with the Emeril Creole seasoning.  Saute until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove and set aside, reserving oil and all the good juices in the dutch oven.

2.  Add sausage and cook for a few minutes.  Remove and set aside.

3.  Add Onion, Celery, Bell Pepper, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Cayenne and Thyme and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the veggies have softened.

4.  Add the can of Diced Tomatoes and Water to the pot.  Season with a pinch of Salt and Pepper.  Simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.

5.  Add uncooked Rice to the pot, stir well and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for another 10-15 minutes (Check at 10).  Most of the liquid should be evaporated and cooked into the rice at this point.  Add in the Sausage, Chicken, another sprinkle of Emeril Creole Seasoning, Green Onions, and Parsley.  Cover, and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Let sit off of the heat for 10 minutes before serving.  Remove Bay Leaves.  Garnish with extra Green Onions and Parsley.

Emeril’s Creole Seasoning
2.5 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon of each:  Black Pepper, Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Oregano, Dried Thyme
Mix in a bowl and reserve leftovers… add it on top of chicken, seafood, or even popcorn!
Emeril's Creole Seasoning... you can make it with the recipe here or buy it in the grocery store

Emeril’s Creole Seasoning… you can make it with the recipe here or buy it in the grocery store

A new skill I learned while I was visiting my friends in Fort Wayne, IN!  Bob taught me how to cut a Bell Pepper in one swoop!  YAY!

A new skill I learned while I was visiting my friends in Fort Wayne, IN! Bob taught me how to cut a Bell Pepper in one swoop! YAY!

Before adding the liquids

Before adding the liquids

I could NOT believe how much liquid was soaked up by the time I opened up the lid.  I love parsley and green onions... mmm!

I could NOT believe how much liquid was soaked up by the time I opened up the lid. I love parsley and green onions… mmm!

I realize this recipe has a lot of ingredients.  But read over… it really isn’t that bad!  You can use the veggies for other recipes if you don’t already have them in the house.  You can also use Shrimp instead of the Chicken if you’d like and any type of rice too!  The Jambalaya is just so flavorful without being overly spicy.  If you wanted it to have an extra kick… add some Cayenne.

I was nervous to try my first Emeril Recipe but this one was super simple and SO delicious.  The best part is that you will probably have leftovers like I did… and it only got better after being reheated.  BAM!
Delicious Jambalaya!

Delicious Jambalaya!

Challah Bread Stuffing

It was recently brought to my attention from my co-worker Dana that not everyone knows what Challah is.  Like, really?!  I realize I’m Jewish and it’s a Jewish kinda thing, but I just figured everyone knew what it was.  You know that heavenly French Toast at your favorite brunch spot?  Probably Challah.  See, you knew what it was all along and love it just like I do.  And Dana, prounounce it like “Holla” not “CH-ah-lah”.  You’re so cute for messing that one up 🙂

Just to set the record straight, Challah is a Jewish braided egg bread and is sooooo delicious.  You can pick one up at most bakeries or supermarkets.  Trader Joe’s variety is SO GOOD too.

Normally, I’d tell you to eat Challah with just some butter, or make French Toast with it… but today I’m going to teach you how to use Challah in STUFFING.  Can I get an Oy Vey!?  This is the dish Donny taught me how to make during Friendsgiving, and that I made to bring to my own family’s Thanksgiving this past week.

Cut up my Challah! Ready to rock & roll.

Donny’s Challah Bread Stuffing


1 large Challah Bread  (cut into 1 inch cubes and made stale by leaving it out for a few days)*
2 tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped fine
2 tbsp Fresh Sage, chopped fine
1 lb Loose Sage Sausage (or regular sausage)
1 small Onion, chopped 
2 large stalks of Celery, chopped 
3 cloves Garlic, chopped or crushed
1/2 cup Dried Currants & Dried Cranberries (or raisins)
Softened Butter, for the pan
Salt, Pepper
2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup of Milk (I used 2%)
1 quart of Chicken Stock

*Make sure you buy the Challah at least 2 days before you want to make the stuffing!  It needs to sit out and become stale.  

A Note from Donny:  You’re basically making a savory bread pudding souffle here.  Temperature is important here because of the use of eggs. Make sure that anything you add to eggs are cool enough that they won’t cook the eggs (until the final oven stage).


1.  Put the stale cubed bread on a baking sheet.  Toss with the fresh herbs.  You want to dry them out in the oven so you’ll only cook them at 200 degrees.  The recipe calls for the bread to be toasted for only 15 minutes, but since mine was so fresh it took more like 30.  They shouldn’t be toasted or browned too much, just dried out.   Remove from the oven and  let the herby bread cubes cool to room temperature.

2.  Meanwhile, cook and chop the sausage over medium heat.  Once the sausage is cooked through and thoroughly chopped, drain fat and remove into a bowl to cool to room temp.  
3.  Using the same pan you cooked the sausage in, cook the onions, celery, and garlic over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  When soft, add to the sausage bowl and let it cool.
4.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the milk. Add the (now cooled) herby bread cubes and mix. Then add the cooled sausage mixture.  Fold everything together with chicken stock, trying not to turn the bread into total mush.  It should be completely saturated with the stock.
5.  Grease a large baking pan or dish with butter and add the stuffing to it. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours. (If you are making this more in advance, you’ll have to add more stock because the stuffing will dry out.)
6.  Let the stuffing come to room temperature before you cook it at 350 for 30 minutes (I cooked mine for more like 40, but I think that’s because there was so much other stuff in the oven).  Serve warm, “with or without turkey”.

Chopping up some herbs

… and some veggies


Dried out Challah croutons & toasty herbs mixed into the egg and milk.

Cooking up and eating this stuffing twice in two weeks should prove to you just how amazing it is.  I have always been one of two people in my family to request a nice box of Stovetop for Thanksgiving, as any other kind of homemade stuffing was never as good.  This Challah Bread Stuffing recipe puts Stovetop to shame and will forever change my mind about this favorite Thanksgiving Side.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break and weekend!  I know I did 🙂

My thanksgiving plate! YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Thanksgiving cousin love ❤ Aidan and I

Dani is the cutest!

Mommom and I ❤ She’s the best!


Goat Sausage & Peppers


We ate GOAT!  Although I’d like to feel super brave for doing this… honestly goat did not taste any different than any other meat I’ve ever tried.

The Goat came from a vendor called Many Rocks Farm @ the JFX Farmers Market in Baltimore (so did this week’s Purple Basil!).  Donny suggested we try it, and the vendor told us that the Goat Chorizo Sausage was a great bet “if we like spicy”… duh.

(Goat) Sausage & Peppers

A recipe by:  It’s Good to be the Cook

Serves:  4 Sandwiches, with some sausage/peppers leftover!


4 Fresh Hoagie Rolls

2 Red Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped into small strips

2 Green Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped into small strips

1 Onion, sliced on the thinner side

1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic

Olive Oil Spray (or 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil)

4 links Goat Chorizo Sausage (or other sausage!)

1 Can Tomato Paste

1 Can Tomato Sauce

Fresh Basil (I used maybe 12 leaves, chopped)

Italian Seasoning Blend, Red Pepper Flakes (optional) Salt, Pepper, Asiago Cheese (Grated)


1.  Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the Olive Oil Spray, then the garlic, onions and peppers.  Sprinkle with just a touch of salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally and let cook for 10-12 minutes. 

2.  Meanwhile, cut the sausage into small circles.  Try to keep the sizes the same so they cook evenly.  Once the peppers are starting to soften, add the sausage.  Cook for 5 minutes, then stir around or flip them to cook the sausage evenly. 

3.  Add the Tomato Paste, Sauce, Basil, Italian Seasonings, Red Pepper Flakes, and again- a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Stir around to combine.  Cook for another 5-8 minutes.  Take out a piece of sausage and cut it to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. 

4.  Carefully spoon onto dug-out hoagie rolls.  Top with desired amount of grated Asiago Cheese. 


So pretty! Lots and lots of peppers and onions cooking up first.

Peppers, Onions, Basil, Seasonings, and Sauce… gettin’ hotter!

These were so good! I want to make them again…

Dave and I were really surprised how much we liked the goat sausage!  Granted, if you put anything with tomato sauce and peppers, it will probably taste great… but we loved it.  The Chorizo had a nice kick too.  Believe it or not, goat is actually one of the healthiest meats out there.  I wished we lived closer and could get the Goat Sausage again. YUMMY!

I made a nice fresh TBM stack to go along side using Jersey Tomatoes and some super Fresh Mozz. My new fav. salad.

The saucy finished product


Creamy Penne w/ Sausage & Peas

So, I’ve been pretty busy.  I have been literally sitting here staring at a blank screen for the past fifteen minutes.  I’ve forgotten how to blog?!  Has it been that long?  You wouldn’t believe how time consuming this whole thing is…

1.  Find a recipe to make.  I will one day force myself to blog about my ever-growing recipe book I started almost a YEAR ago.  I’m not even ready to use it yet.  It’s a masterpiece in the works.

2.  Make the recipe.  Not that hard, normally… but remembering to take pictures while not screwing anything up can be annoying.  Oh, and I also take them all now with my Iphone… I want a blogging fairy to buy me a new camera!

3.  Eat the recipe.  YUM!

4.  Blog about the recipe.  Transfer the pictures to my computer, maybe edit some of them, upload them, write a story, recipe, etc… it takes a long time!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining… I’m just begging you all to forgive me for my recent lack of fabulous recipe posts!  I have just been so busy the last month or so, I hardly have any time to even make my own dinners… let alone interesting ones.

Also, it has been a difficult transition for the blog, going back onto weight watchers & my new diet from John the dietitian.  With holidays, long weekends, celebrations, and visitors… it’s been so hard to stay on track!

Well, this week I was able to have a good hour in the kitchen to test out a new recipe I got from Rachel Ray’s Magazine back in April.  I love trying new flavor combinations like this, and the best part about this recipe is that I didn’t even need to go to the store!

Creamy Penne w/ Sausage & Peas

Makes 2 Servings.  About 12 WW Points Plus.
Recipe adapted from:  Rachael Ray
  • 4 oz Whole Wheat Penne
  • 1/2 cup Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 8oz Hot Turkey Sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  1. Cook pasta according to directions on the box. 
  2. Meanwhile, combine yogurt, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl.  Set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the sausage, chopping as it cooks.  It took me not much longer than 5 minutes.  Add in the frozen peas and stir.  Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes until sausage is cooked through and the peas are hot.  The grease from the sausage browned the peas just a little bit. 
  4. Drain pasta and add the sausage mixture to the pasta.  Split into two bowls.  Top with a heaping spoonful of the yogurt sauce and a sprinkle of chopped mint.  

I took the original recipe and adapted it to work with the pasta I had in the house already.  I actually measured out the servings of pasta to make counting the meal for Weight Watchers easier.  Dave was a huge help with this meal- which I LOVE.  It’s always nice to have company in the kitchen… especially when they are helpful!  I normally love having leftovers and go out of my way to make them, but with this recipe being not so healthy, I halved the original recipe from Rachael.

Measuring out the pasta is a great way to make sure you don’t over-eat! Dad just picked up this measuring cup & scale in one for us… its awesome!

Cookin’ the peas and the sausage

Yummy and pretty

We both really enjoyed this pasta dish, and it was such a treat since we generally don’t eat pasta too often!  The mint was a great surprise.  I would never think to put mint in pasta.  I’m glad Rachael did!  It added just the right amount of flavor without being overpowering at all.

I also used some of the leftover mint to add to our lemonade!  YUM!

I seriously loved having some extra mint for my diet lemonade

That’s all for now, but I promise you I’ll be back with more this week!

I also am super excited to receive my June Foodie Pen Pal Package from Emily @ In the Moment!!

Jimmy’s BBQ in Malvern, PA

For those of you who don’t already know, I am obsessed with Groupon deals.  Living Social, Buy With Me, Dealyo, etc etc… I love them all.  Besides the obvious savings they provide, I like buying these coupons because they allow me to try new places.  In this case, Dave and I had a deal that brought us all the way out to Malvern, PA for Jimmy’s BBQ.

Oink Oink!

I knew I was going to like Jimmy’s when we walked in the door.  Besides the entire restaurant smelling heavenly, the first thing I saw was a sink in the dining area… which is amazing after getting messy eating BBQ!  What a great idea.

At Jimmy’s BBQ, EVERYTHING is made from scratch.  The BBQ meats are house-smoked using hickory and cherry woods, dry-rubbed, and then served to you so you can slather as much of their homemade BBQ sauce on as you’d like.  Not only did we come to Jimmy’s on Wednesday (one FREE beer with any order after 5pm), but we had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy himself.  He talked to us about the differences in their three types of BBQ sauces, how they smoke their meats, and even was kind enough to give us a sample of their fall-off-the-bone ribs.  Now that’s what I call good service!

It’s no surprise knowing how indecisive I am, that we both had to order the Meat Sampler Plate including 5 oz portions of our choice of three meats.  Dave ordered the BBQ Chicken, Pulled Pork, and Brisket while I chose the Brisket, Chicken, and Hot Italian Sausage (also from scratch, house smoked).  We each got to pick two sides, and per Jimmy’s suggestion we each ordered the Smoked Beans, and then the Dirty Corn Salad and Corn Bread.

Delish sides

Brisket, Chicken, and Hot Italian Sausage (from left to right) mmmmm!

Let me tell you, I don’t even know where to start!  Everything we ate here was delicious.  ALL of the meats were tender, juicy, and flavorful.  At first, we couldn’t decide which of the three BBQ sauces we liked best, and I’m sure you’re not surprised that the “Hot” won out… duh.  Jimmy told us that they use white cayenne pepper in the Hot BBQ sauce, which I had never heard of.  I will definitely have to go buy some for home.

Dave loaded up on the BBQ sauce

Dave’s favorite was the Brisket, which happens to be one of his favorite foods.  Although everything was so yummy, I couldn’t stop eating the hot Italian sausage.  It was so good!  I could hardly finish my plate so I got to take home some leftovers and some extra BBQ sauces.

Dave and I will absolutely be returning to Jimmy’s BBQ in the near future.  It’s hard to find good BBQ food in the Philly area and it is so nice to know we have such a great place less than a half hour away.  Both of us recommend Jimmy’s, and make sure you say “hi” to Jimmy when you go try it for yourself!