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 🙂



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


Jalapeño Mango Chicken Sausage


Not to totally plug my dear ol’ fav Trader Joe’s… but last night I put together another amazing dish using their Corn Penne Pasta. I just love this stuff! In case you missed out on my first post using Corn Pasta (I basically made Taco/Nachos over pasta… mmm!), Trader Joe’s has recently started selling a few different types of pasta made from a Corn base, making it gluten-free! Trader’s actually has a TON of Gluten-Free foods, with an easy-to-print list for you to take shopping with you.

Now, back to the food! Last night, I had no time to make a new recipe for the blog… so I had no plan on posting or taking pictures at all. Dave had asked me to go to the movies 🙂 and who am I to say no?! While I was cleaning my room, doing laundry, and a few other things… I managed to go through the freezer and find Aidelle’s Jalapeno Mango Smoked Chicken Sausage. I have tried a few different flavors of Chicken Sausage from Traders in the past and love them… but I’ve never had this kind before. I stuck 1/2 the package in some hot water and thawed it out… completely forgetting about them for a half hour.

When I realized we only had a half hour to make dinner and run out the door to catch our movie, I had to put something together real fast!!!

First, I made a small salad for us to munch on while I cooked: Romaine, Celery, Tomatoes, Shredded Carrot, Olives, Balsamic

Next, I found the rest of my TJ’s Corn Penne Pasta and started to boil it.
I then cut the sausages into thin slices, about 14 from each link. Those went in a grill pan over medium heat.
About five minutes later, I dumped the rest of the bag of shredded carrots, 2 slices of fresh tomatoes- chopped, and an entire bag of fresh spinach.

I drained the pasta, dumped a jar of Bertolli’s Vidalia Onion Spaghetti Red Sauce in, and then combined it all with the sausage/veggie mixture.

The best part about this meal was that what I used made four servings, enough for us to both have seconds for lunch today! One serving is only 391 calories!! Also, it only took like 15 minutes to make, and it was so yummy we ate it in under 10! We were at the movies with time to spare 🙂 We saw Mission Impossible which was awesome! The entire movie is literally action-packed, and you can’t help but love seeing Tom Cruise swinging on a cable atop world’s tallest building, in Dubai. You have to admit, he still looks pretty sexy in his sunnies.