Can You Smell What The Char Is Cooking?

Can You Smell What The Char Is Cooking?

As I went around asking peeps what they wanted to see on the blog, the resounding vote was: RECIPES! So this is my first installment of: Can You Smell What The Char Is Cooking?! No. That's not a working title. It's an official title, FOOL. If you want recipes you're going to get them MY WAY! AND that's in any way, shape or form, where I can reference a one, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. 

This week I decided to bust out my Weight Watchers cookbook to try a new recipe. Before you X out of the screen because you saw the words Weight & Watchers, bear with me. WW has some legit recipes! A few years ago I lost about 35 lbs doing WW and it was the bomb.com. I'm in need of some poundage losing again so I went back to my tried and true. But the best part of WW is you don't really feel like you're dieting. And the recipes don't totally TASTE like you're dieting, which is the key. AND you can drink wine which is the DOUBLE KEY OF LIFE. 

Weeknight dinners can be a hassle and I don't know about you but, often times they hang over my head. I'm like, "SERIOUSLY YOU PEEPS NEED TO EAT AGAIN?! What the french!" I've combatted that the last few years by creating a menu plan on Sunday night. But still. Blah. I like this particular recipe because it's 1. a casserole which equals *winning* and 2. it has the potential to be "make ahead." Which is also very appealing. I would also like to note that I made this recipe THE DAY MY CLEANERS CAME. I did this for you! You're welcome. Because honestly on the days they come and the kitchen is so clean I'm usually like, MERRY CHICK-FIL-A TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOODNIGHT!!


The total prep time was about 30 minutes because I kept pausing to take pictures (and drink wine). But in real life I'd say more like 20. Serving size says 8. I'd say more like 6. 

First I'll start with the ingredient list:

Chicken Sausage, Mushroom & Pasta Casserole

  • 12 ounces whole wheat rotini (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon EVOO (that's how the cool kids say Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parm cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 lb fully cooked Italian style chicken-sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Now I will give you the directions, but be prepared for about 3984093983 Editor's Notes. Because that's how I roll. And I also because I'm clinically allergic to following directions. I feel super compelled to share with you HOW I WOULD DO IT. It's the ESTJ in me. No I don't think I'm Pioneer Woman, but you bet your buttermilk biscuits I wish I was. 

PRELIMINARY STEPS:

Step 1. If you have small children I HIGHLY recommend YELLING at them to leave the kitchen and not reappear until you say so. This makes you scary. Kids don't f around with scary. But it makes your cooking time both effective AND time-efficient. FEAR The Char. 

Step 2. Pour yourself a glass of wine. It's what cooking is all about, isn't it? And damn homie, it's what you deserve! 

Step 3. DIM THE LIGHTS. (Yes we are still talking about cooking, you sicko.) If you have the ability to dim your lights, please do so. Nice relaxing lighting falls under the "making it lovely for yourself" category. NO sterile lighting up in here. I barely want to see what I'm cooking anyway!

Step 4. Music! Music is life! I have music on all the time. Music in the car, music in the kitchen, even music in the delivery room! Some nice Christmas jams will making cooking more enjoyable...trust!

OK NOW TO THE REAL STEPS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9X13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. COOK rotini according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

   A watched pot never boils, as they say. So go have a sip-o-wine!

A watched pot never boils, as they say. So go have a sip-o-wine!

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add panko, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; stir in parm and oregano. Set aside. Wipe skillet clean. 

   Looked something like this before they got crispy! 

Looked something like this before they got crispy! 

A few thoughts here. Panko bread crumbs are The Truth (as Joel would say). For some reason they are just BETTER than other bread crumbs. And I know the recipe called for EVVO. But in the past year I've replaced EVVO with grapeseed oil, and it's the best decision I made in 2016. Next to purchasing a van, obvi. I LOVE it!! I actually use GARLIC grapeseed oil. OHHHH GIRLLLLL. Grapeseed oil has a higher burn off, it's healthy, AND it makes you rich. Just kidding. But I FEEL RICH WHEN I USE IT. As far as "wiping the skillet clean", that's your call. I hate doing it in the moment but I'm happy when I'm done and I only used one pan. You do you, on that one.

4. Editor's Note: They throw a lot at you on this step so get your listening eyes on. Put sausage in skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate and drain off any fat from the skillet. Add bell pepper and onion to the skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring freq., until veggies start to brown and soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and water; cooking stirring, until mushrooms are softened, about 8 minutes. 

   These chicken sausages are from TJs. They're delish!

These chicken sausages are from TJs. They're delish!

   The veggies all together.

The veggies all together.

SHEESH! WE GET IT WW. Is it me or is that a lot for one step? Luckily, if you're lazy like me you purchased the pre-chopped veggies. This is a #protip that will save you time (but not money). I am not good at cutting veggies, nor do I have the bandwidth to cut veggies. I have a life. And a family. And a Homegoods to go to. Prep is a non-issue thanks to pre-chopped veggies. However, if you do decide to chop veggies I can't recommend THIS chopper enough. I have it, I love it. I've given it as a gift to people. It's AWESOME. And EASY to use!

Also, don't be scared of mushrooms. They don't overpower the dish. I actually only used half of what the recipe calls for. I think that did the trick. Mushrooms are sort of like tofu, in my opinion! They take on the flavor of whatever you're cooking!

  I got the pepper trifecta because I'm using the other peppers for tacos later this week.

 I got the pepper trifecta because I'm using the other peppers for tacos later this week.

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5. Add veggies, sausage, and marinara to rotini; stir until mixed well. Spoon in prepared baking dish and sprinkle with mozzarella and reserved panko mixture. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted. About 25 minutes. 

Now the recipe calls for only one cup of mozzarella. But LEZBHONEST...is one cup ever enough? Not for me! I get all "Bahhh, I'm voting for Hillary!!!" when I put cheese on recipes. (That's a [bad] joke that means I get liberal when I put on cheese.) Editor's Note: It felt really funny when I thought of it. 

Truth time. Remember when I told you I don't follow directions? I missed the part where you put 4 cups of marinara in, and I put 1.5 cups. Woopsies! This was an accident but it turned out to be OK. We don't super love pasta dripping in marinara. So if yours looks more red, you'll know why!

Anyway, I think you'll love it! We sure did! EASY. HOT. DELISH. SORT OF HEALTHY. The kids didn't even ask about the mushrooms because they sort of looked like the sausage. We had enough for leftovers too. 

Now if you wanted to make it ahead here's what you do:

Prepare steps 2 through 5 of the recipe, setting aside the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the sauce, and panko mixture. Wrap the casserole tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. To reheat, let the casserole come to room temp. Drizzle the reserved sauce, sprinkle with cheese and panko mixture, and bake as directed. 


I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did! if you like recipes I'll post another next week. Speaking of cooking, Joel and I have a date to Cookology on Friday. I'm SO excited! I'll hit you with a review of our experience and what we made next week! 

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