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SAUSAGE & CANNELLINI CIOPPINO

It’s finally starting to cool down and stay cool. Now that Fall is here, I’m ready to plant my face in bowls of all sorts of soup. This Sausage & Cannellini Cioppino is one of my absolute favorites because it’s a fast, easy one pot meal with a whole lot of healthy going on that doesn’t taste necessarily “healthy.” It’s bold flavors are given credit to the Italian sausage of course. I used TURKEY Italian sausage rather than pork to keep the grease level down. You really can not taste a difference whatsoever. They make a chicken Italian sausage too, I’m not a huge fan of it as I believe I CAN taste the difference but by all means, if you want to use it, do so!

For those who aren’t a fan of kale or never tried it, this is one of the best ways to try kale. Baby steps! It literally doesn’t have much of a flavor as it absorbs everything else in the soup but the importance of getting greens is huge. There are different kinds of kale, feel free to use any of them. The curly kale is great and more hearty than lacinto or dino kale but they all taste fairly similar. Swiss chard is also a great option in place of kale.

Also, extremely important! When buying broth, read the ingredients label. You will discover that most broth is hardly much REAL broth and riddled with MSG. The best way to get quality broth is to look at the ones packaged in a box and low-sodium. Pacific is one of my favorite brands. Just make sure it doesn’t have MSG and other additives that don’t sound like REAL FOOD. You can control your salt intake yourself very easily by just adding sea salt if needed.

Sometimes I love throwing in 1/2 pound of shrimp instead of beans or in addition to. Of course you can do whatever you want and make it your own as I always love to encourage that. If you’re new to cooking, it may be easiest for you to follow the recipe to get a feel for it and then next time make it by adding your own flare to it. Regardless, I hope you guys enjoy this cioppino as much as I do. It’s even better when you dunk homemade garlic bread or grilled cheese into it!

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SAUSAGE & CANNELLINI CIOPPINO
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Ingredients
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, garlic, onion, sea salt, and pepper. Let cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the basil, thyme, sausage, and use a wood spoon to break the sausage up. Cook for about 5 minutes until almost cooked through.
  3. Add the wine, stir by scrapping up the bits from the bottom of the pan then stir in the tomato paste, vegetable broth, stewed tomatoes, and bay leaf. Bring everything to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.
  4. Lastly, add the beans and kale. Stir and let cook for another five minutes. Remove the bay leaf, add more salt and pepper to taste.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

Oh man, you guys are gonna love this one! But first let me confess how I’ve been spelling Shepherd’s Pie as “Shepard’s Pie” for a while now and no one ever corrected me! As I got started typing up this food blog entry I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to double check the spelling. Glad I did! I’m kinda hoping I’m not alone in this LOL! Okay, so seriously I’m not exaggerating. You-guys-will-LOVE-this! This makes a big batch and depending on the size of your family, you could have the best tasting leftovers for DAYS.

This is truly a Shepherd’s Pie because I use ground lamb. Trust me, I tried ground beef the first time and it’s not the same as the best Shepherd’s Pie you’ve ever had wherever that may be. It must be lamb. Not half lamb, ALL ground lamb. If you’re hesitant to try lamb because you think it’s funky, let me reassure you that if you’re going to try ground lamb for the first time or give it another chance, this is the absolute way to go. I’m not just saying that, promise. Now that has been established, if you insist using ground beef or any other red meat by all means go for it… I do believe that changes it to a Cottage Pie though. This is important to know in case you do some traveling.

If you’re looking to make this meal low-carb, you just simply replace the mashed potatoes with your favorite cauliflower mashed potatoes recipe. There are tons of different recipes out there you can choose from but personally, I would just make my cauliflower mash the same way I would as my usual Red Skin Mashed Potatoes recipe. Just keep your eye on the amount of liquid when making them to get the right texture you want your cauliflower mash to be. As for using real potatoes, I keep the skin for extra fiber, vitamins, minerals, and all that jazz but feel free to peel them. Keeping the skin saves on time too!

You’ll see that I use quite a bit of Worcestershire sauce than your typical recipe. I have reasons! Any time I’ve used a few dashes or a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce to a recipe, I can’t taste it! It does nothing! Hardly at least. I want a big punch of flavor because that’s what comfort food is about. So just a heads up, start off not using salt at all. Maybe use half the amount of Worcestershire sauce to start, do a taste test. You can add more towards the end and also add salt to taste. It’s the only way you’re gonna master what you believe is the best Shepherd’s Pie!

One last thing, you can make this a day ahead. Just put the meat at the bottom of the baking pan, top with the mashed potatoes. When you’re ready to bake it, just pull it out of the fridge, top it with the cheese and bake. Some times I’ve made the meat filling ahead so that all I need to do was make the mashed potatoes or vice versa. It works in all ways.

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SHEPHERD'S PIE
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Ingredients
MEAT FILLING
MASHED POTATOES
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Ingredients
MEAT FILLING
MASHED POTATOES
Instructions
MEAT FILLING
  1. Saute the carrots and onion with the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Once the onions start to become softened after a few minutes, add the garlic. If the pan is starting to get dry, add a little more olive oil.
  2. Add the ground lamb, rosemary, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Using a wooden spoon break up the ground lamb into small pieces letting it brown through.
  3. Once the lamb is nearly cooked through add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, flour, and half of the vegetable stock. Stir every thing really well. Let the stock cook down most of the way and add the rest. Stir frequently, reduce the heat and let everything simmer for about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the peas and salt to taste if needed. Turn off heat and set aside.
MASHED POTATOES
  1. Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot, fill with water until it's about an inch above the potatoes. Bring to a boil and stir every so often.
  2. Strain the potatoes once they're softened. Turn off the heat. Place the pot back on the stove and add the butter. Pour the strained potatoes on top of the butter, add the pepper, milk, and half of the vegetable stock. Mash the potatoes to your desired consistency.
  3. Add more milk and/or stock as needed to avoid the potatoes from drying. Stir. Add more salt and pepper to taste as well.
ASSEMBLE
  1. Place the meat filling evenly in a 9" x 11" (or 9" x 13") baking dish.
  2. Then, top it with an even layer of the mashed potatoes.
  3. Top the mashed potatoes with an even layer of the shredded sharp white cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake at 400 F degrees for about 15 minutes or until everything is bubbling and the top is golden.

WILD BOAR RAGU

I have to start off by saying, don’t let wild boar scare you. It’s just pork but unlike any other. It’s much leaner and has a richer flavor which works perfect for this ragu. A free range animal grazing on a wide variety of food gets more muscle enhancing movement, which generates a deeper, more flavorful meat than an animal confined and raised only on grain; and there are no antibiotics or hormone supplements to worry about with wild animals.

Although, if you prefer to not use wild boar or cannot find it, feel free to use beef, or pork we’re all familiar with. You can also use other wild meats like venison and rabbit too which is commonly used in some parts of Italy. The key is to use a flavorful meat so I wouldn’t suggest ground turkey or chicken. Save those two for something else instead. I typically give it a good four hours to make this at least. Most of that time is letting it simmer down. I’ve used a slow cooker and it works great but at certain points you may need to leave the lid cracked open.

Before I let you go, in case you didn’t notice; this recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms. Don’t forget you will need that mushroom broth, not just the mushrooms so set it aside. This brings out the earthy rich flavor of the dish entirely. You don’t have to use it but in my opinion it’s a must to pull everything together as one incredible dish. If you happen to tweak the recipe and something amazing came of it, please share!

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WILD BOAR RAGU
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat with the onions, carrots, and garlic. Stir everything frequently for about 7 minutes until the onions are translucent and softened. Then, add in the chopped porcini mushrooms and tomato paste, stirring often for about 4 minutes.
  2. When the tomato paste turns a dark brick red color, add the meat, porcini broth, and broth. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low allowing it to simmer and reduce.
  3. Once most of the liquid has evaporated add the wine, stir. Let it reduce again.
  4. When the broth has mostly evaporated, add the milk, nutmeg, pepper, and stir well. Bring it back to a simmer, add salt to taste. Bring the heat down to low and cook it down until it’s the consistency you like.
  5. Serve over bucatini and a garnish of Romano cheese.

TUNA & SUN-DRIED TOMATO PASTA

Lets face it, we’re always busy regardless what time of year. But with Summer around we are busy on top of wanting to enjoy those days of perfect weather to do the things we couldn’t do otherwise. With this quick dish you can’t get anymore healthy with pasta when you throw together a bunch of tuna, spinach, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s light and filling enough to not weigh you down on those hot days we’ve been having. I eat this either cold, room temperature or warmed up depending on my mood, it’s super yummy either way.

I’ve made this with arugula instead of spinach and it’s just as yummy. There are no rules so, feel free to use any leafy green and any other favorite veggie that appeals to you. That’s the best thing about cooking is you can eat healthy and make it taste good, it’s all about using lots of fresh flavor and your favorite ingredients. If you’re gluten free, use a GF pasta or any other pasta alternative like whole wheat, quinoa pasta for more protein or zucchini noodles for low carb! You can learn about zucchini noodles and how you can easily make them on my Garlic Shrimp Zoodle recipe. Enjoy!


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TUNA & SUN-DRIED TOMATO PASTA
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Ingredients
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Fill a large pot of water for the pasta and bring to boil. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging. When the pasta is done, reserve a glass of pasta water and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, drizzle the bottom with olive oil and saute the onions until softened. Add a splash of the reserved pasta water, lemon juice, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt, sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato olive oil, and tomato paste. Stir. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add the tuna and fresh spinach, toss for a good minute allowing everything to warm through. Then, add the pasta, stir until everything is well incorporated.
  4. Toss the parmesano reggiano while piping hot and serve immediately.

SLOPPY JOES

It’s SO easy to be lazy! But that’s not the kind of easy you want to get used to. It’s time to get used to easy HOMEMADE meals. Use real ingredients, no preservatives and control what you put into your food. Sure, homemade food can be high in calories of sugar, carbs and poor fats. Even too much protein, not enough fiber. But we can make healthier options and use moderation to compromise. Sloppy Joe’s CAN be healthier without losing it’s unforgettable flavor. Without a doubt this is the best I’ve ever had. I spent a few times getting it right and it was well worth it!

Here I made a traditional Sloppy Joe using ground turkey instead of beef. I’ve made this a few different ways including with all ground beef and I’ll be straight up honest with you… there isn’t much of a difference. With the right spices you can really make a huge difference with the blandness that is ground turkey. I’ve made this using all 99% fat-free ground turkey breast and the consistency was a little tough in comparison but the flavor never changed. My favorite though is using the commonly found 6% fat ground turkey that you can find at any store. Basically, you can do whatever you want with it. Make it your own!


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SLOPPY JOES
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Ingredients
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the onion and carrot with the olive until softened. Add the garlic and ground turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring until it's about half way cooked through.
  2. Toss in the salt, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and diced tomatoes. Stir everything together, add half of the beef stock, tomato paste, ketchup, and worchestershire sauce then stir again.
  3. Reduce the heat to low-medium letting it simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until everything thickens.
  4. Lastly, stir in the other half of the beef stock and brown sugar. Allow everything to simmer until it thickens again.
  5. Serve with your favorite buns.