Sausage + Pepper Cast Iron Frittata

Sausage + Pepper Cast Iron Frittata

I have only had this cast iron skillet since November, but it has already been broken in quite nicely!  The 2 things I’ve cooked most in it so far are Ina Garten’s Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken (a big hit) and frittatas.  I now love frittatas so much that they’ve become a weekly staple.  I pretty much always use Italian sausage, just because I love the complex flavor.  But as far as veggies go, I have tried a lot, and the follow recipe is my favorite combination. 

This meal isn’t exactly healthy, but it’s not terrible for you, either.  It’s got tons of protein, plenty of vegetables, and it’s very filling.  Plus everyone in my house likes it, even Ben.

When I see people scramble eggs on TV, I always get frustrated.  They always just start with the eggs whole and go in there with a whisk.  I have found a way that is so much easier, especially if you’re scrambling 24 eggs at the same time.  Once I crack all the eggs into a bowl, I take a fork and use the prongs to physically tear each yolk before I start whisking.  Once you start whisking, it’s hard to see if any yolks haven’t been broken yet. 

And for removing the sausage from casings, I like to use a pair of scissors.  I start at one end and just cut all the way up.  It may sound like common sense, but it took me a while to figure that out!

Lastly, I’ve tried shredded hash browns for this frittata, and they mostly just got stuck to the bottom of the pan while I was trying to sauté them.  If you use the diced hash browns, they stay together better.

I eat my frittata with lots of ketchup.


Total Time:  1 hour 15 minutes1

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



2 ½ cups frozen diced hash browns

24 eggs

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

6 links of Italian sausage (about 1 pound)

1 ½ cup thinly sliced onion

1 ½ green bell pepper, medium diced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

8 ounces freshly grated provolone or mozzarella cheese



  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the hash browns from the freezer, and let them defrost while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and use a large whisk or fork to break the yolks and mix everything together.
  4. Coat a large cast iron skillet with plenty of olive oil. Turn to medium heat.
  5. While the oil heats, remove the sausage from the casings.
  6. Add the sausage to the skillet, and use a wooden spoon to break it apart as it cooks. Cook until almost done, about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.
  8. If necessary, add more olive oil to the skillet. When it’s heated, add the peppers and onions to the pans.  Season the peppers and onions with salt, pepper, plus the paprika and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
  9. Create a large space in the center of the skillet by moving the veggies off to the side.
  10. If necessary, add more olive oil (if not, don’t). Add the diced hash browns to the skillets and sauté until they become translucent.
  11. Now, mix all the potatoes back in with the peppers and onions so it’s all incorporated and in an even layer.
  12. Add the sausage back to the skillet in an even layer.
  13. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the sausage and vegetable mixture.
  14. Pour the mixed eggs evenly over everything.
  15. On medium heat, let everything cook for about 10 minutes on the stove. Do not stir!
  16. Carefully put the frittata in the preheated oven, and cook until the top has just started to brown, and the center is set (about 25-30 minutes).
  17. Slice, and serve hot or at room temperature.



Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

There are so many other ways to make pasta than traditional spaghetti and meat sauce (although I love that, too!).  This pasta is a great way to use any leftover ham you may have from the holidays.  If you’re doing this in winter, you can change up the vegetables any way you want, but I like that the peas and greens cook right in the pot in only a minute or 2. 

Making this creamy sauce from white beans is something I saw in one of my frozen dinners (very sophisticated inspiration, I know).  But I thought that was a pretty cool idea.  I decided to use cannellini beans because this dinner is semi-Italian.  But if you don’t want to make the sauce from scratch, you can always use store-bought hummus!  Even easier.  And since this sauce recipe makes a little more than what you need (about 2 cups, and you’ll only need 1 ½), you can eat this just like hummus.  It’s really good! 


Total Time:  45 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy


For the White Bean Sauce

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons garlic powder

½ cup freshly grated asiago cheese

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oila

Salt and pepper

For the Pasta

1 pound whole wheat rotini

1 pound pre-sliced smoked ham

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup arugula or other baby lettuce

2 cups white bean sauce

1 ½ – 2 cups reserved pasta water

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper


  1. Make the creamy white bean sauce by adding the drained cannellini beans, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and asiago cheese to a food processor. Pulse until it has begun to turn into a paste.  Then with the processor running, stream in the olive oil until the sauce is the consistency of hummus.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the skin and fat off the ham, and slice into strips about the same size as the pasta.
  4. When the pasta is done, but before you drain it, use a liquid measuring cup to pull out about 2 cups of pasta water. Set aside.
  5. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
  6. To the same hot pot, add the ham, and heat through. Add the peas, arugula, white bean sauce, and cooked pasta.  Stir slowly to wilt the greens and heat the peas and sauce.
  7. Add pasta water as need to thin out the sauce until it has the right consistency. (I used exactly 1 ½ cups).
  8. Add the lemon zest and juice. Mix, and taste.  Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve hot.

Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta Amatriciana

When I worked at Carrabba’s in my early 20s, we served a dish called cavatappi all’amatriciana.  The customers loved it.  It looks like a basic tomato sauce, but it’s made with bacon and white wine.  It’s a nice change from traditional marinara.

This recipe includes deglazing the pan.  I’m keeping a glossary of cooking terms here.  All that means is that you use an acid (usually citrus juice, alcohol, or broth) to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Deglazing adds flavor to the dish, and all the alcohol cooks out of the wine.  Just make sure you leave the pan uncovered.

The whole thing takes about 30 minutes to cook, and it’s a budget-friendly meal.  It’s also a good way for kids to step outside their comfort zone a little, but still familiar enough for them to try.  If you are making it for kids, I’d recommend using half  the amount of Calabria chili paste.  And if you don’t have Calabria chili paste, you can get it here or just use red pepper flakes.

Total Time:  30 minutes

Serves: 6

Difficulty Level:  Easy


1 pound of thick cut bacongood-a

1 pound of your favorite pasta shape (I used whole wheat penne)

1 medium sized onion

4 garlic cloves

1 ½ cup dry white wine

One 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

3-4 tablespoons of Calabria chili paste


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Leaving the bacon stuck together, slice it into about 1/3 inch slices.  Chop the onion, and chop the garlic cloves.
  2. In a large stock pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s done, about 12-15 minutes. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions.
  3. When the bacon is done, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the grease. You want to reserve about half of the bacon fat in the pan.  The rest you can discard.
  4. Cook the onion in the bacon fat over medium for about 6-8 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and be sure to scrape off the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the tomatoes and Calabria chili paste (or red pepper flakes). Add the bacon back to the pan.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened back up.
  7. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.
  8. Serve with black pepper, freshly grated cheese, and some fresh basil.

[originally posted 10/22/2016]

[updated recipe and pictures 4/6/2017]

Cristie’s Red Beans and Rice + Black Salt and Pepper Cornbread

Cristie’s Red Beans and Rice + Black Salt and Pepper Cornbread

You gotta love Facebook groups.  It’s a cool way to connect you to people with common interests.  I ‘met’ Cristie in a group dedicated to discussing the Real Housewives.  We realized that not only did we share an interest in the housewives, but we also both loved to cook.  A few of us decided to start sharing recipes with each other, and that’s actually what inspired me to revilatlize this blog.  (If you notice the archives have a gap between February of 2015 and July of 2016).  Once we started sharing recipes, I realized I wanted to start writing again.  Since I love cooking so much, I may as well document some of my favorites and challenge myself to be more creative. 

Cristie is from the south like me.  I don’t think I would have trusted a Red Beans and Rice recipe from someone who wasn’t!  I modified hers slightly, but I’ll notate where I did it and give you Cristie’s suggestions.  After making it several times in the slow cooker, I also came up with a French oven modification (below the original method).

The sausage varieties available to you will definitely differ depending on where you live.  Cristie suggests using Country Pleasin’ Jalapeno Cheddar.  We don’t have that in Virginia, so I used Smithfield Andouille sausage.  Cristie also says to use Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice.  But if you know me, you’ll know I use Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice for everything.  I also used marinara sauce instead of Rotel tomatoes, only because I forgot to pick them up, and I already had a jar of marinara sauce open.

Cristie says her husband likes to put sour cream on his red beans and rice.  I do too, but I usually do not say ‘no’ to sour cream.  If you like it spicy, add a few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce. 

You can make the Jiffy bread according to the package directions and serve it with this, which is always good.  Or you can try it my way:  spicier and more tangy.  I use coarse black pepper and Hawaiian black salt.  You can get Hawaiian black salt here or you can just omit it if you prefer.


Total Time:  6 ½ hours16996375_439993019672673_233818130422696587_n

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



2 yellow onions, diced

2 cans of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1-16 ounce can of diced tomatoes

16 ounces of Rotel tomatoes or marinara sauce

2 packets of dried French onion soup mix

1 ½ tablespoon of Cavender’s Greek seasoning

1 tablespoon of garlic powder

8-12 ounces of water

24 ounces of country sausage or Andouille sausage

2 recipes of prepared Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice or your favorite rice


Hot sauce

Sour cream

Black salt and pepper cornbread (recipe follows)



  1. In a slow cooker turned to low, add the onions, beans, tomatoes, marinara, onion soup mix, Greek seasoning, and garlic powder. Add water, just enough to thin it out a little.
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours.
  3. Slice the sausage on a bias.
  4. Prepare the Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice.
  5. In a pan coated with plenty of olive oil, saute the sausage until cooked and crispy on the edges.
  6. Mix sausage with beans.
  7. Serve over rice with scallions, hot sauce, sour cream, and cornbread. (recipe follows)


Alternate Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a French oven, add the onions, beans, tomatoes, marinara, onion soup mix, Greek seasoning, and garlic powder. Add water, just enough to thin it out a little.
  3. Cover, and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until the sauce is thick and the onions are soft.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice.
  5. While the beans and rice are cooking, cut the andouille sausage on a bias.
  6. Add a little olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.
  7. Cook the sausage in a single layer until browned and cooked through.
  8. When the sausage is done, put it on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up the excess grease.
  9. When the beans are done cooking, add the sausage to the pot, and stir to mix.
  10. Serve over rice with scallions, hot sauce, sour cream, and cornbread. (recipe follows)
Black Salt and Pepper Cornbread 
Total Time:  30 minutes
Serves:  6
Difficulty Level:  Easy
1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
splash of milk
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse black salt
a few pinches of Hawaiian black salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl. Use an electric hand mixer to incorporate all the ingredients.
  3. Spread the cornbread batter out evenly in the pan.
  4. Cook for 17-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.


[originally posted 2/6/17]

Vegetable and Polenta Soup with Crispy Bacon

Vegetable and Polenta Soup with Crispy Bacon

This recipe is a variation of a soup I made for Jon right after we got married.  He briefly decided to become a vegetarian for some reason, and I found this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis.  I just substituted vegetable broth for chicken broth, and there you go. 

Jon’s vegetarianism is long gone, and it has literally been years since I’d even thought about this soup.  As I was writing Pretty Things for December, I took note of one especially pretty dish:  Martha Stewart’s Sicilian Beef Stew.  Her version goes over mashed potatoes, but I think it would be better over polenta.  I was so inspired that I’ve decided to make that for our Christmas Eve dinner, along with Persimmon Pudding—both new dishes I’m really looking forward to! 

I went ahead and got the polenta to go with the beef stew, and it jogged my memory about this soup.  Adding polenta to the soup is kind of an alternative to adding rice or pasta.  It makes it more filling and a little creamy.  Growing up in the Deep South, I never heard of polenta until I was an adult.  But of course I’d heard of grits.  Polenta and grits are almost exactly the same thing.good

This time, though, since we’re all meat-eaters again, I decided to up the ante with bacon and some white wine.  I have to say, I like my version of the soup better than the original.  I decided to cook the bacon first, remove it, and add it back at the very end because I wanted it to be crispy on top of the soup –not soft inside the soup.




Total Time:  1 hour and 15 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 pound of bacon, diced

1 onion, medium diced

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into half moons

2 large zucchini, cut into half moons

4 teaspoons of garlic powder

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

1- 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes

10 whole sprigs of fresh thyme

8-10 cups of chicken broth

1 cup white wine

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of basil pesto

1 cup polenta

½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a soup pot over medium heat, add the diced bacon.  Cook until the bacon is done and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
  3. Cook the onion and the carrot in the bacon fat for about 5-6 minutes. Add the zucchini, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic powder, oregano, diced tomatoes with juice, thyme (sprigs and all), chicken broth, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, and pesto.
  5. Bring the soup up to a boil, and cook with the lid off for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the polenta, cover, and continue to cook for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Right before serving, add the parsley.
  8. Serve hot and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and the cooked bacon.

(inspired by Giada de Laurentiis)

Nanny’s Cream Cheese Sausage Balls

Nanny’s Cream Cheese Sausage Balls

This recipe is a recreation of the sausage balls Nanny always made at Christmas and on New Year’s Day.  Sausage balls are nothing too fancy, and they’re distinctly both retro and southern.  There is absolutely nothing healthy about these, but if you roll them small and bring them to a potluck, everyone will help you eat them.  They’re delicious– and they are good as an appetizer or for a holiday breakfast.

You can make them with mild sausage, like I do.  Or if you’re serving people who like spicy stuff, go a little spicier.  Since we stay in Virginia for holidays, and my grandmother is in Florida, I decided to carry on the tradition and make them for my kids, too.

Since these are heavy and something I would usually make in the winter, it can take a while to soften the cream cheese because it’s cold outside.  I think it’s also best to work with room temperature sausage.  My trick for bringing them to room temperature is to cube the cream cheese and add it plus the sausage into the bowl of my stand mixer.  Then I let it sit in front of the fireplace for about 1 hour.  Otherwise it would take all day to soften.  I also do this when I need room temperature butter in the winter!


Total Time:  1 hourimg_6197

Makes:  30-36 small balls or 24 large balls

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 pound of country sausage, at room temperature

1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 ¼ cup baking mix (such as Bisquick)



  1. Add the sausage, cream cheese, and cheddar to the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix the ingredient on low just to incorporate.
  3. Add the baking mix in 2 batches, and mix on low to incorporate. Don’t overmix ingredients or the balls will become tough.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and make sure everything is incorporated.
  5. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Remove the dough, and roll into bite-sized balls.
  8. Arrange them about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, and allow to cool before serving. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.


Bone-In Sweet Fire Pork Chops

Bone-In Sweet Fire  Pork Chops

With a family of 6, I am always looking for new ways to cook inexpensive food.  Instead of always going with chicken, pork chops are a way to mix it up.  I love cooking pork chops at a low temperature in liquid.  Since they can dry out easily, this makes sure they are tender, and they fall off the bone when done. 

I found a recipe for Sweet Fire Pork Chops last year, but I can’t find it anymore.  Anyway, I have changed most of the ingredients since then to make it my own dish. 

Calabrian Chili Paste is a fun product.  It’s a very hot and spicy Italian pepper spread.  I ordered it here on Amazon, but if you don’t have it or don’t want to buy it, you can substitute southern hot chops or chow chow or even sriracha sauce.  I personally love buying a new and unfamiliar ingredient just to see how I can use it. 

These pork chops go great over Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice or with mashed potatoes because the sauce is like a zesty gravy.


Total Time:  3 ½ hoursimg_6938

Serves:  5

Difficulty Level:  Easy



5 bone-in pork chops

¾ cup white wine

2 tablespoons of Calabria chili paste

1 ¼ cup canned crushed pineapple

1 ¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Coat a large pan with cooking spray. Adding 2-3 pork chops at a time, cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes per side.  Arrange the cooked pork chops in a large casserole dish.
  3. Over medium heat, deglaze the pan with white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any pork chop bits that are stuck to the bottom.
  4. Add the Calabria chili paste, pineapple, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Pour the sauce evenly over the pork chops. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and cook at 275 for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
  6. Turn the oven up to 425, and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.