Thursday, October 15, 2015

Spicy Elbow Macaroni with Veggie Sausage and Cherry Tomatoes

I am so excited!!!  I went outside to water my plants and found that a couple of my cherry tomatoes have turned red and are ready to pick! I picked and ate them immediately (no sharing!). They were delicious and had a lot more flavor than some of the tomatoes you find at the supermarket these days.

A bowl of tomatoes from my container garden!

This might seem like no big deal to a lot of people but I am excited because this is the first year I’ve attempted to grow herbs and a few other vegetables in my backyard. I didn’t know if I would succeed or fail but my plants seem to be doing very well! I decided to go with a container garden because I thought it might be too much work to figure out a way to keep our dog out of the garden.
In my container garden, I am growing cherry tomatoes, red chili peppers, basil, oregano, peppermint, thyme, dill, parsley, cilantro (the cilantro is for B because I am not a fan of cilantro but he loves it), red bell pepper and eggplant. I’m not sure if I will succeed in growing any eggplants but eggplants are one of my favorite vegetables so I had to try! I brought the plants from our local farmer’s market and from our local Whole Foods store.
I love having an herb garden in my backyard because I am able to pick fresh herbs from it on a daily basis. For me, it was very wasteful to buy fresh herbs from my local grocery store because I was never able to use the entire container before the herbs went bad.
Next year, I hope to install raised garden beds in our backyard and plant a proper garden with a bigger variety of vegetables. It would be nice to have room to plant zucchini, summer squash, green beans, wax beans, strawberries, black raspberries, cucumbers and some chives. We also are thinking of buying a composting barrel as well, so we can have organic soil to plant with next year. I will still need to look into ways to keep the dog out of the garden next year as well. Does anyone have any suggestions?
I found a great recipe that I plan on cooking again, once I have enough cherry tomatoes from my garden to use in the dish. I found it on the Rachel Ray website and I made a few changes to the recipe.  I made a few changes because I wanted to use up what ingredients were available to me in my house. I was hungry and I did not want to make a trip to the grocery store for just a few items! I wasn’t sure how the recipe would turn out but I thought it ended up being very tasty!

Spicy Elbow Macaroni with Veggie Sausage and Cherry Tomatoes

  • Salt (for the pasta cooking water)
  • 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound frozen sausage-style veggie crumbles (I used the brand Morning Star Farms)
  • A pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
  • 2 bundles arugula or1/3 pound baby arugula
  • Salt and pepper, seasoned to taste
  • Low fat ricotta cheese
Cook pasta according to the directions listed on the packaging. Reserve a ½ cup of the starchy cooking water to add to the veggie crumble mixture later and then drain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat. To the hot pan add the frozen veggie crumbles and cook until the crumbles start to turn brown. Then stir in the red pepper flakes, and garlic and toss for a couple minutes. Then stir in the cherry tomatoes and cover the pan with a lid and cook until the tomatoes start to burst open, this should take 10-15 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the veggie crumbles by stirring the mixture occasionally. The veggie crumbles are likely to burn if they are not stirred (I found this out the hard way). When tomato skins start to burst open, crack softened tomatoes open with a wooden spoon.
Once this is done, toss the drained pasta and reserved starchy cooking water in with the veggie crumble mixture. Stir to combine. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you are serving with low fat ricotta, place a dollop on top of each serving for mixing in and serve immediately!
On a side note, I like the sausage style veggie crumbles because they have  83% less fat than regular ground Italian sausage, they are cholesterol free and only have 90 calories per serving. A serving is approximately 2 ounces. In comparison, a 2 ounce serving of ground Italian sausage has about 172 calories and it is not cholesterol free.
One thing to be aware of though, is that the veggie crumbles are high in sodium so I still wouldn’t eat them on a daily basis (though some pre-packaged sausages are about as high).

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