Slow Cooker Tomato Veggie Sauce with Sausages – Crazy Cooking Challenge

I am so excited to be participating in my very first Crazy Cooking Challenge from Moms Crazy Cooking.  As you all know, I am new to the blogging world, so just heard about this late last week, but still wanted to join in on the fun.  Since I found out about my little bit of a wheat intolerance, I have only had pasta a few times, and typically use spaghetti squash instead.  Or just forego it altogether.  But I have been looking for a good reason to try some of the gluten free pastas, so the Tomato Sauce Challenge was the perfect opportunity.

The only problem was that I was heading to my mom’s for a long weekend the day after I found out about the challenge, and we already had plans for cooking in and eating out for the weekend.  So the only day I had to shop and cook and blog was Tuesday – yes, the day before the posts go up.  I needed something quick, easy, and would only require a quick trip to the store for a few items I didn’t already have in my fridge and pantry.  I started clicking on some links of the blogs listed on the Crazy Cooking Challenge page, and, although I looked at a few others, the first one I stumbled upon was perfect!  It was Simple Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce from Little Mommy, Big Appetite.  I had most of the ingredients (including a partial bottle of red wine), and I knew that I could easily grab the last few items from the store and get it in the Crock Pot while The Bug was at pre-school.

Sausage on a platterI made a few changes to the recipe, mainly based on what I had in the house.  I had some fresh basil I wanted to use up, instead of dried, so added that in at the end.  Little Mommy suggests mushrooms as an optional addition, but I decided to add in zucchini – mushrooms are not The Hubby’s favorite, but I still wanted to get in some extra veggies.  And, while I wanted meat with dinner, I didn’t want a meat sauce.  So instead of the optional ground beef, I threw in some mild Italian chicken sausages.  You could definitely use pork or turkey sausages.  Or make it vegetarian or vegan by leaving out the meat altogether.

Veggie tomato sauce with chicken sausage on a platter

Well, first of all, I was pleasantly surprised by the brown rice spaghetti.  Pasta may be re-entering our lives, and not just in squash form!  And, since this is what we are really talking about here, the sauce was rich and delicious.  I loved all the veggies, the sausage was super soft, and the red pepper flakes gave it a nice kick that I balanced by topping it with a dollop of ricotta cheese (just because I had some to use up) and parmesan.

Bowl of Spaghetti and Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Susage form top

Bowl of Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Sausage Seconds

I liked it so much that after I finished my spaghetti, I went back for a bowl of sauce and sausage.

This sauce will definitely be entering our regular dinner rotation.  And, most importantly, The Hubby and The Bug approved.  The Bug typically spits out zucchini, and can be hit or miss with meat, but he ate three plates of “noodles”!

This is a little spicy, but nom nom nom!

And in my never ending quest to re-purpose leftovers, I bet this would make a really awesome sausage sandwich, on some nice, crusty bread with mozzarella cheese melted on top.

So if you are reading this and haven’t checked out the Crazy Cooking Challenge, click on the button below to to see the other entries, and click on mine to vote for it as the Ultimate Spaghetti with Red Sauce recipe.  Thanks!

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Also shared with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday 3/7/2012

Slow Cooker Tomato Veggie Sauce with Sausages

Slightly adapted from Simple Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce from Little Mommy, Big Appetite

Ingredients

1 T olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped  (I actually used only half because the one I had was enormous)
1 cup shredded carrots
2 small zucchini, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes – I used Tuttorosso Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes, chopped them into bite-sized pieces, and added the liquid from the can, but not the liquid that squished out from the tomatoes onto the cutting board while I was chopping them.
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce – again I used Tuttorosso
1/2 T dried oregano
1 T parsley
1 t sugar
1 t crushed red pepper flakes (this gives it a but of a kick, so you may want to cut this down, depending on how spicy you like things)
1/4 cup red wine (I used Merlot)
1/2 T Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2T fresh (or 1/2 T dried, as per the original recipe, but toss this in before cooking)
*1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage (optional, or substitute pork or turkey sausage)

Spaghetti of your choice (regular, whole wheat, gluten-free), cooked as per package instructions.

Optional: Ricotta and/or Parmesan cheese for serving.

Directions

1.  Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

2.  Add the onions, carrots, and zucchini and cook until soft, and onions are translucent.

3.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Cooking the Veggies

4.  Throw all of the veggies in your slow cooker.

5.  While you are adding all of the other ingredients to the slow cooker, throw the sausages into the pan you used to cook the veggies and brown them a little on the outside.Browning the sausage

6.  Add all of the other ingredients except for the pasta and optional cheese(s) to the slow cooker, stir it up and add in the sausages.Filling up the slow cooker

7.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours (to be honest, I had mine cooking for about 7).

8.  While you are cooking your pasta, take the lid off of your slow cooker to allow the sauce to thicken up a bit.Sauce is ready

9.  Serve over your favorite spaghetti,with a little dollop of ricotta cheese and/or a sprinkle of parmesan, if you like.

Bowl of Spaghetti and Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Sausages

10.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Sausage ready to eat

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Of Lent and Leftovers (Mango Avocado Salsa Recipe)

I was raised Byzantine Catholic. It is pretty much like being Roman Catholic, but not really.  I could explain further, but I really don’t intend to use my blog for theology lessons.  But for us, Lent starts on Monday, not Ash Wednesday.  We don’t even really acknowledge Ash Wednesday.  I remember the first time I saw someone with ashes on their head, I thought they had been cleaning their fireplace and then touched their forehead before they washed their hands.  Another difference is that on the first day of Lent and on Good Friday, we can’t have meat or dairy.  Growing up in a meat-and-carb-loving family who didn’t really like seafood or beans (or, in my case, fruits and vegetables), and knew absolutely nothing about vegan cooking, this was tough.  Basically we picked on Pop Tarts (yes, strangely most varieties of Pop Tarts are dairy-free), Campbell’s Tomato Soup, peanut butter, saltines, bananas, and lo mein all day.  Well, this was not very tasty, filling, or healthy.

Luckily in the past several years, I have learned to make and enjoy a wider variety of foods.  So now one of my go-to dishes for the first day of Lent and/or Good Friday is fish or shrimp tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa.  Actually this salsa makes a frequent appearance on our dinner table ever since I first saw the recipe I based it on two years ago.  I tweaked the ratios to how I like it, got rid of the raw onion, and replaced the jalapeno with chili powder and cumin, because I usually have these in my pantry, but don’t usually have a jalapeno lying around (and I am not a huge fan of chunks of raw jalapeno).  We LOVE it on fish, shrimp, black bean, or chicken tacos.

Tyler eating Mango Avocado Salsa

Clearly The Bug loves him some Mango Avocado Salsa

I used to make it with just half of a mango and half of an avocado, but The Bug absolutely devours it (well, he does pick around the tomatoes).  But when I use a whole avocado and mango, we do usually have some left over.  And I hate leftover food.  Well, actually, I hate throwing away week-old, uneaten leftover food.  So I have come up with a number of ways to “re-purpose” any salsa that is left.  Except for the salad, these are all some of The Bug’s favorites:

  • Scoop it up with Tostitos Scoops (I usually get the baked ones)
  • Put it in an omelet with cheese
  • Make a quesadilla with beans and/or cheese
  • Put it in a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Spoon some on top of a pile of  mashed black beans (my version of refried beans)
  • Scoop it on top of a salad with Cumin Lime Dressing, and maybe a little feta cheese (my cheaper, easier to find replacement for cotija cheese)
Fish Taco with Mango Avocado Salsa

Fish Taco

Mango Avocado Salsa on Black Beans

Black Beans

Mango Avocado Quesadilla

Quesadilla

I am giving up wine this year.  It was that or ice cream, and I don’t feel like I can part with ice cream right now.  Are you giving up anything for Lent?

This post was shared with:

Pennywise Platter Thursday 2/23 blog carnival, on The Nourishing Gourmet

Traditional Tuesdays 2/28/12, on Whole New Mom

Hodge Podge Friday 3/2/12, on It’s a Hodge Podge Life

Mango Avocado Salsa
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

1 mango, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)Bowl of Mango Avocado Salsa

1 avocado, chopped (about 1 cup)

3/4 cup chopped tomatoes (I like to use grape tomatoes)

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

A few grinds of pepper

Directions

1.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  I like to squeeze the lime over it right after I cut the avocado to keep it from turning brown.

2.  If you have time, let it sit in the fridge for a little while to let the flavors blend before eating.

3.  Scoop onto your taco of choice.

4.  Enjoy!

Mango Avocado Salsa