Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

This was dinner.  So delicious.  I ate it over Zoodles (zucchini noodles) and the kids ate it with whole wheat spaghetti.  Maria thought it was great that I put her vegetables right in the sauce!  I was just happy that the kids ate it.  The first time I think they’ve eaten homemade sauce without complaints… plus there was no added sugar.  I figured the carrots and the fire-roasted tomatoes would add enough sweetness. PLUS this was totally Whole 30 compliant!

Just a couple minor tweaks from the original that I found at  Wellness Witness
Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce #whole30

Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

2 onions, chopped
3 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup chopped carrots
2 lbs ground beef
3- 28oz cans crushed FIRE-ROASTED tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp. basil (dried)
1 tsp. onion powder
12 oz frozen spinach*

In large skillet, heat up the Extra Virgin Olive Oil on Medium-High heat. Add
the carrots, onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  Once done, drain fat and then add to a large slow cooker.

Add all other ingredients and stir. Cook for 8-9 hours on low.

This makes LOTS!  It is probably 3-4 meals total.  I love having a stocked up freezer!

*I found a bag of frozen spinach at Trader Joe’s.. it wasn’t as mushy as the traditional frozen box, you typically find…


Sun-Dried Tomato, Pesto, & Chicken Stuffed Shells

I found this link to freezer meals last week. Which led me to this recipe for Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

I modified only slightly to also add some sun-dried tomatoes that I had in my refrigerator. Plus I also doubled this and froze half for my friend Sara.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Pesto, & Chicken Stuffed Shells

12-16 jumbo pasta shells
water for boiling pasta
4oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + 1/4 cup for topping
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained and chopped)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (see Leftover Chicken)
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package. Cook pasta shells only until al dente. The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the 1/4 cup of cheese for the topping. Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a 9×9 (or 8×8) baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

The leftovers- Maria loved this.  So kid-tested, mother-approved!Sun-Dried Tomato & Pesto Shells

* To make ahead/freezer meals – Prepare as directed but place filled shells in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells, cover and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

Yesterday we celebrated Maria’s 4th birthday with a party with family & friends!  A great time! I am downloading pictures now… so hopefully I’ll get them posted here soon, but while I wait a recipe…

I wanted it to be easy, and kid friendly… something kids in the midst of playing would stop to eat.  So to compliment a meat/cheese tray for sandwiches, I made this recipe in the crockpot.  Found via the Food Network. The below recipe is doubled (I had a crowd!) It was delicious and only a little bit was left over.  (Also I highly recommend the crockpot liner for this one for easy clean-up!)

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (16 oz box)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
5 cups (about 20 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk (reviews said it should be whole)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Italian Pasta Salad

I love a good pasta salad, but until last week I had never found my own recipe that I liked. I started with this recipe found at

I really liked the dressing but tweaked the makings of the actual salad a little.   And the recipe typed below is actually half of what I made, because it was a LOT of pasta salad!

Italian Pasta Salad

12 ounces rotini pasta
1 cup Italian-style salad dressing (I used Market Pantry Light Italian)
1 cup creamy Caesar salad dressing ( I used Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Creamy Caesar)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 carrots peeled and chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced (i used yellow, because my red onion was bad when I cut into it)
turkey pepperoni (cut in half)
grape tomatoes
3 oz cubed mozzarella
1-2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1.     In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, adding carrots for last minute of cooking, rinse under cold water and drain.
2.     In a large bowl, combine the all ingredients. Allow to chill overnight.  In the morning, if you would prefer more dressing add more dressing. If you are running low on dressing, add a bit of olive oil and more Italian Seasoning.

Weeknight Ravioli Bake

I made this recipe last week. We all though it was delicious, but especially Maria!   And it reheated really well too!

Very easy to put together too!!  Probably easier than cooking ravioli and sauce separately. The store only had one bag of cheese ravioli, so I made it with one bag of cheese and one bag of chicken ravioli.

Weeknight Ravioli Bake

1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 can  (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup water
2 pkg.  (1 lb. each) frozen cheese ravioli
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Shredded Italian Three Cheese Blend
2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan Cheese

HEAT oven to 400ºF.

MIX spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and water; spoon 1 cup onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish.

LAYER half the ravioli and 1 cup shredded cheese over sauce. Top with remaining ravioli and sauce mixture. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese; cover.

BAKE 30 min.; uncover. Bake 15 min. or until ravioli is tender and heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Let stand 10 min.

Velveeta Cheeseburger Mac

I don’t even know what possessed me. I’m not a processed/American cheese fan… really at all. (Well I do love that melty cheese dip in the crockpot…)  But when I got my Food & Family magazine (which used to be free… apparently they charge for it now?) this recipe looked really good (hormones?). So I tried it…

AND… it was good.  Not sure I’d make it on a regular basis, because I honestly have a hard time buying Velveeta!    The only thing I did differently was also add some mustard..  (I figured it already had cheese, hamburger and ketchup!)  And it was easy, and was a one-pot meal! LOVE that!

Velveeta Cheeseburger Mac

1 lb. ground beef
2-3/4 cups  water
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tsp.  onion powder
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/2 lb.  (8 oz.) VELVEETA Pasteurized* Prepared Cheese Product, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

BROWN meat in large skillet; drain.
ADD water, ketchup and onion powder; mix well. Bring to boil. Stir in macaroni; cover. Simmer on medium-low heat 8 to 10 min. or until macaroni is tender.
STIR in VELVEETA; cook until melted, stirring occasionally.

*Maybe it’s the word pasteurized that really turns me off???

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Football season happens to coincide with the start of crockpot season! Oh how I love cooking with my crockpot.  I found this recipe in the Kraft Foods Food & Family magazine.  Very easy take on lasagna. Not a weekday recipe, as it only cooks for 4-6 hours (on low), but works well for weekends, especially football Sundays!  It was good and it definitely made enough for a full meal of leftovers (for both of us).  I did substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta and dried parsley for fresh.

Slow-Cooker Lasagna

1 lb. ground beef
1 jar  (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
2 cups cottage cheese (or 1 container  (15 oz.) Ricotta Cheese)
1 pkg. (7 oz.)  Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 egg
2 tsp dried parsley (or 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley)
6 lasagna noodles, uncooked

BROWN meat in large skillet; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce and water. Mix cottage cheese (or ricotta), 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, 2 Tbsp. Parmesan, egg and parsley.

SPOON 1 cup meat sauce into slow cooker; top with layers of half each of the noodles, broken to fit; and cheese mixture. Cover with 2 cups meat sauce. Top with remaining noodles, broken to fit; cheese mixture and meat sauce. Cover with lid.

COOK on LOW 4 to 6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; let stand, covered, 10 min. or until melted.

Broccoli and Tortellini Salad

Here we are. Week 1 of Whip It Up.  I know it’s going to be a busy week with the holiday and daycare being closed a couple days, so I wanted to get my new recipe out of the way. Plus I now have salad to take for lunch the next couple days!

The theme of the week is “Holiday” Favorites for the 4th of July holiday.  I decided to go with a pasta salad since I have never found a pasta salad that I want to make over and over. Plus I like a good broccoli/bacon salad! So I did some research and found this recipe.

Was the recipe easy to follow?

Yes, it’s basically cooking pasta and cutting up veggies! and a little mixing. I barely even measured!  Apparently the hard part for me was buying the groceries, because I bought ravioli* instead of tortellini! Oops.. oh well. I added an extra cup of corkscrew pasta to make up for it.  I did halve the recipe, so that I wasn’t eating it all week. I also cut way back on the sugar, because I thought the raisins would be sweet enough.  I also cut back on the onion once I had it diced up. I just didn’t want it to overpower and I think that was the right decision.

Did the dish taste good?

It was very good. Chad thought raisins sounded strange but he said that was probably the part he liked best.  Both of us ate it for dinner tonight, with nothing else.

Would you make it again?

Definitely. It’ll be a good salad to take to a picnic or serve at a barbecue. I will definitely try it with tortellini next time!

Broccoli and Tortellini Salad

Broccoli and Tortellini Salad

4 slices bacon
10 ounces fresh cheese-filled tortellini*
1 cup corkscrew pasta (or other shape)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp white sugar
2 teaspoon cider vinegar
4 cups fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped


  1. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook tortellini in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Add the broccoli with about 30 seconds left to blanch. Drain, and rinse under cold water.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar to make the dressing.
  4. In a large bowl, combine broccoli, tortellini, bacon, raisins, sunflower seeds and red onion. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. (I didn’t add all the dressing, but saved some in case it “soaks” it up overnight.)

Skillet Penne and Sausage Supper

Last night I made Skillet Penne and Sausage for dinner. It was a huge success. YUMMMMM!! This is definitely a keeper! The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen, but I found it though Definitely RA.

I added about 1/2 cup more cream near the end of the cooking time, because it was looking a little thick and my penne wasn’t quite done.   I also spooned off some of the grease after cooking the sausage, which may have been why it was looking a little thick.

Skillet Penne and Sausage Supper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 pound hot or sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped fine
8 ounces penne (2 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

  1. Heat the oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Sprinkle the tomatoes and penne evenly over the sausage.  Pour the broth and cream over the pasta.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. (I added about 1/2 cup more cream with about 3 minutes left)
  4. Stir in the spinach a handful at a time and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

I tried a new recipe last night. It is a Campbell soup recipe found at for Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo.  It was pretty good. I don’t know think I’d serve it to guests, but it’s a good weeknight quick and easy meal . I think I might add more broccoli next time.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

1/2 (16 ounce) package linguine (I used whole wheat)
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli flowerets
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast,cut into cubes
1 (10.75 ounce) can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Cook linguine according to package directions. Add broccoli for last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain.
2. Heat butter in skillet. Cook chicken until browned, stirring often.
3. Add soup, milk, cheese, black pepper and linguine mixture and heat through. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.