Fast and Easy Sausage Pinwheels

Fast and Easy Sausage Pinwheels

fast and easy sausage pinwheels 2As the holidays are coming to a close, I’m not looking forward to the early morning hassle of  getting my kids out of bed on chilly winter mornings and ready for school.   They are 15 and 17 now, but they might as well be 5 and 7 as far as our morning routine goes. We pray nightly for the 6 o’clock AM phone call announcing a 2-hour delay.

I’m not exactly a morning person and my kids seem to have inherited that gene.  It is painful for me to get up before seven (yes, I am really a wimp).  I have to remind myself that it only hurts for a minute. They do not buy this philosophy however and inevitably drag out putting their feet on the floor for a good five to twenty-five minutes.  Then they can’t find their clothes because are still on the bathroom floor, having failed to magically levitate down to the laundry and wash, dry and fold themselves.  Don’t get me started on the socks.

All of these shenanigans do not leave a lot of time for breakfast.  And yes, I know that they are making their problem my problem.  I generally have much better boundaries, but when it comes to a filling school morning breakfast with sufficient protein, I just can’t let it go.  I need something that needs little tending, is tempting hot or at room temp, and can be eaten in the car if needed.

I grew up eating these sausage pinwheels and still love them.  Fortunately, my boys do as well.   They are  super easy — make ahead, freeze and throw  in the oven to bake as needed.  Warren Buffet is now in charge of making them after repeatedly depleting the supply in our freezer.

Fast and Easy Sausage Pinwheels

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Dust a pastry or large cutting board with the flour.
  2. Unroll the Crescent sheet, gently give it a few turns of a rolling pin, then use your fingers to square it up.
  3. Break the raw sausage up and sprinkle it over the pastry sheet.
  4. Use your hands to press the sausage into a thin layer that almost completely covers the pastry sheet.  Leave only a half-inch on the edge closest to you uncovered.  The sausage should be spread all the way to the other three edges.
  5. Roll it up length-wise starting with the edge closest to you.  Roll it as tightly as possible so there will not be gaps between the sausage and dough.
  6. Put the log on a cookie sheet and freeze for approximately 30-45 minutes until it is hard enough to cut through without the log losing its shape. Check it at 30 minutes, then every 5-10 minutes. Do not freeze it solid or you will have to wait for it to thaw out a bit.
  7. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 1/3 inch slices. One log should make about 35 slices.
  8. Place the slices back onto the cookie sheet and freeze solid.
  9. Store the frozen slices in a freezer bag until ready to serve.
  10. To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the frozen slices on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the pastry is golden brown.

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen
Prep time: 30 minutes + 30-45 minutes in the freezer
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

These tasty pastries also make a perfect knosh to go with your Bloody Marys at brunch or  a quick appetizer to serve with cocktails.  It is not too late to make a batch for New Year’s Day!

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

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Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

My boys are both in high school now, and both are running cross-country.  My older son is driving now so the two of them leave the house around 7:45 in the morning and are gone until 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.  I am hearing faint whisperings of an empty nest. At first I felt a bit at loose ends, but then I remembered how much I relish time home alone.  And in the past few weeks, several tasks that have lingered on my to-do list for an absurdly long time have finally gotten done.  I had hoped that if I ignored that stuff long enough it might go away but apparently the IRS had no interest in cooperating.

Family dinner is more important than ever.  Warren Buffett is constantly begging to watch New Girl during dinner but I resist.  We talk about school, all the crazy politics these days, Warren Buffett’s latest plan to make a million dollars. I tell them goofy stories about my students, correct their table manners and insist they eat their vegetables.  They make me laugh.  They make each other laugh. And then we watch New Girl.

This recipe for chicken meatballs with pasta and a pomodoro sauce served with a green salad is a perfect family dinner — lots of carbs and protein for the athletes. The meatballs can be a do-ahead or a chance to drag the kids into the kitchen and put them to work.  It is a versatile  meal– skip the meatballs and go vegetarian or skip the pasta and go low carb.  Make a double batch of the chicken meatballs to use  in meatball subs for a later meal.  I freeze them before baking, but you could also bake and freeze, then rewarm in the sauce.

Chicken Meatballs with Pasta al Pomodoro

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup minced onion
  • 2 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • olive oil cooking spray

For the Pasta al Pomodoro:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon  Gourmet Garden Basil Herb Blend or basil pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (divided)
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes until it is wilted and any water has evaporated.
  5. Add the garlic and cook another 1-3 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and let the vegetables cool.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, bread crumbs, cheese, egg, tomato paste, salt and pepper.  When cool, add the vegetables and stir to combine.  Stir in the milk, adding it sparingly.
  7. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray
  8. Roll the chicken mixture into 12 golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on the cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.
  10. Wipe out the non-stick skillet and heat the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the minced onion and cook for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1-3 minutes.
  11. Increase the heat to medium and add the crushed red pepper flakes, tomatoes, basil puree, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 20 minutes.
  12. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot of boiling water then drop in the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is not quite tender (about 2 minutes less than the prescribed cooking time).  Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  13. Turn the heat up to medium high and stir the pasta water into the sauce to loosen it.  Bring the sauce to a boil and stir in the drained pasta, continuing to stir until the sauce coats the pasta and the pasta is al dente.
  14. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls.  Top each with 3 meatballs and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Teaching Teens to Cook: Turkey Sloppy Joe Sliders

sloppy joe sliderFor a couple of summers now, I’ve suggested that my boys (now 17 and almost 15) start learning how to cook.  This summer, out of necessity, I’ve given them no choice.  Over the past year, when I’ve been too busy or tired to make dinner, I’ve summoned them to the kitchen and insisted they stay until dinner was on the table.  Ice-T, my older son, is learning how to grill.  With the help of a meat thermometer, he can cook a flank steak to medium rare perfection.  He can make french toast, rice, waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Warren Buffet, my younger son, understands the basic composition of salad dressings and marinades, fries bacon and makes guacamole,  blueberry pancakes with orange honey butter, and brownies.aus-ginger-tube-new-lge  All those years of watching Top Chef are clearly paying off!

Over the past couple of months, there have been several nights when I was busy with freelance projects and had absolutely no time to cook.  I had planned and shopped though, and saw no reason to order pizza (not that any places deliver to my address anyway). Their first joint cooking project was a chicken and asparagus stir fry served over rice.  I keep Gourmet Garden tubes of garlic, ginger and a couple of herbs on hand for times when I am trying to throw together a dressing, marinade or stew in a hurry.  This cut down on the kind of chopping that might make me nervous.  The asparagus was easy to slice,.  The guys received extensive instructions on the proper handing of chicken (during which they announced that their dad and my mother each thought I was a little neurotic on this topic).  Dinner turned out really well.

Whenever one kid is gone and one is home, I tend to scale back on cooking,  While Ice-T was in the mid-west sailing and having a great time at engineering camp earlier this month, I was super busy teaching a course while updating my teaching materials, spending time on research, and working on freelance projects daily.  Warren Buffet was thrust into the role of chef and, more or less, rose to the occasion.  One night, he mixed up a marinade for chicken breasts, put together a Greek salad including the dressing, and made tzaziki sauce with me providing instructions from the next room.  Another night, he made his blueberry pancakes with cinnamon-maple syrup and orange-honey butter and bacon with little maternal guidance.  His third dinner that week was these sloppy joe sliders, made with ground turkey and loaded with vegetables.

Turkey Sloppy Joe Sliders
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground turkey (I prefer 85/15% fat)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (1/2′ dice)
  • 2/3 cup diced celery (1/2′ dice)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, excess moisture removed*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (plus sprigs for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 8 slider buns

* After you grate the zucchini, wrap in a paper or kitchen towel and squeeze out any excess fluid.

Directions:

  1. Brown the meat in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
  2. Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini to the skillet and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Dump the meat back into the skillet, add the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme. Stir to combine.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup beef broth and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Toast the slider buns. Top each bottom bun with the meat and top bun.

Yield: 4 servings     Prep time: 30 minutes     Cook time: 30 minutes

This is a great dish for teens to learn to make. It’s filling, nutritious, comfort food and way better for them than processed frozen stuff.  It is inexpensive and can easily be doubled or tripled and frozen.  The leftovers always get eaten!

I don’t have a nutritional analysis of a serving of these sloppy joes, but I tell myself that each diner is surely getting at least a cup of vegetables so that a side dish is not absolutely necessary.   If you’re not buying it or want a fresh side with a contrasting texture, try my broccoli- apple slaw or crunchy broccoli salad.  Or you could just have some potato chips.

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