I love a good routine. That's not to say I don't love a good surprise, but more times than not I love how routines keep me accountable and give me something to look forward to throughout the week. Sometimes I fall into one without even realizing it. Nathan and I have had one most Friday nights for quite a long time and I hadn't really noticed it until recently. A typical Friday night now includes a good nap for me. I feel like I'm back in my college years, but with my new school schedule the minute the clock hits 4:30 p.m. on Friday something in me snaps and I'm instantly exhausted. Once I wake up from said nap, Nathan's finishing things up with his work day, and we somehow always both make our way into the kitchen around 6:30/7ish looking for a bite to eat.
This proceeds to cocktail making which always includes a dirty martini for me and every now and then, when he's feeling frisky, some bourbon over ice for Nathan. We then proceed to spending some time in the kitchen, cooking a scrumptious dinner together. Let's be real, I'm usually the one cooking and Nathan's doing the dishes, but we chat about our week, usually have some kind of music playing, and every now and then the husband is known for pulling me away from a pan to have a quick slow dance in the kitchen. We then eat dinner while catching up on Outlander, or another TV show we need to catch up on, and linger over another round of drinks and being lazy together. Our Friday nights are certainly not like they used to be, but they fill my love tank and make me happy.
I'm always trying new recipes and finding ways to spice up things we already have in our pantry for our Friday night dinners. When I saw these Italian chicken sausages at Aldi's I instantly had a recipe forming in my head and knew I wanted an Italian feast for the upcoming Friday night. This brand of chicken sausages is one we've come to love at Aldi's. It's their Kirkwood brand of meat, but it's specifically the Never Any brand. It's always has a green label and says the word "Never Any" on all the packaging, so it's easy to find. The animals are raised without antibiotics or hormones, they're fed a vegetarian diet, they never put animal by product in any of the meat and it has no nitrates, or added preservatives. We've never had better chicken then the Aldi Kirkwood Never Any brand. It's a tad pricier because it's such high quality, but it's still cheaper than what I've seen at Target or Whole Foods and just AS GOOD. I love Aldi's, but that's old news! They don't sell ground beef and I'm still hoping I see that pop up at some point, but they do sell chicken, chicken sausages and chicken/pork hot dogs (actual hot dogs, with no added animal by product) that are all amazing!
If that hasn't convinced you yet, I'm sharing two recipes that include these delicious chicken sausages. I usually try to turn our dinner into some type of breakfast the next morning, so today I'm giving you both a dinner and brunch recipe. Along with these two meals, I'm sharing how I take a plain jar of pasta sauce up a notch!
Italian Sausage Dinner ||
2 Cups Spinach
Garlic (1 whole garlic head and 3 gloves, chopped)
1 Medium Onion, chopped
3-4 Portabella Mushrooms, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Jar Pasta Sauce
3-4 Italian Sausages, chopped
French bread (or any type of yummy bread will do)
1. For an appetizer I love roasting a head of garlic in the oven. Here's the perfect way to do so. It needs to roast for about 30 minutes, so be sure to pop that sucker in ahead of time. Any type of bread you have on hand will do.
2. By adding a couple fresh ingredients you can make any jar of pasta much more flavorful, so this step is strictly how I amp up my pasta sauce. Heat a tablespoon or two of EVOO in a deep pan. Once heated, add your entire chopped onion into your hot pan. After watching an insane amount of cooking shows in my life, I've learned that garlic is one of the last things to go into your cooking pan. It can burn and not cause as much of the garlic flavor to be injected into your food, so hold off for a bit. Once your chopped onion is looking translucent, then add your 3 gloves of chopped garlic, spinach, chopped mushrooms and cut up sausages. You'll think you have too much spinach, but as it heats, the spinach will wilt and shrink. (This is normally where I add the sauce, but hold off and proceed to step 3 first, if you want leftovers for a morning brunch recipe.)
3. Once your vegetables are cooked through, set aside 1/2 cup - 1 cup of these ingredients. Nathan doesn't love breakfast, so I only used 1/2 cup for my morning meal. After you've set this aside add your jar of pasta sauce and get the pan to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and let all the ingredients simmer on low.
4. In the meantime heat up a large pot of salted water and cook your penne pasta until al-dente. Save about a 1/2 cup of your salty, starchy water before draining your pasta. Again, after watching a million cooking shows, this is the biggest tip in cooking pasta dinners. To mix noodles and any sauce together and have it happily combine on a plate, the key is adding some of that starchy water you cooked the noodles in.
6. Add your 1/2 cup of starchy water and noodles to the pasta sauce that's been simmering on the stove. Once all mixed together, serve it up! Add some fresh mozzerella or parmesan cheese. If you popped the roasted garlic in the oven late, then smear that over some warm bread as a side.
Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash
1 sweet potato
Leftover 1/2 cup of ingredients from dinner
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Turn oven on to 400 degrees. Peel and cut your sweet potato into cubes. Spread the sweet potato onto a baking sheet and mix with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
2. After your sweet potatoes are cooked, heat up your 1/2 cup of leftovers from dinner last night on the stove. Once heated through, add your cooked sweet potato and keep warm on the stove.
3. This is the perfect base for any breakfast. You can keep as is, a simple hash. You can add scrambled eggs, throw it in an omelet, or do a poached egg like I did. Head here for the easiest way to poach an egg.
Combine all ingredients onto a plate, add some toast, fresh fruit and a cup of coffee and you have the perfect Saturday morning brunch! Think outside the box when cooking dinner the night before. Adding eggs to most cooked veggies makes for the best breakfast. All that's missing is a spicy bloody Mary and a girlfriend to make this meal complete!