Cheeseburger Casserole

One of the foods I’ve really had a taste for lately is a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. There are a few decent places to get a burger up by where I live, but nothing really beats one that you make on the grill during the summertime. It’s still winter up here, and it’s been pretty cold lately – so not the right weather for making burgers on the grill.

I found this recipe from one of my favorite ‘healthier food’ blogs and knew that we just had to try it. With conferences & honors band last week, I didn’t have much time to cook. However, Hubs is now back on day shift…so he did the honors with this one.

Cheeseburger Casserole – adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 2 cups uncooked pasta (we used small shells)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard – or whatever mustard you like on your burgers…being native Clevelanders, my husband used Stadium Mustard & it totally worked 🙂
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickles (we are kosher dill fans over here)
  1. Set a medium sized pot of water on the stove to boil, and Preheat the oven to 350*. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Once the pot is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente, and drain.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Cook the onions until soft (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add the garlic & saute; once you can smell the garlic cooking, add the beef and cook until brown, seasoning with salt & pepper.
  5. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and mustard. Let simmer until it thickens. Remove from heat.
  6. In a bowl, mix the cooked pasta in with the meat/tomato mixture, and pour into the baking dish. Top with cheese & bake 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is nice and gooey.
  7. Remove from oven & top with chopped pickles. Serve.

Cheeseburger Casserole. The leftovers are just as delicious as the dish the night that it’s made (that is, if you end up with any leftovers).

I didn’t miss the bun; the pasta made up for it. I’m not one to put tomatoes on my ‘burger, but they tasted great in this dish. I suppose maybe you could put it on top of lettuce if you’re missing that…but I’m not a fan of lettuce on my ‘burgers either! 😉

It was a delicious meal to come home to after conferences and it helped satisfy that taste I’ve got for a nice greasy cheeseburger. Since it’s still cold outside, casseroles are still more than welcome in my kitchen and this one did a great job of satisfying my taste buds as well as my need for comfort food. I highly recommend it!


Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Every now and then my husband reminds me that I do, in fact, like shellfish, and should cook some for dinner. I’m not a culinary expert when it comes to making anything seafood-related, but I can hold my own. Needless to say, when he suggested that I make a shrimp pasta for dinner, I immediately knew what dish I wanted to make.

With the help of the awesome Giada de Laurentis, I cooked up a delicious, spicy, garlicky shrimp pasta dish that hit the spot. I received her cookbook Everyday Italian for Christmas a few years ago – and being Italian, this is a great resource for making dishes that I should be stereotypically good at (which, not to brag or anything – I am 🙂 ) When I have a taste for Italian food, this the book that I go to for any inspiration. I highly recommend it.*

Shrimp Fra Diavolo, with Linguine – adapted from Giada de Laurentis

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1.5 tbsp dried basil
  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high. Add the shrimp & saute until cooked through & pink. Remove & set aside. (NOTE: If you are using precooked shrimp, don’t add it now. Add it at Step 3.)
  2. Add onion and saute until they start to become translucent. Add tomatoes, wine, garlic, and oregano, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  3. Add the shrimp to the sauce & toss around to coat/reheat the shrimp. Remove from heat & add parsley and basil. Season with more salt and red pepper.
  4. Serve either atop fresh cooked linguine, or all by itself in a shallow bowl, with some fresh bread.
Shrimp fra Dialvolo, with linguine & the best bread in the world

Shrimp fra Diavolo, with linguine & the best bread in the world

The bread, above, is Pepper Parmesan bread, from my favorite bakery, Crooked Tree Breadworks. I worked there last summer & will probably be doing a few shifts there this coming summer to make some extra cash & work with the awesome people there. (FYI – You can buy their products online, and I swear to you, they are worth every frickin’ penny*).

This dish, I said before, can be served either with the pasta, as I did, or alone by itself in a bowl – maybe even atop spinach instead; I may need to try that next time!

In other news – it’s raining, and not snowing. I’m very thankful for this brief respite from snow.

Happy Sunday, everyone 🙂

*No, I am not getting paid to talk up these things. I just like them, and use them, and thus highly recommend them!

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe was so easy for a weeknight, so tasty with its flavor combinations, and so great as dinners for Mike at the foundry. I found it off of Pinterest; while my picture doesn’t do the dish justice, I can verify that it’s still a great meal.

The important thing to do with this recipe is marinate the chicken for a few hours, or even overnight, as I did. I adapted the recipe to use spices in my kitchen, and not buying a bottle of marinade (which can have loads of sodium).

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce – adapted from Southern Girl Cooking

  • 1 pkg thin-sliced chicken breasts (chicken tenders will work also), cut into 1-inch strips
  • garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, & salt-n-pepper, to taste
  • a few dashes of lemon juice
  • 2 spoonfuls of pesto

In a baking dish, layer ingredients & mix to coat chicken. Cover & store in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

For the sauce, the night you’ll be eating it:

  • 8 oz pasta (I used basic, whole-wheat spaghetti)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, or 2 tbsp minced/crushed
  • 2 spoonfuls of pesto
  • 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • 8 oz of tomato sauce (I used Ragu)
  • 1 cup half-n-half
  1. In a saucepan, boil water & begin cooking pasta.
  2. In a skillet, cook up chicken & marinade. Cook chicken until no longer pink, and remove from heat.
  3. In the same pan, heat up the olive oil and cook the garlic.
  4. Add pesto & broth; cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  5. Add tomato sauce, and stir. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes. *At this point, I also added some frozen peas.*
  6. Add pasta & toss to combine; add chicken and do the same. Serve nice and hot, topped with a bit of parmesan cheese.

This can easily be made without the chicken, but I’m going to warn you – the chicken makes the dish. There is so much flavor from the marinade; I may even make the chicken alone by itself for another dish or two in the future. I love cooking Italian-inspired dishes, and this is a great, easy dish to add to your arsenal.

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto

When it comes to pasta, I typically enjoy eating it with homemade meat or marinara sauce. You can blame that on the fact that I’m half Italian and that’s how my mom made it for us when I was growing up. I rarely make anything with white/alfredo sauce (much to the chagrin of my husband, I’m sure!). Pesto, I do enjoy, but save for only certain pastas because of its consistency and garlicyness (is that even a word?). I feel that I could keep away any vampire after eating it.

While doing research on garlic scape recipes, pesto kept popping up as a ‘must-try’ by magazines and food bloggers alike. A combination of scapes, olive oil, and some type of nut. I knew that I had to try this out.  Most of the recipes that I found only used scapes, and no basil. However, I wanted to use the basil in this week’s CSA (as the other went bad before I could finish it), so this was the perfect way to do so. I plan on eating this in another day or so, atop of some tortellini that I bought this week at the store.

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto (adapted from Soup Addict)


  • 1 cup basil
  • 3-5 garlic scapes
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • salt, to taste
  • olive oil, to consistency
  1. In a saucepan, toast the pin nuts until they start to lightly brown. Remove from heat.
  2. In a food processor (or blender), add basil & scapes. Mix, and add oil to emulsify. Once mixed, add nuts and salt. Process until the mixture forms a paste, adding olive oil if needed.
  3. Add parmesan cheese (and again, more olive oil if needed) and pulse until combined, to the consistency that you wish.
  4. Store in a sealable container, for 3-5 days.

I was very pleased by the flavor of the pesto. It had all aspects of a ‘typical’ good pesto, but wasn’t nearly as garlicky. The flavor was really nice as well; the spiciness of the garlic hits you right away, but is mellowed out quickly by the oil and parmesan. I would definitely prefer this recipe any day, over the jar of mass-produced, store bought pesto sitting in my refrigerator. Homemade is the way to go!

Question of the Day: On your pasta, which do you prefer the most – red sauce, white sauce, or pesto?

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto. I especially love how bright, fresh & green it looks!

Welcome to Summer: Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus & Marinara

Ah, summer break. The mental health break that teachers get from June through August.

It’s finally starting to feel like summer break in northern Michigan, as opposed to spring break. Our last day of school we had a high of 50* and rain. Today, it was sunny and 68*. I’ll take it! 🙂

This recipe was on last week’s menu, but wasn’t actually made until today. I’ve had all the ingredients on hand for that period of time, but it just happened to get overlooked. Today, after a busy afternoon in the garden, I wanted to eat something quick and filling. I had a taste for pasta, but wasn’t in the mood to make lasagna (originally on this week’s list).  A perfect dish for someone who is too lazy looking to make something quick, tasty, and filling. Not to mention, I only used one pot!

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara – adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes (aka ‘Skinnytaste’)


  • 1 box small pasta shells
  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed, chopped into small pieces. 
  • 1 can Hunt’s spaghetti sauce – the Garlic & Herb variety was on hand
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Boil about 4-5 inches of water in a large pot. When it is boiling, add pasta.
  2. About 5 minutes into the boil, add asparagus. Boil two additional minutes, then drain, saving a bit of liquid in the bottom of the pot.
  3.  Add sauce, cheese, and salt & pepper. Mix well until all is combined. EAT!
My methods for making this dish varied from the original recipe, in that I honestly didn’t want to use several pots. In another dish on Gina’s site, she boiled pasta and broccoli in the same pot. I figured, what was the difference? The results were exactly what I wanted and I saved myself another pot to wash (washing pots and pans is my #2 most hated chore. After mopping. But I digress).
As for the sauce…DISCLAIMER: I am in no way affiliated with Hunts in any way, nor am I paid to use their product. When it came to quick spaghetti sauces, it’s what my mom always used (and she’s Italian, so don’t argue!). You use Hunts spaghetti sauce, and add any herbs/garlic/spices that you have a taste for. Today I added some Pasta Sprinkle (shown another day), and garlic powder.

You may notice from the above photo that my asparagus is icy. A few weeks ago, Mike purchased 5 10 pounds of fresh asparagus from a friend of a friend/coworker. I blanched most of it (the rest we ate!) and froze it in 1-lb batches. Now, I can pull fresh asparagus out of the next freezer for the next, oh, 7-8 dishes that we will use asparagus for. It especially comes in handy once it is out of season, and the price goes up. So thus, icy asparagus, which I cut using a pair of kitchen scissors. Nothing says spring/summer like FRESH asparagus.

Last, I topped my dish with a blend of mozzerella and provolone cheese, which I found at the grocery store. Yum.

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus & Marinara Topped with mozzarella & provolone.

I made twice the amount of the original recipe, since my husband takes plenty for lunch/dinner at work. And trust me, this dish makes a lot of leftovers.

Quick, easy, filling, and relatively healthy 🙂 Enjoy!