Supreme Pizza Spaghetti Sauce

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love." - Ernest Hemingway

After a long and hot Miami day, it's now humid and cloudy outside, which makes my brain scream for comfort food! Instantly, I started to crave mac 'n' cheese, and pizza, and pepperoni, and intense flavors, but alas, I don't exactly have everything to make any of those completely. So, why not blend them into a recipe that I can still have veggies in without feeling too guilty? I mean, c'mon, it's the weekend. I need to have a little diet leeway on the weekends, but I don't necessarily want to completely cave by eating McDonald's or Pizza Hut. Oh, and, I need to keep A's food ways in mind, which sometimes is like dealing with a picky hungry teenager! So, why not blend pasta and pizza together with this featured spaghetti sauce? Well, that's exactly what I did, and let me tell you... My cravings were definitely satisfied. It's quick to make, and you could cook the pasta (I used pre-cooked tortellini) at the same time, so in under 15 minutes, you have a great and delicious dinner, good for anyone from kids to the older crowd. I bet you could also use this as a dip, because I definitely wanted to dip some bread in the leftover sauce on my plate (but shhh, hope you keep my secret craving!). Even though I made this recipe on the stovetop, this recipe can be adapted to the slow cooker; I bet cooking it in the slow cooker would bring out a whole new depth of flavor to this recipe that would blow anyone's mind away! Maybe this sauce might end up on an actual pizza one night... I'd just have to buy some pizza dough and try it out. I'd love to find out how you use this sauce, so feel free to share.

Supreme Pizza Spaghetti Sauce
adapted from: New Cook Book 14th Edition by Better Homes and Gardens

*makes 5 1/2 cups*

4 1/4 oz Italian Style Herb pork sausage, chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
24 oz jarred chunky Italian Garden pasta sauce
1 green sweet pepper, finely chopped
2/3 cup mini pepperoni
1 tsp dried basil

1) In a large skillet cook sausage, onion, and garlic until meat is brown. Drain off fat.
2) Add pasta sauce, pepper, pepperoni, and basil. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until the pepper is tender.

Slow Cooker directions:
Prepare as above through Step 1. In a 3 1/2 or 4 quart slow cooker combine pasta sauce, pepper, pepperoni, and basil. Stir in the sausage mixture. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Mussels with Creole Sauce

"In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." - Desiderius Erasmus

Let me make a quick announcement: I lost 2 pounds! It may not seem like much to you, or much to me when I think of the -45 pound goal I have for myself, but baby steps count, specially if you've been having weight-loss battles your entire life. I've been watching what I eat, working out for at least 30 minutes a day, and drinking almost half my weight in water, and I feel better and healthier. Now that the weekend's coming up, it's going to be a little hard to keep the goal in mind, but this is where I can start to experiment with healthier foods or tastier alternatives to junk food. Such as this recipe, for example. I've always associated eating mussels as part of paella, but I've never thought of making them separately as the star of the show. In comes this recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens book. It seemed like a great recipe to try, with lots of seasonings and flavor, and hey, how unhealthy can it really be? The heartiness of this recipe makes this a great dish to either serve as an appetizer or as a main dish. It's also really easy to make, so it can serve as a good date-night recipe to either cook with your partner or cook for your partner. When making, it's your choice whether you'd like to use fresh mussels, or frozen, but I used frozen. I bet all the herbs and ingredients in the Creole Sauce can be used to even adapt this recipe to fish, or chicken. Hmmm... makes me wonder. For any of you who know more about Creole cooking, does this recipe or do the ingredients match up to an authentic Creole flavor profile? I'd love to hear feedback, since I've never dabbled in it before! Also, I'll make sure to keep you updated on my progress even though I'll still be diversifying my posts between healthy and not-so-healthy; I hope to have your full support! Only positive vibes allowed :)

Mussels with Creole Sauce
adapted from: New Cook Book 14th Edition by Better Homes and Gardens

*serves 4*

1 1/4 lbs frozen mussels in shells
1 cup salt
1 small green sweet pepper, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp sweet unsalted butter
1 tsp Louisiana Cajun seasoning
1 cup white cooking wine
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tsp snipped fresh oregano
2 tsp snipped fresh thyme
8 French dinner rolls
lemon wedges

1) Scrub frozen mussels under cold running water. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, combine 4 quarts cold water and 1/3 cup of the salt. Add the mussels; soak for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse, discarding water. Repeat twice with the remaining salt and additional water.
2) In a large Dutch oven, cook and stir sweet pepper, onion, and garlic in hot butter over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add Cajun seasoning; cook and stir for 2 minutes more.
3) Carefully add wine; bring to boiling. Add mussels. Cook, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until shells open and mussels are cooked through. Discard any that do not open.
4) Using a slotted spoon, transfer mussels to a large shallow serving bowl; set aside. Stir tomato, oregano, and thyme into cooking liquid in Dutch oven; heat through. Pour tomato mixture over mussels. Serve with bread and lemon wedges.

Flamenco Fool Smoothie

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." - C.S. Lewis

Have you ever heard the saying that "al que anda entre la miel, algo se le pega"? Well, I hate to say this, but it's starting to apply to one of my co-workers, and big time. For the longest time, she'd gripe and complain about others being lazy, and not doing anything, and texting too much, and having an air of entitlement about them. Hate to break it to you sister, but, you've joined that group even though you might be completely unaware of it. It could all be due to how, in my opinion, laziness is contagious. Once someone sees someone being lazy and getting away with it, something gets triggered in other people's minds that if they're lazy, they can get away with it too. Hence, the honey sticking to you analogy at the beginning. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with letting other people's lifestyles affect you outside of work as well. If a co-worker is a massive spendthrift, has a ton of accounts in Collections, constantly overdrafts their bank account, and is only willing to hang out with you while drunk, eventually, some of those person's traits will stick to you, as it's also happening to my co-worker. Why don't we subconsciously pick up people's good traits, such as eating healthy, or money management, or being charitable? Imagine where people eating junk food wouldn't make people crave junk food, or where people going out for drinks doesn't make other people want to go get hammered as well. Imagine caving a little bit more into trying out the whole veggie smoothie movement, and making natural V8 smoothies or quick liquid salads? Well, I caved, and even though I'm not a huge fan of veggie smoothies, this one wasn't that bad and it was pretty filling. Next time I make it though, I'll definitely use a vanilla yogurt instead of just a plain yogurt. A touch of something sweet would make this smoothie go above and beyond.

Flamenco Fool Smoothie
adapted from: Smoothies! by Stella Murphy

*serves 1*

8 oz sparkling natural mineral water
1 red bell pepper, quartered, deseeded, and skinned
4 1/2 oz plain non-fat Greek yogurt
3 oz julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes

1) Place the water in the blender first, then add the pepper, yogurt, and sun-dried tomatoes.
2) Blend.
3) Pour into a glass over ice.

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