Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta

If you follow any food bloggers, you’ve probably seen some version of the crockpot sausage and tortellini soup floating around on social media. What’s not to love? Sausage, cheese, pasta? Yummmmm!

Although it’s a hearty dish, perfect for a cold winter’s night, it probably isn’t the healthiest mid week meal. I have lightened up my version to make it something that can be added to any weeknight family menu.

Mine turns out to be less like soup and more like pasta in a rich sauce, which makes it even more appealing to my family – namely, my husband, who isn’t a huge soup fan.

So let’s get started…here are the main ingredients. My recipe uses kale, but I included spinach in the photo in case you prefer it to kale.

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

I use Jennie-O Hot Italian Sausage, however, if you’re not a fan of spicy food, they also make a sweet version that you can use. Begin by removing the casing from the sausage. This can be done by holding each sausage in one hand and splitting it open with a knife. Then gently peel back the casing and discard.

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Place the peeled sausages in a nonstick pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and brown. Make sure to break up the meat into small crumbles.

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Once the turkey is cooked, place in the bottom of your crock pot along with the kale. I used a fresh bunch of kale that I cleaned and trimmed, but you could easily use a 5-6 oz package that can be found by the bagged lettuce.  I highly recommend you give the kale a try, but if you don’t have it on hand, you can use spinach.

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Next add in a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, 5 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of Chicken Better than Bouillon  (affiliate link) – I LOVE this stuff!

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Mix together, cover and set on low for 3.5 hours.

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

After 3.5 hours it will look like this….

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Now I will be honest, I actually really like to eat it just like this – a comforting bowl of tomato soup with sausage and kale.  In fact, I often scoop some out for myself before adding in the other ingredients – shhhh!

Next add in 1 pound of cheese tortellini or any other pasta of your choice. If you’d like to add in unfilled pasta, like macaroni or penne, that is is totally fine.  Also, add in 8 oz of 1/3 less fat cream cheese. If you’d like your sauce to be a little more or less creamy you can adjust the amount of cream cheese accordingly. Make sure to break the cream cheese into small pieces so it melts more easily into the sauce. Cover and set the crock pot on low for an additional 30 minutes. Sorry for the weird angle on the picture – oops!

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

When the timer goes off stir the melted cream cheese into the sauce, it may look a little chunky, but that is just from the large pieces of cheese breaking up into the sauce – I promise, it is still totally delicious. Your meal can be made a few hours ahead of time and will keep warm in the crokpot until ready to serve.

This is a crowd pleaser at my house, even my kids, who can be super picky at times, love the tortellini. I’m still working towards them loving the kale, but for now, I’ll take it as a win that they like most of this easy weeknight dinner.

I hope you try our my recipe and let me know what you think. Until next time, happy cooking!

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta

Lightened Up Crock Pot Kale and Sausage Pasta | thegreengiraffeeats.com

  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 4h

Ingredients

  • I package Jennie-O Hot Italian Sausage (19.5 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces fresh kale or spinach
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons Chicken Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 pound fresh cheese tortellini or dry pasta of your choice
  • 8 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese

Instructions

  1. Begin by removing the casing from the sausage. This can be done by holding each sausage in one hand and splitting it open with a knife. Then gently peel back the casing and discard.
  2. Place the peeled sausages in a nonstick pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and brown.
  3. Once the turkey is cooked, place in the bottom of your cork pot along with 6 ounces of fresh kale or spinach.
  4. Next add in a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, 5 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of Chicken Better than Bouillon
  5. Mix together, cover and set on low for 3.5 hours.
  6. After 3.5 hours, add in 1 pound of cheese tortellini or any other pasta of your choice and 8 ounces of 1/3 less fat cream cheese. If you\'d like your sauce to be a little more or less creamy you can adjust the amount of cream cheese accordingly. Make sure to break the cream cheese into small pieces so it melts more easily into the sauce. Cover and set the crock pot on low for an additional 30 minutes.
  7. When the timer goes off stir the melted cream cheese into the sauce, it may look a little chunky, but that is just from the large pieces of cheese breaking up into the sauce - I promise, it is still totally delicious. Your meal can be made a few hours ahead of time and will keep warm in the crock pot until ready to serve.

Holiday Baked Goods for Sale

The Green Giraffe Eats is offering homemade baked goods, made fresh to order this Holiday Season! Please allow 48 hours notice for orders so that I can bake your items fresh, package them and have them ready for pick up. The last orders will be accepted on Thursday December 21 for pickup on Saturday December 23.

Ginger Molasses Lemon Cremes

Each cookie is made with 2 soft & chewy ginger molasses cookies sandwiched with my decadent lemon creme filling.

8 Cookies in a decorative tin $25  |  1 dozen cookies in a decorative box $40  Individual $3.50 each, minimum order 4

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Heavenly peanut butter filling enrobed in milk chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate.

6 truffles in a decorative tin $10  |  Individual $2 each, minimum order 3

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls with   Sweet Almond Icing

These enticing rolls take 2 days to make! The homemade brioche dough has to set up in the refrigerator and then is rolled up with a buttery cinnamon mixture, baked and topped with a sweet almond icing. TOTALLY SWOON WORTHY

6 Large Cinnamon Rolls $20  |  Individual $4 each, minimum order 3

Cranberry Orange Bread

You’ll find delightful pieces of tart cranberries and delicious oranges in this dense sweet bread that is drizzled with a gorgeous cranberry orange glaze.

$10 per loaf

Brandy Pecan Pie

There is plenty of crunch from the addition of both whole and chopped pecans sitting in a syrupy sweet base that has Brandy mixed right in. That along with the slightly salty, buttery crust really makes a perfect bite of pie.

Full Size  $25  |  Mini Pie $6.50

Cinnamon Chip Scones

(Picture is of mini scones – full size come in larger triangles)

6 for $18  |  3 for $10

Cherry Almond Scones

6 for $18  |  3 for $10  

If you have any questions, or to place an order, please head to my facebook page and  send me a message there or you can also message me from  my contact page. 

Cheers, Laura

NOTE THAT ALL ITEMS ARE BAKED IN MY IN HOME KITCHEN AND MAY CONTAIN TRACE AMOUNTS OF NUTS OR OTHER ALLERGENS

Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

I have a quick and easy stove top recipe for homemade chicken soup on the blog, but I have been wanting to make a crock pot version because 1. it’s slow cooker season and 2. I get requests for crock pot recipes ALL the time. So let’s get started.

The base to any great soup starts with fresh celery, carrots and onion.

First, clean and chop up all of your veggies and add 2 cups of celery and 2 cups of carrots to your crock pot. Saute 1 cup of finely diced onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes until the onions are nice and soft.

Into your crock pot add the cooked onions, 1 pound chicken breast tenders and 5 cups chicken stock.  I use homemade stock if I have it on hand, but if not, store bought is fine.  When using store bought stock, I recommend adding  in a teaspoon or two of chopped fresh thyme.

Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.  After 2 hours the chicken will be cooked and should be removed to avoid drying out. Remove the chicken and chop or shred –  whichever you prefer. Place in a bowl and set in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Cover your crock pot and cook the veggies and broth on low for an additional hour. After the last hour, add in 8 ounces of dry pasta. I use orecchiette in my recipe because I love how it’s bowl like shape holds the broth. Set the crock pot to high for 30 minutes to cook the pasta.

When the pasta is cooked, add the refrigerated chicken pieces back in and warm though to serve. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your preference.

This soup doesn’t last long at my house, but if you make it and have leftovers they can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and the pasta will continue to absorb the broth, so it will become more of a thick stew, but still taste just as delicious.

If you follow the Weight Watchers Smart-points Program this recipe, as written, is 24 smart points for the entire batch. So depending on how large or small of portions you divide it into you can figure out how many points your meal is. I made mine into 8 portions so each was 4 smart points. You can play with the serving size and adjust your points accordingly.

Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup | thegreengiraffeeats.com

  • Prep Time: 20m
  • Cook Time: 3h 30m

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup finely diced onion (any color will work)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (optional)
  • 8 ounces dry pasta

Instructions

  1. Saute 1 cup of finely diced onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes until the onions are nice and soft.
  2. Into your crock pot add the cooked onions, 2 cups chopped celery, 2 cups chopped carrots,1 pound chicken breast tenders and 5 cups chicken stock. If using store bought broth I recommend adding in a teaspoon or two of chopped fresh thyme.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours. After 2 hours remove the chicken and chop or shred, place in a bowl and set in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  4. Cover your crock pot and cook the veggies and broth on low for an additional hour.
  5. After the last hour, add in 8 ounces of dry pasta. Set the crock pot to high for 30 minutes to cook the pasta.
  6. When the pasta is cooked, add the refrigerated chicken pieces back in and warm though to serve. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your preference.

Thanksgiving Baked Goods for Sale

It was snowing here yesterday – yes, actual snow flakes! Although it was too warm for the snow to stay, the flurries mean one thing is for sure, the seasons are changing and the holidays are just around the corner. With Thanksgiving just 10 days away it’s time to start thinking about your spread for the big day. Orders will be baked, packaged and ready for pick up on Wednesday November 22.  Please contact me to place your order today!

The Green Giraffe Thanksgiving Baked Goods for Sale

If you need something to munch on while you watch the parade in the morning, my cranberry orange sweet bread will hit the spot.  You’ll find delightful pieces of tart cranberries and delicious oranges in this dense sweet bread that is drizzled with a gorgeous cranberry orange glaze. This also makes a great addition to your dessert table spread.

Thanksgiving Baked Goods for Sale | thegreengiraffeeats.com

If you are looking for the ultimate pie to impress your guests then look no further! My homemade double crust pie is overflowing with 5 different fruits and is the perfect combination of both sweet and tart.

Thanksgiving Baked Goods for Sale | thegreengiraffeeats.com

And last, but not least my brandy pecan pie has it all – plenty of crunch from the addition of both whole and chopped pecans sitting in a syrupy sweet base that has Brandy mixed right in. That along with the slightly salty, buttery crust really makes a perfect bite of pie.

Thanksgiving Baked Goods for Sale | thegreengiraffeeats.com

 

Lemon Parsley Salmon for One

Salmon and asparagus are a pair made in culinary heaven. It is a classic combination that is tried and true and with this super simple recipe for one you can have it just about anytime your little heart desires!

Neither my husband nor kids are big fans of salmon – why I don’t know because I LOVE it.  So when I want it, I generally have to make a single serving, hence the recipe for one 😉 But you can easily multiple this recipe and make several servings.

Let’s get started with a time saving tip…

Storing Fresh Herbs:

Whenever I buy fresh herbs to use, I always chop up the extra and put it into ice cube trays and cover with olive oil. Once they’re frozen I just pop them out and store in labeled ziptop bags for use in other recipes.  This saves time and money and reduces food waste. Here is a picture of my parsley cubes – there is about 1 Tablespoon parsley and 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil in each cube; I use them in soups, sauces and on fish. For today’s salmon I will use 1 cube of fresh parsley.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

To make my Lemon Parsley Salmon for One start with a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. Place a nice handful of fresh trimmed and washed asparagus (about 10-12 spears) onto the middle of the foil. Season asparagus with salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t love asparagus I would recommend you try fresh green beans or snap peas.

*Make sure to use heavy duty foil, regular foil isn’t sturdy enough.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Next place a 5 ounce piece of fresh salmon on top of the asparagus.  Then place an “ice cube” of parsley on top of the salmon.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Next season with salt and pepper to taste and squeeze the juice on 1/2 of a lemon over the salmon. If you don’t have a fresh lemon you can use 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Now fold the foil packet tightly to seal in all the moisture and flavor. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes. Since I always make one serving I just use my toaster oven! You could easily make more packets and bake in a larger oven.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

After 20 minutes remove and carefully open your foil packet. It will be hot and steamy so make sure to be cautious. The asparagus will be tender and the salmon fully cooked with flavors of FRESH lemon and parsley; it will look like this.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with capers for an extra pop of flavor.

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

I hope you enjoy this super simple and healthy recipe. Until next time, happy cooking!

Lemon Parsley Salmon for One

Parsley Lemon Salmon for One | thegreengiraffeeats.com

  • Prep Time: 5m
  • Cook Time: 20m

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces fresh salmon
  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 1/2 lemon or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Parsley ice cube (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon capers (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place asparagus onto a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. *Make sure to use heavy duty foil, regular foil isn't sturdy enough.
  2. Season asparagus with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Next place a 5 ounce piece of fresh salmon on top of the asparagus.
  4. Then place an "ice cube" of parsley on top of the salmon.
  5. Next season with salt and pepper to taste and squeeze the juice on 1/2 of a lemon over the salmon. If you don\'t have a fresh lemon you can use 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice.
  6. Fold the foil packet tightly to seal in all the moisture and flavor. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes remove and carefully open your foil packet.
  8. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with capers for an extra pop of flavor.

How to Cut Up a Whole Watermelon

A few weeks ago, I was at my neighbors house for our weekly pizza dinner when I volunteered to cut up some watermelon to add to our spread. I got to it and looked up to see my friends looking quite perplexed at how I was cutting up the watermelon – they had never seen it done that way before.

The following week, I was at a MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) meeting and my table was chit chatting about food prep. Several ladies chimed in that cutting up large fruits, especially watermelon, can be intimidating and that they just end up buying it pre-cut at the grocery store. I told them that if they “peel” off the rind it is so much easier. One of my mom friends, Dana, encouraged me to take a video the next time I was cutting up a watermelon, and so I did! I apologize for any camera shakes – I’m still figuring out how to better stabilize my phone attachment on my tripod.

 

Meals To Go – Garden Fresh Minestrone

September is here, and although it’s not officially fall yet, I couldn’t help but take the pile of hoodies and yoga pants down from my closet shelf. My house is dotted with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and Orchard Fresh Apple and Honey Pumpkin candles have been flickering away in the evening.  I love fall, it is, and always will be my favorite season.

I love waking up before anyone else, tip toeing downstairs and savoring that first cup of piping hot coffee on our deck in the morning. I’m reminded that it’s almost too cold to be barefoot as my feet squeak and slide on the dew covered deck boards. I sit for a rare moment in silence as my coffee mug billows with steam.

Fall is a time for harvest, for gathering, for sharing, and for cooking. Our little family garden has given us a bountiful crop and still has a lot left to give – my eggplants are finally coming in and we planted a late summer crop of turnips, I am hopeful they will be ready by mid October.

Last week, using some of my beautiful home grown vegetables, I made a delicious batch of my Garden Fresh Minestrone and portioned it for that week’s lunches. As usual I snapped a picture to put on my Facebook page. Some friends had asked me if I would ever consider selling my food, so I put it out there and asked if anyone would be interested in purchasing some – I was shocked and delighted when orders started to roll in.  And with that small leap of faith my Meals To Go business was born.

Here I am filling soup orders. You can thank my hubby for this candid photo 😉

Now they’re all portioned and ready for packaging…

And the final touches – green bags, of course, are filled with soup, reheating & storage instructions then sealed with my oh so adorable labels.  These orders are ready for pick up! If you are interested in FRESH delicious and convenient Meals To Go, please contact me or follow and like my page on Facebook to see what I will be cooking up next.

 

Three Knives Every Home Chef Needs

Is it time to replace your knives? If so, watch my video to learn what 3 knives every home chef needs to be successful in the kitchen.

My knives are made by Calphalon and come from the Contemporary collection. If you’d like your own set, here are the links to each of them! Happy cooking and happy cutting 😉

Chef Knife

Serrated Edge Knife (also called a Bread Knife)

Paring Knife

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Buffalo wings (insert slurpy food sounds here). They’re spicy, they’re saucy and oh so messy – what a fun finger food to eat.  I will admit that if I get a craving for wings, I prefer to eat them at a restaurant – mainly because they’re a lot of work to make well and the fact that I don’t own a deep fryer – although I could MacGyver one from a large pot, that’s besides the point.

When wings sound good, but we’re just not up for going out to eat, I make my homemade buffalo sauce and we enjoy it on Buffalo Blue Chicken Salad or Buffalo Chicken Tacos, and it really hits the spot! What’s even better is that my sauce is super healthy, yep, really it is!  Many commercial wing sauces use refined fats as well as chemical thickeners to make the bottled sauces shelf stable and heavy enough to fully coat a chicken wing. I’m not bashing them, they do taste good, but if you’re trying to watch our waistlines and steer clear from extra fat and additives, you might want to give my twist on tradition a try.

I have been making this sauce for years now…fair warning it is HOT.  My husband, who adores spicy foods of all kinds, claims, “it’s not hot it just tastes really good.” His words not mine.  Most other friends and family who have tried it agree with me – it’s HOT, but in a really good I want more of that crazy tangy heat kind of a way.

So here we go…

Into a saucepan over medium high heat add a Tablespoon of canola oil, a large onion, a few chopped up garlic cloves and a good pinch of Kosher salt.

Buffalo Sauce | thegreengiraffeeats.com

Reduce heat to medium low and allow the onion to sweat out it’s natural juices slowly. You don’t want to brown the onions, if you see them turning brown your heat is too high. Make sure to stir the mixture every few minutes. After about 10 minute add in 5 red chili peppers seeds and all.

I grew these little beauties in my garden and love to use them when they’re available. However, in the off season I use dried chili de arbol which you can find online or in the Hispanic aisle of most supermarkets. If you use the dried chilis make sure to soak them in warm water for 20-30 minutes, drain and then add them to the onions.

Let the chilis cook with the onions for a few minutes and then add 12 oz. of cayenne pepper sauce and a couple of Tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. I use Frank’s Original Red Hot because I like the flavor and it has just 5 basic ingredients in it, all of which I can pronounce.

Cook this on medium heat for 10-15 minutes then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. It will cook down and reduce in volume and thicken up – all good things 😉

Next pour the mixture into the base of a blender or the mixing cup of your immersion blender (affiliate link). Blend until the sauce is smooth; you will notice it change from a darker russet color to a vibrant orange. This happens as the cooked onions are blended up thickening the sauce without adding butter.

Ta-da! You just made thick, fiery, and HEALTHY Buffalo Sauce from scratch! You can douse your wings all you want and feel guilt free.

This sauce will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen for up to 2 months.

It never lasts that long at my house – in fact, I use the entire recipe when I make Buffalo Chicken Tacos 😉  If you’re feeding a crowd simply shred 2 pounds of cooked chicken into your crock pot and pour the full 2 cups of sauce over the chicken, mix , set on low for an hour and your shredded buffalo chicken is ready to be made into tacos.  I like to use a Costco rotisserie Chicken because it is easy, already seasoned and usually yields about 2 pounds. Not a Costco member? No problem, you can use any shredded chicken.

We like to pile the saucy shredded chicken into warm tortillas, then top with my tangy sour cream sauce, crumbled blue cheese, homemade pickled red onions and a little shredded lettuce. Now dig in and keep the cold drinks coming!

Healthy Buffalo Sauce

Healthy Buffalo Sauce | thegreengiraffeeats.com

  • Prep Time: 20m
  • Cook Time: 30m
  • Serves: 12
  • Yield: 2 cups sauce
  • Category:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 5 red chili peppers or 5 dried chili de arbol
  • 12 ounces Franks Original Red Hot
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Into a saucepan over medium high heat add 1 Tablespoon oil, 2 cups onions, 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt.
  2. Reduce heat to medium low and allow the onion to sweat out it\'s natural juices slowly.
  3. After about 10 minute add in 5 red chili peppers seeds and all. If fresh chilis aren\'t available use dried chili de arbol and make sure to soak them in warm water for 20-30 minutes, drain and then add them to the onions.
  4. Let the chilis cook with the onions for a few minutes and then add 12 oz. of Frank\'s Original Red Hot and 2 Tablespoons white vinegar.
  5. Cook this on medium heat for 10-15 minutes then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. Next pour the mixture into the base of a blender or the mixing cup of your immersion blender. Blend until the sauce is smooth.
  7. This sauce will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen for up to 2 months.