Spicy Chicken Sausage and Peppers with Cheesy Baked Polenta

Finding quick and easy dinner recipes is like finding simple DIY projects for your home. They’re super rare, and even when you think you find one, it’s probably a trap.

That’s why this meal is perfect—you can make it as easy or complicated as you want. Use pre-cooked polenta with a jar of your favorite store-bought tomato sauce, and I swear you can get this on the dinner table in less than 40 minutes. If you have extra time or extra patience, add more chopped veggies, cook up polenta from scratch or experiment with homemade sauce.

Now, I promise it’s delicious, but it’s not the most photogenic dish in the world.

Spicy Chicken Sausage and Peppers with Cheesy Baked Polenta

Cheesy Baked Polenta

Cheesy Baked Polenta

Spicy Chicken Sausage and Peppers

Spicy Chicken Sausage and Peppers with Cheesy Baked Polenta
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4

(Printable Recipe)

– 1 package fully cooked chicken sausages
– 1 green bell pepper
– 1 small onion
– 1 tsp. minced garlic
– 1 tbsp. olive oil
– 3/4 cup Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce (or any tomato sauce would work)
– 1 roll plain pre-cooked polenta (18-ounces)
– Shredded mozzarella cheese

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
– Slice polenta roll into thin disks, about 1/2 inch thick. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with cooking spray or coat lightly with olive oil. Layer polenta rounds to cover the bottom. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Add a second layer of polenta rounds and cheese, continuing until the roll is gone. Add a final sprinkling of cheese.
– Pop the polenta into the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly. You may need to turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the very end.
– While the polenta is baking, chop your chicken sausage into bite-size pieces along with the bell pepper and onion.
– Add olive oil and minced garlic to a pan. Stir the garlic for two minutes. If you want to make this extra spicy, toss in a bit of red pepper flakes at this point.
– Add your sausage, pepper and onion to the pan. Stir and cook for 10 minutes until sausage is heated through and veggies are softened.
– Pour in tomato sauce and continue stirring until heated through.
– Once polenta is done baking, slice into rectangles and place on plates. Cover with sausage and pepper mix. Enjoy!

COOKING TIP: If you cook for just one or two people, like me, you know that SO much can go to waste. When you go grocery shopping for this recipe, pick up your favorite pizza crust or dough at the same time. Use half the sausage, mozzarella and pasta sauce to make a smaller portion of this dish. The next night, you’ll have plenty of ingredients left for an easy homemade sausage pizza. No leftover ingredients, and you’ll save on the grocery budget too.

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‘Tis the Season for Pie

I am thankful for so many things this holiday season. One in particular? My mom, who taught me all her pie making secrets this year! When I took on a dessert assignment for Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to make pie. The only problem? I’ve never really made a pie before. So my mom invited me over to join her for a pie making marathon/lesson on Wednesday. The result?

Thanksgiving pies

That’s right. SEVEN pies. Four for my mom and three for me. It was definitely an all day project, but I was so happy to have my mom’s help and recipes! First up? Pumpkin pies!

Pumpkin pie mixLIBBY’S® Pumpkin Pie
Source: LIBBY’S® Pumpkin label

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground gloves
2 large eggs
1 can LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin (15 oz)
1 can Carnation Evaporated Milk (12 oz)
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

– Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
– Pour into pie shell and bake in preheated 425-degree F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 40-50 more minutes. Let cool for two hours on a wire rack.
– Serve immediately or refrigerate.

My Grammy makes one substitution to the original recipe that we followed, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.

Next up, we tackled chocolate chip pies, which are delicious!

Chocolate chip pieChocolate Chip Pie
Source: family recipe, similar to this one found on Bakerella from Nestle Classic Recipes, 2003

1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened and cooled
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

– Preheat oven 325 degrees F. Prebake pie crust for about 15 minutes.
– Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter.
– Stir in chocolate chips and spoon into pie shell.
– Bake for one hour. Cool on wire rack.

This pie is definitely served best warm, so eat it immediately or plan to reheat. It’s like a chocolate chip cookie in pie form: what’s not to like?

Last up, we made my mom’s recipe for pecan pie, which is so delicious and not too sweet. But, that’s another family secret!

Pecan pie

All in all, it was such a great day! Full of delicious food and family time. What better way to spend Thanksgiving Eve?

Thanksgiving pie

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all had as much delicious pie as we did 🙂 What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Etsy Holiday Gift Guide

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is two days away! The holidays snuck up on me this year, and I really need to start shopping before it’s too late and I’m scrambling to find things with two-day shipping on Amazon. If you know me, it’s no secret that I absolutely love Etsy. I pretty much kept the site in business shopping for our wedding, and all my wishlists for the holidays typically include at least one or two Etsy items. If you’re not familiar, it’s a marketplace where people can buy and sell unique homemade or vintage items.

With the holidays right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share a few Etsy finds that would make great gifts for friends or family.

GiftList1. Set of 8 Gold Foil Coasters, $18.00 | Emily Ley
2. Home Sweet Home screen printed pillow, $32.00 | EarthCadets
3. Colorful watercolor print, $30.00 | WatercolorPrint
4. Leather Wrapped Infinity Crochet Scarf, $48.00 | ThreeBirdNest
5. All You Need is Love and a Dog 8×10 print, $25.00 | milkandthistle
6. Gemstone stacking rings, $158.40 | delezhen
7. Fingerless Black Gloves with Red Felt Heart, $34.00 | yastikizi
8. Mint clutch, $48.00 | VincentVdesigns

A few notes. The watercolor print comes from a shop that I recently found with gorgeous artwork. It also has watercolor images of different skylines, dancers, flowers and even an octopus, which sounds weird but is actually awesome. And how cute would the other art print be for a dog lover? The gemstone stacking rings are pricey, but it’s a set of three that you can wear individually. I think the gray, black and white combo would go with a lot of things, but they have a zillion other colors. My mom got me a ring from the same shop last Christmas, and it’s beautiful. The mint clutch is part of a set meant for bridesmaids, but the shop also sells individual clutches in all sorts of beautiful fabric. I’m obsessed with the brass closures too.

I will say as a small word of warning: Etsy items are handmade, so items are potentially hit or miss with quality. I definitely recommend checking out reviews from previous customers before buying.

Have you started Christmas shopping yet? Are you a fan of Etsy?

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Bites

Good morning imaginary blog friends! How was your weekend? Mine was a good mix of fun and relaxing with lots of delicious food and lots of time with my sister.

On Saturday, my friends and I continued a recent tradition we started: wine and appetizer parties. Everyone brings a dish and a bottle of wine to share. (In my case, a six pack of beer to share since wine has been giving me awful hangovers lately no matter how much I drink. Apparently I should try organic sulfite-free wine? Has anyone had that?) I hosted the last party at my house back in October, and this month my friend Amie took over.

My sister and I put together two dishes to bring: easy three ingredient Oreo truffles and spinach and artichoke bites. I totally spaced out and forgot to take a picture of the Oreo truffles, but trust me, they are awesome, super easy and a crowd pleaser. Just follow this recipe. Also, if you start dipping them in chocolate and they start looking hideously awful, don’t freak out. This is what mine looked like the first time I made them, but once you sprinkle some decorations on top and let them cool in the fridge, they look MUCH better.

Oreo TrufflesThe second time I made them, I set them on a cooling rack so the extra chocolate could drip through. I definitely recommend it!

The spinach and artichoke bites were a new recipe I came across on Pinterest, and given my track record with Pinterest fails, I was a bit apprehensive. But they were pretty simple to make and a big hit at the party. These could be great for the holidays.

Creamy Spinach Artichoke Bites

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Bites

Credit: Park House Love

(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients

1 (8 oz.) package softened cream cheese
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 tubes of crescent roll dough
shredded mozzarella

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly spray mini muffin tins with baking spray.
Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well. Set aside.
Roll your crescent roll dough out onto a large cutting board/work surface. (I used my Silpat–it worked great!)
Pinch all of the creases together so that you’re left with one big piece of dough.
Using a pizza slicer or a knife, cut the dough into 12 roughly even squares.
Press each of the dough squares into a mini muffin tin.
Fill each cup with the spinach artichoke mixture.
Sprinkle each one with a little shredded mozzarella.
Bake for 12 minutes and enjoy!

We made them a few hours in advance and then popped them back in the oven at the party to heat them through. YUM.

My cousin Hayley also made a delicious recipe from Pinterest: Jalapeno Popper Bites. I’m pretty sure she made a recipe similar to the one I found on this site, The Country Cook. They were basically crescent rolls stuffed with cream cheese, jalapenos and bacon. So, so good.

Jalapeno Popper BitesAnd now, sadly, it’s back to the work week. A few things keeping me sane this Monday morning? (Insert shameless selfie.)

Monday FavoritesA skinny vanilla latte, my new manicure (Essie Bahama Mama), a super cozy infinity scarf, my space heater, and the fact that it’s a short holiday week!

Wedding Wisdom: Achieving “Rustic Romance”

I’ll start by saying that I am by no means a wedding planning expert. But having gone through the whole process, I feel like I have a few bits and pieces of advice worth sharing. It only takes one scroll through the Wedding category on Pinterest to know that “rustic romance” is a major trend—burlap, lace, mason jars, distressed wood, vintage books. And I love it all. When I launched into wedding planning after getting engaged, I knew right away I wanted something elegant, classic and soft without going overboard on a particular theme or color palette.

Since wedding planning can be extremely stressful, I wanted to share a few things I learned along the way for anyone thinking about a similar wedding vibe.

Rustic Wedding Venue1. Pick your venue first. It would be pretty tough to pull off rustic romance in a sleek, modern hotel ballroom. You don’t have to get married in a forest with your guests seated on tree trunks (although that could be awesome … or uncomfortable), but you definitely want to pick a place with a romantic feel. Maybe a winery, a barn or an old manor house. Plus, you’ll be shocked by how quickly venues book up (who are these crazy people taking all the good dates 2 years in advance?), so locking down your date is the essential first planning step.

Lace Wedding Dress2. Get the dress second. If you’re getting married on the beach, a ball gown may not make the most sense. If you can, wait to buy the dress until after you book the venue. Then you’ll know what fits (and you’ll also know the final wedding date and potential weather).

Soft Wedding Colors3. Keep colors soft and neutral. We chose lots of white and cream with accents of sage and pale peach. Bright colors can be really beautiful, but a soft palette helps achieve a more romantic and vintage effect.

Rustic Wedding Cake4. Ditch the fondant. A lot of cakes use fondant to achieve a perfectly smooth exterior, but with a rustic theme, you can embrace a “messier” feel. Consider textured buttercream icing, where the knife strokes are more obvious. Fresh flowers and a rustic topper can bring it all together. Etsy is a mecca for finding adorable cake toppers.

Rustic Wedding DetailsDIY Wedding Signs5. It’s all in the small things. An overall venue can give a rustic feel, but small touches in the decorations will pull it all together. We lined the aisle with mason jars filled with hydrangeas, and it ended up being one of my favorite details. Also consider using lace, twine and burlap accents on the bouquets and table arrangements and rustic wood in the decorations.

Wedding Table Numbers6. Don’t go overboard. A theme can be a great place to start planning, but you want to make sure everything flows together without becoming corny. I had to cut myself off at some point with the “rustic” elements (before I went broke shopping on Etsy).

What are your favorite elements or ideas for a “rustic romance” wedding?

All photos by Allison and Chris Britton Photography.