Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onion, and Potato Sheet Pan Supper

Last fall, my friends, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, asked if I would develop quick and easy dinner recipes for their readers at Mason Dixon Knitting. Specifically, they wanted recipes for sheet pan suppers.

The first one I created was called Sheet Pan Supper Italiano. Here is a link.

Their introduction to the new column was generous and kind.

Knitters, we bring help. In the quest to increase time for knitting, we proudly present a new series devoted to cooking. Simple cooking. Beautiful cooking. Cooking that you can pull together faster than you can drive through the Burger Weenie. Cooking that cleverly requires a one-hour oven time so that you have a built-in hour to knit while your delicious dinner is roasting away.

Who is our guide to this life-altering way to cook? Our adored gardener, food blogger, and maker: Judy Wright.
—Kay and Ann

Ann and Kay know how to make people feel good. They do it every morning with a daily, upbeat post. It’s one of the reasons their blog/e-commerce website is so popular. You never know what they are going to write about. Take a look at this country music parody they co-wrote and starred in called Pardon Me, I Didn’t Knit That for You. They are a crack up!!

Ann and I are neighbors and have had a lot of fun cooking together at The Nashville Food Project, too!

The first recipe I wrote for their website was a spin-off of the Italian Sausage and Peppers I grew up eating. It was served over pasta at the dinner table and in an 8-inch crusty roll at cookouts and street festivals.

At the time I wrote the sheet pan version, I was on Whole30, a nutritional “reset” diet. To make the recipe Whole-30 compliant, I switched out the pasta with white and sweet potatoes.

This recipe is also a good one for feeding a crowd. I once quadrupled the ingredients and served it at Room in the Inn, a winter sheltering and hospitality program in Nashville. The men paid me the ultimate compliment when they exclaimed, “You put your foot in it!” When they saw me look a little disheartened, they laughed and said that was a good thing. Those men made my day.

Here’s how the piled high and deep ingredients looked when tossed together and spread out into four sheet pans. The key to getting the ingredients to cook evenly is to chop the potatoes into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Yield: Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes   Roasting time: 1 hour

Ingredients

3-4 sweet bell peppers (1 pound)
4-6 potatoes, a combination of sweet and white (2 pounds)
1 sweet onion (½ pound)
1 medium head of garlic (1-1½ ounces)
4 or 5 whole Italian sweet sausages (a 1¼ pound package) Do not pierce.
1 teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400º.

Prep peppers: Remove pepper cores and seeds. Cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks. Add to parchment-lined sheet pan.

Prep onions: Remove the outer layers of skin. Trim off root. Slice thickly. Add to sheet pan.

Prep potatoes: Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to sheet pan.

Prep garlic. Smash the whole head with a meat mallet and remove outer layers of skin. Then smush each clove with the flat edge of a knife and peel off the loosened fine skin. Add to pan.
 

Sprinkle mixed vegetables with salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together in the sheet pan. Add sausages and toss again. Spread ingredients uniformly. Place roasting pan in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn ingredients with a spatula, including the sausages, for even browning. Roast for 30 minutes more.

Since there are only two of us in the house, I often have leftovers to scramble up with eggs for breakfast the next morning. Yum!
 

You can find instructions on how to roast various vegetables by clicking on one of these links: eggplant, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, zucchini, butternutpatty pan, pumpkin, and spaghetti squashes.

Other Dinner Ideas:
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce
A New Take on Chicken Marbella
Chicken Cacciatore
Pot Roast with Herbs and Root Vegetables
Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

Apples are in season and this is my absolute favorite apple pie recipe. The crust is made of crumbled cheddar cheese, butter, and flour. It is incredible. The recipe is from my mother.  Here is a link.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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Always check this website for the most up-to-date version of every recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

What to Knit for a Baby: a Hat, a Sweater and a Blanket

My mother taught me to knit when I was ten. She worked full-time and I remember pacing the house waiting for her to get home to pick up my dropped stitches. The first thing I knit was a gray skirt for a Barbie doll. I remember it turning out like an hourglass-shaped pencil skirt. It was fraught with common beginners’ mistakes: added on and dropped stitches. Eventually, I got the hang of it and loved nothing more than to sit by Mom and knit.

By the time I found out I was going to be a grandmother, I’d been a lapsed knitter for many years. Not so any longer. I’m right back in it and probably for good this time. I love knitting for the baby.

Here are three things I love that I have knitted for my grandson.

The first item is my favorite blanket pattern, the “Mitered Square Blanket” from Mason Dixon KnittingI started the pattern when my daughter-in-law first told us she was pregnant. Because we didn’t initially know the sex of the baby, I made the first squares in shades of pink and blue.

Almost like my grandmother did in 1957 when she crocheted this baby blanket for me. I’m just now noticing that Grandma and I both liked two-toned geometric designs!

Next, I made quite a few of these quick and easy rolled edge hats.

After that, I made my favorite baby sweater pattern called Home-Team Player. It has three buttons on the shoulder which is helpful when slipping a sweater on and off a baby’s big head. I enjoy knitting to the rhythm of this pattern very much. It is also quite forgiving size-wise, meaning there is room for the baby to grow into the sweater, but still look okay while it is a little too big. I made at least a half-dozen of these for my children and friends.

This is a picture of my darling grandson wearing the sweater I knit for him. He has his favorite blankie, too.

A few weeks after finishing his sweater, I stumbled upon this picture.

It’s of my mother holding my son, Jesse, circa 1987. Jesse is wearing the sweater made from the same pattern I used for his son! Same color, even!

So which pattern should you try first? If you are a beginner, I’d suggest starting with the baby hat, then moving to the sweater, and then the mitered square blanket for an exciting and fun challenge.

The Baby Hat

We took a trip to New Zealand a few months before the baby was born and while traveling to Queenstown came across a fantastic handicraft store called The Stitching Post in the charming town of Arrowtown. They had so many adorable samples of baby items to knit and quilt that I had to tell my husband to go off and explore the village without me. I needed to soak all the gorgeousness in. For this hat, the Stitching Post recommended a soft superwash merino wool called Knitcol by Adriafil. I love it and left the store with quite a few skeins … and a set of size 6 needles … and their free pattern. No time like the present to get started.

The yarns I used for these hats.

The blue/gray yarn is Knitcol. On the Stitching Post’s website, they show how the Knitcol colorways look when knit up. Take a look.

The variegated pink yarn on the hat on the right is by the Sheep Shop Yarn Company. It is an old yarn made with a blend of silk and wool. It is no longer available.

The green/pink yarn is called Lichen and Lace and is a superwash merino wool sold through Mason Dixon Knitting. Because the yarn was a little thicker than the Knitcol, I cast on 64 stitches instead of 73 and bumped up the needle size from a US 6 to size a US 8.

A word about yarn choices for baby hats.

I like to use a non-itchy yarn for baby hats because their heads get hot and sweaty and sometimes itchy while wearing a woolen hat. Look for soft yarn with the words “superwash merino” on the label. Cotton doesn’t always work for this pattern because it doesn’t have “give” or enough stitch recovery to make the edges roll. Cotton hats need a pattern with a few rows of ribbing to grip a baby’s head.

For a good explanation of what “superwash” means check out this article from Lion Brands Yarns’s website.

The Baby Sweater

The Home Team Player sweater pattern came from the now-defunct Conshohocken Cotton Company and has been my favorite baby sweater pattern since the 1980s. The pattern is nowhere to be found for purchase on the Internet or in stores, so I’ve included it in this post. My pattern looks like an old family recipe. It is as well-loved as Mom’s Apple Pie! 

 

This sweater is knit on 6 and 9 needles with worsted weight yarn. I find that many baby patterns make the arm length too long so for this pattern, I shortened the arms by at least two inches. One tip I use when determining arm length is to measure the length of the arm from a baby sweater I already like. **I’ve added a bigger photo of the pattern at the end of this post.

The Mitered Square Blanket

Stardate April 17, 2006. This was the moment I fell in love with the Mitered Square Blanket made famous by my good friend, and neighbor, Ann Shayne and New Yorker, Kay Gardiner in their first knitting book, Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitter’s Guide. This photo was taken at their Nashville book signing. I’ve been smitten by this blanket ever since. I’ve made five of them! The one pictured above is for a queen-size bed. It’s huge! The pattern is now available online. Here’s a link.

The morning after the book-signing, I beelined it over to Ann’s house so Kay could give me a private tutorial on how to knit the squares. Mitered squares start out as a straight row of stitches, and then through a series of decreases up the middle, the sides are drawn inward to create a square. You will feel so excited the first time you see the square emerge from the horizontal row of stitches. It’s magical.

The next thing that will excite you is the thrill of choosing colors and seeing how beautifully the squares come together when seamed. After a while, I started to think of the hanks of Tahki Cotton Classic yarn as tubes of paint. I honestly felt like an artist after making just three squares! Knitting the squares becomes addictive, I promise!

You might even find yourself carrying a little baggie with a mitered square in progress for when you have downtime. I used a short round needle for portability.

Finally, a sweet ending to a long yarn: a picture of my great-grandmother, MamaNika, knitting on the patio of my grandparents’ home. You can read all about her and the other beautiful, female role models in my life, all domestic goddesses, here.

Blog Favorites: Recipes from My Family
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
Baked Ziti with Eggplant
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Mom’s Apple Pie (with a cheddar streusel topping)
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
@judyschickens Everyday Salad Dressing
Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

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Eulogy for a Chicken

Treating our baby chicks like pets and naming them seemed like a good idea. At first. They were cute and cuddly like pets, and they kept us entertained with their constant chirping and the adorable way in which they climbed over one another to get to their food. We had fun choosing names for that first flock, too: the two brunette Plymouth Barred Rocks were named for my Sicilian grandmothers, Marion and Concetta, the blonde Buff Orpingtons for Hubby’s grandmothers, Alice and Mildred, and the Rhode Island Reds for my zany red-headed great aunts, Bridget and Josephine. Neighborhood children and adults visited every day. Life was good.

The chicks grew up to be a beautiful and sociable flock. They loved to climb the stairs to our back porch and hang outside the screen door while we humans visited inside. This was back in the Spring of 2012 when the Metropolitan Government of Nashville first passed the Domesticated Hen Ordinance allowing urban residents to keep up to six chickens in their fenced-in backyards.

Chickens at the Backdoor

In the beginning of our poultry husbandry, it was all cartoonish chickens running across the grass in their funky lopsided way, and chicken idioms come to life. After about five months, eggs started appearing in the nest box, and it seemed like a happy bonus rather than the original intent. A few years later, with the addition of blue-egger Ameracaunas to the flock, the variety of eggs became downright gorgeous.

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Eventually, the Circle of Life, Survival of the Fittest, Mother Nature, whatever, showed its hungry head and there was some attrition in the happy flock.

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I didn’t grow up on a circle of life farm, so when the hawk picked off the first few chickens, it took me a while to adjust. The chickens adapted to this menace better than I; they learned to run for cover whenever they heard the hawk’s whistling call or saw his shadow overhead. They also learned to make a beeline for the bushes when I let them out in the morning to avoid being out in the open where a hawk could easily spy them. They were smart chickens.

As there was more attrition to come, at some point, I had to stop naming the replacement chickens. Instead, I referred to them by their breed. That is, until last Spring, when I brought my newly acquired Golden Comet chicken to visit Glendale Elementary School in Nashville. There, a young girl in Ms. Meadors’ kindergarten class raised her hand and asked me the chicken’s name.  I hemmed and I hawed. How could I tell this darling child I didn’t name my chickens anymore because Mother Nature could be ruthless? “Comet,” I replied with a motherly smile. The name stuck.

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Last week, Comet, the only chicken in the flock who liked to be held, died. This is a tribute to her.

One Chicken’s Life

Comet was born on a rural farm in Kentucky that raised Golden Comets, a breed known for being good layers. Once the baby chicks were hatched, they were placed in an open field in movable cages known as “chicken tractors.” The chickens fed on the grass beneath their feet until it was all consumed and then the cages, with their big supporting wheels, were rolled to another area of the field.

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Once the chickens outgrew the tractors, they were moved to a fenced-in apple orchard for grazing. The canopy of apple tree branches helped protect the flock from hawks.

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I asked the farmer, whom I knew from previous visits to the farm to buy eggs, if he would sell me two of his young layers. He did so with some reluctance — I don’t think anyone had ever asked him that question before. He sent his son to fetch two chickens. The young boy, obviously adept at this task, snuck up on the chickens and grabbed them by the ankles.

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We brought the chickens home and waited until nightfall to introduce them to the established flock. This is a time-honored technique used to decrease the likelihood of new birds being hen-pecked by older girls in their society. The idea is that the birds all wake up together and are not as startled by the presence of the newbies among them. We’ve learned from experience this method doesn’t always work, so for added insurance, we bought a “flock block” and placed it in the enclosed run with them. We hoped it would give the birds something enjoyable to peck on rather than each other.

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It worked; the older ladies left the new girls alone. We have since discovered that as long as we keep a second food source in the run, the chickens have less reason to be territorial. There is now peace in our small chicken kingdom.

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Comet’s life gets interesting.

As I mentioned earlier, last spring, I started bringing Comet to visit children in elementary school classrooms.

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Comet got to visit many schools. There is no telling how many children stroked her golden-red feathers or touched her rubbery red comb.

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Here is Comet in Ms. Benson’s kindergarten classroom where children got to feed Comet leafy greens and pea shoots with their soft leaves and curly-cue tendrils.

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The Boy Scouts came to visit her.

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And, the Girl Scouts.

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The scouts all learned How to Tell If an Egg Is Fresh or Hard-Boiled. You can learn how, too, in the video located in that post.  

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Comet and I were featured in a photo shoot for a nationally known online knitting magazine called Mason Dixon Knitting. I adore this photo of Comet taken by my dear friend and neighbor, Ann Shayne. Ann later gifted me with the beautiful purple and raspberry colored handknit cowl.

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A few more remembrances of Comet.

Here she is eating her leafy greens and peas.

Tilling and munching in the compost pile.

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Visiting while I planted an asparagus bed.

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Taking in the scuttlebutt at the watercooler.

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Leading the charge as the flock followed me around the yard.

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Comet was one fantastic chicken.

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In Memory of Comet:
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Quiche Lorraine with Bacon and Kale
Freshly Cooked Tortillas

Related Stories:
Family Dirt
Spring Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Fall Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
How Canola Oil is Made (from plants grown locally)

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup

A few years ago, my friend Jennifer told me her entire family was sick with the crud. What I heard was, “Stop at Kroger and pick up a ten-pack of chicken thighs to make the Johnstons some soup.” I got home and immediately set about making a pot of chicken soup. My husband came home and the first thing he asked when he walked in the kitchen was, “Who’s sick?”

Here’s what I remember most about my visit to Jennifer’s house to drop off the soup. I rang the doorbell, and her husband Tom opened the door. I brought the hot soup into the kitchen, left it on the counter along with a bag of cooked pasta, and wished Tom well. He walked me to the door, and after I had turned the doorknob to leave, he picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted a few drops into my hands. I’m not sure why that was so memorable to me, but it was. Maybe it was that Tom was taking good care of his visitors, too, and that was such a kind-hearted thing to do.

A few weeks ago I arrived sick with a cold in Florida. My mom’s sister, Rachelle, heated up a bowl of homemade chicken soup for me. Rachelle’s soup was warm and wonderful and I, of course, asked how she made it. She uses my bone broth recipe to make her chicken stock and her mother’s recipe to make the soup.

I love that Rachelle still uses her mother’s Revere soup pot from the Fifties to make soup.
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I thought it was funny that Rachelle’s soup pot looked like the Revere soup pot our great-grandmother, Mamanika, used to make her Italian cookie dough.
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A few words about soup ingredients before we get started cooking a pot of Sick Soup.

Chicken Stock
Lately, a lot of people are writing about the health benefits of bone broth. My friend Lou Ann recently sent me a link for Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, GOOP, where their writers extol the virtues of bone broth. You can read that story here.

I’ve written quite a few recipes for chicken soup over the last year, and readers have asked which method for making chicken stock is my favorite. I’ve listed each method in order of most flavorful:

Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
This stock is made with raw thigh meat, bones, veggies, aromatics, and water.
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Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
This stock is made with roasted bones, veggies, aromatics, and water.
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Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
This stock is made with water and roasted turkey bones.
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Kelly’s Duck Stew & Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
This stock is made with a reduced-sodium chicken base, from a jar, mixed with water. I don’t bother to use a homemade chicken stock when there are so many other ingredients in a recipe that would camouflage the taste of a bone broth.
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Canned Stewed Tomatoes:
I like to purée stewed tomatoes before using them in a recipe. While I love the instant flavor boost you get from a can of stewed tomatoes, I don’t care for the texture or taste of sliced and diced tomatoes. Rachelle turned me on to Del Monte’s brand of “Italian Recipe” Stewed Tomatoes and I like it.
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Heel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese:
Using the heel of a wedge of Parmesan as flavoring was Mom’s secret ingredient in both her spaghetti sauce and soup. I grew up with a baggie of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese heels in the refrigerator and for the longest time, I had no idea why Mom saved them. Truth be told, I may have even thrown a few away when I was cleaning out her refrigerator. Big mistake. Those Parmesan heels are solid gold. They are an instant flavor booster. They are also a little salty so be sure to taste test your soup before adding salt. Chicken carcasses, heels of cheese. You probably think I have eye of newt in my fridge, too.
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Ingredients:
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4 quarts chicken stock
2 cans Italian-Style stewed tomatoes, puréed
1 can Fire-Roasted tomatoes, puréed
6 cups sliced celery (1½ pounds)
6 cups sliced carrots (2 pounds)
½ heel from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
2 pounds cooked chicken meat
2 teaspoons garlic pepper
salt to taste

And for a heartier soup version:
1 head of escarole or other mildly bitter green, leaves washed and chopped
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pasta or ravioli, cooked in a separate pot of water

Mise en Place:
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Instructions:
1) Add stock to a large soup pot and heat until the gelatinous stock melts.
2) Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, and the Parmesan heel. Bring to a boil over high heat and then simmer over low heat for about one hour.
3) Add chopped chicken and beans and simmer another 30 minutes.
4) About five minutes before you are ready to serve, stir in the greens. They will wilt almost immediately. Turn off the heat.
5) Adjust seasoning by adding salt and garlic pepper as needed
6) If serving with pasta, cook per the package’s instructions.

About escarole:
Escarole is sometimes hard to find in Nashville. I would check Whole Foods first and if they don’t have it in stock, try Kroger. It is often the green of choice for many Italian soups. It is mildly bitter.
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If you are going to serve pasta with your soup, I recommend using a box of ditalini, a small tubular and chewy pasta. It has always been my family’s favorite soup pasta. Cook it in a separate pot of water so the pasta doesn’t absorb all of your broth. Store unused cooked pasta in a separate container.
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Rachelle’s chicken soup is a great sick soup because there is a lot of broth in it that warms your soul and heals what ails you.
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Sick Soup can easily become a very hearty Snowy Day Stew by adding artichoke hearts, rosemary, and ravioli. Last week, for a quickly organized dinner party for neighbors during a snow storm, I used a 20-ounce package of Buitoni Four Cheese Ravioli instead of the ditalini. I cooked the pasta in a separate pot; just as I recommend doing for the ditalini. Be sure to have a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the table to share.
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One of my dinner guests, on that snowy evening, was my neighbor, Ann Shayne, of the dynamic knitting duo at MasonDixonKnitting.com. Ann and Kay Gardiner have recently published a best-selling knitter’s coloring book. Check it out here. Rachelle colored the picture on the right from her copy of the coloring book. In the background of the photo on the left, you can see the knitted mitered-square blanket that Kay taught me how to make. There are how-to instructions for knitting this blanket in MDK’s first knitting book.
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Like bone broth, knitting is good for you, too; just ask New York Times health columnist, Jane Brody. She recently posted an article about the health benefits of knitting in the NYT. I’ll find out real quick if my sons read my blog by whether they notice I’ve exposed a Mom’s Trade Secret about raising them in a comment I posted in response to Brody’s article.
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So, here’s to a little winter cold therapy with sick soup, or cups of bone broth, knitting, and coloring.
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LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.