My Go-To Meal: Lite Kielbasa Stir Fry Pasta

Packaged kielbasa is good for so many reasons and occasions. My father just cuts it up cold and eats it with some crackers and slices of cheese. For a long time I thought you had to cook it before you ate it but certain brands are fully cooked. The thing that’s great about the packaged kind, is that one whole kielbasa will feed all four of us (don’t think it’ll stay that way for long, though as the kids get older and chow down a lot more food!). So that means about $5 for a one-pot meal for four, more or less, and a couple bucks for spaghetti and some veggies to throw in.

Anyway, I like the lite kielbasa and have just recently discovered that the lite turkey kielbasa is really good too and has way less fat and calories. The spices in this type of Polish sausage are what I like the most. It must be the Polish in me. My father was adopted and raised by Polish immigrant parents in a small town in Nebraska and the most wonderful food aromas would waft out of his extended families’ kitchens. I can remember the smell of pickled vegetables, especially cucumbers, that they would keep down in the cool basement. The smell saturated the house and had a sort of calming effect on me as a child. The smell and sense of home. Anyway, this sausage has lots of garlic and spices that attract even children to dig in (think dressed up hot dog!).

If I need a less-expensive and time-consuming option during the week, I grab a package of lite kielbasa on my weekend shopping trip and make this quick stir fry spaghetti dish.

Here are the ingredients:

-One package of lite kielbasa, cut into thin bite-sized pieces
-1/2 to 3/4 pound of spaghetti
-One stalk of celery, cut into bite sized pieces
-Half a head of broccoli cut into small florets
-One carrot, grated
-Soy sauce
-One tablespoon of vegetable of olive oil

Start by bringing a pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. If you have a stacked steamer, add the broccoli to the top of the top so that it steams a bit before adding it to the stir fry. Or boil the broccoli for a few minutes before adding the pasta and set the veggies aside in a bowl. In a big frying pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat and add the cut up kielbasa. Stir around until the sausage starts to brown a bit.

Next, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and stir. Then add all of the veggies to the frying pan with the kielbasa. Keep stirring to soften the veggies until al dente (still have some crispness left) and add salt and pepper to your liking. At the very end, add about two tablespoons of soy sauce to the pan and reduce the heat. Drain your spaghetti and add the pasta directly to the frying pan. Turn the heat up a bit and mix together all the ingredients until the pasta has absorbed some of the liquid.

I usually cut up the spaghetti a bit for the little ones. They love slurping the pasta up and as long as I call broccoli “trees” they eat that too! So there you have it. A pasta dish with meat, veggies and pasta all in one quick dish for about $5.

Flap Meat Carne Asada Burritos With Mango Salsa and Guacamole

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while–waiting for summer to come around when mangos are in season! There is a type of magic that happens when you combine beef with mango that I really can’t explain. In the case of these flap meat burritos, the sweet and tartness of the mango and lime salsa cuts the richness of the salty, seasoned beef perfectly. Add a little guacamole to the whole thing, wrap it in a tortilla with some caramelized onions and it’s pure heaven.

In fact, we had this meal last night since my husband’s nephew was in town with two of his 20-something-year-old friends. It’s a good BBQ meal to make and a nice way to unwind in the backyard after a work day during the summer while playing with the kids. And the kids really like the bits of cut up steak and LOVE the mango–a great way to incorporate some fruit into their diet. Instead of wrapping the kids’ meat into a burritos, I cut triangle wedges out of the tortillas and butter them and then serve the meat, salsa and guacamole on the side.

Here’s what you’ll need for a meal for four people:

– A pound and a half (or more, if you like) of flap meat beef
– Chef Merito carne asada seasoning (Check to see if your local grocery store carries it. I love the tang, and I prefer it because it doesn’t have the strong cumin taste that some of these types of seasonings do.)
– One red onion, cut in half and sliced. Chop about a tablespoon and reserve for the salsa.
– A handful of chopped, fresh cilantro. Save a tablespoon for the salsa.
– Two tablespoons of vegetable oil
– Two mangos
– One serrano pepper, seeded and cut into tiny bits
– Two avocados
– One lime
– Tabasco sauce
– A bag of flour tortillas

The night before your BBQ, lay all the pieces of flap meat out flat and fully season both sides of the meat with the carne asada seasoning and with black pepper. Make sure you don’t coat too heavily, but try not to be skimpy either. Then put the meat into a zip bag with the sliced onion and cilantro and add the two tablespoons of oil. Zip the bag and massage the meat with the other ingredients until it’s well mixed. Put the bag onto a plate or dish and refrigerate over night.

The next day, start to prepare your salsa and guacamole before putting the meat on the grill. Stand the mango upright and slice it from the top downward on both sides. Next, cut lines down and across each slice of the mango and then bend the peel backward and cut the chunks loose into a bowl. Cut any other eatable chunks off of the pit and use for the salsa. Then add the chopped red onion, cilantro, serrano pepper and squeeze the juice of half of the lime into the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

To make the guacamole, cut each avocado in half by running a knife around the circumference of the avocados. Once you have two halves, stick the blade of your knife into the pit and twist. The pit should come right out. Take a big spoon and scoop out the inside meat and put it into a bowl. Mash the avocado with a fork, making it as chunky or creamy as you like. Add the juice from the other half of lime and some Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Place the flap meat on a high-heat grill and add the onions from the marinade to a metal, grill-safe bowl in order to caramelize the onions on top of the grill. Grill the meat until it is well done (no longer springs back to the touch) or you can grill more rare, if you prefer. Keep mixing the onions to cook them.

When the meat is done, allow it to cool a bit. Remove caramelized onions from the grill and set aside. Now, the trick to getting tender, bite-sized pieces of meat is cutting against the grain. Gently pull on each piece of the meat and you will see a natural grain appear. You want to cut the meat in thin strips going the opposite way of this grain. Once you have strips, cut these slices into bite-sized pieces.

Now all you have to do to make your burrito is place some meat in the middle of the tortilla, top with caramelized onions, salsa and guacamole, roll it all up and take a scrumptious bite. I can’t even tell you how good this is. It’s definitely one of my favorites. Enjoy!