Spicy Sausage and Arugula "Pasta" Revamp! Whole 30 approved

I originally posted this recipe as past of a Progressively Perfect Virtual Dinner Party blog hop a few years ago and thought I'd give it a little Whole 30 re-vamp.    
My family LOVES this dish- Spicy Sausage & Arugula Pasta.  It is my 'go-to' dinner on many nights.  It also works great as a party food because it can be eaten warm or cold and the ingredients can be easily adjusted depending on how many people you will be having.  In a lot of cases, I just add additional pasta.  Don't worry if you make too much - it tastes GREAT in an omelet the next day for breakfast, too.  Enjoy!

IMG_2084Spicy Sausage & Arugula Pasta
For the pasta:
  • 1 box of fusilli pasta
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water from cooked pasta
For the sausage & arugula topping:
  • 1 pound bulk hot sausage 
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 large bunch fresh baby arugula

Cook fusilli according to box directions.  While it is boiling, crumble sausage and brown it in a separate deep pan (I use a wok) on medium heat.  Add the minced garlic to the browned sausage and let cook for one minute.  Stir in tomatoes and let them cook down a bit (about 2 minutes).  Fold in arugula, cover and turn off heat.  The arugula will steam nicely with the heat that remains.

When pasta is done, drain it reserving a 1/3 cup of the water.  Mix salt, pepper, parmesan and oil in a small bowl.  Stir in water.  Toss onto hot pasta coating it evenly.

For small parties, you can serve the pasta with the sausage mixture on top.  For larger parties, I like to toss it altogether in a big bowl so people can serve themselves.  

To make it Whole 30 approved, all you need to do is serve the sausage mixture atop some roasted spaghetti squash or raw zucchini noodles (zoodles) omitting the parmesan cheese.  I like using raw zoodles because they keep their shape and will warm up under the mixture anyway.


A photo posted by Cindy Dudas (@wthbonbon) on

Hope you like it!

The Chile Pepper Bible by Judith Finlayson: Review and Recipe - Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup

Cookbooks are my absolute favorite type of book.  I love learning how to mix different ingredients together to make a completely different taste.  Finding and using a good recipe reminds me of that animated movie with the little foodie rat that puts a mushroom with a piece of cheese and smokes it over a chimney fire.  After getting struck by lightning, he experiences a fiery taste explosion he likes to call "lightningy".    

Speaking of fiery taste explosions... 

 ...and getting back to my original thought, I was so pleased when given the opportunity to review Judith Finlayson's newest cookbook the Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between. (I received this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.)


Photo courtesy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Chile peppers have a BIG part in so many different recipes and are found in about 3/4 of everything I cook.  But to be completely honest, I had no idea how many different types there are.  Until reading the Chile Pepper Bible, I thought a chile was a chile was a chile.  Turns out there are 5 major chile species with many different types in each ranging from sweet to hot to set-your-mouth-on-fire and beyond.  

The beautiful cookbook contains so much interesting information about chiles and the culture surrounding them.  Did you know that it is believed that capsicum (the genus of  chile peppers) may have been the first spice ever used by humans? Or that the Indian pepper, the bhut jolokia was dethroned as the Hottest Pepper in the World per Guinness World Records leaving the title to be reclaimed by the Carolina Reaper?  

Of course, the Chile Pepper Bible's crown jewels are its recipes.  With 250 recipes to choose from, you can plan a whole chile pepper party if you want!  

Little story for you:

Last week when picking up my CSA share from the farm, I noticed a small basket of red finger-like peppers on the counter.  I asked what they were and my friend farmer Jen told me they were some sort of Thai pepper that one of her farm sharers was growing.  She offered me a couple, so I took them.  Coincidentally, on the same day my Chile Pepper Bible showed up in the mail.  I couldn't believe it!  I was able to look up the pepper and correctly identify it as a Thai bird's-eye chile! 


So then I flipped to page 108 and found a recipe for Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup for which I could use my new little bird's-eye friend!  Here's the recipe and an excerpt from the book in case you'd like to try it yourself.

Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup


Photo and Recipe courtesy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

 In Chinese medicine, which is fundamentally based on the balancing principles of yin and yang, heating foods are those that warm the body, feeding it with energy. Balance, which includes establishing equilibrium among the five flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami), helps the body’s vital spirit, called qi, to flow freely and support excellent health. Need I say more? Hot, sour, salty, sweet and loaded with umami from the soy sauce and mushrooms, which are also known to strengthen the immune system, this soup has all the makings of a restorative tonic. And it tastes good, too!

  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Boiling water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced gingerroot
  • 8 oz  trimmed fresh shiitake mushrooms,sliced
  • 1  red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1⁄2 to 1 red finger chile, cut into paper-thin rings
  • 4 cups   mushroom or beef stock
  • 1⁄4 cup  soy sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup  Chinese black rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts)

 In a heatproof bowl, soak dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes, weighing down with a cup to ensure they remain submerged. Drain and discard liquid. Slice mushrooms thinly and set aside.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add soaked dried mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, bell pepper, and finger chile to taste. Cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 5 minutes. (Mushrooms shouldn’t be fully cooked at this point.)

Add stock, soy sauce and vinegar and stir well. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for until flavors are infused, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.

Ladle into warm serving bowls. Garnish with green onions. Serve immediately.

 Makes 4 servings. Vegan Friendly. Gluten-Free Friendly

 Tip: Be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce or wheat-free tamari if you are making this soup for someone who is sensitive to gluten. To make it Whole30 compliant, substitute the soy with coconut aminos.

 Chile Savvy: Bitterness is an important flavor in this soup. The sweet red bell pepper balances that component, adding lovely complexity.

Chiles have so many great health benefits and are great in so many different diets.  I am a big fan of the Whole30 way of eating and this Chile Pepper Bible has a lot of compliant (or easily adjustable) recipes I plan on adding to my rotation.  Chiles help bring flavor and color to otherwise boring meals.  

For your own copy, you can use my affiliate link here and purchase from Amazon or you can purchase it at your favorite book store.  With the holidays right around the corner, why not grab a copy for your chile loving friends, too?  

 Follow author Judith Finlyason on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest @judith.finlayson to find out more about the Chile Pepper Bible and her other awesome cookbooks! 

My Whole30 Experience

After going through 41 years of eating whatever I want whenever I want and never feeling as great as I thought I should, I decided to try something new.  Well, if you want to get into specifics, I can't really remember the first few of those 41 years, so who knows.  Maybe I felt good then.  

Anyways...  I decided to look into the Whole 30 plan for a few reasons:

  1.  It has an end point.
  2. The food looks good.
  3. I had already planned on giving up booze for Lent.
  4. It seemed to fit in with the way I eat anyway.

I never really enjoyed the idea of elimination diets.  Everything in moderation was always my favorite saying.  But (let me get a little philosophical here for a second) since I had never strayed from that mindset, I think I sort of went against that mindset.  I was very strict in my thinking that I could be free with my eating habits.  I refused to think outside the box.  So I read the whole book on Whole 30 and decided to take the plunge.


A photo posted by Cindy Dudas (@cynthialeemom) on

Why did I need a change?  Well, I already told you I wasn't feeling all that great.  I have psoriasis and rosacea that tend to get out of control at certain times and I have not been able to pinpoint the triggers.  I always wanted to see if food had anything to do with it.  There are some theories out there that identify certain trigger foods like gluten and dairy.  These two things are eliminated with the Whole 30 plan, so there's that.

Also, I always felt bloated for some reason.  Like, I had to suck in my gut every time I got dressed.  I was interested in losing a little weight, but my concern was more about feeling better overall.  I wasn't feeling healthy.  The Whole 30 book has a huge list of things that other people experience during/afterwards that made me think I should give it a try.

OK, enough about my reasons for trying it.  Here's what I got out of it.

    • Food tastes better- I don't know if it's because I'm so in tune with exactly what goes into the food I'm eating or what, but everything just tastes great. A lot of foods taste SO MUCH SWEETER than they ever have before.  I no longer feel the need to add any type of sugar to anything.  At all. 
    • I definitely lost inches- I do not know how many, because I never took any measurements.  But when I started, I was wearing size 10 pants and large shirts.  Now I'm in a size 8 pants and small/medium shirts.
    • My mind feels clearer- As most people in today's world, I'm busy a lot.  Most of the time I make my mind busier than it needs to be.  But lately, I feel like I don't get as blurry and clustered in my thoughts.  I can distinguish between important and not-so-important tasks much easier.  
    • I feel accomplished- Not to be a Debbie Downer, but as a 41 year-old working parent there isn't much that gives me a personal sense of accomplishment any more.  Yes, there are my kids who do wonderful things to be proud of- and I am.  But there is not much that I can say I'VE done lately to make myself feel great.  Completing Whole30 made me feel like a million bucks.
    • I feel energized, not tired- I swear, I feel like I could do anything at any time.
    • However, I get great sleep-  When it's time for bed, I can fall asleep within minutes.  I've never been able to do that before.
    • I'm not hungry- I don't find myself wandering around the kitchen just grabbing snacks all the time like I used to.  I like taking the time to eat what I want so I will not be hungry.
    • Easy to make homemade stuff- I have always cooked, so it was an easy transition to Whole30 cooking.  It's just a matter of leaving certain things out.  That's all.  I have been posting every single thing I eat on Instagram, and would love you to check it out.  Anything you want the recipe for, just let me know and I'll post it. 
    • I love the support- Before I started, I told my family I was doing it.  I told them they didn't have to agree with me, but I would appreciate it if they didn't poke fun or try to tempt me with non-compliant foods.  Throughout the whole thing, they have been awesome.  And to make it even better, they eat everything I make without complaints.  In fact, they actually like most of the stuff I've made since I started.  
    • Hubby calls it Magic30- because WOW do I enjoy him.  (Yes, I'm talking about sex.)  I mean, he's a hot sketch and I've always enjoyed his company.  But hot damn, if Whole30 didn't make it all a million times even better.

A photo posted by Cindy Dudas (@cynthialeemom) on

I never want to go back. For real.  I went through the 30 days and realized how much food affects my life.  I went through another 30 days and realized that the way I feel now and the way I was feeling before are not even comparable.  Then I went through ANOTHER 30 days just to be sure.  Now I know that this is the way I want to live.  Yes, I make exceptions and eat some non-compliant things here and there.  But those first 30 days of full commitment made me understand what certain foods do to me.  I know how eating a cookie is going to make me feel tomorrow.  I know what type of booze I need to avoid.  I still haven't had any dairy or legumes, but eventually I'll get to them to see how they affect me.  But for now, I'm going to live my life after Whole30 pretty much the same way I was living it during Whole30 - happy.  

Oh, one thing it did not do, which was a little disappointing, was have any effect on the skin issues I mentioned earlier.  I've been doing a little more research and talking with friends about it and apparently there are other foods to eliminate (eggs, nightshade vegetables)  in order to reduce the effects of autoimmune disorders like psoriasis.  Right now, my skin isn't bothering me too much so I am not going to delve into eliminating anything else.  But if I do, I'll also share that experience with you. 


A photo posted by Cindy Dudas (@cynthialeemom) on


Whole 30 Buffalo chicken meatballs and celery slaw

Yes, I'm doing Whole 30.  I will get to that in a separate post.  But right now, I NEED to share this recipe with you before I die from excitement.  

Recently we were at our friends Kate and Kevin's house and had some delicious Buffalo chicken meatball subs.  My whole family fell in love with them and have been asking me to try to make them ever since.  So last night, I tried my best to replicate our friends' recipe.  I think I did ok!  Here you go.  Since I'm doing Whole 30, this recipe is compliant, but trust me you will love it even if you're not following any restricted diet! 

This recipe feeds 4 people, but I suggest doubling it and freezing some.  You're going to want them again.  Soon.


Buffalo meatballs
Buffalo chicken meatballs

Buffalo sauce:

  • 1 clove garlic minced and divided into two bowls (half will be for the meatballs)
  • 1/2 cup clarified butter
  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce (I like Franks)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

In a small saucepan on low, heat the butter and coconut oil until they become liquid.  Turn off the heat.  In the bowl that has half a minced garlic clove, stir together the hot sauce, garlic, and vinegar.  Whisk in the melted butter and oil until the sauce is smooth.  Put aside.


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 Tbsp Whole 30 approved mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp minced onion
  • Half of the saved minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsps Buffalo sauce
  • Salt and pepper 


Mix all meatball ingredients together (except olive oil) and form small 1 inch meatballs.  Heat olive oil in a pan and lightly brown meatballs for about 4 minutes turning frequently to keep their shape.  Place all the meatballs in a baking pan (they will not be completely cooked yet) and drizzle some more Buffalo sauce over them.  Bake at 400° for about 10 minutes.  Serve over a bed of arugula with Whole 30 ranch dressing, more Buffalo sauce and some celery sticks.  Or, try this super easy and colorful celery slaw!

Celery Slaw

  • 4 stalks of celery cut into thin half circle pieces
  • 1 or 2 radishes sliced thin
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 1/4 cup Whole 30 mayo
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • salt and pepper

     Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve immediately or put in the fridge until dinnertime.


Of course, if you're not doing Whole 30 and want to put these meatballs on a roll, go right ahead!  Let me know what you think.  


CSA recipe for late spring: Beef & vegetable lettuce cups with kohlrabi salad

So I joined a CSA this year through our local B&B Farms in Egg Harbor, NJ.  Last Wednesday was my first pick up ever and let me tell you something. I am in LOVE.  I can remember not even knowing what CSA stood for a couple years ago - it stands for Community Supported Agriculture-  and now it is my favorite thing in the world.  If you have the opportunity to become a part of a CSA and pick up fresh produce every week, I have two words for you: DO IT.

I picked up the most beautiful veg I have ever seen.  3 heads of lettuce, a bunch of beets, 2 heads of kohlrabi, a bunch of garlic scapes, a pint of arugula, 2 bunches of kale, and we picked 2 pints of snap peas ourselves.  I immediately started thinking of how to use these beauties.  The next night, we came up with some lettuce cups.  They were so good, I wanted to share the recipe in case you were looking for something to do with YOUR share this week. Lettuce cups


 Beef & Vegetable Lettuce Cups with Kohlrabi Salad

  • 1 head hohlrabi cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 1/2 carrots- 1 carrot cut into matchsticks, 1/2 carrot diced
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 lb ground beef (I used 85% lean)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • about 10 snap peas diced
  • 1 garlic scape diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper diced
  • 1/4 c soy sauce*
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey*
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • one head  lettuce, leaves separated
  • sesame seeds as garnish
  • *Make it Whole 30 compliant by using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce and eliminating the honey

For the salad:

Toss the kohlrabi and carrot matchsticks (save diced carrot) in a bowl with the sugar and rice vinegar.  Set aside.

Cup filling:

Add the ground beef, garlic, onion, snap peas, garlic scape, diced carrot, and peppers to a medium high pan and cook until meat is brown.  If you're using a leaner beef, you might want to add a small bit of oil to the pan.  In a small bowl, mix together the soy, sriracha, honey and ginger.  Pour over meat mixture and heat until warm.  


To assemble the lettuce cups, place two leaves on a plate.  Add about 1/2 cup meat mixture and about 1/4 cup kohlrabi salad to the top.  Garnish with sesame seeds and YUM! Just pick them up like you would a taco.