Cover Girl and 2013 Fitness International Champion Tanji Johnson uses Isernio’s during contest prep and in one of her favorite Thanksgiving dishes
Our friend Tanji Johnson is a star. An elite athlete, fitness coach, successful entrepreneur, key note speaker and role model, Tanji is currently ranked Top 2 in the world in IFBB Pro Fitness. She has earned 9 professional IFBB fitness titles in her career. In 2013, Tanji became the Fitness International & the Arnold Classic Europe Champion. Tanji starred as “Stealth” on NBC’s hit television show American Gladiators and she is also known for her positive attitude, bright spirit and strong work ethic.
We sat down with Tanji recently for an interview to find out how she likes to use our products and what she’s up to this holiday season.
Isernio’s: How long have you been a fan of Isernio’s? How did you first come across Isernio’s?
Tanji Johnson: I have been a fan of Isernio’s for 3 years, when I was first introduced to the product by a friend.
Isernio’s: What kinds of meals and snacks to you create with Isernio’s?
Tanji Johnson: I like to make meatballs & meatloaves as well as ground chicken balls, and scrambled eggs with sausage. Isernio’s is lean and high in protein, so it’s a treat I can enjoy often.
Isernio’s: Does Isernio’s fit into your training meal plan?
Tanji Johnson: When dieting, I mainly use the ground chicken products (ground chicken and ground chicken breast). Outside of contest prep, I eat all the Isernio’s products all the time.
Isernio’s: Isernio’s Premium All-Natural Products are gluten free, all-natural, contain no artificial ingredients, no nitrates, no nitrites, no phosphates or MSG. They are also low in fat and made fresh daily. What of these qualities, as an athlete and world renown fitness competitor, is most important to you?
Tanji Johnson: The fact that Isernio’s products are all-natural and contain no artificial ingredients is important to me. It’s the things like artificial flavors and ingredients that contribute to bloating and discourage fat loss.
Isernio’s: What does a typical Thanksgiving look like for you?
Tanji Johnson: Normally we sleep in and I help whoever cooks. Eating. Watch a movie. This day is total relaxation, we don’t even leave the house.
Isernio’s: What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Tanji Johnson: Family and friends – I want to say relationships. Real family, chosen family and friends. That is what life is about. I’m also thankful for my health. I am about to turn 40 and I’m blessed to have great health. The third thing is being able to have a career that I’m passionate about. Those are my three.
Isernio’s: What’s your favorite dish at the Thanksgiving table?
Tanji Johnson: Sweet potato casserole. It’s a family recipe that my family has adopted over the years.
Isernio’s: What is your least favorite food at Thanksgiving?
Tanji Johnson: Honestly, I don’t even know. I would probably say collard greens.
Isernio’s: Do you have any special traditions?
Tanji Johnson: Before we eat, we go around the table and talk about what we are thankful for.
Isernio’s: What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?
Tanji Johnson: The food. Not just that, but spending quality time with family. Because I live in Seattle and my family is spread out all around the country, normally I spend thanksgiving with friends and extended family that are local. We need more days like that.
Isernio’s: Do you normally travel somewhere for Thanksgiving? Where is the furthest you have travelled for Thanksgiving?
Tanji Johnson: My mom and dad live in South Carolina. Our family is spread all throughout the country so we try to get to South Carolina once every couple of years for Thanksgiving. I grew up an army brat living my adolescence in Germany and Korea – that’s the farthest I have been for Thanksgiving.
Isernio’s: Being an elite athlete, have you ever had to make some substitutions at Thanksgiving for an upcoming competition or show?
Tanji Johnson: I have been lucky. Usually I do not have a competition during Thanksgiving so no.
Isernio’s: Do you have a healthy Thanksgiving recipe featuring Isernio’s that you can share with us?
Tanji Johnson: One of them is the stuffing. I use Isernio’s sausage in the stuffing to get more protein. I like the breakfast chicken sausage with the stuffing.
Isernio’s: What do you do the day after Thanksgiving?
Tanji Johnson: Black Friday! I am not one of those people who will be anywhere at 2 – 3 – 4 - 5 in the morning. I’m not going to go wait in line anywhere but it’s great to go to 2 or 3 of my favorite stores and see what they have going on there…. I also start decorating for Christmas.
All of us at Isernio’s are so thankful for Tanji Johnson. Not only is she a great friend, she is also a wonderful advocate for the Isernio’s brand and for that we are doubly thankful. Learn more about Tanji here: http://www.savefitness.net/ or http://tanjijohnson.com/OfficialSite/
(Photo Credit: From Joanne http://www.inspiredtaste.net/8712)
Our friend Shebron has done it again! We LOVE her recipe for stuffed jumbo shells. This is a relatively simple recipe to make and it saves / freezes well for a later meal. If you are planning on serving this dish to guests, we recommend pairing it with an Italian Chianti which pairs well with tomato-based red sauces, and also compliments the creamy shell filling.
2 16oz. packages of Isernio’s Chicken Basil & Sun Dried Tomato Sausage (Also tastes great with our pork or chicken sausage rolls!)
1 12 oz. Box of Jumbo Shells
32 oz. of Ricotta Cheese
1-1.5 lb. Mushrooms, Chopped
½ - 1 package of fresh basil, chopped (your preference on how much)
1 Large Egg, beaten
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP of Olive Oil
2-3 cups of shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 cups Tomato Sauce. Have time to make it from scratch? Try our Half Hour Tomato Sauce!
Remove the casings (or use bulk sausage) and in a large 13 quart pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and cook sausage over medium heat, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until the pinkness is gone, but not cooked through completely. Remove meat from skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Bring 5 qts. of water to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp. salt to boiling water, add the pasta and cook about 8-10 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta.
Chop the mushrooms and sautee with olive oil & garlic in the same fry pan as you cooked the sausage in. Set aside with the meat.
Chop fresh basil.
In a mixing bowl combine egg & ricotta cheese. Add the meat, mushroom & garlic, fresh basil, salt & Pepper and mix together.
Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture. Add tomato sauce to the baking dish, thinly coating the bottom. Place shells in baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce.
Add mozzarella and parmesan cheese to the top of your shells and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
(Photo courtesy of Rusted Van Photography)
The most colorful season of the year is upon us. As spectacular trees display vibrant amber, red, and yellow colors, the days shorten and the air becomes a little more crisp, Autumn invites us to enjoy again those hearty “fill you up” dishes. This recipe, provided by our friends Kim Harer and Cicely Williams, is adapted from Ina Garten (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/winter-minestrone-and-garlic-bruschetta-recipe.html) and boasts an abundance of colors and deep flavors you have to taste to believe. It’s light but filling and freezes / reheats well for another meal.
1-2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 16oz Isernio's Mild Italian Sausage Roll (The recipe in the photo above uses Isernio's Mild Italian PORK sausage roll, but you can also use Isernio's Italian Chicken roll or 4 links)
1 1/2 Cups yellow onion, chopped
3 Stalks Celery, halved lengthwise and chopped
3 Large Carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped or pressed
2 1/2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 26-oz can Italian style plum tomatoes, with juice, squeezed by hand or broken up in pot with a wooden spoon
6-8 Cups low salt Chicken Broth
1 Bay Leaf
3 Tsp. Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 lb. Dried Ditalini or Tubetti or other small tubular pasta
8-10 Ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 Cup good dry white wine
2 Tbsp. pesto
4-6 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Bring 5 quarts of water to boil. Add 2 Tbsp. salt to boiling water, add the pasta and cook about 8-10 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta. Note: If you will be freezing this recipe, you may want to skip this step and add cooked pasta when re-heating. Otherwise, the pasta may become over-cooked and mushy!
In a large 13 quart pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and cook sausage over medium heat, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon and cooking until all pinkness is gone. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, add more chicken broth. Just before serving add the spinach,and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste. Serve with Pecorino Romano cheese and your choice of Italian bread.
Last weekend marked the second annual San Gennaro Festival in Seattle. It was a party to say the least. This street fair, located on the same street where Isernio’s Sausage was born 34 years ago, celebrates Italian heritage with live music and entertainment, authentic Italian food, and wine. People from all walks of life enjoy this festival – dancing in the street, enjoying a sausage and peppers sandwich or a wood fired pizza from Tutta Bella, savoring a glass of wine or beer in the beer garden, meandering through the various sidewalk shops… there is so much to see and do. And it’s for a great cause! According to their website, “The San Gennaro Foundation is a non-profit organization, created in 2013 to honor St Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples, and his commitment to help people in need. It is the goal of the Foundation to raise money and each year the foundation will choose a local charity to donate a portion of the proceeds.”
Isernio’s Sausage is proud to be a presenter of Seattle's San Gennaro Festival. Follow the link below to learn more about the San Gennaro Festival and learn how the foundation is helping our community! Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 3rd annual San Gennaro Festival – September 11, 12 and 13 of 2015!
Isernio’s Sausage Now Offering Fresh Pork Sausage Rolls throughout the Pacific Northwest
We are excited to announce Isernio’s all-natural pork sausage rolls available for the first time in the Northwest! Look for the Italian, Breakfast and Spicy Breakfast pork sausage rolls in the fresh meat department of QFC stores now. Created from Frank Isernio’s recipes using premium authentic Italian seasonings, these sausage rolls can be used in place of ground beef in any of your favorite dishes. And since they’re made from 80% lean, whole muscle pork; these all-natural sausage rolls are a great way to eat healthier without sacrificing flavor. The same flavors you enjoy in our links are now available in roll packaging.
Look for these Pork Sausage Rolls
available NOW AT QFC!
Try these pork sausage rolls in some of our favorite classic Italian recipes like Orecchietti with Rapini and Hot Italian Sausage and Pasta e Fagioli (“Pasta Fazool”), or in a hearty breakfast dish like Breakfast Frittata. We are confident you’ll find our authentic Italian flavor and healthy pork sausage a delicious part of your meals.
This recipe, created by our good friend, Shebron Webley, combines all the elements of a hearty pasta dish in a healthier, better for you entree. Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to noodles and it's packed full of important nutrients such as fiber, beta carotene, potassium and vitamin A.
1 Spaghetti Squash (3+ lb.)
3 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes (14 0z)
½ lb. of Mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 Package of Basil, chopped
2-3 Large Shallots, choppd
1-2 Tablespoons Garlic, minced
1/3 Cup of White Wine
3/4 Cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 lb. Isernio’s Italian Sausages
1) Cut spaghetti squash in half length wise and clean out the seeds. Coat the flesh with
olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on baking sheet face down and roast in the oven for 35 minutes. Once cooled, use a fork and scrape out the flesh of the squash from side to side. (Note: This will give it the noodle type texture and shape. It will not work if you go top to bottom.)
2) Choose a pot or pan that will contain the sausages and fill with enough water to cover the sausages, but don’t place sausages in yet. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn off heat completely. Immediately place the sausages in the hot water with tongs. Cover the pan, with the heat still off, and leave the sausages in the hot water for 7 minutes. Drain the water and wipe out the skillet. In the same skillet, pan brown the sausages over medium heat with a teaspoon of olive oil (if you prefer to use the grill, grill over medium heat). Once the chicken sausages are browned and have reached an internal temperature of 165°F, slice them at an angle.
3) In a sauté pan melt your 3 tablespoons of butter. Add your chopped shallots, minced garlic and mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Add the can of diced tomatoes with the liquid, basil and white wine. Let the ingredients simmer, reducing the liquid a bit. Add the spaghetti squash and mix all ingredients together well. Final step is to add the sliced sausage and parmesan cheese mix it all together.
From Shebron, "I like to use the Hot Italian Chicken sausages for an extra pop of flavor. You can garnish your dish with a bit more fresh basil and shredded parmesan cheese. I serve this with a large mixed green salad and it is a hit every time! My family could not get enough!!"
Special thanks to Shebron and her family for their commitment and for sharing their recipe!
Make mom think you hired a personal chef with this savory, elegant meal. Whether you are a Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen or a novice, mussels are a tasty, healthy and easy to prepare seafood and will put the “Wow Factor” in this special meal. “Easy to buy, store and cook,… mussels are simple yet sophisticated, making them the perfect choice to treat mom,” says Linda Duncan, Executive Director of the Mussel Industry Counsel (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mussels-for-mom---flex-your-muscles-in-the-kitchen-this-mothers-day-92879119.html)
This recipe for sausage and mussels is a favorite around here because it serves a lot of people (approximately 6-8) and it isn’t too difficult to create.
1 lb Isernio’s Hot Italian Sausage (tastes great with Isernio’s (hot) Italian Chicken Sausage too!)
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves, Finely Chopped
1 Medium Fennel Bulb, Finely Chopped
1 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Rosemary Sprig
½ Teaspon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Fine Ground Black Pepper
1 Pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
3lb Small Mussels, Cleaned (Learn how to debeard, clean and store mussels here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2Od7_XYye0)
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
½ Cup Finely Chopped Parsley
Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Once the oil is hot, add in the garlic, lemon zest, fennel, salt, crushed red pepper flakes and pepper. After about 3 minutes, crumble in the sausage and thoroughly cook over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes.
Add the rosemary and pour the wine into the sausage mixture.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium.
Add in the mussels, steaming them with the pan covered for about 4-5 minutes, until the mussels open.
You can put the mussels into one large serving dish and garnish with parsley or divide the mussels among 6+ bowls with the sausage and broth.
Have fun pairing this dish with mom’s favorite salad, bread and wine! We like to serve this dish with grilled Italian bread, a simple arugula salad and a light, crisp Pinot Grigio.
We are hearing from several of our wonderful fans that our breakfast lasagna recipe is a favorite for serving guests and for special occasions, so in preparation for Easter we want to share with you this dish. This quickly assembled recipe can be put together the night before serving if desired, leaving you free to simply bake it the next morning.
3 tbsps. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
1 lb. of thinly sliced potatoes (or hash browns)
1 lb. Isernio’s pork or chicken Italian sausage, precooked (try the Hot Italian variety for added spice!)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups Provolone, shredded
Enough olive oil to coat bottom and sides of pan
Salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place olive oil in a sauté pan and set over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and cook for 4 - 5 minutes, or just until tender-crisp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Grease a 9" x 11" lasagna pan. Layer the hash browns in the pan, spreading them out evenly. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Evenly spread the sautéed vegetable mixture over the hash browns.
Evenly spread the sausage over the vegetables.
Beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper and pour the egg mixture over the sausage.
Spread the grated cheese on top (Note: the cheese can also be layered into the lasagna at various intervals, as well as being placed on top). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until eggs are set to desired doneness.
Nowadays chicken nuggets are a favorite among most American households with kids, earning their place as a staple. Kids love these bite size, breaded pieces of chicken, whether found on the table at home, in the school cafeteria or on the menus at family restaurants. But do you know what they are made of? In The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little” (http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wlbt/PDF/ChickenLittle.pdf), a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, researchers found that chicken nuggets in fast food chains contained only approximately 40%-50% of chicken meat. That, by definition, is mystery meat. So what are you paying for if it isn’t protein? Scientists found that these chicken nuggets were comprised of about 56%-58% fat, 23%-25% carbohydrates and only 18%-19% protein. And we haven’t even mentioned the chemicals used to preserve this “meat.” In another article, this time a blog by Momables called “Lunchbox Wars: Healthy Chicken Nuggets” (http://www.momables.com/lunchbox-wars-4-chicken-nuggets/), the differences between store bought and homemade chicken nuggets are laid out for comparison so you can decide for yourself.
Our Inside Sales Manager, Ingrid Harger, recently created and shared with us this stellar homemade chicken nugget recipe. As you can see, her son, Sam, is excited about this dinner!
“My 20-month-old, Sam, was introduced to and fell in love with chicken nuggets when we recently went out to a restaurant. I guess it was inevitable; what kid doesn’t like those little breaded nuggets?! I think the deep-fried kind are ok for a treat every once in a while, but I really wanted to find something for Sam that wasn’t so processed and full of ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I couldn’t find anything I was satisfied with at the grocery store, so I decided to create my own! After a little online research, here is what I came up with. I have to say, these are a huge hit with my little guy. I even sneak some veggies in there for a little added nutrition. I bake up a big batch (double or even triple the below recipe) and then freeze them, so they’re easy to defrost and reheat – either in the oven or microwave – when the need for a quick meal strikes. This is a pretty basic recipe, so feel free to jazz it up with any special seasonings your family enjoys.”
1 package Isernio’s Ground Chicken (13.3 oz.)
1/2 cup veggies of your choice (optional; I use frozen mixed organic veggies, thawed out)
2 TB old-fashioned oats (if you’re not going to use the veggies, use ¼ cup of oats)
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp salt
Panko bread crumbs – about 2 cups
*(don’t have garlic powder and oregano in your pantry? No worries, try ½ tsp Italian seasoning)
Heat oven to 375° F. Using a food processor, chop up the veggies and oats together until very fine. Add veggie/oat mixture to ground chicken in a medium bowl. Add in seasoning and salt. Mix with your hands or large spoon until well blended.
Pour panko bread crumbs into a flat dish or pie plate. Take about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture, roll into a ball, and flatten into a nugget shape. (You could also press the chicken into a small cookie cutter to make shaped nuggets!). Roll the nugget in the panko crumbs until it’s well coated.
Place nuggets onto a cookie sheet that has been coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 165°F. Turn the nuggets over halfway through baking time. Enjoy!
Note: Isernio’s extra lean ground chicken can be found at QFC, Safeway Stores in WA and OR, and UG stores. For a list of retailers that carries Isernio's Sausage and to locate a retailer near you, follow this link: http://www.isernio.com/About/WhereToBuy.
Special thanks to the Harger family and our spokeschild, Sam, for sharing with us another fantastic recipe.
Our friend Vince Bianchini came to our offices today to try out a new recipe in our test kitchen
– Neapolitan pizza – and he brought his pizza maker all the way from Portland, OR. Vince has visited Italy 10+ times and once lived with his Nonna over the summer while in high school. During his many visits to Naples he became intrigued by watching the locals make Neapolitan pizza and it is something he has learned to master. Today he is sharing with us his recipe, a delicious pizza prepared with the freshest ingredients, and in 20 minutes or less. Win!
1 Isernio’s Italian Chicken Sausage Roll
OR 1 Isernio’s Hot Italian Chicken Sausage Roll
½ cup Tomato sauce (Vince premade the sauce using his home grown tomatoes – try our tomato sauce recipe here: http://www.isernio.com/recipes/halfhourtomatosauce.aspx)
2 Mozzarella Fesca balls (about 2” in diameter)
¼ cup Shredded mozzarella cheese (low moisture, part skim)
1 sprig Basil
2 tbsp. Olive oil
3-4 cups Pizza Dough (Vince brought premade dough. try this recipe for dough http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/homemade_pizza/ or pick up a fresh made dough ball at your local bakery or retailer)
2 tbsp. Cornmeal (to sprinkle over the cutting board / paddle so that the dough rolls and doesn’t stick)
1. Flatten the ball of dough with your hands on a work surface that is lightly covered with cornmeal. We used a plastic cutting board. From the center of the flattened ball of dough, press the dough outwards until it is approximately ½ inch thick. Rotate and spread though dough as much as you can without breaking it apart. Let the dough sit for 3-5 minutes.
2. Heat a nonstick 12" skillet over medium heat. Slice roll open, and place in skillet, break up and crumble sausage with a flat wooden spoon. Cook sausage until it just loses its pinkness. Don’t overcook or brown sausage! Set aside.
3. Continue to spread the dough until you have the thickness and shape you desire.
4. Pour the olive oil across the surface of the dough, in a line or speckled manner
5. Pour the tomato sauce a spoonful at a time across the surface of the dough (no need to worry about mixing or “evening out” the oil and tomato sauce – it will happen in the oven)
6. Add slices of mozzarella fresca, shredded mozzarella, sliced basil leaves and top with sausage
7. If you have a pizza maker, follow the instructions included for proper cook time (Here is a link to a pizza oven similar to what was used in the test kitchen this afternoon: http://www.brevilleusa.com/crispy-crust-pizza-maker.html. Through an online search we found that similar pizza makers range between $60.00 and $300.00, so you can find something that suits your needs). If you are not using a pizza maker, place your pizza on a pizza stone or baking surface and bake at 450°F / 232°C for 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown.