Pasta with Creamy Greens and Chicken Sausage

I’ve been making a real effort to find creative and tasty ways to eat more greens.  Smoothies only satisfy once a day, so it was time to get serious about incorporating more leafy greens into things other than a salad or juices.

Pasta is one of my favorite canvases.  I took a look inside my pantry and refrigerator last night and went to work.

Get out a food processor, and put on a pot of water.  This dish will satisfy served piping hot for dinner…or cold or room temp for lunch or a side dish.


Pasta with Creamy Greens and Chicken Sausage

2 Large clove garlic

4 c.  Loosely packed fresh spinach

4 c.  Loosely packed fresh kale, chopped

8 oz. (or 1/2 c.) cream cheese, softened

4 oz. (or 1/4 c.) goat cheese, softened

Salt and pepper to taste (1 t. Salt, 1/2 t. Pepper)

16 oz. Short pasta (like penne, rigatoni or rotini)

4 links chicken sausage (I used Parmesan Chicken Sausage from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market)

1/4 c. Grated Parmesean

1 tomato, sliced and 1 T. Chopped parsley (for garnish)

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta al dente.  Heat a grill pan or frying pan and prepare the sausage until it’s browned on the outside and cooked through.  Combine the rest of the ingredients (except for grated cheese, tomatoes and parsley) in a food processor or a blender, like a Vitamix. Blend until smooth, then taste to adjust seasoning.  Drain pasta and reserve about a 1/2 cup of the pasta water to loosen the sauce later, if necessary.  Slice the sausage into bite sized pieces.  Transfer pasta to a serving bowl and add greens mixture and sliced sausage.  Stir until until everything is combined.  Top with tomatoes, grated cheese and parsley.

Serves four.  If you’re using the new Vitamix Ascent, your should double the recipe for the volume minimum.  Sauce will keep for about a week  or your can freeze the extra.

I am always looking for better ways to eat, or drink, my greens.  I’ve shared my newest secret…what are yours? 

 

Recipe Testing for Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s new book!

Pucker up! There’s a new cook book in the works from one of Cleveland’s most celebrated chefs, Jonathan Sawyer.  And boy, does that man love vinegar. It’s the centerpiece of the his second cookbook that he is readying as we speak.  The working title is “The Sixth Taste,” with publisher  Ten Speed Press.  I had the honor of recipe testing for the Greenhouse Tavern, Noodle Cat and Trentina founder. 


 His social media team gathered some fellow foodies and avid home cooks in the Chef’s circle to put his chef inspired recipes to the “real home cook test.” The Chef’s assistant says they shared a post on social media asking for the public’s help and the response was overwhelming. She tells me they got hundreds of responses within hours, a testiment to the excitement over this latest project. There were fans selected at random plus friends of the Chef’s that also pitched in.

“Being professional culinarians we, chef and I, can lose sight of what is easy to execute in a kitchen. Making a pan or emulsified sauce is second nature to us. We can execute it without much thought. We wanted to be sure that what is organic to us wouldn’t be beyond the ability of even the most novice home cook,” said Chef Jeremy Umansky, a pivotal member of Team Sawyer.

I joined my co worker, and partner in all things food, Amanda, for the adventure. We met up at Team Sawyer HQ on the near east side where the team turned the studio into a make shift commercial kitchen.


There was a pantry, produce, kitchen gadget and utensils station all laid out for us. It took a bit of time to get our bearings, but we’re excited and eager to get after out “assignment.” Amanda and I were tasked with working through the veggie burger and pickeled romaine recipes. 

While we worked on that, the beans and rice were cooking for the veggie burger patties. That was a bit more of a challenge, given the cooking conditions and “first draft” form of the recipe. What’s really cool about the concept of this burger, is the color and texture. By incorporating roasted beets, the patties closely resemble ground beef.

It also had mushrooms and fennel, yum! As we progressed through the recipe we started to noticed there were things like the yield, and cook time for the rice, that were not accurate as written. But that is the reason why we we’re there! It was fun to talk through and work through the bugs with Chef Sawyer…who couldn’t resist popping in on the group to check on our progress.

recipe testing discussing with Sawyer

The testing gave Team Sawyer a chance to taste the dishes as they would be prepared by a home cook.  They could then see and taste what needed to be tweaked. Some recipes needed more vinegar. Some needed longer or shorter cook times. Some needed a dash more salt. 

“The testing was a huge success and gave us invaluable data that we needed to fine tune the book,” Umansky said.

recipe testing finished veggie burger

 “All the recipes survived the testing, which was our goal. There’s always a reserved fear that something won’t be well received. We were fortunate that every one was a success,” Umansky said.  On top of that, Umansky says the testers appeared just as excited about the recipes as Team Sawyer is. 

The recipe testing was conducted over a two day period…three groups the first day and six groups the second day. And as a group, we cooked through 30 recipes! 
Chef Sawyer’s book is due out late this year or early 2018. Can’t wait to see these recipes come to life on the page and know that I played a SMALL role in the development.  

 

recipe testing group shot

 

Carrot Ginger Soup: Vitamix Recipe

I was recently given the keys to a new car.  Or at least that is what it feels like.  I’m working with Vitamix to spread the word about the power and versatility of it’s newest model, the Ascent Series.

vitamix ascent

I got a one on one lesson from the manager at their Solon retail store about all the cool things this new mega blender can do.  What was most eye opening for me was to see this machine as much more than just a blender, it’s a food processor too.  And I’m really looking forward to experimenting with all the different capabilities of Vitamix’s newly launched product.

The first thing I wanted to do was crank out a batch of my Carrot Ginger Soup.  It’s something my kids and I both crave.  It’s bright, bold and nutrient-rich.  And now, it takes me half the time.

Vitamix settings

Instead of chopping the carrots up and cooking them in a sauce pan along with onion, garlic and ginger, then adding the remaining ingredients for the remainder of the cook time, I just added everything at once, then simply pressed the “soups” setting, which is a 6 and a half minute program designed to heat raw ingredients to a steaming hot soup by using the friction of the blades (which spin at more than 200 mph!).  People, it was that simple.  No pots and pans to clean up.  No hot cook top come the warmer months.  Boom, done.

carrot ginger soup in vitamix

The other programs available on the Ascent Series Vitamix are Smoothies, Frozen Desserts, Dips and Spreads and Self-Cleaning.  Yes, it cleans itself!  And it’s dishwasher safe if you’re so inclined.  The programs are more of a guideline than an “autopilot.”  Think of it like the “popcorn” setting on your microwave.  It’s very useful, but not a fail safe option.  This model also has a bigger blade than the classic Legacy Series blender, which allows for better access into the well to get more product out of the container (wasting less).  In the coming months you can expect additional products for use with the Ascent, like a 20 oz smoothie container and a 8 ounce small batch/chopping container.

Want to make my carrot ginger soup yourself?  Here’s my recipe:

carrot ginger soup

Carrot Ginger Soup

2 cups chicken stock

1/3 of a medium onion

1/2 pinch of ginger, peeled

1 large clove of garlic

3 cups peeled carrots, roughly cut into 1-2 inch pieces

2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

Generous pinch of turmeric, (or cayenne if you like it spicy)

1/4 c. heavy cream

Add all the above ingredients except the heavy cream, in the order in which they are listed, into your Vitamix.  (For a vegan version, substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock and use coconut milk instead of heavy cream.)  Press the “soups” setting of your Vitamix.  When the program is complete your soup should be completely blended, smooth and piping hot.  Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary.  Add the heavy cream and pulse, or blend for another 30 seconds.  Serve while it’s hot! Make it ahead for later in the week, or freeze it for another time.

I’ll be attending a Vitamix class in early May to learn to make 10 other recipes with my new machine.  And you can bet I’ll be trying it out with other recipes in my own kitchen. I see gazpacho, almond butter, and hollandaise sauce in my future.  Buy the Ascent before Mother’s Day and save up to $90.

Disclosure: I was gifted a Vitamix Ascent Series Blender, and invited to a complimentary Vitamix class at their retail store as part of an arrangement I made with the Vitamix team. 

 

Fall flavors that won’t quit

Ok…I can’t stop.  I just love the flavors of fall.  They inspire me.  So after I recently tackled trio of fun fall recipes for She in CLE, I still have more to give, and cook, and eat.

How about Pumpkin and Sausage Soup?  Or a Caramel Apple Martini?  And, since nobody can get enough pumpkin this time of year…Pumpkin Sage Risotto.

pumpkin-sausage-soup

Pumpkin and Sausage Soup

2 links Italian sausage

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely copped

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

2 T. butter

1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

2-3 fresh sage leaves, julienned

2-3 c. chicken stock

4 T. pumpkin puree

pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

1 T. heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the sausage from its casing and brown in a hot pan, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Set aside.  In the same pan, lower the heat to medium/high and add the onion, garlic, and 1 T. of butter, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until the onion softens, then add the sage, rosemary and pumpkin.  When the pumpkin and herbs become fragrant (3 min or so) add the stock and whisk until combined.  Season again. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the heavy cream, cooked sausage, nutmeg and cinnamon, and last 1 T. of butter.  Cook another 5 minutes.  You can thin it out by adding stock, if desired.  Or make it more creamy, by adding more heavy cream.

pumpkin-risotto

Pumpkin Sage Risotto

3 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

1 T. garlic, minced

1/3 c. onion finely chopped, or a whole shallot, minced

1  c. Arborio rice

1/4 white wine

4 c. chicken stock

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

3 T. pumpkin puree

handful of sage leaves, chopped

1 T. chives, chopped optional)

Pour the stock in a large sauce pan and keep warm.  Heat 2 T. of the butter and the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onion/shallots and the garlic and saute at medium high until vegetables are softened, season with salt and pepper.  Add the rice and cook until the grains are toasted.  Pour in the white wine and let the alcohol burn off.  Add a couple ladles full of stock and stir frequently, until the rice absorbs it.  Repeat several times, continuing to stir frequently until the rice is fully cooked.  Lower the heat and add the last tablespoon of butter, cheese, pumpkin puree and one or two chopped sage leaves.  Garnish with chives. Serve.

For a variation, heat a small saute pan on high, and pour in about a 1/2 inch of canola or vegetable oil.  Fry the sage leaves whole and garnish your risotto.  Or, top with grilled sausage, sliced into discs.

caramel-apple-martini

Caramel AppleMartini

1 part/2 oz. caramel vodka (salted caramel if possible

2 parts/4 oz. regular vodka

2 oz. of apple cider

pinch of salt

handful of salter, roasted peanuts

1 T. caramel sauce

Pulse the peanuts in a food processor until fine.  Pour the caramel topping on to a small, shallow plate.  Pour the peanuts on to a similar plate.  Coat the rim of a martini glass in the caramel, then in the peanuts.  Leave the glass upside down on the plate while you shake the drink.  Combine both vodkas, the cider, salt and about 6 ice cubes in a martini shaker.  Shake about 20 times.  Pour, enjoy, repeat.

I’m in the business of collecting great recipes that incorporate these ingredients.  So, please send, or share some that are working for you!

Cake School: Colette Peters Fondant Class

Ever walk past a window display at a bakery and think…’how’d they do that?’  Or say, ‘I can do that’!  Elaborate cake decorating is one of the hottest trends in cooking these days.  Cake competition shows and decorating demos flood the Food Network.  For some, it’s a calling.  For others, a passion.  For me, it’s something I’ve never even attempted.  Too intimidated.  Some things are better left to others.  But when one of the best bakers in the world, Colette Peters, offers you some one on one time to talk about how she creates her incredible confections…you gotta take her up on it.

Famed cake decorator to the stars, reality show pioneer, and decorating school founder, Colette Peters, of Colette’s Cakes, paid a visit to Cuyahoga Community College’s Hospitality Management Center this weekend.  She offered her time and expertise to students and amateurs alike.

purple fondant

I sat in on a fondant class where novices and budding cake queens learned tips and tricks from the woman who has baked and decorated for the likes of Sting, The Rolling Stones, Whoopi Goldberg, Kanye West, Yoko Ono and even The White House.

Peters spent the beginning of the day trouble shooting and helping students answer questions about what they were doing wrong.  Most of the time, she told me, bakers don’t work fast enough and the fondant gets too dry, and often cracks.  The fix? Simple.  Rub it down and smooth it over with some shortening.  Who knew?!

Sisters Robin Wilson and Debbie Hartman were there looking for ways to be more efficient, and turn their weekend hobby into a legitimate business.  Right now, they’re picking away at every cake they make, in the spare time they can find.  But each cake takes about 10 hours for them.

sisters applying fondant

Nancy Bolzan works in the family business: Gentile’s Bakery, Catering and Deli.  She can knock out a fondant-topped cake in about two hours.  But she is looking to expand her repertoire, so she came to the class to pick up some new techniques.

Students at the Sunday class learned marbling techniques, and Peter’s own buttercream recipe.  They also tackled questions like when to frost, and at what temperature.

smoothing fondant

Peters comes to the table with two degrees in painting, and a background in design at Tiffany & Co. where she worked on things like stationary and china.   She was also a competitor, and winner, on Food Network’s original baking competition.  Peters even helped them write the rules for subsequent shows.

colette peters Food Network

To those like Robin and Debbie, looking to make some more of their baking hobby, she says…take classes!  There you can learn in a hands on manner, and ask practical questions.  Or, she says, take advantage of the resources of your state’s chapter, and conventions, of the International Cake Exploration Societe.

Colette Peters cakes

photo courtesy Facebook

What’s trending and on the horizon for this innovative baker?  Right now Peters tells me she is working on a collaboration inspired by Cirque de Soleil, and edible cages around her famous cakes.  Can’t wait to see how those turn out!

And incidentally, it was just her 65th Birthday, so to celebrate, the team at Tri-C launched an international sugar collaboration in her honor. Check it out:
www.happybirthdaycolette.com  Fans and students are leaving messages and sharing pictures of cakes made just for her!

Peters is doing a FREE “Painting on cake” demo for the public on Monday, February 1st, from noon-1:30pm at the Hospitality Management Center, 180 Euclid Ave.  Cleveland, Ohio.

 

 

Fire Spice Company

Want to be more bold with spices? But maybe you’re a little intimidated.  Or you don’t want to drop $7 on a 5 ounce container of an exotic spice you only need a pinch of for that recipe you want to try.  Now’s your chance.  Enter Fire Spice Company.

Chef katz

Another one of my favorites in the Cleveland food scene, and celebrated chef, Douglas Katz (of Fire Food & Drink, Provenance, and The Katz Club) has been developing his line of spice blends for about a year now.  And he’s only a little more than a month away from a scheduled March launch.

Katz wants to make it easier for home cooks to be more adventurous with spices (with both your taste buds and your cooking skills), eliminate the anxiety that can come with experimenting with more exotic varieties, and take some of the expense out of working with a certain spices.

He and his team have developed 12 blends, which they toast and grind in house.  The blends have been tested and are intended for specific recipes.  The packaging is clever and makes it easy to execute.  Printed on the box is a list of the ingredients you’ll need for the associated recipe, and the detailed directions.

During my visit with Katz, we gave his Jerk Spice mix a go, marinating chicken leg quarters in a combination of the spice packet, and fresh ingredients.  After they sat for about 30 minutes, it was time to roast.

Fire Spice roasted chicken

The finished product was spectacular, succulent, savory.  And I was doubly surprised, as I have NEVER liked jerk seasoning on anything.  But man, was this good.

For dessert Chef Katz presented a French Spice Cake that he’d prepared using his Quatre Epices blend.  To prepare the frosting for top, he also used the same blend.  If the speed in which my two girls gobbled up that cake was any indication, consider that recipe “tried and true.”

I love the idea of dabbling in cuisines and flavors that I’ve traditionally not been equipped to handle.  His Masala variety, and accompanying Ground Lamb and Tomato Masala, Pho blend and accompanying Vietnamese Beef Noodle Pho recipe, and Massaman spice pack for the Thai Shrimp, Potato Peanut Curry recipe are on my short list of “must try” recipes.

The Fire Spice Company blends are available now at Fire. (1322o Shaker Square, Cleveland, Ohio 44120) Katz aims to have them available online nationally soon, and has plans for availability at local farmers markets and demo classes.  There’s also a “Spice Blend of the Month” membership in the works.  Sign me up!

Now, let’s expand our horizons and our palate. 

 

 

Cut. Chop. Dice. Sharpening my knife Skills.

My New Year’s Resolution was to do more focused things to accomplish my food related goals.  Take classes, strengthen my network, identify my strong suits, learn, and sharpen my skills.  So what better way to kick off 2016 than with a Basic Knife Skills class?  (insert sound effect of knife sharpening) 

I’m fortunate to live very close to the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking and ICASI, or International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute.  The pair provide incredible resources for both the recreational cook and the professional chef.  I’ve attended several classes at the school before, but all were recipe based and themed, like “A Night in Tuscany,” “Phyllo Baking,” etc.  This time around it was more skills based, and I was eager to get after it.

knife skills carrot demo

Our class of about 15 was lead by Chef Tim McCoy, a guy who’s taught there for just as many years and who spoke about cutting his teeth at a Japanese restaurant.  Can you imagine how much cutting and dicing goes on in the prep kitchen of a place like that?  Instant credibility.

McCoy started with the bare bones basics, like how to stand when cutting (where to place your feet, and best posture) and of course, how to hold the knife.  Immediately I began to liken this process to golf, tweaking my stance, grip and follow through to better my game.  And that analogy stuck with me throughout the evening, as I fought years’ worth of muscle memory and tried to correct what I’d been doing wrong for years…sub-par grip and lack of follow through.

knife skills carrots

After a series of demos, McCoy tasked us students with cutting a couple of carrots-julienne cut, dice, brunoise, cube.  I moved my knife much slower that usual, while even holding the vegetables differently than I have my whole life, with that “claw” grip, so as not to expose my fingertips to potential cuts, but only my knuckles.  Chef McCoy quipped you can still cut your knuckles, but there are fewer nerves there and less blood.  Good takeaway.  I felt my middle finger start to blister and knew I was doing something wrong…adjusted and kept going.  The food nerd in me was excited about doing this right.  Finally. Speed, and consistency would come along eventually, right?

Next we moved on to dicing tomatoes, and learned the chiffonade, technique for leafy greens.  Then it was the skill that brought tears to many eyes in the room…dicing the dreaded onion.

knife skills onions

I watched my fellow students’ minds being blown…as they learned and applied the proper technique that will save them enormous amounts of time and aggravation in the kitchen.

When none of the veggies were whole any longer, we set about making dinner for ourselves, splitting up into teams to tackle five recipes that required us to apply our new knife skills.

My team prepared a crisp antipasto salad and a fresh angel hair pasta primavera.

The other students made a creamy garden vegetable chowder to start, plus a tender chicken cacciatore and mixed fruit mini strudel for a  sweet finish.

I left the class in a state of mind that I like-inspired.  Now, I’m ready to tackle a new year…and a pile full of onions too! #bringiton

Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno White Bean Dip.

This week marks the official beginning of picnic and barbecue season.  Memorial Day, Father’s Day, graduation parties and a host of other outdoor gatherings will bring food and people together (rain or shine) from now through Labor Day.  I never like to come empty-handed.  So I perused my fridge and cupboard to find the makings of a great go-to dip that you can replicate and bring to the next gathering you attend.

cannellini beans

My initial inspiration for this dip was the cannellini beans I had leftover from a vegetable soup my daughter and I made earlier in the week.  The recipe only called for a half a can, so I had about 1 cup left.  The idea of a white bean dip popped into my head.  But I usually find those to be rather bland. I dug deeper into the refrigerator, and came across half of a jalapeno I had remaining from a batch of guacamole.  Bingo.  That would give it just the kick I was looking for.  I decided to roast it, along with some garlic, to take the edge off both ingredients.

jalapeno-and-garlic

I put the halfed jalapeno (seeds removed) and three cloves of garlic into a small ramekin, drizzled some olive oil on them and sprinkled a pinch of salt.  I roasted the combo in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until the garlic achieved “GBD” status-Golden, Brown, Delicious.

roasted-garlic-and-jalapeno

It was time for my trusty food processor.  I poured in 1 cup of the cannellini beans, and added the roasted garlic cloves and jalapeno.  I seasoned the mixture with six cranks from my black pepper grinder and 1/4 t. of salt.  Then I fired up the food processor and gradually added roughly 2 T. of olive oil and let it blend for about a minute.  And, you’re done!

If you’re so inclined, I think a pinch of smokey cumin would be a nice touch in this dip too.  Of if you prefer even more heat, try a pinch of chipotle chili pepper in it.

roasted-jalapeno-and-garlic-white-bean-dip

I served my Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno White Bean Dip with celery sticks, but you could do slices of red, yellow or green peppers, maybe pita chips…whatever you want.  Pop open a cold beer to wash down the heat, and enjoy!

Bistro Panini

I love a good grilled panini.  And like lots of other Cheftovers tricks, it’s kind of a blank canvas.  Add your favorite creamy cheese to a crispy, chewy ciabatta roll, along with whatever veggies and meat move you…and you’re in business!  

This week I used one of my got-to’s for weekday meals, a roast in the slow cooker.  I made a London broil roast with pretty basic seasoning.  But as is often the case, I made more than we needed for just two of us.

sliced roast

So I sliced up the rest of the beef and immediately began drooling over my idea, incorporating one of the tasty Orlando baked goods I came across during my review of their new products (see previous post).  I was going to grill up a couple of paninis using their Heat & Serve Ciabatta Rolls.

ciabatta rolls 

Now that I had the canvas for my panini, (the rolls) and the protein (my leftover London broil) I was excited to find a couple of other elements to boost the tastiness factor.  And I knew caramelized onions would have to join the party!

sliced onions

I sliced up a whole sweet onion into rings, then tossed a couple tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil into a saute pan.  I added the onions to the pan, seasoned them and left them on a low-medium heat for about 90 minutes, stirring them only once every 15 min or so.

(Here’s the part of my process where I unload the dishwasher, feed my kids, flip the laundry, etc.  I’m so glamorous.)

caramelized onions

When the onions turned this beautiful color, I was ready for the final components.  I found the chunk of creamy Havarti cheese that my husband picked up at the grocery store this week to snack on.  But I got to it first!   And I was sure this would be a super compliment to what I was drumming up.  Now for a sauce, spread or condiment…couldn’t be something ordinary.

panini condiments

I decided to try two routes…using a deli horseradish sauce for sandwiches (something we like to keep around the house) and I was also going to mix up a balsamic mayo.  I have developed quite a collection of balsamic vinegar varieties in my cupboard… I’ve got Sicilian Lemon and Mango white balsamic, chocolate, and raspberry.  I don’t find use for them often, but when I do, they’re usually the MVP of the dish.  For this panini, I liked the garlic cilantro one.  I mixed a couple spoonfuls of olive oil mayo with a couple teaspoons of the balsamic vinegar….oooh yeah, that was what I was going for!   balsamic mayo spread

grilling the panini

I assembled two sandwiches using a couple slices of Havarti, a spoonful of caramelized onions, three slices of my leftover roast, and one of the spreads on each.  Then I placed them on my panini press and eagerly awaited their gooey goodness.  They sat on the grill for about 5 minutes until I saw those pretty grill marks on the outside of the ciabatta rolls.  Know that the contents may slide out a bit, or ooze out a little.

bistro panini with carmelized onions

Now it was pay off time, and it was sweet!  These were warm, chewy, tangy and sweet.  And the best part?  I have more of all of the ingredients so I can make this again.

Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese

After a long work week, it’s tempting to just pick up the smart phone and order take out on a Friday night.  (especially during Lent when menu options are limited)  But I am trying to make smarter choices about where our food budget goes, and how far it goes.  And I’m always trying to develop new Cheftovers dishes.  So when I was trolling the fridge for dinner ideas, I decided to start with some excellent mac n cheese in a Bechamel sauce (a doggy bag from a previous dinner out).  

mac n cheese

And I knew just what direction I wanted to go with it.  Since I was craving “bar food,” I was going to turn this into Spinach and Artichoke Mac n Cheese.  

I gathered the elements I would need to “refresh” these leftovers and beef up the portion to make it enough for dinner for two.  I found a can of quartered artichoke hearts in my pantry, a bag of fresh spinach, and half a shallot and some garlic in the veggie drawer.  I also grabbed some heavy cream and Parmesan cheese (two staples I always keep around) and Monterrey Jack (leftover from a white chicken chili recipe I made-happy to have use for it.  Not something we eat much of regularly)

I started by chopping the shallots and garlic and tossing them in to a pan with some olive oil  Once they softened I added the artichokes and let them do the same for a few minutes.  Then I tossed in the spinach.  And while that wilted I grated the cheeses.

sauted artichokes and spinach

Once the veggies were cooked, and seasoned, I poured in some heavy cream and tossed in the cheese. I stirred it around and let it thicken up and get bubbly, but not burn, so I kept the heat on medium/low.  After tasting it, I remembered a spice that Italians like to put into some of their cream sauces…nutmeg.  It doesn’t seem like a natural addition, but trust me, it works.  I added a pinch of that and let the sauce thicken a tad.

spinach artichoke sauce

It was time to toss in the original mac n cheese.  I gave it a good stir with the supplemental sauce I made, to ensure it was totally coated.  Then I transferred the mixture to a greased baking dish.

baked spinach and artichoke mac n cheese

For a couple of final touches, I topped the mixture with buttered bread crumbs and drizzled some white truffle oil.  A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly if you have it.  I put the revamped mac n cheese in a 350* until the bread crumbs were golden brown, roughly 25 min.

The end result was a warm, satisfying main course made from what may’ve otherwise been thrown out, plus a few kitchen must-haves put to good use.  I will certainly add this to a my go-to Lenten dishes.  What are you making during Lent (besides a phone call to your local pizza shop?)