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? 

 

Back to School Power Breakfasts

I know it’s easy to sleepwalk through breakfast, especially for busy moms or teenagers.  But c’mon, people.  With a little planning, and very little effort, you can have a power packed breakfast, full of “good brain food.”  My friend, Natalie, of Life Success For Teens and I combined on this effort, to help teenagers get out the door well-prepared for a productive day.

Cinnamon Cocoa Overnight Oats

My inspiration here are those “tall mocha, extra whip” type drinks with TONS of sugar and too much caffeine.  This recipe will fuel you just the same, and scratches that itch, without all the unnecessary sugar. SUPER FOOD: almonds

Cinnamon Cocoa Overnight Oats

1/2 c. rolled oats, 1 c. almond milk, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 T. cocoa mix, 1 T. chopped almonds.  Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, stir.  Refrigerate overnight.

Power Pancakes:  

It’s hard to believe there is cottage cheese in this recipe, packing these pancakes with protein.  And you don’t miss syrup if you want to just grab them and go. SUPER FOOD: blueberries.

power pancakes

I use the Blender pancake recipe from Katie Lee and add blueberries.  Combine 1 cup cottage cheese, 1 cup rolled oats, and 2 eggs in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Heat skillet (or griddle), and add butter.  Pour batter onto skillet (about 1/2 cup) and drop a hand full of blueberries onto the pancakes.  Cook until you see bubbles forming on the sides.  Flip and cook another minute or so.  Top with syrup, or powdered sugar.  (But it might be sweet enough for you with the blueberries alone) You can also sub smashed bananas for the cottage cheese (and add peanut butter). 

Go Bites:

These are portable and popable, perfect for the bus ride to school or the carpool.  Don’t make them too big, or they’ll melt in your hands. For an afternoon snack instead of breakfast, use trail mix instead of cereal. SUPER FOODS: cranberries and almonds.

go bites

1/2 c. peanut butter. 1 T. honey, granola,  raisins, craisins, and leftover cereal.

Mix the peanut butter and honey, then freeze for about 20 minutes.  Remove from freezer and roll into balls (a small spoonful each) Pop them back in the freezer for a few more minutes, as they’ll get warm from your hands.  While those firm up, combine granola, raisins, craisins and any leftover cereal you’ve got in the house, like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc.  Roll the peanut butter balls in the mixture to coat completely.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.  

Avocado English Muffin:

I will eat just about anything if it has avocado in it.  But they’re not cheap.  So adding cream cheese will make them stretch, and feed a couple teens, or you.  And adding spinach will sneak in a vegetable serving before the bell rings. SUPER FOODS: avocado and spinach.

Avocado English Muffin

1 Whole Wheat English Muffin, 1 avocado, 1/2 c. fresh spinach leaves (finely chopped), 1-2 T. cream cheese, kosher salt to taste.

Toast the English muffin.  Slice the avocado and remove the fruit.  Combine the avocado with the cream cheese, a pinch of salt and spinach.  Spread over the muffin.  

If you really want your teen to be well-prepared this fall, check out Life Success for Teens.  Natalie has an upcoming workshop, boot camp style, that will help optimize a teenager’s performance at school.  Click here for information.

 

 

 

Cheftovers Live! Demos on the Marty Allen Show

It’s good to know people.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to be introduced to a lot of good people through my work in television over the years.  During my first internship (like a hundred years ago!) I met veteran radio producer, Marty Allen.  He and I have maintained a friendship throughout the twists and turns in our careers.  And he was generous enough to offer up an opportunity for me to appear on his show and share what I’ve been up to with Cheftovers.  “3-2-1….we’re live!”

marty Allen photo

Marty has an internet radio show, The Marty Allen Show that airs live every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 2-3pm.  He invited me to come on and do some cooking.

“Do you have a kitchen in your studio?” I asked.

“Guess I didn’t think this through,” he replied.

Not a problem.  I’ll figure something out,” I said, convinced.

I also saw this as an opportunity for a long time friend, and fellow food blogger, Michelle, of The Secret Ingredient Is.  So I asked her to join me.  Who needs a working kitchen to perform live demos on a radio show, right?! We had a small card table and some outlets.  Time to adapt.

Michelle cooking

I knew Marty well enough to know that it would go over well to start with a cocktail.  Easy.  That’s when I came up with the recipe I posted earlier in the week for a Berry Boozy Arnold Palmer.

berry-boozy-arnold-palmer

I mixed a couple of those up while Michelle walked Marty and his co-host, Bill Bender, through her recipe for her No Bake Energy Bites.  Then it was time for some more significant eats…prepared on a 4×4 card table in a radio studio, mind you.  Having been a part of countless cooking demos on television before, I suggested Michelle do one of her killer salads.  Easy to prep and it doesn’t have to be hot.

pretzel crusted honey mustard chicken

She assembled and dressed her Honey Mustard Pretzel Crusted Chicken Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette for a couple of hungry hosts.  It’s a great summer salad.  And as she dished that out, carefully avoiding all the expensive equipment, I fired up the panini press.  In preparing for this appearance, I figured it would be a great tool to turn Michelle’s leftovers into something else equally tasty.  (and work around that whole, “no kitchen” thing)

prepping panini

I sliced up the Orlando Ciabatta Rolls I brought, then piled on some of her leftover chicken, a handful of spinach leaves from the salad, and the remainder of the Brie wheel.  Then to add my own touch, I prepared a balsamic mayo by mixing about 2 T. of garlic cilantro balsamic vinegar with roughly a 1/4 cup of mayo. (the ratio is up to your own taste).  And finally, I included one of my favorite things in the world, caramelized onions.

grilling panini

While that melted together on the press, Michelle and I got to chat up Marty and Bill about what we do on our blogs.  They were happy to have us do most of the talking, as their mouths were full with our good food!

sliced panini

I sliced and served up the fourth and final recipe, pleased that this turned out as well (and as delicious) as I’d hoped, given the fact that this was the first time I’d made it…live on the radio.

This experience was a blast, and a boost of confidence for me.  I starting to think that I can indeed figure out a way to marry my experience in the media with my passion for food.  “Stay tuned” as we say, for what I have on tap next.  (I’m behind the camera for the first time since college!)

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?)

Snowbird Special

Now is the time of the year when my Snowbird parents leave the frosty mid-west for sunny California.  They close up their house for the winter and spend it in a much warmer climate.  Part of their annual process is emptying the fridge, freezer and cupboards…and our household is the lucky beneficiary of the contents.   Now, what to make with it all?

Among the items I had to work with, chicken sausage.  It’s not one of my favorite ingredients but it’s lighter and healthier than beef or pork.  I immediately start thinking about a pasta dish.  My parents freezer is never short of frozen varieties, and I found some ravioli…perfect for a cream sauce.  Let’s do this!

I put a pot of salted water on to cook the ravioli and got started on the sauce.  I chopped up some garlic and sauteed it in some olive oil, then reached for one of my go-to’s in my own cupboard, a can of crushed tomatoes.  I let those hang out together for a bit and seasoned it with salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano. (a pinch of crushed red pepper might be nice here too)  Then after a few minutes on the heat, I added some of the frozen spinach that had also come from my folks’ defrosting freezer.

I figured the chicken sausage would work well as the protein for this dish, as the ravioli were only cheese-filled, and the chicken sausage itself had some spinach in it.  So I sliced and browned those up while the sauce developed.  And lastly, I added a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to make this tomato sauce a tomato cream sauce.  Go as heavy or as light with it as you’d like.  Half and half, or whole milk would work here too.  I’d avoid skim milk or 1%, it won’t really have the effect you’re going for here.  I let the cream sauce sit on the heat (medium) until it thickened up.  When the consistency was where I wanted it, I tossed the browned sausage slices in with the sauce and poured in the cooked ravioli.

This Snowbird Special made great use of a seemingly disconnected collection of groceries, and it was a quick fix for a weeknight dinner.  What’s lingering in your freezer that needs to get eaten??