Happy Monday everyone, I hope you had a nice weekend! I’m coming at you from a winter wonderland. We went from 50+ degrees, to buried under a foot of snow in less than a week. Standard Midwest weather for ya’!
The snow started falling midday Saturday and didn’t stop for the next 24 hours. I can’t remember a winter in recent memory when it snowed this much in one day, but the storm was the perfect excuse to stay indoors in my slippers, cooking and working the weekend away. I didn’t step foot outside of the house on Saturday (eek!)
We have the best neighbors in the world who are constantly snow blowing our driveway, and this weekend was no different, so I made them a big pot of Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup to say thank you on Sunday, which the boys hand delivered. Little boys in snowsuits – is there anything better? I can’t wait to take the sled for a real run later this week after last month’s slushy mushy round one.
We settled in last night with a couple filets of salmon that Ben smoked for four and half hours during the afternoon. GAHHH – favorite smoked delicacy to date! He seasoned one with lemon pepper, salt, and pepper, and the other with my homemade BBQ Salmon rub. They turned out incredibly juicy and just barely cooked through. Per-fec-tion. Enjoyed while watching the Super Bowl for the commercials and half time performance, of course. Raise your hand if you whispered no waaaaaay!!! when Missy Elliott popped out? College flashbacks like woah!
Anyway, while Ben nailed the salmon on Sunday, I’ve been having the worst recipe bombs lately! Creating new recipes involves finding the sweet spot between new and interesting flavor combinations, and avoiding the just plain wrong zone, and it definitely doesn’t always work out. Case(s) in point:
Last month I tried lightening up the epic scalloped potatoes we made during our mountain cabin adventure during the holidays, then combining them with the flavors I had on a pizza while we were out there too. Skinny Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions, Bratwurst, and Apples, anyone? Yeah me neither. The potatoes were righteous, but the potatoes with apples and brats? NO! Still ate the whole pan.
Last week I made a big bubbling pot of Gluten Free Beer and Southwest Black Bean Chili. Flavor combo sounds fab, right? Maybe it’s because I’m a sweeter chili fan, but I ended up adding the same weight of cheese and tortilla chips as chili to my bowl in order to get it down.
And the piece de resistance – Maple-Balsamic Almond Butter Crock Pot Pork Chops. Friends, take my word for it and never EVER add homemade almond butter to your crock pot, mmkay? A mess of ingredients, small appliances, and 4 hours on high later I had a gritty, gloopy sauce glopped all over a falling apart pork chop. Say it with me – still ate it!
We need a dog.
Anyway, with failure, then a little bit of luck, comes recipe success! Ben and I are still talking about my Sticky Thai Chicken Fingers from last week (as he was eating test batch leftovers from the fridge he said, “I just want to eat these always,”) and I can thankfully add Gluten-Free Penne with Kale, Butternut Squash, and Sausage to the list too!
Italian sausage and chopped kale are sautéed then simmered with fresh butternut squash, which softens then turns into a luscious creamy sauce that lightly coats cooked gluten-free penne pasta, with a little help from your friend and mine, parmesan cheese. This dish is super simple, hearty, wholesome, and ready in just 30 minutes.
If you’ve got kale haters in your house, have ’em try it again with this dish. Since the kale is lightly simmered in chicken broth it gets nice and tender without falling apart. They’ll get a huge boost of nutrients and won’t even mind. Win!
This pasta dish is just GOOD, and completely comforting on a snowy winter night. A little sweet from the squash, savory from the sausage, and, well, I just always feel like I’m winning at life after eating kale. Right?
Start by cooking 1/2lb Italian sausage in 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Add 4 cups lightly packed chopped kale (about 1/2 bunch,) season with a little salt and pepper, then saute until it just starts to turn tender, 1 minute. (Have you checked out my easy kale stem stripping technique?) Add 3 cloves minced garlic then saute for 1 more minute.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then drop in 1/2lb gluten-free or regular penne pasta and cook until just shy of al dente, as the pasta will continue cooking a bit on the sauce. I let my Barilla brand cook for exactly 8 minutes.
BEFORE YOU DRAIN THE PASTA scoop out 1/2 cup pasta cooking water then set it aside. It’ll be used to thin out the sauce in a bit. (Said in bold and all caps because I am the queen of forgetting this step until I’m in the middle of a pasta draining facial!)
Back to the kale and sausage skillet – add 12oz butternut squash that’s been chopped into 1″ cubes, and 1-1/2 cups chicken broth. Bring the broth to a boil then place a lid on top, turn the heat down to medium, and then simmer until the butternut squash is very tender and mashes easily with a wooden spoon, 12-15 minutes.
I was thrilled to find these pre-cubed packs of butternut squash at the grocery store but I also made this with hand-chopped squash – doesn’t make a difference what you use!
Once the butternut squash is very tender use a wooden spoon to mash it up almost completely. It’s ok if you don’t get every last hunk – an occasional bite of sweet squash is actually really nice.
Add the cooked pasta along with 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to the skillet then mix, adding splashes of the pasta cooking water as needed, until the pasta is coated in a light sauce.
Scoop onto plates then serve sprinkled with extra parmesan cheese, and enjoy this hearty yet light and healthy meal!
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Gluten-Free Penne with Kale, Butternut Squash and Sausage
Gluten-Free Penne with Kale, Butternut Squash and Sausage is a hearty, healthy 30 minute dinner that satisfies!
- 1/2lb gluten-free or regular penne pasta
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2lb Italian sausage
- 4 cups lightly packed chopped curly kale (about 1/2 bunch, stems removed first)
- salt and pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12oz butternut squash cut into 1” cubes
- 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage then cook through, breaking it up as it cooks. Add kale then season lightly with salt and pepper and saute until slightly wilted, 1 minute. Add garlic then saute for 1 more minute. Add butternut squash and chicken broth then bring mixture to a boil. Cover skillet then turn heat down to medium and simmer until butternut squash is very tender and can be easily mashed with a wooden spoon, 12-15 minutes. Mash butternut squash until almost completely smooth - a few chunks are fine!
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then add pasta and cook until just under al dente (pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.) Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water then drain and add pasta to the skillet with parmesan cheese and remaining Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Stir until pasta is coated in a light sauce, adding the reserved pasta cooking water a little at a time as needed. Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese.
Slightly adapted from Giada de Laurentiis.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.