Foodtellectual thoughts

It's (officially) Spring now.. Let's Eat Like It Is!

The weather here in the DC metro area has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride this month: we’ve had 60-70 degree days, and 30-40 degree days, all in the same week! As of today it’s officially spring but it still doesn’t quite feel like it on the outside so I’m going to convince myself otherwise by eating like it is. No more chilis, pot pies, soups, heavy hearty warm meals (God bless the crockpot!) and the like for the family. I’m thinking lighter and simple, yet still filling. Maybe this pasta dish for instance? I know, I know. I adore pasta. Pasta isn’t really light, but what makes this dish lighter is that there’s no cream - the chicken stock, the cheese, and the butternut squash meld together to create a creamy creamless sauce. It’s healthier! Also, with the squash and spinach as the vegetables you really can’t go wrong. Feel free to add/modify the vegetables in this as you see fit, and/or even swap out the regular pasta for gluten-free if necessary.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Butternut Squash, & Baby Spinach

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 pound of Italian sausage ( If links, remove the casing. I prefer to use turkey instead of pork, but whatever floats your boat.)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

  • 12 ounces penne pasta

  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced

  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

  • 2 large sage leaves, chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage)

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving, if desired

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil & saute the shallot, garlic, sausage, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces, and cooking until the sausage is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Remove mixture from the pan onto a plate and return skillet back to the heat.

  2. Add the chicken broth and pasta, bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the squash and simmer for 5-7 more minutes. As the squash breaks down, it will help add the creaminess to the sauce and the pasta. Feel free to add more liquid if the mixture seems dry (1/4 cup at a time).

  3. Stir in the spinach and sage and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Add the sausage/shallot mixture back to the skillet and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Remove the skillet from the heat, cover with a lid, and let the pasta sit for 5-10 minutes. Give it a good stir and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.


To Cook or Not To Cook: The Mom's Dilemma

Most, if not all, of my posts are food and service related but I think it’s time for a moment of transparency and rambling. Before I’m a personal chef for various clients who live all over the DC area, I’m a personal chef to an exuberant 3 year old boy, an amazing 1 year old baby girl who just started walking a little over a month ago, and one awesome husband. While I do generally take requests, most of what we eat is simply thrown together by me based on simplicity, likes, and dislikes. Some nights it’s roasted chicken or salmon, some sort of vegetable, and possibly a starch. Other nights it’s some sort of leftovers for the grownups and chicken nuggets, quesadillas, or pb&js for the littles with some sort of roasted vegetable thrown on the side for color, tater tots, and some fruit. Who am I kidding, every once in a blue moon it’s UberEats or DoorDash. Shoot, sometimes it’s a ‘breakfast for dinner’ night.

Some days I feel like cooking. Other days I honestly wish I had meals in my freezer that I could just thaw out and warm up but then it hits me: “hey YOU are that person! Get going!” Cooking for my family is a joy and yet sometimes cooking at home is a dilemma for me. It’s more of the act of doing it, and less of the art of doing it. I’m so quick to plan out menus for others and can think up at least 1 or 2 options for the littles and hubs to eat but when it comes to ME eating dinner after a day of work and coming home to be mom, I’m content with a couple hunks of buttered french bread and a bunch of grapes. The questions are always there: “am I cooking tonight?”, “what exactly am I making tonight?”, more importantly “DO I have to cook tonight??”. If I don’t cook what are they eating, and if I do cook what in the world am I eating? Am I going to want to eat it when I’m done or do I just want to go somewhere with a glass of wine, Netflix an episode or two of Arrested Development, and fall asleep?

Here’s an example: earlier this week I roasted some chicken legs, made garlic parmesan chicken meatballs with marinara, steamed green beans, roasted broccoli, and jasmine rice. There was enough food there to last all week (which it has, thank God! Hellooo, leftovers!). The crazy thing is aside from the vegetables I don’t want to eat any of it. I look at it and go “ahhh. Ok, dinner time!”, then I grab a bottle of water and go sit somewhere happily just because I’m sitting. My family is by far my biggest achievement but being a mom is rough on the brain sometimes. Sometimes, as much as I love it, I (pause for dramatic effect) don’t want to cook at home. There I said it. Sometimes I too want a personal chef. Go figure!

Can any moms out there relate? Send me your rants of not wanting to cook or the epic achievements of you cooking for your family (every day that we as moms get it right either just a bit or a whole lot is an epic achievement in my book) - I’d love to hear both!

Creating A Healthy Meal Routine

It's the beginning of a new year: the time when resolutions have started and we all can agree that a lot of these resolutions involve eating healthier, being more active, and just overall stepping our game up to be the best versions of ourselves and revamping our lifestyles. Life can get busy with work, family responsibilities, and the like so often times while we might really want to do better, there's not always a lot of time to do so. Why not start small and move forward from there! After all, every little bit counts and definitely helps:

1. Instead of going cold turkey and quitting a long list of foods with a hardcore diet, you could simply decrease the consumption of things that aren't so good for you like sweets, sodas, and other items that have empty calories. The way you eat should be reasonable yet healthy and fit YOU.

2. Try setting a routine for yourself. Sometimes we skip breakfast and fill up at lunch or snack here and there during the entire day until eating dinner late in the evening. Setting aside time to eat throughout the day prior to dinner ensures that you won't lunge at the first thing you see (chances are it won't be healthy) after basically being hungry for most of the day.

3. Prep those meals! Breakfast and lunch can always be made the night before and makes life a little easier because you can simply pack it and go in the morning. If you already have access to healthy meals and snacks to eat during the day then you'll be knocking out two goals: saving money on food at work and eating better. Having meals done the night before helps keep you on the routine that you set for yourself.

Once you make up your mind to start eating healthy, all it takes is a little bit of planning and effort. You'll find it gets easier and once you settle into the routine you won't even think of it as a diet because, you know what? It will just be your lifestyle. You'll be another step closer to being your best happy and healthy self!