Since kale is my best growing crop (I just planted some in the ground and ignored them, a year later they’re still huge!) I’m always on the lookout for ways to use it. I love kale chips and the sinfully rich kale casserole, but our absolute favorite use for kale is green smoothies. Still, three favorite recipes for a vegetable that’s basically free year round is not enough for me. On the hunt, I was so excited to find this winter pasta recipe by Heidi of 101 Cookbooks.
I decided this would be the perfect recipe to adapt for the Healthy Cooking on a Tight Budget class on “Using Winter Produce”. I made it as written the first time and thought it was very light and fresh, but needed a little more flavor for me to make it a winter dish. I also needed to make it a little more financially friendly for the class.
I started by swapping red onion for the shallots Heidi uses. I LOVE shallots and will be attempting to grow my own this year, but in the grocery store they’re much more expensive than red onions. Red onions are also common produce items at the food bank, but I’ve NEVER seen shallots when picking up class ingredients.
Next I used lemon juice from the bottle instead of fresh lemon juice. I really like the brightness of fresh lemon juice, but find that the average person really can’t tell the difference if I used the bottled juice. It’s often at the food bank and you can get two large bottles at Sam’s Club for the cost of 10-15 lemons.
My third major adjustment was to add more fresh thyme by blending it in the sauce. This gave the pasta sauce a lot of flavor on its own. I feel like in the winter I need a lot more herbs in my food because the weather is so heavy and gloomy that food can seem more boring than in the summertime when everything is freshly picked.
I blended the sauce in a blender instead of a food processor, partly because mine was broken and also because more novice cooks are likely to have a blender than a food processor. Feel free to use whichever you prefer, just be careful to not fill the blender more than half full of hot ingredients because trapped steam could create a dangerous explosion!
Finally I topped the pasta off with crumbled feta instead of goat cheese. Most of my class participants are not going to buy a big log of goat cheese like I do. If they try it they’ll get the small ball of cheese because it’s the cheapest, and it will be just enough for the sauce. Feta on the other hand seems to be a little less intimidating and we use it all the time in class. I always make sure to say to get the block of feta, not the crumbled kind. It’s so much cheaper that way and really easy to crumble yourself.
I’ve made this with spinach, kale and a combination of both. All three are equally tasty.
Now on to important things. Cappucino and I are finally healthy again. It seems that his humidifier treatments worked! By the weekend he was back to his silly self, running along the backs of our couches, trying to eat anything he can find, sunning himself on his new favorite perch (yes the toilet).
The easiest way to tell he’s better is that he went from not wanting to really eat, to trying to eat everything in sight again. In fact, when I decided to have bacon for lunch (don’t ask!) he nearly bit my finger off trying to get some! His appetite came back with gusto.
I wonder if his love of water is what got him sick in the first place. He’s always liked drinking out of the tub when I take a bath, perched on the edge with his legs spread out in an awkward line. But he got a little too daring a couple weeks ago and ended up falling in!
He seemed to decide it wasn’t so bad and stood there up to his chest in water drinking merrily away. When he was done he scrambled out and began shaking himself like a wet dog. Then came his own personal bath time.
I guess he felt this was the way to drink because the next day when Eric was showering, Cappucino climbed right in and started lapping up the water pooling at Eric’s feet. I think it nearly gave Eric a heart attack when Cappucino licked his foot, I heard his yell from the other end of the house!
I thought about taking pictures but didn’t want to risk any embarrassing reflections so kept the camera on the shelf (Eric thanked me for that). When Capo was done he tried to get out but ended up jumping onto the clear plastic inner shower curtain. He was standing on the barrier between him and the outside world, and wasn’t happy. He began crying at me with his deep manly cry and when I came back in the bathroom I saw his sad little face desperately pressed against the plastic begging to be set free.
I let him loose and he hasn’t tried to invade Eric’s showers anymore, but he did get sick the next day so I’m thinking it may be related. Now, I promised Eric I wouldn’t put embarrassing pictures of him on the blog, but I never promised Cappucino. I just couldn’t resist snapping the photo below. I now know that when I have kids I’ll be the kind of mom who takes the photos teenagers nightmares are made of!
So thanks everyone for your get well wishes. Cappucino thanks you too. Oh and by the way, I’m planting some herbs in pots for my windowsill this week. If you haven’t tried growing your own herbs, now’s a great time to start! Plant a few thyme seeds today and in two months you’ll have your very own pot of fresh thyme to play with!
Kale and Spinach Penne Pasta
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 4 cloves
of garlic, peeled
red onion, peeled and quartered
a small bunch of kale – 4 oz, stalks removed, washed well
- 1 cup
fresh spinach, washed well
- 1/3 cup
extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup
- 2-4 TBS
hot pasta water
- 10 sprigs
fresh thyme, divided
- 1-2 tsp
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 12 oz
dried penne pasta
- 1/4 cup
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (should taste like the ocean). Add the garlic and red onion and boil for 3 minutes. Stir in the kale and spinach and let cook for just 15-20 seconds. Quickly use a slotted spoon to remove garlic, onion, kale and spinach from the water. (Leave the water boiling)
- Place garlic, onion, kale, spinach, olive oil, goat cheese and 5 sprigs worth of thyme leaves in a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy, adding a little of the hot water if needed. Taste and add lemon juice as desired to brighten the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste as well.
- Boil pasta (according to package directions) in the water you cooked the greens in. Drain pasta and immediately mix with the green sauce. Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme and crumbled feta.Approximate cost/serving: Goat cheese is a little pricier than other cheeses, but I find mine pretty affordably at Sam’s Club. I grow my own kale and get spinach in bulk. The total cost for me was $5 and made 4 servings so $1.25 per serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: The sauce is vegetarian and gluten free (though not vegan due to the cheese). Make sure to serve it over gluten free pasta.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.