Some nights, dinner can be a challenge. You come home from work, knowing what you having in your fridge and pantry, but not feeling inspired. You haven’t taken the time to meal plan for the week, but you know you need to feed the family, and feeding them something with a few vegetables would be an added bonus. Personally, I have to make sure that I do not fall into the trap of regularly feeding my family basic chicken and pasta. Not only does that get boring quickly, but it also isn’t the healthiest of meal options. One evening last week, when attempting to cook outside the box a bit, I came up with an easy, delicious dinner that I wanted to share.
Pasta of choice (I made it with penne, but this meal would be good with bowtie pasta or basic spaghetti noodles as well)
Spinach (I made it with fresh spinach, but you could use frozen spinach as well-just make sure it’s thawed and drained)
Spices of your choosing (I usually stick to garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper)
-Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, season as desired, and cook in a little olive oil in a skillet until fully cooked.
-Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
-Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the same amount of flour to make a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture starts to brown slightly (you want to cook off the raw taste of the flour). Add 2/3 cup of milk, whisking while you pour the milk in, and heat the mixture over low to medium heat until it starts to thicken (about 5 minutes). You do not want the sauce to boil rapidly.
-Remove the chicken from the skillet, set the chicken aside, and remove the pan from the heat. If you are using fresh spinach, add it to the hot skillet while you finish the sauce. Stir the spinach, allowing it to begin wilting and to pick up some of the flavor of the chicken from the bits left in the bottom of the pan.
-Once the sauce has started thickening, add the fresh spinach to the milk mixture. Blend the mixture to make smooth, creamy sauce, and return it to the saucepan. Continue heating the sauce over low heat while you add Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly grated cheese.
-Add the pasta to the sauce, toss to coat, and serve with chicken on top. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
The addition of the spinach adds not only a fun color to the meal, but a great deal of flavor, with the added bonus of the extra vegetables. This is a great substitute for regular macaroni and cheese, and can be tweaked to your family’s tastes.
What are your family’s favorite dinner recipes? Share them in the comments – I always need new inspiration!