Whole Wheat Penne with Kale and Red Chard

Trying to incorporate more veggies into the daily grind is challenging, but it's getting a lot easier! I'm finding lots of new ways to do it and while I'm still doing the 28-day Challenge, I'm not following the meal plan exactly, either (it got a little boring and VERY time-consuming). With a little creativity, though, I'm able to apply the principles of Nutritarianism and still have fun with cooking.

Yesterday, I wanted to eat kale. Kale is considered to be nature's perfect food, rating a 1000 (perfect score) on the ANDI scale. But...it's weird. Or at least, it's weird if you haven't ever really eaten it before. It's not bad, it's just a bit of a struggle to find a good way to incorporate. I decided to use my dependable fallback, pasta, and give it a go.

Whole Wheat Penne with Kale and Red Chard
6 - 8 ounces whole wheat penne (or any other whole wheat pasta)
1 bunch kale (tough stems removed and sliced into 1" pieces)
1/2 bunch red chard or rainbow chard, stems sliced into bite-sized pieces and leaves roughly sliced)
1 cup sweet onion (Vidalia or similar), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon (or less) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Grilled Chicken (optional)
2 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
1 1/2 tbsps. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. basil

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions; drain and reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil on medium high in a heavy deep pot. Add the garlic and onions and saute until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the kale, chard and red pepper flakes and mix well. Saute until the kale begins to wilt, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium low and continue cooking until the chard stems begin to soften but are still crisp, about 15 minutes. If the mixture starts to get too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time to moisten.

If you are using chicken, season well with the Italian seasoning and basil and grill (or use a George Foreman) until done, about 8 minutes. Slice into strips.

Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Combine with the kale / chard mixture. Add the lemon juice and mix well. If the pasta is too dry, add the cooking liquid one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Serve with the chicken strips on top.

Simple, super healthy, and yum-tastic!

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