Evenings at our house can feel chaotic and a little zooey. From the moment backpacks hit the floor after school until lights finally go out several hours later, we are running at top speed. We’ve got homework and spelling, ballet, basketball, 4H and in just a few weeks soccer and baseball will get thrown into the mix. Not to mention the occasional late meetings, work trips, school functions and whatever else seems to fill our calendars these days.
We live on a small ranch with cows and chickens, dogs and a couple cats. Jackson and Luke are in charge of feeding all our animals. They start with the cows, breaking open the bales of hay and filling their feeding trough. They hoof it up from the bottom of our pasture to check on the chicken’s food and water and then hit the garage where our dogs and cats eat. They are mostly good sports about it, often spending a few minutes with each set of animals, chatting or petting them, throwing a ball or carrying a kitten around for a bit. (Full disclosure: they do NOT have awesome attitudes every day. Just keeping it real. HA!)
After one too many weeks of rushed dinners, plunked down on the table with a loud thud and the barked command of ‘eat, you only have a few minutes before we need to leave,’ I decided no more. There had to be a better way. I don’t have a magic solution but watching my boys do their chores and finding enjoyment out of it really inspired me. Weeknight dinners are going to be quick and squashed in between homework and activities, that won’t change, but they can absolutely be more pleasant.
One small change I’ve made is I try and make dinner earlier in the day. I use my Instant Pot or crock pot whenever possible and I make big batches of recipes like this one. I can quickly warm the dish up right there in the pot, maybe squeeze a little extra lemon juice over the pasta and dinner is ready when we are.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage and Kale
- 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
- 1 pound pork sweet Italian sausage (you could sub turkey sausage)
- 1 bunch kale, washed and cut into pieces (about 5-6 cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon (zest and juice)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Dash of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt liberally. When the water is at a rolling boil, add your noodles and cook to package instructions (usually about 8 minutes). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain noodles and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, cook the sausage in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Break the sausage into small pieces, stirring until the meat is cooked through. When the meat is finished, line a dinner plate with paper towels and drain the sausage on the plate. Set aside.
Using the same pan, cook the garlic for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the kale to the pan and stir constantly. You may need to add a small splash of water to the pan (about 2-3 tablespoons) to help the kale start to wilt. You want the kale to be bright green and soft but not mushy. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
When the kale is finished cooking, turn off the heat. Combine the spaghetti noodles, sausage and garlic kale mixture. Zest the lemon and add it to the dish. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the pasta. Stir well to incorporate the lemon flavor. Mix in the parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper again if necessary.