Mothers all over the world are faced with the daily battle of how to get their children to eat certain foods without having to pull out the biggest weapon in our arsenal, “Because I said so!” Now, I don’t want to spark a debate about whether or not we should make our kids eat things they don’t want to eat, but I will say that I make my kids try everything at least once. Not only do I want to expose them to as much culinary variety as I can, I want them to be able to go anywhere and understand menus or to be able to go to a friend’s house and not have to demand a separate dinner for themselves. I have made it abundantly clear that I do not run a diner and you eat what’s in front of you, whether here, or at another house. Your likes and dislikes will be noted and taken into consideration in the future (maybe. Meh, probably).
That being said, asparagus was a tough one for me. Until my friend Sean introduced me to its wonders at a fondue party back in the 90’s (yeah, we still do those), I had no idea what I was missing. Also, if we’re honest, there is always that moment of panic when you head to the restroom after eating asparagus, when you think you may be dying, only to realize it’s asparagus magic. I assumed my kids would feel the same trepidation, but the following recipe laid those fears to rest. On the night I make this meal, the pre-dinner conversation usually goes something like this:
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“The chicken with pine nuts, asparagus and penne pasta.”
“Woo-hoo! Awesome! Thank you, Mommy!” I’m only Mommy when something really cool goes down these days and last night I even got two hugs for this announcement.
Actually, the best testimony for this meal involves cooking it for our former pastor. We had invited he and his wife for dinner and they drilled me on what was on the menu. Apparently, they are picky eaters who don’t let others cook for them and usually bring their own food everywhere they go (just one of their many oddities, and no, it wasn’t dietary issues). If you know me, you know I wasn’t going to have that, so I convinced them to trust me. They ended up eating two bowls each and asking to leave with the leftovers.
I hope you and yours feel the same way. Just note that I am making this meal for three bottomless pits, so if you just want to give it a try, cut the whole recipe in half. Also, for an easier one-pot method, see the notes below.
Chicken with Asparagus and Roasted Pine Nuts over Penne Pasta
16 oz cooked penne pasta (uncooked, if you choose the 1 pot method below)
32 oz canned chicken broth
1 cup pine nuts
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
4 TBSP olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 – 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until golden brown (try to avoid the urge to walk away and do something else, lest you end up with the chocolate chestnut color I normally do) and then remove from heat. Set aside.
Stir fry your chicken in 2 TBSP of the olive oil on medium high until no longer pink. Remove from heat. *
In a large pot heat 2 TBSP oil on high and saute garlic 2-3 minutes. Add broth and heat to a gentile boil. Add asparagus, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Toss chicken, cheese, pine nuts and pasta together in the asparagus pot and mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.
*One pot directions
I know this is unconventional, but that is just how I roll people…At this point (remember that we’re using a large pot here), drain the chicken, placing it on a plate, and keep warm. In the same pot, add 2 TBSP of oil and roast the garlic 2-3 min.
Place the chicken and broth back in with the garlic and add extra broth or chicken bullion and water (enough to cover the pasta and asparagus about 5-6 cups total) directly to the pot with the chicken and bring to almost a boil.
Add the uncooked pasta, asparagus, 2 tsp garlic salt, 1 dash poultry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring often, and cook until pasta and asparagus are tender, 11-13 minutes.
Drain extra liquid and stir in the cheese and pine nuts. Serve and enjoy.
Note: I love it this way because it gives the pasta a great flavor, making it part of the meal and not just “filler.”