With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, many people are already pondering resolutions – promises they’ll make to themselves to be better. Oftentimes, these promises revolve around improving physical well-being and health, for good reason. A shiny, new year is a golden opportunity to make a change for the better, and although a lot of resolutions don’t make it past the final days of the frigid month of January, they’re still made with the best of intentions at heart.
I’ve always been a petite and small person, but during my final months of college and my short time in law school, I put on a lot of weight, nearly 70 lbs to be exact. Yikes. I used my grandpa’s death and mom’s illness as an excuse, and I do think the stress and turmoil of the time did contribute. However, stress alone doesn’t cause weight gain, and lots of laziness and poor food choices resulted in me being overweight and super unhappy.
Thankfully, the New Year’s resolution I made to myself to ring in 2013 was one I actually kept. I lost the weight that I’d been meaning to lose. Initially, I would try depriving myself of all delicious foods which is really tough for someone like me who LOVES food – preparing it, taking pictures of it, reading about it, writing about it, trying new forms of it, eating it. Finally, per my resolution, starting the new year out by consuming more whole foods, eating out less, and limiting pastas/breads helped me shed the weight fairly quickly – and as I was relieved to discover, cooking and eating healthier didn’t mean cutting out all things indulgent altogether. It just meant striking a more sensible balance between clean foods and foods like dairy and fats – crafting healthy indulgences.
And the recipe below is just that. I made it for the first time last week for AB and one of my dear friends. It is brimming with spinach and butternut squash, two ingredients with laundry lists of health benefits. Just enough parmesan cheese adds saltiness without tons of sodium. Garlic, onion, freshly cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil marry to lend this dish a TON of flavor. It was creamy, hearty, and warm – perfect for a winter meal. The recipe below includes chorizo, but AB and I both agreed, it could easily be made without the chorizo and be just as delicious.
Gnocchi with butternut squash, spinach, and chorizo
- 1 package gnocchi (I used a whole grain option as opposed to the full potato gnocchi version to lighten it up – found in the pasta aisle, NOT frozen)
- 3 links of chorizo (omit for vegetarian dish)
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped in 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 6-8 cups baby spinach
- 2 TBS fresh basil (or 1 TBS dried)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/3 c. skim milk (can use full fat milk or 1/2 and 1/2 if you want more indulgence and less lightness)
- 1 c. chicken broth (I used low sodium)
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- Heat oil over medium-high heat. (use an ovenproof skillet.)
- Add squash and onions – season with salt and pepper to taste. (pinch of salt and about a 1/2 tsp of pepper is my preference!)
- Reduce heat to medium and stir every once in a while until squash is soft and edges are golden brown (about 10-12 minutes).
- Add fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for just a minute or so more until garlic is fragrant but not burned!
- Add chicken broth and skim milk, and give it a good stir.
- Let simmer for a few minutes, and add the gnocchi (if more liquid is required to just cover the gnocchi, add a little more broth).
- Add spinach, and stir slowly to wilt the leaves.
- Cover and let simmer over medium heat to tenderize the gnocchi (about 7-8 minutes).
- While the gnocchi cooks, cook chorizo in a pan over medium-high heat – I cook it by browning it covered, then slicing it before adding it back to the pan to cook all the way. (omit this step for vegetarian rendition.)
- Preheat your oven broiler.
- Stir in fresh (or dry) basil, most of parmesan cheese. Save a little to sprinkle over the top.
- Add cooked chorizo.
- Pop the pan in the oven for 3 minutes, careful not to burn, but allowing the top of the dish to become golden and sizzley (not a word, but I want it to be).
**Butternut squash can be very difficult to peel. If you are not good with a knife, consider perusing the produce department to find pre-peeled and cut butternut squash, which is often available.
Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!