Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Moms Restaurant Style Salsa

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My mother is the queen of salsa. Every time she makes a batch its a little bit different because she forever tweaks the recipe here or there. She's an intuitive cook and not a recipe follower. Sometimes this is infuriating. For example, I swear she used to use lime for tomato salsa (lime for salsa, lemon for guacamole) but she tells me no, it's always been lemon. I'm not so sure. I think either would work well here.

The baby helped on our big salsa making day
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She's roasted tomatoes and added a touch of cinnamon and spicy reconstituted smokey peppers and a squeeze of orange and dash of clove for a salsa made specifically for pairing with easter ham. That was delicious. She sometimes adds more or less of a certain ingredient, but one precaution she always takes is to sample the jalapeno alone (she straight up cuts a piece off and pops it into her mouth) to see how hot they are. Jalapenos are really unpredictable. Some are not spicy at all, like a bell pepper and some will really burn. If a pepper is particularly hot, she might not include the white parts or seeds in the salsa. My mom likes things hot though, so this doesn't usually happen. Also, sometimes she'll use serrano pepper instead of jalapeno. Play around and have fun.

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I started my "training" for my 5k this spring. Woo-hoo! The weather is warming up and the clouds are giving way to sun. Salsa, it seems will start to be mandatory in these parts really soon.

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Moms Restaurant Style Salsa
makes about 4 cups

10 roma tomatoes
1/2 small yellow onion, sliced (or 1/4 of a larger onion)
1/2- 1 jalapeno, chopped in big chunks (test a piece plain to see how hot your are before adding)
1 fat garlic clove
1/2 head of cilantro
1/4 lemon
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Boil whole tomatoes, onion, and chopped jalapenos and simmer until tomatoes skin starts to burst, about 5 minutes. Transfer it all into a food processor and add 1/2 head of cilantro, garlic, juice from 1/4 a lemon, and spices. Pulse until blended and taste. Salsas final flavor will very depending on your ingredients so add more salt of jalapeno or lemon if desired.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie

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My sister is going to kill me for this post. I made her this smoothie last time she was over and lets just say she wasn't a fan. Not because its not awesome, but because she's completely sick of avocados. Normally I would tell you that you can't taste the avocado in this smoothie but it's not true. See, the way this smoothie ends up tasting has everything to do with the kind of avocado you start with. A perfectly ripe, green flesh, soft but still firm avocado will be the best option. However, avocados have such a short life and cycle through their stages so quickly you don't always have this option. Bottom line is if you use an over ripe, florally avocado then you will indeed pick up those tastes in the smoothie. Similarly, if you use a very green underripe avocado, you'll taste it. Now that being said, it's not a bad thing unless you happen to hate avocados. But I'm guessing if you hate them this recipe won't be on your "must make list" anytime soon.

The case for avocado smoothies- When this smoothie is good, it's REALLY good. The avocado makes the smoothie thick and silky, not unlike a pudding consistency, and it actually tastes a lot like chocolate pudding. I love that. Other times, when the avocado is less than stellar, it still has that thick consistency but will have a slight aftertaste. This doesn't bother me in the least but it's something to consider.

The texture wins me over every time. I love it. Feel free to play around and add more sweetener if desired to get your desired outcome.

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I drink this for breakfast. that way I can use raw cacao powder without a problem. Raw cacao tends to keep me up at night so if I make it then, I'll use regular cocoa powder. Nowhere near as good for the body, but when you want a chocolate smoothie, you want a chocolate smoothie.

This drink is loaded with minerals and antioxidants from the cacao, sugar free since stevia is used, contains healthy fats from the avocado and supplies a healthy dose of calcium in the form of coconut milk. It's sure to keep you full. Cheers!

Chocolate Avocado Smoothie
serves 1

1/2 a medium avocado (sometimes I use a whole avocado)
2 1/2 tablespoons raw cacao powder 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon stevia
handful of ice
splash of vanilla

Blend all until silky and smooth. Drink right away

Friday, February 21, 2014

4-Ingredient Crockpot Chicken Chili Verde



The first time a friend got into my car on our first "becoming friends" date, I had "La Donna E Mobile" by The Three Tenors playing on my CD player. She was 18, I was 21. We were in a 1992, tan Aerostar van. Completely normal, right? I thought so, but her, not so much. Maybe I should have been slightly embarrassed but I wasn't. I was one classy and sophisticated single mom who lived with her grandparents and listened to Opera and Frank Sinatra in her car. Dang, I'm surprised Jeremy waited as long as he did to ask me out and marry me.

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I know some of my readers will be asking a lot of questions right about now. I've never disclosed that I was a single mom for a hot minute. Yes, It's true. Long story short, I fell for a boy named Jaz (why, yes, that is his real name, and no, he was not a stripper). He didn't fall for me as hard (I know, weird, right?) I had my little daughter Isabella Victoria, and promptly up and moved from Southern California, my home for more than 20 years, to Colorado where my grandparents lived. I went to college and church and that's it. I met my friend in my college Art History class and I met Jeremy at church. So, that explains a lot.



I haven't been keeping secrets or anything. The other day I mentioned something about having been a single mom, and a new friend who has been following my blog for a while was shocked. She had no idea! Apparently, I don't talk about this. Not for any other reason than I probably don't think about it much. Just like I don't think about my song choice before inviting new friends into my car.

So anyway, for reasons that have nothing to do with anything I just said above, I'd like to talk to you about this incredible and easy chicken chili verde I made the other day. Everything is placed in a crockpot and then hours later the chicken is fall apart tender and shreds perfectly. Oh recipe, how I love thee. Let me count the ways:

1) Since this recipe calls for only four ingredients it requires no prep
2) One of those ingredients is a jar of salsa verde. This means all the onions, cilantro and lime flavor is already built into the chili and doesn't need adding.
3) This served hot with melty jack cheese and avocado is heaven in a bowl. Especially if you add chips to the mix!



4-Ingredient Crockpot Chicken Chili Verde
adapted from Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist
serves 4-6

3-4 chicken breasts
1-16oz container of green tomatillo salsa (or red salsa for a non-verde version) preferably fresh
4 cans white beans (black beans can be used too)
4 cups chicken broth

Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook for 3-4 hours or up to 8 hours. Before serving, shred the chicken with two forks. Serve with jack or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, avocado and sour cream.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hawaiian Chicken Chili

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Brrrrr. It's cold out! And if the weather report is to be believed we have snow and temperatures in the teens and twenties for the next 7 days. I shouldn't be mad since it's still winter and all, but I'd be lying if I told you my mind doesn't drift to sandy beaches, warm sun and surf 10 times a day. For my sister and brother-in-law this is an awesome reality. In three days she will take off on a jet plane, Bahamas bound, and do all sorts of tropical like things. Eat fried fresh fish, drink a pina colada, smell that clear salt water, and lay in the sun. Pat, my brother-in-law is there for work (he's the chef at a hunting ranch here in Colorado, but the owners also have a fishing resort on their private island called Deep Water Cay. Pat is helping to revamp the menu, inspire some cocktails, and get things in order) so he gets less downtime, although it may be just what's coming to him after the shenanigan he pulled this weekend.

Over the weekend Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow indicating a longer winter, and our team, the Bronocs, got pummeled in the Superbowl. We had a party made up of six Broncos fans, two Seahawk fans, and two undecided and kids. My sister Kaylee and I are originally from southern California. She is a Raiders fan for life. I guess the Raiders and Bronocs don't get along, or so I'm told, so even though she's lived in Colorado for a while she doesn't route for us. Adding to this, she and Pat had called Seattle home for a few years and apparently she now loves the Seahawks too. This was news to me. Pat on the other hand didn't grow up in California, but rather split his time between Colorado and Louisiana, so he declared that he was going to route for the Broncos. Kaylee started posting things to social media like "house divided!" and when my mom acted surprised that Kaylee would not route for Denver, didn't she want to win?! Kaylee responded with "We'll see you at the Superbowl, Mom!"  

It was on.

Mom and Kaylee square off
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Looks like Kaylee is already talking smack...
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Come game day, Kaylee painted her face blue for the Seahawks and wore her Mariners jersey. Pathetic right? She kept shouting "It's still Seattle!"

Pat painted his face orange and blue for Broncos and wore an orange and blue flannel shirt to represent.

Then, the game happened.

After it was all over and the Seahawks were clearly the champs, Pat did this...

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People gasped. I took pictures. "Traitor!" was being yelled. People said Pat was the VERY REASON the Broncos had failed. And Pat, after seeing the pictures, laughed and said "Oh man, I could get killed for something like that." But it was all in jest and made the evening. For me anyway. Nicely played Pat. You're lucky you can make delicious fried hot wings to order and made friends early.

Kaylee gloating over her win saying things like "You mad, bro?!" (Sherman rant reference) and Pat like "What the, woman? I got my bases covered. Chill the hell out"--For the record he didn't actually say that but then again, he didn't have to. 
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Anyway, Pat will be paying his dues, working away in the Bahamas while Kaylee lives it up. Hopefully he'll get some down time too.

As for me, I'll be looking at their pictures feeling super happy for them but probably needing some island flair somewhere in my life. I mean, I'm only human. But since we're waist deep in snow and grilling shrimp on the barbie is not going to happen, this Hawaiian chicken chili will be just the thing to tide me over.

I've never even heard of a chili like this before. It's savory with hints of tropical pineapple- sweet but tangy. And I've had great success cooking raw chicken breasts in the crockpot like this. When done, the chicken is moist and shreds perfectly. Barbecue sauce is added to tie in the flavors of onion, bell pepper and beans because, this is a chili after all. I always use organic ingredients, but in this case, I wouldn't use organic barbecue sauce. I used Annies brand the second time I made this and while I absolutely love their brand, something was off in the chili. I think it's much less sweet  and a tad spicier than other brands. Use regular old barbecue, whatever is your favorite and you'll be good to go.

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Hawaiian Chicken Chili
adapted from Heather Likes Food
serves 4-6

  • 2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 C onion, diced
  • 1 C green pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained w/ juice reserved
  • 1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel Tomatoes, or diced tomatoes w/ green chiles
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14. oz) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained
  • 1 C prepared BBQ sauce
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and brown in olive oil just until they have some color but are not cooked through.
  2. Place chicken in crock pot and top with onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, beans, BBQ sauce, and 3/4 C of the reserved pineapple juice.
  3. Stir chili powder, cumin, and ginger into the chili and set crock pot to cook on LOW for 6- 8 hours, or HIGH for 3-4.
  4. Remove chicken from chili and shred into bite-sized pieces. Return to chili and stir in pineapple chunks. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Berry-Spinach Smoothie Freezer Packs

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This is not a "recipe", but since learning that my friend Stephanie makes her smoothie packs ahead of time -complete with fresh spinach- and freezes them, I have not been able to stop doing the same. I'd never thought about freezing fresh spinach before, but doing it this way means you never worry whether the spinach is going bad or won't last the whole week. Plus, freezing fresh vegetables when packaged right doesn't lose much, if any of the nutritional value. Now, when I need a quick breakfast I just add the contents of my freezer bag to the blender with a cup of coconut milk and a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt. Really, you can add anything you want but I like to keep it simple.

I've been watching my sugar intake in an effort to lose a few remaining baby pounds so I only do mixed berries for the fruit part of the smoothie. Berries are lower in sugar than other typical smoothie fruits such as banana or oranges and also have a higher nutritional profile, so this is a fantastic option for me. I go heavy on raspberries and blackberries and lighter on the sweeter blueberries and strawberries, but I still always include all four. I also add 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of stevia to my bag of frozen berries and spinach to help sweeten everything up so I won't need to add other sugary fruits.

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I can't tell you how convenient this is. I underestimated how much time this actually saves. Plus, having them ready to go like this means I choose smoothies more often, which is always a good thing.

I reuse the ziplock freezer bags too. Since theres no real residue, its easy to dry them out and fill again for my next smoothie round.

These are the kind of ideas I love. So simple it's genius. And like I've said before, I like to incorporate more simple in my life.

Oh, and this baby? She started clapping yesterday! 6 months 2 weeks old.

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Clapping, but not sleeping on her own yet. My friend Beth and I have been talking about our babies who don't sleep -she is in newborn stage and has it worse- it's amazing how talking with someone who actually gets it and is in the trenches with you can help. Am I off topic again? Gah, well while I'm here I might as well tell you that the second I sign off here I will begin to sing "Just Give Me A Reason" by P!nk...passionately in my kitchen...Anyone else catch her Grammy performance last night? Loved it!

And, back to the topic at hand...

Berry-Spinach Smoothie Freezer Packs
makes one pack (but you'll want to make several packs at one time)

1 cup lightly packed fresh baby spinach
1 cup mixed berries (I do half raspberries, then fill in with a mix of blueberries and blackberries plus 2 strawberries per pack)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon stevia

Place ingredients into a freezer ziplock bag, squeeze as much air out as possible and freeze. When you are ready to make your smoothie add the frozen contents of the bag into a blender and add 1 cup coconut milk (sometimes you may need more to get it blended up well) and a tablespoon of plain greek yogurt. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quinoa, Sausage and Egg Breakfast Bowl

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Do you know what's kept me from blogging for so long? Pinterest and Flickr and Facebook. Seriously. We switched from Safari to Chrome and I no longer have a "pin it" button on my computer. Never mind that it would take me all of five minutes to install another. I didn't. And then theres Flickr. I don't know how I feel about it. Thats where I upload all of my photos, but it takes forever and lately, they don't post on Pinterest as well. I'd switch to Photobucket but alas, my photos are not that great and Photobucket makes them larger than life. You'd see every blur and flaw. Then, when I use my app at the bottom of bloggers page to post to Facebook, no picture pops up like it used to. Most people follow my blog through FB so this is a problem indeed. None of these things have anything to do with the actual blogging, but it shouldn't take me so long to put a post together. Its getting a tad ridiculous, so I've been rebelling. So, there you have it. Rebellious Krysta refuses to post new content because there must be a better way. I guess I've calmed a bit because here I am posting and haven't figured it out as of yet.

I have been reading a lot in the absence of blogging though. It's Jan. 19th and I've finished two books this year. I ripped through both "Traveling Mercies" and "Bread & Wine", by Anne Lamott and Shauna Niequist, respectfully, and today I find myself a quarter through "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. It's much more insightful and fascinating than it sounds. It's also not really about introverts, but rather how our culture came to shape and value different modes of being but are all unique and good. Its a smart read and I'm gobbling it up. Bread & Wine was awesome if you love rich, descriptive writing. It's pages are littered with sentences like:

"Our table had a whole fish roasted with wheels of lemon and swaths of herbs, carved tableside, and handmade lobster ravioli, the fresh lobster meat so sweet that it almost tasted like there was sugar in it. What moved me though--and what the restaurant is famous for beyond the lemon tree canopy--were the antipasti and sweet buffets: two huge wood tables piled heavily with platters wedged in like puzzle pieces. One table held cheeses and pastas and grilled, marinated vegetables; the other, plates of every imaginable fruit, cake, and tart. At the center of that lovely table, a bowl of fat blackberries, almost as big as plums, and a bowl of whipped cream, decadent and simple at once. I can still taste my glass of limoncello they served at the end of the meal, and I can still recall the hint of coolness in the air as we drove back down the winding roads to the marina, feeling like the world was so beautiful I almost couldn't stand it, so thankful for those trees and those lanterns and those huge round tables and that bowl of blackberries."

Positively dreamy if you ask me. Its a book about food with recipes, but its heavily laced with Christianity and faithful insights. I found it wise and delightful, an indulgent treat for my senses and imagination.

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I found the recipe for this unassuming quinoa breakfast bowl in Bread & Wine's pages. I was drawn to it because I'd never though of quinoa as a breakfast food or paired it with sweet sausages, like a chicken apple gouda. Then the thought of the sautéed onions and that perfectly fat fried egg sitting on top slayed me. Just knowing that golden yolk would drip down and mingle with the quinoa and spread its love all over that bowl made my mouth water. I ran to the kitchen. It was heaven. I'd eat this for breakfast each and every day. And then again for lunch and dinner. I did add some wilted spinach, something the recipe didn't originally include but I wanted something fresh. Some sautéed red bell peppers would have been good too.

Shauna says this isn't really a recipe, but more a glimpse into her kitchen. The recipe is written to serve 4, although when she makes it for only herself, she divides the quinoa, sausages and onion into separate bowls and covers. Then, you have breakfast waiting for you for the next 3 days--all you have to do is warm the bowl and fry an egg.

Quinoa, Sausage and Egg Breakfast Bowl
adapted from Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist
serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions
4 links chicken apple sausage (or chicken apple gouda)
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
4 eggs
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice and soften and onion in olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. While that's cooking, slice the sausage and add it to the same pan. Pour the quinoa and water into a small pot. Bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Scoop quinoa into 4 bowls and then stir a scoop of onions and sausage slices into each one.

In the onion pan, fry the eggs to over easy, about two minutes over medium heat, and then slide one egg on top of the quinoa mixture in each bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper.

If you'd rather scramble the eggs, beat them and then pour them into the onion pan and begin to cook them over low heat, running a wooden spoon through them as they thicken. Scoop loosely scrambled eggs into each bowl and top with a small handful of goat cheese. Add a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Wonderpot



Christmas down, New Years to go! Today I have a great, no-brainer recipe for you to try. Its not spectacular or super special but its tasty, unique, and oh-so-easy. So I guess you could say it's perfect for this lull in the next few days. And who doesn't love spinach artichoke anything?

How was your Christmas? Ours was full! We started opening presents at 7am, and was making our annual Christmas breakfast by 9am. We have the same thing every year - Mimosas, Eggs Benedict except with Welsh rarebit sauce (beer cheese sauce) instead of Hollandaise with tomato slices, orange rolls, cinnamon rolls, and a big bowl of fruit salad. This year we added in some apple cinnamon sausage compliments of my husband. Family and friends lingered and a mix of Christmas music and The Hunger Games played in the background. Not the most traditional Christmas movie ever, but you know, c'est la vie.






By 4pm we were at Mambos, our restaurant, for a Christmas dinner. Lobster Fra Diavolo for me and prosciutto wrapped tenderloin for Jeremy. Cannoli and chocolate hazelnut panna cotta for dessert. Not bad at all. Kids opted for regular bow tie pasta with meatballs. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece joined us this year and between us, ridiculous things were said.



Right before we left the restaurant Kaylee, my sister, let out a defeated Oh-no... I look...like... a... whore. It was shocking because my sister doesn't usually use words like "whore" and also because of the sincerity and seriousness in which she said it. Turns out she had a run in her stocking. I laughed, then took a picture.


And that's not all. Other ridiculous things were said. Things like I think I might train for a half marathon and do you want to join me? To be clear, that came out of my sisters mouth. I said A HALF MARATHON? Crazy. Why not start with a 5K? I mean, we don't even run...like at all. Then the real ridiculousness started when I responded with I would train for a 5K with you...

Don't laugh. I realize a 5K is only 3 miles, but I have never run a mile before. I jogged two miles really, really, s-l-o-w-l-y two years ago. I probably could have speed walked faster than I jogged. But that's about all the experience I have going for me. I listened to Mumford and Sons "I Will Wait" and Katy Perry's "Firework", and "You Ain't Never Had A Friend Like Me" from Aladdin while I did it. I remember. I was on the bike path by the river way down where it starts on the west end of town. It was cold, but not quite enough to deter me. 

End random memories.

Christmas night was spent reliving our childhoods while my two oldest kids played Super Mario Bros  for the first time on the Wii they got for Christmas. Up until now I have banned video game playing from my house. I hate it. But I used to play Mario Bros and was feeling nostalgic and I knew the kids would flip so I said yes. That music came right back to me. My sister and Pat were throwing out names I had long forgotten like Bowzers castle and Princess Peach and Yoshi. I forgot that a flag pole signaled the end of the level and Mario would slide down in victory. Pat looked up some video online of a kid playing elaborate piano to all the Mario theme songs. It was awesome.

Uncle Pat showing the kids how it's played


I caught this one morning around 5:45am. My son was just beholding the tree, sitting still and waking up. It's my favorite.


End Christmas re-cap.

So back to this wonderpot. The genius of the wonderpot recipes is that the pasta and all ingredients are cooked together for a specified amount of time and when it's done the remaining liquid, thickened by the starch in the noodles, becomes the sauce itself. Just stir and eat. Fun, right? The only thing to be wary of is cooking too long. You must eat this when it's ready. If allowed to sit, the liquid will keep absorbing into the noodles and become overcooked and thick. Make sure you season to taste with salt as well. This dish needs a hefty dose to make all the flavors shine through. I may even add a dusting of Parmesan to the top of my bowl next time.

Happy New Year, friends!



Spinach Artichoke Wonderpot
adapted from budgetbytes
serves 4-6

8 oz. mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts
5 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
5 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz. fettuccine (I used whole wheat)
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
freshly cracked pepper
4 oz. frozen cut spinach
Parmesan for topping
kosher salt

*I adapted this recipe to make a whole box of pasta, serving 6. I used 1 lb fettuccine and 6 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and added some extra salt, oregano, thyme and artichoke hearts but kept everything else the same. It turned out well.

Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt or debris. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Drain the can of artichoke hearts and roughly chop them into bite­ sized pieces. Thinly slice the onion and garlic (you can mince the garlic if you don't want large slices). Place the vegetable broth, olive oil, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, and garlic in a large pot. Break the fettuccine in half and add it to the pot along with the oregano, thyme, a few hearty pinches of salt and some freshly cracked pepper. Push the ingredients down under the broth as much as possible. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a rolling boil over high heat.

As soon as it reaches a boil, stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from
sticking. Turn the heat down to low so that the pot is just simmering. Allow the pot to simmer, with the lid on, for 10­-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Give the pot a stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Once the pasta is cooked through, add the frozen spinach. Allow the heat from the pasta to thaw the
spinach. Stir the pot to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Taste for seasonings. You'll probably need salt to prevent a bland finish. Serve hot with some grated parmesan on top.