Lactose-Free Spicy Tomato Cream Pasta with Chicken & Spinach
I have been feeling so happy, motivated, refreshed, and vibrant about life these past few weeks. Possibly that is because the sun has finally been coming out a couple hours at a time--culminating in yesterday, which was completely sunny and completely beautiful. Maybe it's because the temperature has finally reached above 50°. Maybe it's due to the worms I see crawling across the soil outside, indicating that spring really is coming after all, along with all the striking, green lushness that nature can provide. And probably it's a little due to the fact that I'm back from a wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating week in coastal Florida.
Have you ever had a moment where you feel just so at peace, and joy hits you like a gentle breeze; calm but insistent, fresh and moving? I had one of these moments when walking to class on Tuesday, and it felt powerful and inspiring and comforting, especially in the midst of a particularly stressful, overwhelming, and busy final semester of college.
I think that a great part of this newfound discovery of my own joy has been related to food. I have been learning a lot recently about food, sustainable and organic agriculture, healthy food, local food, seasonal food, etc. And while it can be discouraging, because the food industry has a lot of messed up, inhumane, environmentally unsound, and just plain dangerous aspects that I had no knowledge of before, it is vitally important.
And amongst all of the startling facts and disturbing realizations, I see members of the food community who are making immense efforts to support sustainable, seasonal, local, healthy, and fulfilling. My eyes have been opened to a new way of thinking, seeing, respecting, and interacting with food in our world, a way which understands food as being more than its appearance, more than its quantity, more even than a simple meal.
I have always found food beautiful. To me, it is an incredible bridge between cultures, histories, peoples, and ideas. It is a lens through which to experience and take part in the world, and a method to share yourself with others, and others with you. In essence, I find food to be equivalent to love. You cook or bake with love and passion, yes; but also, food is necessary to survival. The preparation and sharing of food between people and communities is the gift of survival, of tender care and overwhelming love for one another.
Now, however, I have a widened sense of how immense the power and potential of food is, and how impactful it is on a day-to-day basis. Food is what drives us and energizes us, and what we put into our bodies becomes the resources with which we have to live. This hit me in a profound way recently: if I'm eating things with ingredients I can't pronounce and don't know what they are, how can I expect to live vibrantly? But if, instead, I am eating something that I made from scratch, with my own two hands, and understand where it came from and how it was grown or raised, then I can feel confident in the bright and boundless energy it gives me and the positive effect it has on my body.
My diet has changed to reflect this shift in attitude: I eat more purposefully now. That's not to say I don't enjoy it or that it is a chore; in fact, it's quite the opposite! I feel passionate and in love with food now more than ever, because I care so much more about comprehending it and realizing its amazing potential for my body, my senses, and the world. And I believe this is where my newfound, bubbling joy stems from--from the fact that I am feeding my body with wholesome, powerful food, and the knowledge of it.
I have felt so much happiness in my mere two months in the food blogging community, learning more about food than I ever thought was possible. The respect and support that food bloggers give each other is incredible, as is the amount of creativity. I am incredibly inspired by blogs like Fix Feast Flair, Kale & Caramel, Love & Lemons, Dishing Up The Dirt, The First Mess, The Floured Kitchen, Blissful Basil, Jessica Murnane, A Cozy Kitchen, and My Name is Yeh, all of which often place their focus on things like seasonal cooking with fresh, natural, healthy, and empowering ingredients. They all also have excellent comfort food and dessert recipes, for those necessary moments of delicious and unrestricted indulgence. :) These lovely individuals make cooking for your health and happiness easy, fun, inspiring, and--most importantly--seriously tasty, and they do it with graciousness and style. Their food photography is breathtaking; there are not words to describe how gorgeous each and every one of their photos look. Their styles of writing are varied and beautiful, ranging from witty to reflective and everywhere in-between, and somehow they always manage to find captivating, engaging content.
If it's not already clear, I could gush about these bloggers for a very long time. I'm sure you've already heard of them and follow them enthusiastically (if not, this is your not-so-subtle hint to get on it!), but I just wanted to take a moment to sincerely express my admiration of these individuals and the work that they do. It's a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of effort, and honestly, a lot of vulnerability, and these are people who deserve immense recognition for all that they are and all that they do.
I still have a lot to learn about food. I think that I always will. But I am on my way, and I am so, so very excited to learn more, to feed my knowledge base along with my body.
This was definitely a more serious post, and if you made it all the way through my attempts to explain my self-reflection about my relationship with food, you deserve a prize. How about Lactose-Free Spicy Tomato Cream Pasta with Chicken & Spinach? Yeah, I thought you might like that :) It's not a heavy cream recipe by any means--it's very light, especially with the chicken and the spinach. However, it still gets that beautiful, orangey-red color and deeper flavor that comes with traditional creamy pasta sauces.
I hope that your week is bright and beautiful and full of food that makes you feel empowered and unapologetically alive :)
Lactose-Free Spicy Tomato Cream Pasta with Chicken & Spinach
Makes: 4-5 servings
Takes: 30 minutes
- 2 lb. pasta
- Olive oil
- 6-8 chicken tenders (boneless & skinless)
- Garlic salt (or regular salt)
- Black pepper
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- 1/3 cup lactose-free 2% milk
- 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 2 cups spinach
- Fill a saucepan with water, salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta, turn to medium heat, and cook until pasta is al dente. Remove from heat and drain.
- While pasta is cooking, coat the bottom of a large skillet in olive oil. Turn burner to medium-high heat.
- Cut the chicken tenders into small, 3/4 inch pieces and place in the skillet. Sprinkle with garlic salt (or regular salt if you don't have garlic salt) and black pepper, and mix in. Cook chicken about 10 minutes, or until cooked through, stirring occasionally so that it doesn't burn.
- While chicken is cooking, pour spaghetti sauce into a saucepan and warm over low heat. Add lactose-free 2% milk (I used Fairlife) and stir in. Sprinkle in crushed red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and a little salt and black pepper. Note: Make sure to taste when you're adding crushed red pepper flakes, especially if you're sensitive to spice. Add less if you want it less spicy, and add more if you want to turn up the heat.
- When the chicken is finished cooking, turn the burner to low and pour the sauce into the skillet with the chicken.
- Add spinach to the skillet and stir until just wilting, about two minutes.
- Add pasta to the skillet and combine with sauce, chicken, and spinach.
- Get comfy and eat up!