Help in the kitchen-Creamy tomato and spinach pasta

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. It can even be harder to accept help when you know you need it and it’s offered without asking.  Lately that’s been the name of the game around here.  My 14 yr old son has been cooking at least once a week, my daughter (age 21) has been cooking once a week and add in hubby who cooks 3 times or so a week  (yes they menu plan too) and well it’s less time in the one room that use to feel like it was all mine. But I work full-time hours these days and not a nine to five job.

I love my family cooking. There is nothing nicer than having someone cook for you. There is just a level of guilt in it for me. Like I should be doing this. I after all, was the main person to cook meals around here for 25 years.  It’s a change that’s been a little hard on me I have to admit. While I have changed my work hours , thanks to a very understanding boss, so that I can be here in the evenings to help my son with homework, I am still not cooking like I use to. I was laughing with a woman the other day about how I use to bake bread and once made my own pasta from scratch. These days , when I sit down to menu plan, it’s what can I cook that is easy, quick and healthy and or like comfort food. Though I am sure some of the dishes I make are not comfort food to my family the way they are to me.

I thought I’d share a quick tip on menu planning. Especially if you have multiple folks cooking in your home. A great tool to use that is free is Pepperplate. You can use it online to store your favorite recipes, write out menus, use a planner, and even make up a grocery list.  It’s also an app. So you can access it anywhere. Waiting for a kid to get out of school in the parking lot? Menu plan right there using the app.  Easy.  Great thing is you add in meals on the planner and other family members using the same account can see what you is for dinner and or add things to the weekly planner.  So go check out Pepperplate.

Ok so last week my daughter cooked up a wonderful pasta dish she found at I will have to say, if you have been following my blog you know I unusually do diary free. Well over the past few weeks I’ve been slowly adding in diary again to my diet. For me it is not the lactose that bothers me it is the casein. I’ve been learning a few things about this and found out there is some dairy that is actually casein free that I could have been eating this whole time. Oh well.  Anyhow this recipe has cream cheese in it. Use an alternative dairy free cream cheese in place of it if you can’t eat dairy. There are some great ones on the market.

The following recipe is super quick, easy and very tasty. It was a hit in our house and I look forward to my daughter making it again.


Serves 4

      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1 small onion
      • 2 garlic cloves
      • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
      • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
      • fresh ground pepper, to taste
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
      • 2 ounces cream cheese
      • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
      • 1/2 lb penne pasta
      • 9 ounces fresh spinach
    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
    2. Add the pasta and cook until tender (7 to 10 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander.
    3. While waiting for the pasta to cook, dice the onion and mince the garlic.
    4. Cook both in a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-low heat until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes.
    5. Add the diced tomatoes with juices, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to the skillet with the onions and garlic.
    6. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of water to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved into the sauce.
    7. Turn the heat down to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and then add them to the skillet with the tomato sauce.
    8. Use a whisk to stir the sauce until the cream cheese has fully melted in and the sauce is creamy.
    9. Add half of the parmesan to the skillet and whisk until it is melted inches Add the remainder of the parmesan and whisk until melted in again.
    10. Add the fresh spinach and gently stir it into the sauce until it has wilted (3 to 5 minutes). Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated with the creamy tomato sauce.
    11. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.



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