Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Comforts of Home + {Penne with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Cream}

Penne with Asparagus and Mushrooms ::

We were away from home visiting family in Michigan for almost a week leading up to Memorial Day. I always forget how exhausting it can be to parent on location. Maybe it's just the inflexible, hormonal pregnant lady talking, but it's hard. We have wonderful families who love us and do everything they can to help out and make sure we're happy. And we always have a great time! But by the end of a longer trip, I am just aching to sleep in my own bed, walk out onto my own street, and settle back into my own routines.

Anne on the boat, Memorial Day 2015

A basic and foundational part of the way I live out my vocation is the ability (and responsibility!) to feed my family three delicious, nutritious meals a day. Away from my natural habitat, or otherwise deprived of this basic task, I sometimes feel like a castaway.


When I have to forage in a foreign fridge for my sustenance and my family's, it's amazing how quickly I realize that my idea of "staples" is not the same as anyone else's. Please don't misunderstand me: I don't mean to judge other people's choices. I would never expect someone else to have a fridge stocked just like mine would be. People prioritize differently, have different preferences and needs, and buy their food accordingly. But anyone knows that opening someone else's fridge can feel like walking on a strange planet. We have the industrial food revolution to thank for this dizzying variety of possible food choices, and sometimes I wonder if we would be better off without quite so many. But I digress.

Here are some of our family's basic everyday necessities:

Half and half (for my coffee)
Whole milk
Plain, full-fat yogurt
Honey and/or maple syrup
Olive oil

The fresh fruits and vegetables change from month to month as the seasons change, but we almost always have those things on hand on any given day, and we use them up quickly. What things would you add? What does your list look like?

Spring salad ::

I'm so glad that the season of deciding what to eat based on what's at the market is back. It is infinitely more fun for me to cook this way, not to mention much more fun to eat. Here's an easy dish I made for friends a couple of weeks ago, based on what I could get at the market that weekend.

Penne with Asparagus and Mushrooms ::

Penne with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Cream

1 pound penne
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1.5-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 package chicken sausages, split in half and sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
zest of one lemon

Cook the penne in boiling, well-salted water. About a minute before the pasta is done, toss in the chopped asparagus. Drain and set aside, saving a bit of the starchy pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning.

In a wide, shallow saucepan or skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and taking on an attractive brown color, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the sausages and cook about 5-6 minutes, until nicely browned on the sides.

Add the wine and scrape up all the delicious cooked-on goodies from the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced slightly, 3-4 minutes. Add the cream and cheese, and stir to combine well. Stir in the hot pasta and asparagus, adding a splash of pasta water if the sauce seems too thick. Cook for a minute or two, tossing well to allow the sauce to thoroughly coat the pasta. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest.

Serve with a simple green salad and crusty bread.


  1. I completely understand about foreign lands in others' fridges! My boys have a dairy allergy so the only dairy item I have is coffee creamer and that's because I do coconut milk sometimes too. I made a baked chicken the other day with mushrooms (love mushrooms) and it was delicious! Now I want it again! It was simply sauteed mushrooms with garlic and broth add boneless chicken breasts after searing both sides and bake for 15 minutes and then take a cup of the mushrooms to put in a blender to make it more creamy. Sooo yum! Yours looks amazing too! I miss cooking with cream and cheese!

  2. yummmmm that looks so good! Except now, of course, I'm hungry. :p