Sausage and Bean Ragout

I made this “soup” the other night and was very impressed, especially by how my children gobbled it up even with the “green” stuff (spinach) in it. Sam totally embraces new foods and he really likes knowing when a food is good for him. Luke on the other hand, is a tougher nut to crack. If it is not chocolate, he is immediately suspicious and will try to throw his food on the floor for our dogs.

I have taken on this challenge because I am very much like my youngest son, give or take 34 years. I know that I need to eat better, with more vegetables and less meat. I just get stuck on the vegetables sometimes. I have my staples: green beans, peas, asparagus, beans, spinach, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, corn, okra, winter squashes, zucchini and sweet potatoes but then I get stuck. My palette strictly boycotts the more bitter/earthy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cauiliflower, rutabaga, kale, chard, turnips …you get my point. What is so sad about that is the fact that these are nutritional powerhouses and my 36 year old brain knows I should eat them but my 2 year old palette wants to throw them on the floor for the dogs too.

I blame this on a couple of things. One being how my mom used to cook vegetables when I was growing up: she boiled the heck out of them which left an extremely undesirable texture and effectively removed all the nutritional value anyway so I suffered for nothing! 🙂

I also blame my lack of acceptance for these veggies on a former steady diet of processed convenience foods that are loaded with super sweet high-fructose corn syrup, and all sorts of flavor enhancers, texture enhancers, shelf stabilizers, etc. I am 36 years old and have never known food “the way it used to be,” like in my parents and grandparents generation (and beyond). Heck, I did not know until a few weeks ago that cattle are not supposed to eat corn!

My point is, I can tell myself all day long what I “should” be eating but that does not change the fact that if I do not like something, I am not going to keep eating it much beyond the week I have “decided” that I am going to make a “big change.” For me, true change is slow and I have to take baby steps in order to keep from getting overwhelmed and quitting altogether. One bite is better than none. Taste buds can and do change, just not overnight.

I have also come to realize that if you start your children eating healthy when they are young, before their taste buds become biased, you will give them a true gift that will last a lifetime. Think about it. What are some really unusual foods that other cultures relish and would send most Americans running for the hills (myself included)? Foods like Balut, Soup No. 5, and Maguey Worms (sensitive tummies beware before clicking on the links. Soup No. 5 gets a strong PG-13 rating… and men, you may want to avoid clicking on Soup No.5 all together if you catch my drift. 😉 ) OYE! These are foods that the people of those cultures love as much as some people love McDonald’s in American culture. They grew up eating that way so that is what they like (can you tell I used to love watching the shows No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and Bizzare Foods with Andrew Zimmerman). If our children are raised on a lot of convenience foods, chances are they will have a devil of a time undoing that later. Trust me, I could be a case study of this in more ways than one. 🙂

Anyhoo, enough rambling for tonight.

If your kids are green veggie adverse, trust me on this recipe. The garlic, herbs, and Romano/Parmesan cheese in this soup recipe by Campbell’s Kitchen wipe out any hint of spinach flavor. Once I coaxed the first bite down Luke (albeit with the bribe of dark chocolate for dessert), he ate 2 bowls! Sam ate leftovers all weekend. Next time, I am going to step it up and try either escarole, chard or kale to see if they are as successful as spinach! 🙂

Sausage and Bean Ragoût

2 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Lb. Ground Beef (I used Ground Buffalo)

1 Lb. Hot Italian Pork Sausage, casings removed (I used Hot Turkey Italian Sausage)

1 large Onion, chopped

4 cloves Garlic, minced

3 1/2 cups Swanson Chicken Broth* (I used Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock, * click here for a list of Campbell’s current GF list of products)

1/4 cup Fresh Basil, chopped (I used 2 Tbs. Dried Basil)

2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans Diced Tomatoes Seasoned with Garlic, Oregano and Basil

1 (15-oz.) can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup uncooked Elbow Macaroni (I used 1 cup uncooked Tinkayada Brown Rice Elbows with Rice Bran, if you are new to the GF diet, there just isn’t a better GF pasta in my opinion. The taste and texture is spot on with gluten pasta)

1 (6-oz.) bag Baby Spinach Leaves, washed (I used Organic Baby Spinach from Costco)

1/3 cup grated Romano Cheese (I used Parmesan Cheese since I had it on hand)

  • Heat the oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the beef, sausage and onion and cook until the meats are well browned, stirring frequently to break up the meat.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, pour off any excess fat.
  • Stir the broth, basil, tomatoes and beans into the saucepot. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the macaroni and cook until the macaroni is tender, but still firm, stirring occasionally (I cooked the Tinkyada pasta for 16 minutes).
  • Add the spinach and cook just until the spinach wilts, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat, and stir in the cheese.

I picked this tip up from Rachael Ray: use a potato masher to break up the ground meat.

After breaking up the meat, add the onion…

Once the meat is cooked, drain off any excess fat...

Add the garlic...

Add the broth, basil, tomatoes and beans…

I really need to take a photography class! 🙂

Once the pasta is tender...

Add the spinach...

Once the spinach has wilted (this takes under a minute), add the Romano or Parmesan cheese...

Delicious! Perfect for a cold winter's day.

Here are some new ingredients, if you are curious:

BHA and BHT. Is it just me or are you feeling a bit overwhelmed too?