Pasta Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

We grill outdoors all year long here, in fact, one of our 'family traditions' is to have something from the grill for New Year's Eve dinner. Outdoor cooking doesn't really get going until spring, though, and when it does, one of the first dishes we bring back for the season is Pasta Alfredo with Grilled Chicken.

It's quick and easy to make and takes advantage of whatever vegetables are on hand. This time of year we make use of the early asparagus that is appearing in stores. This is another of those recipes I never measure, but here are the ingredients and amounts for a small family like mine:

one large chicken breast, cut into strips
cream - approximately 12 ounces
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan
a mixture of vegetables, cut into appropriate sized pieces

While my husband cooks the chicken outdoors, I put on a pan of salted water for the vegetables and pasta, and start making the sauce.

I've tried various methods for making Alfredo Sauce, but this method, which I actually heard on a radio cooking show, produces the best results I've found. Pour the cream into a shallow pan and heat on medium until the cream is cooked down to a thick consistency and yellow color.

While the cream is reducing, add the vegetables to boiling water in stages, starting with those, like carrots, that take the longest to cook. The pasta I use takes four minutes, so I reserve that until the sauce is nearly finished.

After about 20 minutes, the cream is reduced, the vegetables are nearly finished and it's time to pull everything together. Add the pasta to the boiling water, then stir the butter and parmesan into the sauce. Just before the pasta is completely cooked, drain the vegetables and pasta and add them to the sauce to finish cooking.

Spoon into serving dish, top with the grilled chicken and serve with more grated parmesan.

Kale and Sausage Soup

I seem to be one of those people who never gets tired of soup. Now that the weather is getting warmer I know it won't be long before hot soup is off the menu. Until it's just too hot, I'm fitting it in as often as I can. This simple soup is one of my favorites, and is similar to the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.

Kale and Sausage Soup

1 lb good quality bulk Italian Sausage
4-6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken stock
2 large potatoes, cubed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 bunch of Kale

In a large pan or stockpot, saute sausage and bacon for a few minutes, until bacon is cooked and the sausage has lost most of its pinkness. Add the onion and garlic and cook a few minutes more, until onion is translucent and the meats are cooked through.

Add stock and potatoes and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.

Add cream and kale, and heat until warmed through. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and a loaf of crusty homemade bread.