Spicy Sausage Pasta

At the Cwach farm, when the weather starts getting cooler and the days shorter, we know it’s time to turn to tried-and-true, one-pot dishes that are hearty enough to feed a small crew of workers yet easy enough to clean up in just a few minutes.

One of my husband’s favorite dishes to come in to after a long day of haying or fixing fence is this spicy sausage pasta recipe. It’s so simple and fun to make, he’s often willing to make it himself (and will sometimes clean the pot, too!) We have adjusted the recipe to suit our tastes by adding more garlic and cheese, and we’ve found it’s a wonderfully adaptable recipe that can be changed based on preference or available ingredients. It’s easy to swap for your favorite pasta, cheese or meat, and leave out or add any veggies you desire. Craving a spicier fix? Add a few generous squirts of Sriracha or a pinch of crushed red pepper, try a hotter variety of Ro-Tel or replace Monterey Jack with a spicier cheese. Looking to add more greens to your meal? Throw in a generous handful or two of fresh spinach after your pasta simmers and let it wilt down— you won’t taste it and you’ll get a fast dose of vitamins and antioxidants. Hate onions? Leave them out- we’ll never tell!

While using pre-shredded cheese will cut a minute or two from your total prep time, I always suggest finding a great cheese grater (I love my Microplane coarse cheese grater) and grating it yourself. It takes just an extra minute or two and a bit of elbow grease, but what a difference it makes in the taste and texture of your dish. Freshly-grated cheese melts easier, tastes better, has fewer additives and is typically cheaper. Once you invest in a quality grater, you’ll find it’s so easy, you’ll never want to go back to pre-shredded cheese.

This is the type of meal we love to fix after a long, hard day that provides plenty of leftovers and requires little fuss. It’s a perfect back-to-school, weeknight meal for parents or the college student on a budget. Add a simple green salad or a slice of crusty bread for a complete meal and enjoy!

Spicy Sausage Pasta

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. smoked sausage
1.5 c. diced onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz.) can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles, mild
½ c. heavy cream
8 oz. penne pasta
½ tsp. salt and pepper, each
2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 c. thinly-sliced green onions

In an oven-safe, 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 pound smoked sausage and 1.5 cup diced onion and cook until lightly browned (about four minutes). Add 5 cloves minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add 2 cups chicken broth, ½ cup heavy cream, 1 can Ro-Tel, 8 ounces penne, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until pasta is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with green onions. Broil until cheese is hot and bubbly.

Source: Adapted slightly from http://www.kevinandamanda.com/recipes/dinner/spicy-sausage-pasta.html


The New Farm Wife Life

If you would have asked me 10 years ago where I would be today, farming in South Dakota would probably have been my last guess.

It’s a funny feeling, growing up as a town kid and marrying a sixth-generation farmer. When you spend time with other women in the farming community who grew up accustomed to crops and livestock, it suddenly becomes very clear just how much you don’t know. During last year’s Ag Gala in Yankton, I listened with admiration to stories of other women who had been in the trenches for years. Capable of pulling calves, fixing equipment and combining corn with the best of them, these smart, savvy farm wives were nothing short of awe-inspiring to a town kid like me.

More than once, I’ve called my parents in a moment of panic over my lack of experience, half-joking that had I known I would marry a farmer, I would have taken the time to learn how to cut hay or feed cows instead of taking those advanced literature classes. Despite spending nearly every summer on both of my grandparents’ farms, my farm education sadly didn’t extend far beyond mowing lawns and petting cats (though I was darn good at both).

But each day I spend on the farm, I start to feel more and more comfortable in those oh-so-unfashionable rubber muck boots. I embrace my “town kid victories” every chance I get, small though they might seem. I remember the first time my husband Dan asked me to check cows for him on the four-wheeler when he was gone. Secretly, part of me was a little pleased when a couple of them needed to be rounded up – though I don’t think I’m supposed to admit to that. When I got them back in all by myself, you can bet I celebrated with a few dance moves, which no doubt looked a bit strange to passersby.

At times, however, navigating the road of country living can be a bit… bumpy. I am still teased about the last time Dan asked me to help him move cows across the road after work. Apparently when you are asked to block the road, you’re not supposed to move when the cows come toward you – even when you swear one of them was giving you the stink eye. Let’s just say that chasing Black Angus cattle in the dark does not lend itself well to marital bliss.

I may not have grown up on a farm, but it didn’t take long for farm life to grow on me.

Luckily for me, my teacher is patient as I learn the ropes of farm life. Every day, Dan receives a steady stream of questions that he answers without judgment. What crop is in that field over there? How do you know if a cow wants to charge you? How can you tell if that’s a bull calf? (In retrospect, I admit that last one should have been obvious.)

And although at times I envy the years of experience behind these strong, seasoned farm women, there’s also something extraordinarily special about experiencing farm life with fresh eyes that I wouldn’t give up for anything. When I purchased my first flock of Buff Orpington chicks, I fussed over them like a mother hen and delightedly reported to anyone who would listen on their daily progress. The first time I saw a chicken lay an egg, I was so proud you would have thought I laid it myself (and I’ve got the Facebook statuses to prove it). Every day is a new adventure- whether it’s waking up to a handful of escape artists grazing in your front yard, or seeing a newborn calf stand up just minutes after it’s born. I may not have grown up on a farm, but it didn’t take long for farm life to grow on me.

I’ve also learned some much bigger life lessons in my short time on the farm. In our four years of marriage, we’ve experienced record cold, heat, drought and rain. I’ve sat by the window and watched with Dan as hail damaged the fields and ruined months of work. I never understood people who obsessed about the weather, but suddenly, my favorite app on my phone is The Weather Channel. If life on the farm has taught me anything, it’s that we are not in control and must make the best of every hand we are dealt.

But through it all, Dan and I still wake up every day loving this grand adventure called farming and wouldn’t give it up for anything. And as those more experienced farm wives have reliably informed me, if I can survive moving a herd of stubborn cows with my husband, I can make it through anything.