In The Kitchen with Chef Dan

Mad Greens - Chef Dan's finished plate

Weeknight Kale and Italian Sausage Pasta. Photo courtesy Mad Greens.

Getting kids into the kitchen is one of the easiest and most fun ways to get them excited about  cooking and eating better. That’s why Chef Dan Long, MAD Greens Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Inventor, has come up with some easy-to-prep and prepare recipes that are great for busy families who may not always have a ton of time to make a healthful meal.

The dish below is designed to be easy – incorporating a pre-made sauce base that saves time during the cooking process. The sauce can be made in advance and portioned out to be used in various recipes throughout the week.

“In addition to being easy to prepare, another goal with this dish was to incorporate vegetables in a fun and tasty way to help get kids excited about what they’re eating,” says Long. “The recipe can be used as a starting point for both kids and adults to play around with. Feel free to change up the ingredients to match the taste preferences of everyone in the family.”

 Weeknight Kale and Italian Sausage Pasta 

This pasta dish combines fun-shaped noodles (seriously, who doesn’t smile when they scoop up a spoonful of farfalle noodles?), a hearty dose of Tuscan Kale and a delicious homemade pasta sauce and makes any weeknight meal just a little more awesome. Enjoy!


Mad Greens - Chef Dan cooking Kale

Chef Dan prepares the kale. Photo courtesy Mad Greens.

1/2 lb. Pasta – farfalle or another interesting shape

1/3 lb. Mild Italian sausage – you can substitute spicy sausage

1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as black or lacinato kale) – cut into ½ inch strips. Discard the stems

1 ½ c. Dan’s homemade pasta sauce (recipe below) or whatever pre-made pasta sauce you have on hand

1 c. Reserved pasta cooking water

Parmesan – to taste

3-4 leaves Basil – cut into very fine slivers


  • Start cooking pasta according to directions on package.
  • While pasta is cooking, break apart sausage and cook in a large saute pan. Once sausage is nicely browned and cooked through, add kale. Cook until kale starts to wilt and then add about ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid.
  • Add tomato sauce, allow to come to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer.
  • When pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of the water and then drain the pasta. Add the pasta and reserved water to the sausage and kale. Mix everything together until pasta is well coated. There should not be much (if any) loose sauce in the pan.

Top with freshly grated Parmesan and basil. Serves 4.

Mad Greens - Chef Dan prepping pasta

Chef Dan adds shredded Parmesan to the dish for a finishing touch. Photo courtesy Mad Greens.

Chef Dan’s Zesty Homemade Tomato Sauce

This flavorful tomato sauce can be used as the staple ingredient in several recipes. It is a base that can be made in advance, frozen and subsequently used for several different dishes over time.


4 Cans “San Marzano” style whole peeled tomatoes – drain off the juice

2 Onions – medium dice

4 Cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 tsp. Salt

1.2 tsp. Fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. Dried oregano

4-5 Sprigs fresh thyme

1 TBS. Balsamic vinegar

1 TBS. Honey or agave – adjusted to taste


  • Over medium heat cook onions until they start turning translucent.
  • Add garlic, let cook an additional 1 min. Add tomatoes.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Let cook for 2 hours over very low heat the sauce should be barely bubbling. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce from burning.

After the sauce is cooked you can use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth or you can leave it as is. This is entirely a personal preference. Use within 3-4 days or freeze.


About Chef Dan

Chef Dan Long is the Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Innovator at MAD Greens. Long and business partner Marley Hodgson founded Colorado-based Mad Greens – Eat Better in 2004. They were intent on addressing the lack of fresh, fast and healthy fare available to the average American consumer.




A Grown-Ups Brunch…with Kids By Edan Goode

Recently, we had a date night dinner at Second Home Kitchen + Bar in Cherry Creek, inside the JW Marriott Hotel. We were really impressed. But we were even more impressed when we found out that they have a brunch where kids eat free and are entertained so the grownups can really enjoy their meal. Brilliant! Read on to find out all about it.

A leisurely Sunday Brunch can be such a wonderful thing. Taking your time eating, lingering over a mimosa…so relaxing. Unless your

Kids having their own, fun brunch at Second Home's Pajama Brunch.

Kids having their own, fun brunch at Second Home’s Pajama Brunch.

kids are in tow. Then it can be something not quite so wonderful or relaxing. Second Home Kitchen + Bar in Cherry Creek has our backs, parents. They have a Pajama Brunch on Sundays from 7am – 2pm. Kids ages 8 and under eat free from the Brunch Menu which includes a pancake and waffle bar with toppings like sprinkles, candy, cereal and fresh fruit. In a special kids lounge, kids do arts and crafts such as Fruit Loop necklaces, play games and watch age-appropriate movies. The lounge is surrounded with sleeping bags and pillows with a grown-up overseeing the activities. Even the wait staff wears their PJ’s during this brunch.

While the kids are occupied, parents can partake of the grown-ups menu that includes Crab Cake Benedict, Chicken-Fried Steak, Bread Pudding French Toast, Steel Cut Oatmeal, bottomless mimosas and a Do-It-Yourself-Bloody-Mary-Bar.
Reservations are recommended and valet parking is free at Second Home. For reservations, call 303-253-3000 or visit Second Home Kitchen + Bar is located at 150 Clayton Lane in Cherry Creek.
Sweet potato "Couch Potatoes" (l) served with White Cheddar Sour Cream & Chive dip and russet "Ranch Potatoes" served with French Onion Dip are served at brunch as well as at dinner.

Sweet potato “Couch Potatoes” (l) served with White Cheddar Sour Cream & Chive dip and russet “Ranch Potatoes” (r) served with French Onion Dip are served at brunch as well as at dinner.

Come! E.A.T. with us! 

Twitter: @CoParentEATblog



Burgers, Fries and Kids By Edan Goode

A hamburger and fries are basic and essential to American cuisine. Think about it – they are easy to prepare at home, can be purchased and consumed in ones’ car on the run and can also be ordered in a nice, sit-down restaurant. They are one-size-fits-all good! Of those three ways to enjoy a burger, I like going out to a restaurant best. I recently discovered a great place for a burger, fries and much more that also had a great kids’ menu that was more than your basic meal for the young ones.

For adults, you can create your ideal burger starting with what type of patty you want including angus beef, turkey, lamb, salmon,

Burgers for grown-ups but russet and sweet potato fries for everyone - so delicious!

Burgers for grown-ups but russet and sweet potato fries for everyone – so delicious!

bison and veggie. Then add the kind of toppings you want from cheeses, greens, sauces and even what type of bun you want. Oh, the infinite power of getting just what you want!

The russet fries are great but the sweet potato fries are over the moon delicious! Get a small order of each so you can go back and forth deciding which you like better until they are all gone and the decision is out of your hands.

There are other, non-burger choices at TAG Burger Bar too if, for some odd reason, you don’t want one. There’s also a Sunday Brunch that looks awesome.

Even though we parents deserve dinners away from the kids, this is one of those places where you can feel like you’re having an evening out, but it’s also okay (and encouraged) to bring the kids too. TAG Burger Bar’s children’s menus are more extensive than the usual with nary a dinosaur-shaped chicken nugget in sight. Instead, for lunch or dinner, kids can choose from items like two angus sliders with fries, a pizza bagel, a PB&J, a quarter of a rotisserie chicken and a side of fruit. During the weekend brunch, it’s all of those choices plus scrambled eggs and bacon, french toast and pancakes. Meals range from $3-5!

Top off the meal with a milkshake and add in 50-cent scoops of old-fashioned candy like Whoppers, Reeces and M&M’s. Kids will have a heyday deciding what they want from the old-fashioned candy jars located behind the bar. Yum!

Shake it up. The Mint Chocolate is made from real mint at TAG Burger Bar. Imagine mixing in scoops of candy into these! Heaven.

Tag Burger Bar is located at 1222 Madison St. This place is popular. I’d recommend making reservations.

Come, E.A.T. with us!

Twitter: @CoParentEATblog



Good eats with international flavor By Edan Goode

Pete’s Gyros Place

2819 E. Colfax Ave. (at Detroit)/303-321-9658

The other day, as my children and I gave our mouths a final napkin-wiping, it occurred to me that I have never written a review of one of our favorite, standby family restaurants, Pete’s Gyros Place. How had so many meals and years of reviewing  gone by without me ever thinking I should let other families know about this little treasure? Was I subconsciously trying to keep it a secret? That’s pointless. Pete’s Gyros is an institution, as are the six other restaurants run by the friendly and white-haired Pete Contos.  Three of Pete’s restaurants are within steps of each other (including this one) and because of that (and I’m sure because of Pete’s long-standing presence in the restaurant industry in Denver), that stretch of East Colfax is called “Greektown”.  Shame on me for trying to keep the secret because this Pete’s is too good to keep to oneself.

Pete’s is a great place to take the kids for many reasons: 1. The food is consistently good and reasonably-priced 2. There’s a good kids’ menu  3. The same waitresses have been there forever and call you “honey” or “darling” whether this is your first time in the place or your 50th 4. The clientele is diverse 5. The mood is low-key with an old, greasy-spoon feel but not greasy-spoon cuisine. 6. It’s a great way to introduce kids to mediterranean food.

Having grown up on Greek food, I couldn’t wait to introduce my children to the wonders of things like Gyros meat (seasoned lamb and beef mysteriously pressed and placed on a large spindle which the cook then shaves off with a sickle of a device), souvlaki (marinated, cubed pork), Greek salad with feta cheese, Greek olives or warm pita bread.

When we first started going to Pete’s some 15 years ago, when the kids were little, I could get them to nibble at small amounts of meat or chicken as long as it was cloaked in warm pita bread followed by some perfectly crispy french fries. Nary an olive, bite of salad or anything at all adventurous would pass their lips. Now, however, their palates have matured enough that they will order the Gryos Sandwich and slather cool yogurt-based Tsatsiki sauce all over it and dig in. They’ll slurp lemony Avoglomono soup or chow down on the tangy Greek salad (get the dressing on the side or it will come drowning the greens).

On our recent visit, after having asked me for weeks to return to Pete’s, my daughter took the first bite  and exclaimed  “it’s a dream come true!”. Wow, when have you ever heard a kid say that…about a sandwich? Never!  The Greek specialties range from $7.50 for a Gyros Sandwich (with fries) to $15.95 for the Big Greek Combo (with a variety of traditional Greek dishes).

Before the kids became enraptured by the Greek food, they focused on breakfast standards like pancakes, omelets and platters, some of which get the Greek touch by adding Gyros or Souvlaki meat to them ($3.75 – $8.95). We’ve also tried the burger, Rueben and grilled cheese ($4.50 – $9.50) sandwiches which are more what you’d expect from a diner type of place.  Because of the American offerings, there is something to please everyone.

The Children’s Menu, for ages 10 and under includes Micro (“small” in Greek) versions of the Gyros, Souvlaki and grilled cheese sandwiches with fries or a breakfast combo for $3.95 each. A drink and cookie are included. You’ll have to remind the wait staff to bring the cookie because they routinely forget for some reason.

Go to Pete’s on the early side or for a late lunch or you’ll be left standing in the cramped entry area right next to where the waitresses butter toast and pick up orders.

Note: I have no tempting photo to entice you with in this blog because we ate everything before we thought to photograph it. Sorry. Let this Greek flag suffice until you go to Pete’s yourself.