Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spinach Pie

Here's another entry for the "tasty but ugly" file.  There are so many posts that fit that category on this site, I should probably consider it as a new title for the blog!

I can't even show you what this Spinach Pie looked like on a plate because it was such a mess!  But as I sit here enjoying leftovers for lunch, I can't get over how yummy it is so I need to record the simple and healthy recipe.

Over a year ago, Frank and I were staying with his parents in St. Louis for his brother's wedding.  I was perusing a coffee table photo book about the history of St. Louis, which I find to be a culturally-diverse and fun city with some really great food traditions.  When I got to the section in the book about "The Hill" (the neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants), there was this recipe for Spinach Pie.  It looked so healthy and simple, I wrote the recipe down in the Notes app on my phone.  I've glanced at it occasionally ever since.

Last night, with Frank digging in the garden and me lounging on the patio swing, I decided it was time to try this recipe.  It's crammed with three boxes of frozen spinach, so it's super iron-packed.  And of course the Italian version of the recipe calls for fresh ricotta (pronounced by my father-in-law as "ree-GOAT-ah"), but I had only cottage cheese in my fridge (do not tell the aforementioned father-in-law this!) and it worked just fine. 

This pie is a cross between a quiche, soufflé, and casserole, made with simple and basic ingredients in one bowl.  Hard to beat, especially for busy working adults and/or parents.  As I was eating this ugly food last night, the constant thought that kept flitting through my mind (other than "yum!") was, "this would be a great way to get a toddler to eat spinach!" 

Spinach Pie
Serves 6

1 large yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1.25 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 cup red sauce (this is the Italian way of saying pasta/spaghetti/marinara sauce).
3 boxes frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1.5 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
6 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Saute onion in olive oil.  Add to a large bowl with all the other ingredients.  Mix well.  Pour into greased baking dish.  Bake 75 minutes.

Serve with extra red sauce and grated cheese.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mexican-Stuffed Peppers

It appears I have somewhat of a thing for "stuffed" recipes, as fully 67% of my last three posts feature something stuffed inside something else.  Is it because I like to use vegetables in new and interesting ways? Or because serving some stuffed vessel is a convenient and beautiful way to present a meal? Or perhaps I just feel stuffed myself with a 14-week old alien mutating in my belly?  The answer is all of the above.

I've made stuffed peppers twice this past winter, Italian-style with marinara sauce, but I can't for the life of me find the recipe I used! [Update:  my friend Ann is the one who originally gave me the recipe and it's this one.  She also recommends this one for a rice-free version!] Tonight I threw these peppers together with a Tex-Mex flair because longtime readers are well aware of my everlasting affection for spicy south of the border food.

I was originally going to just stuff these peppers with rice, beans, and salsa, but found a ton of stuff in my fridge that needed to be used such as a rice/jalapeño/pea side dish, a package of ground turkey, the dregs of a jar of roasted salsa, and a smidge of leftover enchilada sauce.  This is pretty simple to whip up yourself using what you have on hand or buying some simple ingredients like taco seasoning or enchilada sauce.

Mexican-Stuffed Peppers
Makes 4 large servings (I only made 2 servings and I have lots of leftover filling)

4 bell peppers
1 package ground turkey
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup enchilada sauce or tomato sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350.

Cut peppers lengthwise and remove guts.

In large skillet over medium high heat, brown turkey with onion, jalapeño, and seasonings.  Add beans, rice, salsa, and sauce and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Fill peppers to overflowing, cover, and bake 30 minutes.  Remove cover, add cheese, and bake another 10-15 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Serve with Greek yogurt, avocado, lime juice, and/or your other favorite Mexican accompaniments.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

The second I saw this shepherd's pie on The Kitchn website, I knew I was going to make it.  My carnivorous husband declared it "meaty!" even though it's vegan.  I thought it was the perfect healthy but comforting January dinner.  Very flavorful and satisfying!  Will definitely make again.

I served it with that awesome Winter White Salad (which I've mentioned a hundred times on this blog!!  Make it!!), but made less white by adding parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds.

I highly recommend baking and pureeing your sweet potatoes in advance, just to simplify your dinner preparation if you're making this on a weeknight.  Once that's done, it's a simple boil and sauté operation before throwing it in the oven for a brief stint. 

Too bad it photographs so poorly!  Don't judge this book by its cover please!

Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie, from The Kitchn
Serves 6

3 large sweet potatoes, baked and pureed
1 cup brown lentils
3/4 cup dry steel cut oats
bay leaves (3 or 4)
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages (8 oz each) mushrooms (I used one button, one crimini), sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp smoked paprika
handful chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a pot, boil 5 cups of water with your lentils, oats, bay leaves, and salt.

In a separate skillet, sauté mushrooms, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil until softened.  Season with salt and pepper.

Drain lentils/oats and combine with sautéed vegetable mixture.  Add stock, wine, tomato paste, tamari, paprika, and parsley.  Simmer for 5 minutes to marry all flavors.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Pour mixture into casserole dish and spread sweet potatoes on top.  Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lasagna Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

It's just me, comin' at ya from a new kitchen and with a new last name after a brief 2-year break!

Life is very, very good here at Casa Verde and Lean (sorry, slipped into Italian, now that I am one).   People constantly ask me , "How's married life?" and there is no truer answer than "GREAT."  There are, of course, down sides: I live in the (ugh!!!) suburbs, there are no convenient co-ops, I miss my beautiful vintage oven, and it's not as easy to do my lake walks with my former neighbor and still BFF Marney.  However, I wouldn't trade my husband for a thousand co-ops and vintage ovens and Marney and I still ralk our walks so I really am handling the transition with ease.

We cook often...sometimes competing over who gets the kitchen, sometimes collaborating, sometimes treating the other to a special meal.  I have mostly been going back to old favorites on the blog like this tuna salad, avocado boats, squash and wild rice soup, and lots of frittatas, homemade pizzas, and risottos.

This stuffed squash recipe was one I tried a few months ago, and I wanted to resurrect this blog right away to record it! I didn't, but made the meal again and again, each time thinking longingly of the blog and how perfectly it fits all my criteria for a G&L recipe.  It cooks in no time, it has only a few ingredients and none are processed, and it satisfies a wide variety of special diets: diabetics, gluten-freers, and is easily adaptable to be vegetarian (just sub more mushrooms for the turkey).  Feel free to substitute spinach for kale, or skip it all together.  Add whatever you like in your lasagna!

I'm not sure when or if I'll post any more here, but it's nice to have my online recipe resource alive again!  Merry Christmas!

Lasagna-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash, from The Kitchn
Makes 4 very generous portions with leftover filling

2 spaghetti squash, halved and seeds scooped out
1 pkg ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 package button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 cloves garlic, diced fine
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1 28-oz can crushed or chopped tomatoes or spaghetti sauce
1 cup cottage cheese, ricotta, small log goat cheese, or 4 oz cream cheese, optional but good!
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and dried oregano to taste
Shredded mozzarella and Parmesan
Fresh basil, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast oiled, salted, peppered squash halves cut side down on pan until tender, about 45-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown turkey and onion in skillet.  Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes.  Add garlic and kale and wilt.  Add tomatoes.  Season everything to taste after each ingredient addition with salt, pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and dried oregano.  Simmer together on low for 10 minutes or so.  Add cottage, ricotta, goat, or cream cheese (which is not necessary but makes this so delicious!).

Scoop out some of the spaghetti squash flesh to make a bigger well (add flesh to rest of your filling mix). Scoop filling into wells, top with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan and put under broiler to melt cheese.  Serve garnished with fresh basil.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Ten of Green and Lean '12

"And so happy Christmas, I hope you had fun.  
Another year over, and a new one just begun."  
- John Lennon

I started this blog four years ago.  At that time, I had recently turned 30 and decided I needed to overhaul my lifestyle habits to include more physical activity and healthy balanced nutritious eating.  I wasn’t willing to go the "diet" rice cake and cayenne water route, however, so I spent many hours in my kitchen cleaning, chopping, preparing, and cooking a lot of vegetables.  

Since I needed a place to record all the great healthy food I was cooking and eating, I started this Green and Lean blog.  It kept me accountable, it kept me entertained, and it kept me busy.  I have loved every minute of this blog.

Green and Lean has MORE than served its intended purpose in my life.  Throughout these four years, I’ve maintained a significant weight loss, I’ve discovered new foods, I’ve become more confident in the kitchen, and I’ve really enjoyed my readers and commenters.

And, as often happens in life, things grow and change.  I have grown and changed.  I no longer want to spend one or two nights a week taking photographs (I was terrible at that part anyways) and trying to think of something interesting to say about me or my food.  I am finding myself more often re-making a good recipe from the archive, rather than trying to dream up something new.  And, I'm finding a majority of my time now needs to be spent outside of the kitchen with people I care about.

So, it's time to say goodbye to this space I've called my little slice of the Internet for the last four years.  

Please know I will continue to live as much as possible according to the food philosophy I preach here.  I will continue to eat as much homemade food as I can: mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, some fish, seafood, and poultry, excellent quality cheese, lots and lots of red, white, pink, and sparkling wines, and occasional homemade, all-natural sweet indulgences.  It makes sense for me, and seems to be working.  My health has never been better.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, talking to me or listening to me talk about food, or sharing this blog with others.  I would have NEVER kept it up for this long without your awesome feedback.  I am so blessed to be surrounded by such supportive people, both in person and virtually. 

May your 2013 and beyond be filled with amazing meals, shared with wonderful people.  And, if you see me around, PLEASE tell me all about it!

Here are my favorite recipes of 2012:

10.  Strawberry Icebox Cake – A dead simple and beautiful summer dessert.  I know lots of you have made it, because you’ve told me about it!  I’m glad you like it.

9.  Dragon Bowl – One giant bowl of nutrition, so similar to Hippie Chow.  Use the Carrot Ginger dressing to switch it up if you get sick of the Tahini dressing!

8.  Okonomiyaki – Just because I love saying it and I had a lot of fun writing that post.  Sometimes I think I’m very hilarious.  This was one of those times.

7.  Almond Milk – So simple!  So cheap!  So devoid of fillers, additives, chemicals, sweeteners, and preservatives! It’s just plain silly to buy it in a carton when you can make it at home.

6.  Rosettes and Fattigmand – I only ate two tiny pieces of fattigmand on Christmas Eve, but we were all happy to have it on the sweets tray.  It’s our heritage!

5.  Honey Mustard Roasted Chicken – Everyone needs a “go-to” chicken recipe.  This is mine.  Perfect for entertaining and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

4.  Grilled Zucchini Enchiladas – Mexican food is probably what I crave most.  This is a slightly healthier take on it.  Plus it uses all that zucchini we have in the summer!

3.  Yoatmeal – Nearly every weekday morning since this post I’ve eaten combined oats and yogurt for my breakfast.  I like it with any combination of peanut butter, fruit, coconut, nuts, or whatever I can scrounge from the fridge or pantry.  So filling, and a great start to every day.

2.  Vegetable Stock – I use it all the time, and if I'm running low in the freezer, I panic.  I use it for soups, risotto, cooking beans or grains, making gravy, etc.  It’s FREE and takes only an hour.  Plus you get second life out of your vegetable scraps.  It’s the ultimate in recycling!

1.  Colin’s Garlic Citrus Shrimp – I can’t not mention him, I miss him terribly.  He and Johanna have been a huge inspiration to me and motivation for getting and staying healthy.  Knowing these two amazing individuals has cured me from ever again taking my health or the health of my loved ones for granted.  If there is any silver lining in the awful diagnoses these two have faced, it's that they have both helped me change my life for the better, and for that I will be always grateful.

THREE YEARS AGO:  Top Ten of Green and Lean '09

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mushroom Stroganoff

Merry Christmas boys and girls!  Yesterday as I drove home from work, I heard Mary Lucia on The Current (an amazing Mpls public radio station 89.3 FM, available to live stream online!) putting all stressed out people ON NOTICE.

Looch said, in a nutshell, if you are all stressed and cranky and grinchy this Christmas because you have lots of gifts to buy, food to prepare, places to go, and things to do, then you need to SUCK IT UP and GET OVER YOURSELF.  Even if your family is crazy (which, frankly, they all are), you need to enjoy every single second with them.  Because you never know how many Christmases you will have with them.

Well, Looch, you are so right on.  It hit especially close to home for me, as I ache in sadness for one of my very closest and dearest friends who has dealt with unimaginable grief and pain this year.  It's been an awful but important lesson for me to learn: do not take the health of your loved ones for granted.

Through the sadness, the only way I can think of to honor Colin and Johanna is to hug my family and friends as much as possible, say "I love you" frequently to those I love, spend time with them, and take care of my own health with nutritious food and activity.  It seems like it's not enough, but indeed it is all I have to offer.

So this is the simple meal I made for a couple of friends this week as we met to wish each other a Merry Christmas.  It's a super quick 30-minute meal, which leaves plenty of time for sharing a great bottle of red wine and catching up on each others' lives.  Plus it's quite healthy, with lots and lots of mushrooms providing important B Vitamins and minerals.  Throw some oiled and salted broccoli in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes and you've got a complete meal.

Mushroom Stroganoff
Serves 4

2 Tbsp each olive oil and butter
4 packages mushrooms (I used half crimini, half white button), sliced thick
1 large yellow or white onion, diced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, leaves pulled from stems and chopped (dried would probably work too)
2 Tbsp flour
up to 2 cups vegetable stock/broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
Egg noodles
Flat leaf parsley

Start boiling a big pot of water for the noodles.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute mushrooms, onion, and thyme in the olive oil until they soften and begin to brown (about 8-10 minutes).  They'll release a bunch of liquid, and then that liquid will start to cook down.

Drop your egg noodles into the boiling salted water and cook according to package instructions.

When the liquid has mostly cooked out of the mushrooms, add the butter and flour and stir together for at least 1 full minute.  Slowly add the vegetable stock/broth and let cook 2-3 minutes to thicken.  I used about 1.5 cups to get the right saucy gravy consistency.  You can make it thicker or thinner by using more or less stock.

Season mushroom mixture with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.  Stir in sour cream and remove from heat. Serve over egg noodles and garnish with fresh parsley.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Homemade Kahlua
TWO YEARS AGO:  Spicy Beans and Tomatoes on Polenta
THREE YEARS AGO:  Creamed Mushroom and Artichoke Pasta

Friday, December 7, 2012

Baked Brie with Root Beer Cranberry Sauce

Once again (sooner than I imagined possible), it's that time of year where I could either be:

A)  Super cranky and fighting crowds at a mall trying to find a gift that can be considered thoughtful while cursing the mind shattering sounds of the Salvation Army bell ringers,


B)  Blissfully spending evenings sipping holiday cocktails with my favorite people, decorating Christmas trees, and making seasons bright because I've purchased all my gifts online before Thanksgiving.

For the second year in a row, I've done option B.  And. It. Has. Been. Fantastic.  I'm totally the irritatingly cheerful one wishing everyone a Merry Christmas more than two full weeks before the big day.  I have all my thoughtful presents wrapped, and some are even homemade (what else do you do when your boyfriend wants a Willie Nelson tree topper?  You make it, of course)!

When the holiday spirit is all up in my business like this, I enjoy every day and night so much and I don't want December to end!  Tonight Marney and I went for our first snowy walk of the season.  It was beautiful and still outside, with tiny flakes slowly blanketing the path and our heads while also illuminating the beautiful Minneapolis lakes and parks.

Earlier this week, my amazing friend Ann (i.e. the Hostess with the Mostess) threw a lovely holiday dinner party and I brought this cheesy, nutty, sweet appetizer.  The color is so perfectly suited to holiday parties, it's a beautiful addition to your menu and table.  If you don't like brie, the sauce is just as good (if not better) as a condiment on a cheese tray, complementing Swiss, havarti, and bleu cheese exceptionally well.

The cranberry sauce recipe makes at least a quart and you won't need it all for your baked brie appetizer.  I recommend you use leftover sauce in the following ways:

  1. Shake 2 Tbsp sauce with 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 4 Tbsp olive oil in a jar to make a dressing for a field green salad with feta and toasted nuts.
  2. Mix 1 Tbsp sauce with 1 Tbsp mayonnaise and spread on a turkey or apple/cheddar sandwich.
  3. Mix a spoonful or two into your morning yogurt or oatmeal (or yoatmeal)
  4. Drizzle a spoonful over ice cream.
  5. Make a batch of piping hot popovers and eat slathered in sauce.
  6. Substitute for jelly in a PB&J sandwich, or anywhere else you would use jelly (like in baking).
I got the recipe for this sauce from my co-worker Lori who's husband was an editor on a country cookbook several years ago (so sorry I can't find the name of the book) and this recipe is in the book.  

Baked Brie with Root Beer Cranberry Sauce
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer, with lots of leftover cranberry sauce

1 can root beer
1 bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 wheel brie cheese
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

Crackers, apple slices, and/or pear slices for serving.

Optional:  pulse cranberries in a food processor.  I did this because I like a more chutney-like consistency in my sauce.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring root beer and cranberries to a boil.  Whisk in sugars and cornstarch, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Chill to set.

To serve appetizer, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut top rind off brie.  Scoop as much cranberry sauce and toasted pecans you can fit on top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is soft and gooey.  Serve with crackers, or apple/pear slices.

THREE YEARS AGO:  Green and Lean Loaf