Spanakopita and Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I love spanakopita; simple as that. Sauteed spinach and soft warm feta is the perfect combination of flavors, but when you pack it between sheets and sheets of buttery phyllo, it’s not the healthiest way to consume all of those greens on a regular basis. Here’s a fresher, lighter way to enjoy those flavors in what can be a hearty side dish or great vegetarian meal.

Recipe: Quinoa and Spanakopita Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach (or a 1 1/2 bags)
  • medium onion, chopped
  • 4 scallions, diced
  • 3 TB fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup feta (set aside 2 TB)
  • nutmeg
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • toasted pine nuts, rough chopped (optional)

Roast portobellos:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Gently wipe off the mushroom caps with a damp towel; carefully remove stem and scrape out the gills with a spoon. Place the caps on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through, just to soften before stuffing.

spinach_sautee Spanakopita filling:
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Saute the onions and scallions until tender. Add the spinach and dill and cook until the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle (or grate) a little nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool, rough chop and stir in feta.

Prepare quinoa:
Cook quinoa per package directions, using chicken stock instead of water to add more flavor. It should be fairly fluffy when cooked, not heavy, dense and clumped together

Assemble and bake:
With mushroom caps gill side up on the sheet pan, spoon in 1/4 cup of quinoa into each one. Then top with a heaping spoon of spanakopita filling, even divided among the four caps. Sprinkle with the reserved feta, drizzle with a little olive oil and put back in the oven for 15 minutes until warmed all the way through. Put under broiler if your oven doesn’t brown the top to your liking during the baking process. Sprinkle with pine nuts for a little crunch. Drizzle with a little more balsamic if you wish. NOTE: Before assembling, taste the filling and the quinoa to make sure each layer is sufficiently seasoned for your taste; adjust as needed. Enjoy!spanakopita_mushroom

Perfect Protein Parfait

For those of you who know a little french, please forgive me for the redundancy of the title. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe assembling your own yogurt treat rather than buying those pre-sweetened, fruit-on-the-bottom, boring single-serve cups. I know they are convenient and I certainly grab them on occasion, but if you have the time – and definitely on a leisurely weekend morning – give this a try. It’s also a perfect afternoon snack if you need a little boost of energy from the protein (over 30 grams to be exact!)

proteinparfait1The base of this recipe is plain greek yogurt  – make sure it’s the thick, greek variety, otherwise you’re missing out on the maximum amount of protein. I suppose you could use vanilla, but I’m a purist when it comes to this parfait. It’s also a super versatile dish, so make it yours or give everyone in your family the option to build their own by changing up the fruit. It’s kind of like picking out their flavor of yogurt off the shelf – only better.

  proteinparfait2RECIPE: Protein Parfait

  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup fruit (or fruits) of choice; in bite-size pieces
  • pure maple syrup (or raw honey)
  • granola (homemade, all natural, or gluten-free)
  • sliced almonds

ASSEMBLY:
Layer half of the yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, half the fruit, a liberal sprinkle of granola and almonds. Repeat. Or you can throw it all in a bowl together if you’re eating it at your desk, which is how mine is most often consumed. Today, I had an extremely ripe peach and some local blueberries, so it was extra delicious. Enjoy!

proteinparfait3

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Everyone is always looking for something to snack on, including me. Preferably something that has a serving size of more than eight bites. Popcorn (when you cook it yourself in a cast iron skillet with olive oil) is a good option, but how many times can you eat that in a row? For me, not that many. So I thought about hummus, but then I always use a snack to dip in the hummus, which kind of defeats the purpose.

But I’m stuck on the idea of chick peas. They have tons of fiber, protein, antioxidants, can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar – plus I love their versatility. (Sorry paleo friends; I’m a legume fanatic.) When roasted in the oven, chick peas turn into perfect little crispy bites and can handle whatever spice or flavor you’re in the mood for.

chickpeasdryingRECIPE: Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • olive oil
  • whatever dried spices you like (I used curry, tumeric and paprika)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Drain garbanzo beans and spread out on a paper towel; pat completely dry and transfer to a sheet pan. Remove the skins that have escaped their bean or they can look like remnants of cicadas molting, if you don’t. Drizzle with olive oil; just enough to coat (approximately 1 TBSP). Sprinkle chickpeasinpanliberally with your favorite spices; and lightly salt and pepper. You can taste the intensity of the spices and saltiness at this stage, although the texture will completely changed when baked. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Keep a close eye toward the end because as soon as they start to brown, it goes quickly. You can taste along the way and cook for a few minutes more or less, depending your oven. NOTE: Some people prefer dry-roasting the beans and then tossing them in the olive oil and spices at the end. This is also delicious, but they make your fingers a little messier this way, which isn’t the best option if you’re snacking while working.

chickpeasroastedFLAVOR COMBINATIONS:
I used curry, tumeric and paprika in this post because I was in the mood for Indian flavors. But so many flavor combinations work really well, depending on your mood. Onion, garlic and oregano. Smoked paprika. Red chile and garlic. Or toss in some fresh chopped rosemary with garlic and black pepper. You name it – anything goes. But just because this is a savory snack for me, you can change it up easily and create a sweet snack. Try a little honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. Or maple syrup and ginger. This post is about a method, not a recipe – make it your own and enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbed Breadcrumb Topping

tomatoesI wait all year long for farm fresh tomatoes. Living in Lancaster County, I’m a stone’s throw from Washington Boro and its world-famous jetstar and heirloom varieties. But how many caprese salads can a person eat in one summer? My boyfriend’s answer would be “all of them.” I’d like to agree with him, but I wanted to create something different that has less cheese. Mission accomplished. Luscious thick slices of room-temperature tomatoes, crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs, and freshly chopped herbs…yes please!

udisFor this salad, I prefer using Udi’s gluten-free bread to make the breadcrumbs for the topping. No matter what you choose, use fresh bread – it’s just better. Here’s what you need and how to put this recipe together:

RECIPE: Herbed Breadcrumb Topping

  • 2 slices of bread (pulsed in a food processor until crumbs form)
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 heaping TBSP chopped basil
  • 1 heaping TBSP chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish
  • balsamic glaze* for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Breadcrumbsbreadcrumbs
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and saute shallots until they become translucent. Add garlic to pan, followed by breadcrumbs. Toss until breadcrumbs appear evenly coated in olive oil. If they appear too dry, drizzle a little extra. Stir over medium heat for 6-7 minutes so they brown slowly and become crispy. Remove from heat and stir in chopped herbs. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

ASSEMBLY: Salad
Slice tomatoes and arrange on plate. Sprinkle liberally with breadcrumb mixture. Top with a couple shavings of freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, drizzle with balsamic glaze and finish with a couple turns of freshly cracked black pepper. Enjoy!plated

*NOTE: Balsamic glaze can be found in the vinegar aisle of the grocery store. You can reduce balsamic at home if you wish, but personally I’m not a fan of what that process does to my nose or my house.

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Fresh Blueberry Compote

Nonfat greek yogurt is a WOW food, in my opinion. There aren’t many ways you can get 24 grams of protein in one cup of anything, especially without any fat involved. It can be used for sweet and savory dishes, or just eaten plain in place of sour cream. There are literally thousands of things you can do with greek yogurt, but none may be quite as good as this dessert. Usually cheesecake is a super rich, dense and highly addictive dessert that can be close to 700 calories and 30 grams of fat per slice. This recipe is approximately a third of that, is loaded with protein and uses no butter whatsoever.

RECIPE: Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Fresh Blueberry Compote

CRUST RECIPE:
Put 10 graham crackers in a food processor and pulse until the crackers have turned into crumbs. Slowly drizzle 5 TBSP melted coconut oil into the crumbs, followed by 1 TBSP water. Press into the bottom of a greased or non-stick spring form pan (or regular pie dish if that’s what you have). You can also make with gluten free graham crackers, if you prefer. No need to pre-bake; this crust will be nice and crisp.

FILLING RECIPE:
2 cups of nonfat greek yogurt
1 block softened light or greek cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup of raw sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar or coconut sugar (your choice)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 TBSP corn starch or arrowroot

INSTRUCTIONS:
Put all filling ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. It might need to stir the mixture a couple times with a spoon to get perfectly smooth, depending on the power of your blender. I’ve found if you put the eggs in the bottom, it works better. Pour mixture into the pan on top of the crust and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. NOTE: Put the springform on top of a sheet pan to bake, just in case. The center will still look slightly jiggly right in the middle when you pull it out of the oven.  It will firm up as it cools. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with a couple spoonfuls of compote. Makes 8 slices. Enjoy!

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RECIPE: Fresh Blueberry Compote
1  1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 TBSP honey or maple syrup
1/4 tsp lemon zest
small pinch of salt

Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan at a low simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, breaking up blueberries slightly toward the end. Taste the compote and adjust sweetness according to your taste and the state of the blueberries. Cool completely before drizzling over the cheesecake.

Sorry about the photo. We had friends over for dinner tonight and it was so yummy that we had scarfed down nearly the entire cheesecake before I  remembered to take a picture. Luckily one of us was a very slow eater, so I took a quick shot of her last two bites.

photo

Lasagna With Roasted Beets & Herb Béchamel

I absolutely love beets. I don’t care that they stain my fingers for days or I run the risk of ruining my concrete countertops every time I roast and peel them with reckless abandon. Especially for this lasagna. It’s rich, yet healthy; vegetarian, yet filling. Ooey, gooey goodness with garden-fresh ingredients. This can be done gluten-free, if you wish. I usually use rice lasagna noodles and double the béchemel (made from oat flour) – you definitely don’t need twice as much, but I like a little more than the recipe calls for (plus it’s easier to multiply by two than it is 1.5). NOTE: my alterations and comments are below in italics.

beet-lasagna

RECIPE: Lasagna with Roasted Beets and Herb Béchemel

6 medium-size red beets (roast, cool and peel ahead of time)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons minced shallot or onion

3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (I use oat flour for added fiber and to eliminate wheat)

3 cups milk (I use goat or unsweetened almond)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, tarragon and chives (definitely don’t leave out the tarragon!)

1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (or rice lasagna noodles)

(1 cup) freshly grated Parmesan (do NOT use the green can!!)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the greens away from the beets, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or lidded ovenproof casserole. Add 1/4 inch water to the dish. Cover tightly. Place in the oven and roast 40 to 45 minutes, until the beets are easily penetrated with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish. Cut away the ends and slip off the skins. Slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the béchamel. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot or onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, but not browned. It should have the texture of wet sand. Whisk in the milk all at once and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick and has lost its raw flour taste. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Strain while hot into a large measuring cup or a medium bowl and stir in the chopped herbs and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a rectangular baking dish. Spread a spoonful of béchamel over the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spoon a thin layer of the béchamel over the noodles. Top with a layer of beets and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with béchamel and Parmesan. Make sure the noodles are well coated with béchamel so they will be sure to soften during baking.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 45minutes, until the noodles are tender and the mixture is bubbling. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes until the top begins to brown. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings.

Advance preparation: You can assemble this up to a day ahead and refrigerate, or freeze for a month. The lasagna can be baked several hours ahead and reheated in a medium oven.

Nutritional information per serving: 291 calories; 11 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 17 milligrams cholesterol; 35 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 307 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 14 grams protein.

** This recipe is from Martha Rose Shulman, contributor for the NY Times; photography by Andrew Scrivani.

Frozen Pineapple Slushy

I just made a batch of these for a Saturday night treat.photo 1

Take one can of unsweetened pineapple and add it to the blender. Fill up the blender with ice and whiz the heck out of it until the ice is so fine that it’s the consistency of a slushy you’d get at a convenience store on a hot day. You won’t believe how incredibly delicious it is – and it doesn’t have any preservatives or weird colors that have numbers assigned to them.

This recipe happened by accident one day when I opened a can of pineapple for something and then changed my mind. I’m sure you can use fresh pineapple too, but you’ll need to add a little water and agave nectar to the the appropriate sweetness and consistency. You can also add fruits to change the color and flavor. Strawberries are a good addition. A handful of fresh mint in the blender will give you a more grown-up version and your slushy will have pretty little green flecks all throughout.

Also a great base for a nice adult cocktail, if you know what I mean.pineapple_slushy

One 20oz can + all the ice = three 12-oz glasses, or two pints.

Enjoy…but be careful of the brain freeze!