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Winter Greens Lasagna: great way to use up collard greens!

Winter Greens Lasagna: great way to use up collard greens!

One of the easiest ways to use of leftovers is to make a “lasagna.” I use the quotes because the term lasagna is used loosely here. Since coming back from  a recent trip to Florence, Italy I now know what authentic lasagna should taste like…but that is a topic for another post. I am back in the US and using the term “lasagna” to mean basically any baked flat noodle dish with sauce, filling, and cheese all baked together to result in a delicious casserole type meal.

After my New Year’s collard fix, I had leftover greens that were clean, chopped and needed to be used. In my search for how to use up the greens, I came across several lasagna recipes using spinach or swiss chard. So I thought, why not collards? I decided to take a risk and give it a try. It turned out to be a surprisingly tasty lasagna. The collards have a bit more bite than spinach, resulting in a lasagna that has a nice balance of flavor and texture. I added some chopped onion, red bell pepper, and kalmata olives to give the lasagna filling a Mediterranean twist. The end result was a delicious, healthy recipe that is a great way to use up leftover winter greens. The recipe below calls for collard greens in this version, but kale, swiss chard, etc. could be substituted. The key is to blanch the greens  for a few minutes to tenderize the them prior to baking in the lasagna. Oh yes, this is another vegetarian meal option that is hearty and flavorful enough for meat lovers to enjoy too!

Winter Collard Green Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles (no boil are ok, but I prefer regular)

1 chopped onion

1 chopped red bell pepper

garlic (optional)

1/2 cup chopped olives

4 cups fresh collard greens, washed and torn into pieces

one large egg, slightly beaten

salt and pepper

15 oz. whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded low moisture mozzarella (feel free to use more, but I am watching my waistline…this is just enough for the perfect cheesy bite with each serving)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the ready made canned/jarred stuff..but fresh grated)

tomato sauce (I used a homemade version that has garlic, basil, oregano, and dried chili flakes as seasonings that I always have around, but you can just use 1 jar of your favorite store bought brand if you don’t have homemade sauce on hand)

To Make:

If using regular lasagna noodles, place noodles in pan with hot water. Let the noodles sit and soften while you are preparing the filing.

Boiled collard greens in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Remove from water and drain well. Depending on the size of the torn collards, chop into a rough chop and place in a large mixing bowl. Sauté the onions, red bell pepper in olive oil until just softened. If you like extra garlic, add chopped garlic to the onions and peppers and sauté for another minute (the tomato sauce I used had plenty of garlic so I skipped this step). Place sautéed veggies in mixing bowl with collards, add olives and stir to combine. To this mixture add ricotta and egg; salt and pepper to taste–mix together so that all ingredients are distributed evenly for the filling.

Lasagna filling: collards, red pepper, onion, olives, ricotta

Lasagna filling: collards, red pepper, onion, olives, ricotta

Assemble the lasagna: in a 9×13 baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan to cover. Top with a layer of 3 noodles, veggie filling, portion of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce. Repeat layers ending with a layer of noodles, sauce then cheese as the top layers. Add parmesan cheese as extra cheesy topping.

Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly around the edges, heated through. You can check the warmth of the lasagna by sticking a knife in the center–checking the warmth of the knife tip to see if the lasagna is fully heated. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a bit then serve and enjoy!

Ready to slice for a perfect bite of winter greens lasagna

Ready to slice for a perfect bite of winter greens lasagna

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It’s a New Years celebration…Black-eyed peas and Collard Greens!

Fresh collards...a New Year's must!

Fresh collards…a New Year’s must!

On a recent trip to Florence, Italy I came across one of my new favorite feel-good dishes–Ribollita. Ribollita is a basic, peasant-style thick soup that is perfect for the cold winter months. Traditional Ribollita is a vegetable and bread based soup that is served reboiled the next day topped with a dash of fresh olive oil. The original recipe calls for Tuscan kale and cannellini beans; however, my own traditions call for eating collard greens and black-eyed peas  on New Years day so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to adapt one of my favorite soups for ringing in 2013! Plus, my husband has yet to acquire a taste for collard greens and black-eyed peas, so each year I look for creative new ways to sneak them into our New Years day meal 🙂  This one is a winner! Plus, if you are making a New Year’s resolution to be “healthy” this is a hearty vegetarian, vegan (depending on the bread you use) dish that will please any carnivore or omnivore out there.

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Tuscan tradition with a twist

Note: The soup is traditionally made the day before serving then reboiled (hence the name Ribollita) the next day. If you are stretched for time go ahead and make it all in one day–it will still taste good.

Good Luck Ribollita

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

2 russet potatoes peeled and diced

1 15 oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch (about 7 cups) fresh collard greens, washed, rinsed, and shredded/torn into bite sized pieces

6 whole tomatoes, peeled (can use whole tomatoes from a can, just the tomato, not the juice)

crusty bread

good olive oil

salt & pepper

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups...carrots, celery, onion

Mirepoix: a classic combo for many great soups…carrots, celery, onion

Ribollita in the making...needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Ribollita in the making…needs to boil then simmer for 2 hours

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil...just top with the ribollita then bake

Crusty bread on top of a bit of delicious olive oil…just top with the ribollita then bake

Ready to bake in the oven

Ready to bake in the oven

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot head olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook until soft–approximately 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, potatoes, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, you can crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the greens and beans. Pour 6-7 cups of water in the soup and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. About 1 1/2 hours into the cooking, use an immersion blender to roughly blend the soup to create a bit of thickness. Don’t over-blend–you want to the soup to still be rustic and chunky with a variety of textures from the vegetables and beans. Add 1 cup of torn stale crusty bread and continue to cook with the lid off to thicken the soup if needed. At this point the soup is pretty much done. You can continue the recipe at this point, but it won’t be real “ribollita/reboiled.”

To finish the ribollita, the next day bring the soup to room temperature. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using oven-proof soup crock or any other oven proof bowl add a little olive oil to the bowls to coat the bottom. Place a slice or two of crusty bread in the bottom of the bowl, then top with the soup. Bake in the oven until bubbly and heated through. To serve, add high quality olive oil to each bowl as a topping to the soup and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper.  I must admit…this soup is well worth the wait and I think it will be my newly established New Year’s lucky soup. Happy 2013!!

Lucy Ribollita

Lucky Ribollita

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Bizarre Veggies–Roasted!

Roasted Romanesco and Yellow Cauliflower

At the farmers market a few weeks ago as I was picking up my last CSA box, I encountered a bizarre veggie that I could not resist buying and figuring out what to do with–Romanesco Broccoli. Romanesco broccoli is an Italian broccoli that has a similar texture as that of cauliflower. You can use it for pastas, risotto, or as I have…just a delicious roasted side dish.  The flavor is mild, the texture is crunchy and all-together it is a wonderful combination of broccoli and cauliflower that just happens to look like it grew on Mars.

Romanesco Broccoli

So for the recipe–it is a safe, simple way to experiment with new veggies–roasting. Roasting is so simple and a great way to cook any hearty veggie. The roasting time depends on how “crispy brown” you like your veggies. I opt to have differing sizes of the veggies cut so that some pieces get really crunchy and brown while others are lighter and crisp tender.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil, enough to coat veggies
  • Romanesco broccoli
  • Yellow cauliflower
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes

To make:

Preheat oven to 400-425. In a large bowl, mix cut Romanesco broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Place veggies in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes–or until brown and crisped to your liking. You can give the veggies a stir half way through for more even browning. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Delicious, Strange, Veggies: roasted yellow cauliflower & romanesco broccoli

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CSA box Veggie Chili–this is prior to the last few minutes of cooking…almost ready. A one-pot dinner filled with many healthy, delicious, perfect bites!

In trying to use up the bounty of fresh veggies in creative ways…I’ve come across plenty of perfect bites (and a handful of not-so-perfect bites).

This recipe is so easy and a great way to use up the veggies from your weekly CSA box. The “Farmer’s Market Chili” is a veggie-packed chili is full of flavor and can be adapted to be a great vegetarian main meal. This particular recipe is just shy of being vegetarian. I used beef broth but substitute vegetable broth and your meal is vegetarian…don’t top with cheese or sour cream and you have yourself a vegan chili! The portions can be increased exponentially to freeze for the upcoming chilly fall and winter days ahead. As far as the specific veggies—improvise based on what you have on hand. The key is to incorporate a few different textures in the chili. Another added bonus: this is a one pot meal! Have fun and enjoy 🙂

Simple Summer CSA Chili

3 medium zucchini, roughly chopped

2-3 medium/large yellow summer squash

1 bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 medium/large carrot, roughly chopped

1 small American eggplant (or…one small Japanese eggplant and one small white eggplant)

2 jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped (remove seeds to reduce spice level–use them to kick up the heat)

1 shallot, chopped

1 large clove garlic, chopped

2 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)

6 oz can tomato paste

28 oz can whole tomato (tear or roughly chop tomato, save all juice)

3 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin (fresh ground is best)

15 oz. can of beans (any type will do, I actually used chickpeas)

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp canola oil (substitute 1 Tbsp bacon fat + 2 Tbsp canola oil if desired)

cheese and sour cream (optional for topping)

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other thick bottom pot, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add green peppers, jalapeno peppers, and diced carrot–saute until softened a bit. Add garlic and shallot, stir and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir just until fragrant. Add eggplant, squash, zucchini, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Stir and saute for approx 1 minute–add 1/4 cup of the broth to de-glaze the bottom of the pan, continue to stir 1 more minute. Add tomatoes with juices, beans, and remainder of the broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for approximately 15 minutes or until the veggies are done to your desired crispness. Add additional broth, wine, or water if chili becomes too thick. I prefer a thicker, chunkier chili but thin to your taste preference. Enjoy!

Optional: Let cool slightly, scoop into a bowl, top with a dollop of sour cream and cheese.

Farmer’s Market Chili

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CSA box–each week a wonderful surprise of fruits and veggies!

This summer my husband and I decided to participate in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. We thought this would be a great way to support local farmers, eat more fresh produce, and possibly trim up our waistlines! Participating in a CSA program is a great alternative for city-dwellers like ourselves to enjoy the fresh bounty of summer fruits and veggies even though we don’t have our own garden.

We decided to participate in Stillman’s Farm, which has been great so far.  If you are interested, you can follow their blog linked my Local Favorites blogroll list. We are about 5 weeks into the deliveries and are happy with the quality and selection of veggies. Lots of greens! It does take some work to clean and prep all of the produce, but the end results of delicious, fresh foods is worth it! I will be posting recipes using these fresh fruits and veggies (hopefully frequently).

This first recipe is a  fast, easy, and delicious way to use up Kale (which has been abundant in the boxes from week to week so far). The chips can me made with any variety of Kale.

Basic Kale Chips

  • Fresh kale–cleaned, stems and center ribs cut and removed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Tear kale into the size “chips” you desire. Toss kale in olive oil to coat. Place kale in a single layer on a baking sheet; top with salt and pepper (or other spices–see note below). Bake in oven for approx 30 min. You can check the crispiness at 20 min. then continue to cook until chips are crisp to your preference. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

The chips are best the same day, but can last one or two more days, stored in an airtight container. The light, airy crispy kale chips will go fast, so you won’t have to worry about storing them too long 🙂

*Note: This is just a basic recipe. Add any spice you like (i.e. cayenne, garlic, cumin, crushed red pepper, etc.) to the chips to change up the flavors.

Kale chips–surprisingly delicious!

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Happy Zucchini Bread Day!

Today is both National Zucchini Bread Day and Administrative Professionals Day. What better way to combine the two “fun holidays” and make mini zucchini breads to take to work with you and share with your fellow co-workers! This recipe is a fun spin on plain zucchini bread. The sweet potato and adds some extra moistness and nutrition to this perfect loaf of not-too sweet quick bread perfect for sharing.

Sweet Potato Zucchini Bread

(slightly modified from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups zucchini (grated*, you can leave the peel on)–one medium/large zucchini
  • 1-2 cups sweet potato (peeled and grated*)–one small/medium sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

To make:

*Note: To grate the zucchini and sweet potatoes, you can either use a box grater (large holes) or use a grater attachment for your food processor

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 4 mini loaf pans (or a regular 9 x 5 loaf pan) with non-stick cooking spray. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in large bowl until well combined using whisk or electric mixer. Stir in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well. Pour or scoop batter to pans. Bake for about 30-45 minutes (if using a full size loaf pan the cooking time will be approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes). Either way use a toothpick or sharp knife to test the center–when the tester comes out clean the loaves are done. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Slide knife around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Feel free to bake this bread a day ahead. Once completely cool, cover in plastic wrap and foil. Keep at room temperature. The mini loaves transport easily for sharing 🙂

Delicious mini Zucchini Bread Loaves to share!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Side dish envy: Balsamic Butternut Squash

As much as I like a perfect bite of roast beef, turkey, or ham, filling my plate with multiple side dishes is my favorite part of a big holiday meal. Side dishes are often unfortunately overlooked during the holidays–a time when meats and desserts really shine. This recipe is so easy and results in a bold, flavorful side dish that will certainly be noticed. Leftovers reheat well or can be used as a tasty base for soup the next day. You can multiply this recipe to feed as many people as needed.

Roasted Balsamic Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

olive oil

salt and pepper

good Balsamic vinegar

To make:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If you buy whole squash, peel the squash with a sharp vegetable peeler then dice into approximately 1 inch cubes. To save some elbow grease you can buy the pre-cut butternut squash in most grocery stores in the produce aisle. I find the pre-cut are a bit dryer than cutting your own, but peeling and cutting the squash takes some effort. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash salt and pepper and olive oil until the squash are coated. Layer the squash onto a baking pan, lined with foil, in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until browned and softened to your likeness (you can check the tenderness with a fork). Turn the squash about halfway through the cooking to get a more even caramelization/browning of the squash. I actually don’t turn them and prefer one crispy side and one softer side 🙂 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with you favorite balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy…have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Perfect Butternut Squash bites!

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