Foodie Friday: Veggie Lasagna

I love lasagna! This is one of my favorite meals!  It seems many people tend to shy away from making this at home since they view it as labor intensive.  Others may see it as a "dietary sin".  But I say "have your lasagna and eat it, too"!  Let's start with the labor intensive issue.  I prepare mine ahead of time, usually the night before or the morning before I will cook it.  This allows me to skip the boiling of the noodles.  I also use chopped, frozen spinach.  I just thaw and add it to the recipe.  No cleaning, chopping or draining needed.  This helps save time and helps retain some of the vitamins that would have been lost if the spinach would have been drained.  This leads us into the next issue: the dietary sin.  By filling my my lasagna with vegetables and not just meat and cheese, it lowers the saturated fat and increases the vitamins and minerals.  I also choose part-skim mozzarella and part-skim ricotta to help lower the fat and calorie content.  But in the end, there is still plenty of cheese in this dish.  Moderation is always the key.  All foods can fit, it's the portion sizes and frequency that can come back to "haunt" us.  Served with some salad and fresh fruit, this can be part of a great meal!  So, let's move on to the how-to part of this post.

Here are the ingredients you need to gather: parmesean cheese, lasagna noodles, frozen spinach, spaghetti sauce (I had some that I had made and stored in my freezer, but you can also use your favorite jar of pre-made spaghetti sauce), a can of diced tomatoes, an egg, and parsley.  (And due to my excitement to get this made, I forgot to put the mozzarella in this picture.)

In a large bowl, defrost the spinach, but do not drain.  Since the noodles are not going to be pre-cooked, the liquid is used during the baking process to cook the noodles. Next, stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses.  Add the beaten egg (tip: beat the egg in the empty ricotta container to help save on clean-up).

Stir in the undrained can of tomatoes, parsley and Parmesan cheese; mix well.

Spray your baking dish with cooking spray.  I was fortunate enough to try out one of the pieces of the Lodge Bakeware with this recipe.  If you haven't heard, you can earn e-stickers with qualifying purchases to collect the pieces.  To learn more about how you can obtain these items you can click here.

 Begin layering your lasagna.  Spread about 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom of your pan; place 3 noodles across the bottom of the dish, then spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture.

 After the cheese mixture, spread 1/3 of remaining sauce, then 1/3 of the mozzarella; continue to layer noodles, cheese mix, sauce and mozzarella two more times.  Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator until ready to cook.  The great thing about this bakeware is that it is deep.  That means when I remove the foil, all the cheese has not stuck to the it!

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.  

Veggie Lasagna
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and undrained
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 - 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2-1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 - 24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce or 3 cups of homemade sauce
8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 box lasagna noodles

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together spinach, Parmesan, ricotta, tomatoes, parsley and egg.
2.  Spray your rectangular dish (4 quart) with cooking spray. 
3.  Spread about 1/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the pan, place 3 uncooked noodles side by side across the bottom of the pan.  Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the mozzarella. 
4.  Repeat Step 3 with next two layers.
5.   Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.  When ready to bake, place in oven and begin to heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45-50 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.  Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.



September is National Rice Month: Top 10 Rice Tips

September is National Rice month and we wanted to have a little fun. There are so many varieties of rice, it can be overwhelming. So we've provided a quick guide to all the varieties of rice and a top ten list of rice facts you may not have known.

1. Keep a lid on it - To make a perfect rice on the stove-top, keep the lid on the pot during cooking to prevent steam from escaping. Don't stir until done.

2. Cook once, eat all week - Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for 3-5 days, or it can be frozen for up to 6 months.

3. Reheat with some liquid - To reheat rice, add 2 tablespoons of liquid for each cup of cooked rice. Cover and heat on stovetop (5 minutes) or microwave (for 1 minute) and fluff with fork.

4. Know the generous shelf life - Enriched white, parboiled or pre-cooked rice will keep almost indefinitely on the pantry shelf. Brown rice contains natural oil in the bran layer, so it will stay fresh for about 6 months. Refrigerate or freeze to extend the shelf life for up to one year.

5. Rice is a "hundred calorie pack" - At only 100 calories per serving, rice is a smart choice for the millions of Americans who want to lose a few pounds or maintain a healthy weight. A study shows that adults who eat rice have smaller waists and are less likely to be overweight.

6. Gluten-free goodness - Rice is naturally gluten free. Rice is also one of the least allergenic foods out there, making it a great choice for people with a variety of food sensitivities.

7. Rice is the Perfect 10 - at only about $0.10 per serving, rice fits every budget. Not to mention, it's sodium-free and cholesterol-free, making it a perfect part of a healthy diet.

8. Brown rice help you take it down a notch - Whole grains, such as brown rice, help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Rice eaters may also lower their risk of high blood pressure by 34%.

9. Rice packs a serious nutritional punch - Rice provides more than 15 necessary vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron and zinc; just one cup of enriched white rice contains nearly 25% of your daily folic acid requirement.

10. Rice is grown in six U.S. States - Texas (yay!), Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and California.


Foodie Friday: Omelet Bites and Waffle Dippers

Ever been in a hurry for breakfast?  Many of us rarely have time on weekday mornings to whip up breakfast for our families.  Omelet muffins are items that you can cook ahead of time and freeze.  When you are ready to eat them, you can just warm them in the microwave for a few minutes!  Add some fruit and you have breakfast. 
Omelet Bites

1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
Sausage, bacon, or ham (pre-cooked and chopped….which will save you a lot of time)
8 whole eggs
¼ cup Fat Free milk
Finely shredded cheese
Other suggestions of healthy veggies to sneak in: spinach, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, squash, etc.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease the muffin tins really well (sides and bottoms).
Place a small amount of thawed Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns in the bottom of each tin. Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes.
Chop the rest of your ingredients while waiting on the potatoes. After removed the potatoes from the oven, lower the temperature to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle your toppings over each cup. Whip eggs together with milk. Pour egg mixture in each tin. Sprinkle a pinch of cheddar cheese on top of each cup. Bake for 20 minutes or until the egg is cooked.
To remove from pan, use a butter knife around the edge of each cup to loosen it from the sides and then pop them out. You can also freeze these and heat in the microwave for a really quick breakfast on the go!

And here's another idea to help get your mornings off to a great start:

 Another fast breakfast idea is to make waffle and fruit dippers.  You can use this peanut butter yogurt dip as the dip for the whole grain waffles and fruit. 

Click here to watch our Registered Dietitian, Jennifer Gorman, prepare both of these items!