Tag Archives: spinach

Creamy Avocado Pasta

Sometimes I really struggle to stay meatless on Mondays if I’m craving a nice creamy pasta dish for dinner. It doesn’t happen often, but when the hunger for rich food strikes, the avocado is my secret, meatless weapon against dairy-meat-munchies!

The avocado in this creamy pasta recipe works as a binder, creating a rich, smooth dressing with flecks of bitter greens and zesty citrus notes. You’ll notice that there’s no Parmesan cheese in this dish. Most varieties of that cheese are made with animal rennet– not good for Meatless Monday! I use almonds, nutritional yeast, and plenty of salt in my recipe to replace the “oomph” that Parmesan might add.

Creamy Avocado Pasta (serves 2)

1/2 pound vegan pasta
1 medium avocado
1 1/2 cups spinach, arugula, or romaine lettuce
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice, plus extra for seasoning
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup almond
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid, and drain.

Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the avocado and place in a food processor. Add the greens, basil, citrus juice, garlic, salt, pepper, almond, and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth.

Pour the pesto over the pasta in a serving dish. Toss to coat the pasta with sauce, adding a little pasta water as necessary to loosen the sauce. Taste the finished pasta and season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

This pasta is best served on the same day it is prepared, since the avocado will oxidize and turn the sauce an unsightly brown color after a while.

 

Mixed Green Salad with Garlic Honey Vinaigrette

When it comes to holiday entertaining, it doesn’t get any easier than mixed greens and vinaigrette. This base recipe is ultra-simple and pared down to keep the budget low, but you can easily make the dish your own by adding chopped fruits, nuts, raw vegetables, or whatever you have available in your pantry.

Substituting three heaping tablespoons of raspberry preserves or orange marmalade for the honey and garlic in this recipe is a simple way to transform the dressing to a fruity vinaigrette. You can use a flavored vinegar to mix things up.

This recipe yields just over a cup of salad dressing– twice the portion than you need for a dinner party of eight. The extra dressing will keep well in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator. Just be sure to allow the dressing to come to room temperature before serving, since the olive oil will thicken when it is cold.

Mixed Green Salad with Garlic Honey Vinaigrette (serves 8)
Salad:
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, stems removed
1 bunch leaf lettuce, stems removed
1 bunch arugula, tough stems removed
Dressing:
3/4 cup organic olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup local honey
2 garlic cloves, pressed into a paste
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Chop the spinach, lettuce, and arugula into bite sized pieces and place them in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss salad with half of the dressing and serve immediately. Store the remaining dressing for another use.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Image by Norwich Nuts. Licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons.

Stuffed mushrooms are an easy appetizer and a holiday classic. This recipe calls for local mushrooms and Parmesan, fresh spinach, and our kitchen’s signature Garlic Herb Butter. We’re sure you won’t be able to just eat one.

Although this recipe calls for local white mushrooms and spinach, which are the most budget-friendly option now, it will work will equally well with other small mushrooms and winter greens– just choose whatever  is handy.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms (yields about 18 mushrooms)
1 pound white button mushrooms
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon organic olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Garlic Herb butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/2 bunch spinach, including stems, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush dirt off of mushrooms and remove stems from the caps. Mince the stems and set aside for later use. Coat a baking sheet with a teaspoon olive oil. Bake the mushroom caps, stem-side down, until just tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the herb butter and remaining oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushroom stems and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until spinach is just wilted.

Transfer spinach mixture to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Once mushrooms are par-cooked, remove them from the oven and use tongs to turn each mushroom cam stem-side up. Spoon the spinach mixture into mushroom caps, and top each with a pinch of parmesan cheese. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

This dish is part of our Organic Entertaining on a Budget series. A complete menu of recipes is available here.

Meatless Monday: Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna

Vegetable lasagna is one of my favorite cold weather comfort foods, especially when autumn vegetables like zucchini are abundant. It’s a great meatless main dish, too, because it is filling and pairs perfectly with a quick salad. However, it can be difficult to make lasagna on weeknights since the traditional preparation is so time consuming– up to an hour of hands-on time!

This easy vegetable lasagna recipe avoids many of the pitfalls of traditional preparation by utilizing some useful short-cuts to save time.  Instead of parboiling the noodles and assembling the casserole in a baking dish, we’ll layer sauce, cheese, veggies and raw lasagna noodles right in a slow cooker. Since the slow cooker retains more moisture than traditional oven cooking, there is enough liquid in the casserole to completely cook the noodles right in the dish. There’s no need to use special no-boil noodles, either. Plain raw lasagna noodles are just fine.

Another time saver I like to use for this recipe is my food processor. I use the grater attachment to process my raw veggies for the dish in much less time than it would take to grate or dice them by hand. These veggies blend right into the pasta sauce of the lasagna and give the dish a rich texture and flavor, without adding distinguishable chunks of vegetables. If your family likes chunkier veggie lasagna, by all means cook the recipe as directed with chopped veggies an it will turn out great. Either way, the total prep time for this lasagna should take less than half an hour.

Slow Cooker Vegetable Lasagna (serves 8 )
adapted from “Slow Cooker Lasagna” by BettyCrocker.com

15-ounces ricotta cheeese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded vegetables: your choice of onions, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, or greens. One large zucchini and half of a large onion yield about 2 cups.
10 lasagna noodles, about 1/2 of a 1 lb. package
24-ounce jar organic pasta sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, oregano, and garlic powder.

Shred or chop the vegetables of your choice. Break the lasagna noodles into approximately 1/3-noodle sized pieces with your hands, so that they will fit easily into the crock pot.

Use a ladle to scoop about 1 cup of sauce into the slow cooker. Place a single layer of noodles on the sauce. Layer 1 cup of shredded vegetables on top of the noodles, followed by half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Repeat the sauce-noodle-vegetable-cheese layers. Cover this with the remaining noodles. Ladle the remaining sauce over the casserole and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours, until noodles are tender and most of the liquid in the casserole has been absorbed.

Hopping Pig

Summer Peas and Pork Belly

This recipe is a re-creation of a dish I had recently in San Diego. The original used white beans instead of fresh summer peas, but I think the change makes the dish a little brighter and more suited to our hot temperatures. If using white beans, the dish transitions well into fall, as we start to get more of the cold-weather greens in.

I was lucky enough to have some smoked pork belly confit on hand from Kocurek Family Charcuterie, but if you don’t have pork belly or would prefer not to use it, I recommend using a smoked kielbasa. You could just as easily use grilled chicken or perhaps even tofu, but you’ll miss out on that deep flavor.

Hopping Pig

Serves 2

1 cup summer peas
2 shallots, diced finely
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt
Pepper
3 cups spinach, kale, or chard, torn into pieces
1 tablespoon butter
4 slices thick-cut pork belly

In a small saucepan, gently boil the peas for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large, flat saucepan over medium. Add oil and heat through, then add shallots and cook until aromatic.
Drain peas and add to shallots. Stir in broth, wine, and lemon juice, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occassionally and making sure the liquid has not completely evaporated. (If it has, add more broth.) Salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach and re-cover pan.
In the meantime, heat a frying pan to medium and add pork belly. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until fat starts to firm up and get a crisp edge. Remove from heat.
Once spinach has wilted and the liquid is mostly gone, stir in butter until melted.

To serve, pour peas into two bowls and lay two slices of pork belly on each.

Local Box Meal Plan: April 11-15

Are you excited about the mint plant you’re getting this week? It’ll do great planted in a flower bed or garden, but be warned that it can be invasive. A good solution is to plant it in a large pot.

Sugar Snap Peas – Animal Farm
Red Chard – Acadian Family Farm
Baby Summer Squash – Fruitful Farm
Spinach – Tecolote Farm
Heirloom Green Garlic – Green Gate Farms
Mint Plant – My Father’s Farm
Escarole – Tecolote Farm
Mango – G&S Groves
Kale – Texas Natural
Oranges – G&S Groves

Orange-mango chicken – Juice your oranges to make the tasty sauce for this chicken.

Ribollita – This soup is a favorite of mine, not only because it’s good but because it’s versatile. Use your kale and chard here, and toss in diced summer squash to replace the carrots. I’m leaving out the olives, but if you’re an olive lover I’m sure they’ll be great in this recipe.

Sauteed snap peas and green garlic – A simple side dish.

Sausage, escarole, and white bean ragout – Use a mix of escarole and spinach (the spinach balances out the escarole’s somewhat bitter flavor), and use veggie sausage for a vegetarian version.

– Stephanie

Local Box Meal Plan: March 21-25

This week’s box includes a rare batch of dandelion greens. They have a slightly bitter flavor, sort of like chicory, and are quite nutritionally dense. I’m including several ways to prepare them below.

Slicing Tomatoes – Gundermann
Shallots – Acadian Family Farm
Cilantro – Naegelin OR My Father’s Farm
Dandelion Greens – Gundermann
Carrots – Orange Blossom
Kale – Texas Natural
Spinach – Naegelin
Navel Oranges – G&S Grove
Red Radish – West Austin Roots
Avocados – G&S Grove

Sauteed dandelion greens – This is a simple, Italian-style way to prep the greens. If you want more options, this link has several recipes featuring dandelion greens, from the simple to the more exotic (squid and greens, anyone?).

Guacamole – It’s the dip of the gods, I tell you. I usually just eyeball it and mash up some avocado with jalapenos, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onions, garlic, lime juice, salt, and pepper, but I’m linking to a good, basic recipe if you need more guidance. Since we’re getting shallots this week, I’ll use those instead of regular onions.

Carrot-radish salad – This recipe makes a ton, so you’ll have to cut down the recipe appropriately. Also, it calls for a lime vinaigrette, but use the juice from one of your navel oranges instead.

Winter pasta – Use a combo of spinach or kale. This recipe comes together quickly with the help of a food processor. If you don’t have one, just puree everything in the blender.

– Stephanie