Archive | October, 2015

Pumpkin Lasagna with Kale and Mushrooms

24 Oct

This pumpkin kick I’ve been on is showing no signs of slowing down.

I recently hosted an autumn bake fest with a few friends (mostly jabbering amongst some baking), where we made pumpkin spice cut-out cookies. The dough called for pumpkin purée— an unexpected addition to a fairly standard spiced sugar cookie recipe— which made it soft and easy to roll without sticking to every imaginable surface. It may not have been the pumpkin, but there was something about this dough that made for THE most perfect cookie. Sadly, it’s not healthy enough for More Spinach Please so you will have to visit Glorious Treats for the recipe.

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While I was pretty VERY proud of how well my cookies turned out, my big accomplishment of the weekend was the pumpkin lasagna that I tackled last Sunday night. Lasagna is intimidating. Even the simplest recipe can seem daunting. You have to juggle various ingredients, never sure if you’re estimating accurately when they tell you to put “one third of the mixture” on top of the noodles, only to realize that you ended up using half of the mixture and now you don’t have enough for the last layer. Luckily, taste is rarely affected by these nuances.

Once the idea of pumpkin lasagna popped into my head, I ruthlessly searched the web for the perfect recipe. The ones that sounded healthy didn’t seem quite right based on my prior lasagna-making experiences (improper ratios, not enough egg to bind), and the ones that sounded delicious were loaded with calories. I don’t usually like to mess around with lasagna recipes because if you’re not careful you will end up with a sloppy pile of noodles from too much liquid. But… I took a chance. And it paid off.

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Starting with a Rachael Ray recipe, I swapped in sautéed mushrooms, kale, and onion for the boiled escarole and cut down on the amount of cheese. I wanted to use whole wheat noodles but I couldn’t find a no-cook version (a key ingredient for a cohesive lasagna that will not fall apart on your plate). Oh well. I also managed to make a roux using a small amount of olive oil instead of equal parts butter and flour, although this ended up requiring a bit of extra flour at the end for thickening. The culinary gods were certainly frowning down on me for butchering a classic technique.

The layering process can be a pain when trying to follow written directions, so I created a quick drawing for myself that I could refer to.

LasagnaAssembly

The final product come out of the oven looking like a perfect lasagna should: oozing with cheese and golden brown on top. When I cut into it, I was delighted to find nicely defined layers that did not fall apart on my plate. Success!

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If you never make this lasagna, promise me one thing: you MUST make the garlic béchamel sauce. Throw it on pasta, eat it with a spoon— whatever you wish. It’s simple yet superb. And a good source of calcium.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Kale and Mushrooms
(adapted from Rachael Ray’s Pumpkin Lovers Lasagna)

1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
2 cups (227g) sliced mushrooms
5 cups chopped kale, ribs removed (approximately 5 leaves)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (skim or 1%)
Pinch of nutmeg
1 can (796mL) pure pumpkin purée
3 eggs
2 cups ricotta (ideally 6% M.F. or less)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cup grated partly-skimmed mozzarella cheese
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cover the garlic cloves with water in a small saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and let cool. Squish the garlic pulp from the jackets into a bowl and mash with a fork.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the kale, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale has wilted and all liquid from the mixture has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
  4. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and mashed garlic until no lumps remain and season with salt and pepper to taste, and a little nutmeg. Cook until slightly thickened (the sauce should just coat the back of the spoon evenly without breaking up on the spoon’s surface). If your mixture doesn’t thicken properly, add another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of flour.
  5. Whisk together the pumpkin puree, 2 eggs and some salt and pepper in a medium bowl. DO NOT FORGET THE SALT! I made this mistake and the pumpkin layer was a bit bland.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, 1/4 cup of parmesan, and the remaining egg.
  7. In a large dish, soak the lasagna sheets in water for 5 minutes.
  8. Pour about half the garlic sauce into the bottom of a 9 by 11-inch baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna sheets (4 sheets per layer, breaking them up as needed to fit into the dish, keeping in mind that they will expand) and then half the pumpkin mixture. Make another layer of lasagna sheets and spread with all of the ricotta mixture, followed by the kale and mushroom mixture. Top with another layer of lasagna sheets, the remaining pumpkin and another layer of lasagna sheets. Finish with the remaining garlic sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan.
  9. Bake the lasagna, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Try to tent the foil slightly, as part of my top layer of lasagna was pulled up when the foil was removed. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. Let rest for 15 minutes, then cut and serve. Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 405 kcal, 15 g fat (6 g saturated), 44 g carbohydrate, 6 g fibre, 24 g protein, 465 mg sodium

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf

21 Oct

After a two year hiatus, More Spinach Please is back on the grid! Since my last post, life’s kept me busy with wedding planning, house hunting, moving, and work. It’s been a whirlwind of excitement but I’m ready to lay low for awhile.

This past weekend, I was blessed with minimal plans and the urge to bake. A dangerous combination. And since autumn has me dreaming of pumpkin-everything, my main ingredient was a no-brainer.

Pumpkin is a humble nutritional powerhouse, often neglected outside of the month of October. Low in calories, it’s an excellent source of vitamin A (a half cup serving of purée provides you with over 300% of your recommended daily intake) and a source of fibre, with 4 grams per serving. It adds moisture to baked goods without added fat and lends beautiful colour.

On Friday night, I found myself scouring the web for a quick and easy pumpkin loaf recipe. I was visiting a colleague and her baby the following morning and didn’t want to show up at her new house empty-handed. A simple cranberry pumpkin loaf caught my eye, and with a few small tweaks I was confident I could make a fairly healthy version without compromising taste. I swapped in whole wheat flour for the white stuff, reduced the sugar, and added a bit of extra pumpkin to ensure the loaf was moist enough. The loaf turned out just as I’d hoped: lightly spiced, beautifully coloured, moist, and not-too-sweet. So tasty (and easy!) that I baked another one two days later.

Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf

Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf 2

Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf with Pecans
(adapted from Cooking Light)

2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ginger + 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/8 tsp cloves)
1-1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with oil or cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl; make a well in centre of mixture. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, water, oil, vanilla, and eggs; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries.
  3. Pour batter into the loaf pan; sprinkle pecans over batter. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 16 slices.  Per slice: 160 calories, 6 g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 3 g protein, 58 mg sodium