Zucchini and Spinach Strata

Stratas are savory bread puddings.  They can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  They need good crusty bread that takes a good long soak.  I made this for a retreat my dad went on, so I prepared it in stages which worked great.  Two days before the retreat I sautéd the vegetables and prepared the strata.  The day before I let the strata soak while I was at work, when I came home I baked the strata.  Easy and convenient!  (Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture!)

I recommend using a slightly stale, hearty, crusty bread.  If your bread is too soft it might turn to mush in a long soak (which could be remedied by just soaking it for less time).  This can easily be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand, so get creative with what’s on hand.

Zucchini and Spinach Strata

Serves 8-10

  • 1 1/2 large zucchini, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small loaf of bread, torn in bite size chunks (enough to completely cover the bottom of your pan)
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 8 oz Italian cheese blend, shredded
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

In a large skillet, saute the zucchini and onion until tender and just beginning to brown.  In a 9″x13″ baking dish, layer the torn bread chunks, spinach, basil, and zucchini-onion sauté.  When cool, top with shredded cheese.  In a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pour liquid over the strata, cover with foil and let soak for about 8 hours.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake for about 30 minutes covered, remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Mushroom-Artichoke Soup

This recipe is a trusty stand-by.  I’ve made it several times in the past and it continues to be a delicious fall soup.  It’s hearty and chunky and keeps well so you can make it in advance if necessary.  Fortunately it doesn’t take long to cook either, so it’s perfect for a week night dinner too.  I made this for a retreat my dad was going on, so I left out the half and half.  I think it’s just as tasty without the extra creaminess.

Mushroom-Artichoke Soup

Serves 10

Adapted from Taste of Home magazine, I think

  • 2 1/2 lbs fresh mushrooms, sliced (variety is best)
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (32oz) carton vegetable broth
  • 2 (140z) cans artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup half and half (optional)

In a large pot cook mushrooms, shallots, garlic and carrots in hot butter for about 15 minutes or until tender.  Stir in flour, thyme, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Add broth all at once and stir until soup is slightly thickened and bubbly.  Stir in artichokes, tomatoes and bay leaf.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in half and half and heat through.  Serve immediately.

Mixed Berry Oatmeal

Alas my usual fruit, yogurt and granola breakfast has been replaced with a less seasonally dependent breakfast. This one’s a keeper. Using frozen berries you still get a good serving a fruit in your morning meal, old-fashioned oats provide good complex carbs, and milk provides good calcium and protein. It’s a perfect combo for a filling morning meal. There’s not much sweetener in this, so if you like a sweet breakfast either up the sugar while you’re making it, or top it with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.  The best part?  You get to eat purple for breakfast!  Who doesn’t love fun colored food?

Mixed Berry Oatmeal

Serves 5

Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

  • 2 1/4 cups old-fasioned oats
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ (or flax seed meal)
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a pot, combine oats, milk, coconut milk, sugar, and wheat germ.  Bring to a boil and stirring occasionally cook for about 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.  Add in the egg whites, frozen fruit and vanilla and stir.  Heat through and then serve.  Sprinkle with toasted slivered almonds if desired.

Lunch edition: eggs and PB&J

So my lunch time eats last week were pretty random.  I’m already getting a little stuck coming up with easy ideas for lunch (mostly because I’m not bothering to make something special just for lunch).  So here are a couple of things I put together.  If you have lunch ideas, pass them my way!  Also, if you have a thermos that you love I’m in the market and could use recommendations!

Last week I made some hard boiled eggs.  I like my eggs a little underdone so the yolk isn’t all dry and boring.  I packed a little container of salt and pepper and dill (love dill!) to dip my eggs in, then peeled and packed two hard boiled eggs in a tupperware.  Easy and tasty.  Paired with some Greek Salad and an apple, it was quite the tasty meal.  It’s also convenient if you like to break your meals up into multiple snacks, or have to grab bites in between working.

I also made some Curried Egg Salad (my usual egg salad with about 1/2 tsp curry powder for 6 eggs) with my hard boiled eggs, so I had that on a sandwich one day (I forgot to take a picture since I ate lunch with my boss).  I paired that with some steamed broccoli from the night before and some carrot sticks with hummus.

When I really ran out of ideas, I went to the trusty stand-by of peanut butter and jelly.  I’m a big fan of PB&J, so really it was more of an excuse to get to eat than a lack of inspiration.  The hardest part about having PB&J for lunch is that I’m not getting my veggies in!  So I packed some carrot sticks and hummus, an apple with sharp cheddar cheese and had my PB&J as dessert.  

Apple Walnut Bread

I made this bread for church on Sunday.  I loved it.  Can’t wait to make it again.  It conveniently makes 2 loaves, so you have one to share or one to freeze if you can’t eat two loaves of bread in timely manner (although this bread might set new standards).

Apple Walnut Bread

Makes two loaves

Adapted from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

  • 4 cups shredded apple (I used 4 large Corland, peeled, cored and shredded)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (could use all-purpose flour if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease  two 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf pans with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Mix shredded apples and sugar in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes until sugar dissolves and there’s lots of liquid.  Add oil, eggs, vanilla and walnuts, mix well.

Sift together the dry ingredients and stir into the apple mixture until just combined.  Divide batter into the two loaf pans.  Bake 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow bread to cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Zucchini and Basil Lasagna

This lasagna was amazing!  The recipe comes from a family from my church who sends a favorite recipe in their Christmas letter each year.  While this recipe is from their 2007 letter, better late than never!  I don’t recommend waiting 5 years before you try it though!  It’s perfect for this time of year where the zucchini and basil are still easy to find, yet the call of comforting warm dishes sounds better and better.

Zucchini and Basil Lasagna

Serves 8-10

  • 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 large egg
  • cooking spray
  • 4 cups chopped zucchini (about 2 large zucchini)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato pasta sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 9-12 oven ready lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups (8oz) shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and onion; sauté until tender and just beginning to brown.  Stir in sauce and remove from heat.

Spread one third of the zucchini mixture in the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking dish.  Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce, top with one third of the cottage cheese mixture, one third zucchini mixture, and one third cheese.  Repeat until the pan is full.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Greek Salad

End of summer is the perfect time to make Greek Salad. The ingredients are fresh and flavorful. This time I added some chickpeas to add a little more protein and substance to my meal, but it’s just as good without. To make this super fast, we use Italian dressing (I know it’s not at all Greek…think of it as world travel for your tastebuds!). Greek salad (in our house) is characterized by its lack of lettuce (perfect for when you’ve just run out), kalamata olives, and feta cheese, the rest of the vegetables can rotate, but those are the key parts.

Greek Salad

Serves 6

  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 oz feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • Italian dressing to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Can be made ahead or served immediately.

Roasted Mushroom and Pesto Pasta

This is a quick, easy meal to throw together.  I’d been planning on making pesto stuffed mushrooms, but I needed something a little more substantial than that.  Throwing in some whole wheat pasta and ricotta makes this dinner!  Paired with a salad, it’s quite the tasty dinner.

Roasted Mushroom and Pesto Pasta

Serves 6

  • 16oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 box penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Chop mushrooms and toss lightly with olive oil.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes while making the pasta.

Bring large pot of water to a boil and add about 1 Tbsp salt.  Add pasta and cook for about 9 minutes, until tender.  Drain pasta, retaining about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Mix pasta with pesto, ricotta, and some of the cooking water if needed.  Add mushrooms, season to taste.

Roasted Apple and Winter Squash Soup

While apple picking the other day, we discovered an intriguing new-to-me squash.  It looked like a blue-gray pumpkin.  Feeling adventurous, we got a small one to try out.  And despite the heat, I whipped up this creamy soup for dinner.  This is a really easy way to make a soup.  Everything gets roasted together on a pan and then dumped into your soup pot with some broth.  I used an immersion blender to get it creamy, but you could also easily use a food processor before putting the soup in the pot to heat up.  This is also easy to do in parts.  If you have a lot of time over the weekend to let something roast, then you can just blend it together and heat it up during the week when you’re ready for your soup!  I loved this cooking method.  It was so convenient to just toss everything in the oven and be able to do other things while everything’s cooking.

The squash I used is called Queensland Blue.  Since this squash is rather pumpkin-like, I wasn’t about to attempt peeling it.  I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, seasoned the inside, then placed cut side down on the pan to roast.  When it’s fork tender, just let it cool and scoop out the insides.  It’s not as sweet as a butternut squash and has a horribly hard center that made it challenging to get the seeds out.  Because it wasn’t a very sweet squash I was a little disappointed with how this soup turned out.  I think it needed a little extra sweet, so I’d recommend using butternut squash or adding in a roasted sweet potato or two, or using sweet apples (I used Empire).  But despite being a little too tart in my opinion, this soup does have a lot of depth of flavor from the combination of squash and apple, thyme and rosemary.  It’s definitely a taste of fall.

Roasted Apple and Winter Squash Soup

Serves 4-6

Adapted from The Kitchen

  • 3 lbs winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1″ pieces (or cut in half, seeded, and roasted)
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400°F.

On a large roasting pan, toss squash, apples, onion, and garlic with olive oil, salt, rosemary, thyme, and allspice.  Roast for about 40 minutes, turning halfway through.

Puree the roasted vegetables/apples with the vegetable broth (either in batches in a food processor/blender, or in the pot with an immersion blender).  Pour pureed soup into a large pot and bring to a simmer until warmed through.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Top with grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Herbed Ricotta Tart

Yum.  I tore this recipe from a magazine in 2010.  I apparently made it that fall, loved it, stuck it in a binder with tons of other recipes waiting for their chance to be tried, and forgot about it.  I made it again this week.  WHY OH WHY did I wait SO long???  It’s easy and delicious, and even though green onions make me cry, it’s totally worth it.  It tastes decadent and cheesy, but it’s from Cooking Light, so you don’t even have to feel guilty!  This does have a bit of an onion-y taste, so make sure you feed it to the ones you love so they can have onion breathe too (that way it cancels out, right?).  Served with a tossed salad, or your favorite veggies, you’ve got an easy, delicious, vegetarian meal.

Herbed Ricotta Tart

Serves 6

Adapted from Cooking Light (June 2010)

  • 1 can refrigerated pizza crust dough (I found a 13oz one, but the recipe calls for 11oz)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced green onions (about 1 1/2 bunches)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach (optional)
  • 1 1/3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh chives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 Tbsp grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Grease a 10″ springform pan with cooking spray.

Unroll dough, reshape and press into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared springform pan.

Heat a pan over medium heat, coat with cooking spray.  Add sliced green onions to pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach (if using) and wilt slightly.  Remove from heat and let cool.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, chives, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, eggs, and egg white.  Mix well.  Add in onion-spinach mixture.  Pour filling into the prepared pizza crust.  Sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano.  Bake for 35 minutes or until center is set.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.