Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Comfort Food: Volume 1

I made Ricotta and Spinach Manacotti last night. I know, right? A TERRIBLE choice when trying to eat healthy, but I was in desperate need of some rich, hot comfort food. There is just something special about warm, savory, usually cheesy dishes that make your troubles just disappear. Unfortunately, your troubles undoubtedly reappear the next morning on the scale.

Comfort food is never going to be your best choice when attempting to healtherize (yup.. I just made it up) your diet. Don’t fear, I’ve figured out a way to work around my new healthy lifestyle and still get what I want (I am a woman, after all).

Check out the recipe below. Please note, everything in the ingredients list is from Trader Joes, except for the manicotti shells. Also, if possible always buy locally grown produce and meats.

Spinach & Ricotta Manicotti:

1 lb 95% lean hamburger meat

1 jar Arrabiata red sauce

1 package of uncooked manicotti tubes (?)

1 bag of fresh (uncooked) spinach

8-10 oz. low-fat mozzarella cheese (grated)

15 oz jar Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

5 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (grated)

1 small handful of fresh basil

1 head of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Step 2: Boil a LARGE pot of water, cook your manicotti for 7 mins—no longer!

Step 3: While water is boiling, brown the hamburger meat and a couple chopped garlic cloves in a medium sauce pan with a little olive oil on the bottom.

Step 4: While Meat is browning, steam all of the spinach (this will take about 3 minutes)

Step 5: Add Arrabiata Sauce to browned meat, stir and simmer.

Step 6: Chop up the cooked spinach, fresh basil, a few cloves of garlic—your choice how much—I used about 5 cloves. Mix all together with entire jar of ricotta and about 50% of the mozzarella and parm reg. This will create a bright green, super fragrant paste-like material. Salt and pepper to taste. Then, spoon the entire contents of the mixture into a ziplock bag, try to get out a lot of the air, close and snip the corner off with scissors.

Step 7: Take a cooled manicotti tube in your hand, carefully squeeze your ziplock bag until your mixture fills the tube. You may need to squeeze mixture into both ends (har har). Place filled manicotti into a deep baking dish greased with olive oil. Repeat until you run out of mixture (I had a few manicotti tubes left over)

Step 8: Carefully spoon red sauce all over the top of the filled manicottis and top with the rest of the motzzerella cheese. Place in oven, bake for 30 mins.

Garnish with the rest of the Parm reg cheese and enjoy with a side salad.

It’s really super easy and I won’t lie, I’ve never been a fan of the idea of low-fat or fat-free cheeses, but in this recipe, you really can’t tell! I promise. 

I'm looking forward to manipulating other comfort foods to make them more health-friendly.. I'll keep you posted.
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