Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Packed with Spinach Lasagna

Spinach is a beautiful vegetable. It is also chock full of vitamins and minerals. "But, my kids won't eat it, " goes the universal lament. Don't worry. If they eat lasagna they will eat this.
The key to this recipe is blending some of the spinach into the tomato sauce. That way the goodness gets into them without them even knowing it. And, there is a bonus. The red and green vegetable combination is a powerhouse.  The benefits of red vegetables supercharge those of the green vegetables and vice versa. Anytime you can put both color vegetables into a meal you are getting even more benefits than when you eat either one alone.
I sneak fresh spinach into every crook and crevice of this lasagna. I put in as much as I can get away with. You can adjust this recipe to adapt to what your kids will tolerate.
Here is what you will need:

I box of lasagna noodles.
1 bunch of spinach if your child has a green aversion. 2 if they will eat it.
1 8oz container of Ricotta cheese. I use Coach Farms goat ricotta because goat's milk is easier for your stomach to digest than cow's milk. Any ricotta will work.
1 quart or 1 jar of tomato sauce. I buy my sauce from a local Italian market. This way I know it is fresh.
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

This recipe should take 1/2 and hour of prep time and 45 minutes of cooking time. It is possible to make in advance and heat up later. In fact, I think it is better the second day. You can also make a few at a time and freeze them for a healthy meal when you don't have time to cook.

Preheat your oven to 350.
Combine the mozzarella and parmesan with salt and pepper.
Cook the noodles per the box's instructions.
While the noodles are on the stove, wilt the spinach in a pan. The wilting process should only take about a minute.
Put your tomato sauce and 1 bunch of the wilted spinach in the blender and mix. Here you can add additional cooked vegetables to the sauce if you want to. Carrots, squash, brocolli and zucchini are all good choices. Tomato sauce is the perfect place to pack in the vegetables. You would be surprised what you can get away with.
If your kids have a green aversion then skip this next step. If they are cool with the green then go for it. Take the 2nd bunch of wilted spinach and chop it coarsely. Mix 1/3 of it into the ricotta cheese.  Mix some of the tomato sauce into the ricotta cheese as it makes it easier to spread.
Pour 1/5 of the sauce into a 10X7 oven safe pan. Add a layer of noodles. Then a layer of ricotta cheese, spinach (again, if you have a really "green" averse child you can skip this too), a sprinkle of the cheese mixture and then some sauce. Repeat this more 3 times. Make sure the top layer has sauce and a full layer of the cheese mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Take out of the oven and let stand for 10 minutes to cool.

This makes a great next day lunch box item, too. Put the left-over lasagna in the oven or toaster oven for @20 mins to warm it up,  and pack in an insulated food container. Reuseit.com sells one by LunchBots.  I use these containers every day for my kid's lunches. Keeps food warm and safe from food contaminants.

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