Spinach and Sausage Lasagna

This recipe is not your typical lasagna, but it’s a delicious twist on the classic.  Since the whole thing only uses 1/2 lb. of pasta, it’s really easy to make this very healthy by using extra lean sausage and low-fat cheeses

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Meatballs

I must admit, I had never made meatballs until I tried this Barefoot Contessa recipe.  My mom usually makes them in bulk and gives me some – so I never had the opportunity to make them myself.  But I’m glad I tested this recipe out because it tastes very different from my mom’s meatballs – the meat is very tender and not overpowered by any particular flavor, it’s just perfectly blended and seasoned.    

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed – pulse in food processor until they’ve become crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl
  •  Combine very lightly with a fork
  • Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. (You will have 14 to 16 meatballs, if you make them a bit smaller you can get up to 24)
  • Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) saute pan until the bottom of the pan is liberally coated.  Heat the oil.
  • In batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork
    • This should take about 10 minutes for each batch
    • Don’t crowd the meatballs
    • Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels
    • Alternatively, you could bake the meatballs in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes
  • Add the meatballs to a pot full of Robust Red Sauce
  • Cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through
    • If you’ve made more meatballs than you need, don’t fret!  These freeze beautifully – I usually freeze them as meals with sauce; perfect for a weeknight dinner!

Stuffed Zucchini

These pair perfectly with stuffed grape leaves.  When my mom makes a big pot, she usually combines the two together.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • Approximately 10 narrow zucchini (cut in half)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • First, prepare the pot
    • Place your slices of tomatoes along the bottom of a small pot – this will prevent the zucchini from burning while cooking
  • Soak the rice in very hot water for 1/2 hour – then strain
  • Mix the rice with the raw ground beef with your hands – season with salt and pepper
  • With a small spoon, scoop out the pulp of the zucchini until they’re hollow, but not open all the way through – leave about 1/8″-1/4″ around the interior wall
  • Stuff the zucchini with the rice and meat
  • Line the pot with the zucchini (if you’re also making grape leaves just randomly mix in the zucchini)
  • Place a small dish on top of the zucchini to add some pressure
  • Dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 1 cup of water (for every cup of rice you need 2 cups of water) then pour the water into the pot
  • Cook it on high heat until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour
  • Check to see if the zucchini is cooked – once it’s cooked, pour in 1  1/2 oz. of fresh lemon juice
  • If the rice is not quite cooked, add in more water a little bit at a time (2-3 oz. at a time)
  • Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and let the pot settle while covered for at least 15 minutes
  • When you’re ready to serve, put a large round platter face down on the pot and tip the pot over
  • Serve with fresh pita bread and plain yogurt
    • If you have extra rice and meat, cook it in a small pot as you would normally cook rice (roughly estimate how much water you need – rule of thumb is 2 cups water to every cup of rice)

Stuffed Grape Leaves

This Middle Eastern classic is my mother’s specialty.  These barely last through dinner when she makes them…

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 jar of grape leaves (or freshly picked grape leaves) – approximately 100-150 leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Lamb chops (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • First, prepare the pot
    • Place your slices of tomatoes along the bottom of a medium pot – this will prevent the grape leaves from burning while cooking
    • If you want to use lamb chops, brown them 1-2 tbsp of butter first and then place them on the bottom of the pot, too, in between tomato slices
  • Soak the rice in very hot water for 1/2 hour – then strain
  • Mix the rice with the raw ground beef with your hands – season with salt and pepper
  • Boil the grape leaves (jarred or fresh) in water for about 2 minutes – you want them to be tender, but not too tender
  • Place the leaves in the strainer and cut off the stems – if the leaf is too big, cut it in half (ideally, the leaf should be about 3.5 in. wide)
  • Lay out a grape leaf and and place a heaping tbsp of rice and meat in the center of the leaf – form it into the shape of a your index finger up to your knuckle (same size, too)
  • Fold the sides over onto the rice and meat and roll it up like a small cigar
  • As you roll the leaves, line them up in the large pot that you have already prepared
  • Tightly arrange the stuffed grape leaves as you roll them – this can take a bit of time!
  • Place a small dish on top of the leaves to add some pressure
  • Dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 2 cups of water (for every cup of rice you need 2 cups of water) then pour the water into the pot
  • Cook it on high heat until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour
  • Check to see if the leaves are cooked – once they’re cooked, pour in 3 oz. of fresh lemon juice
  • If the rice is not quite cooked, add in more water a little bit at a time (2-3 oz. at a time)
  • Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and let the pot settle while covered for at least 15 minutes
  • When you’re ready to serve, put a large round platter face down on the pot and tip the pot over
  • Serve with fresh pita bread and plain yogurt

Mediterranean Meatloaf


This is another one of my mother’s recipes that was a staple in our household growing up.  It’s a Middle Eastern version of good old ‘meat and potatoes.’ 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh parsley (approximately 10 stems), finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lb. (or more if desired) baby potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the ground beef, onion, parsley salt and pepper and mix well with your hands
  • Pour in the juice from the canned diced tomatoes, and mix well
  • Boil the potatoes and slice them into 1/3″ slices
  • Place the meat into the center of a baking pan with high edges (you don’t want the juice to leak)
  • Press down with your hands until the meat is about 1″ thick
  • With your index finger, divide the flattened meat into four by making a shallow indention and then make random shallow indentations with your index finger in each section (this will help keep the juices in the meat while it’s cooking)
  • Top the meat with the sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt
  • Evenly place the diced tomatoes on top of the potatoes
  • Bake at 375°F for approximately 45 minutes
*Try serving this dish with fresh pita bread – makes a tasty sandwich!



Modern Beef Wellington

These individual portions are perfect for a small dinner party.  You can make this ahead of time and just pop them in the oven when you’re ready!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 – 6 oz. filet mignons
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Boursin cheese
  • 2 sheets Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry (thawed, but still cold)
  • Mushroom Duxelles*
  • Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
*MUSHROOM DUXELLES
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 2 tbsp shallots, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp garlic, pressed
    • 10 oz. button mushrooms, finely chopped
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp white pepper
    • 2  1/2 tbsp dry white wine (one you would drink)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Season both sides of each filet with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat
  • Add the filets and sear for 30 seconds – 1 minute on each side (the cook time depends on the thickness of the steak – when using 1 in. thick filets, I cook them for 30 seconds per side to get medium rare).  Transfer to a plate and cool completely
  • Roll out one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface – cut it in half
  • Spread approximately 1 tbsp Boursin cheese on top of the filet, then top with 1/4 of the Mushroom Duxelles
  • Place the filet on the center of the puff pastry rectangle and pull one side of the the puff pastry over the top of the mushrooms.  Then pull the other side over the puff pastry you just pulled over.  Basically, you fold the pastry over the filet like you’re wrapping a package and press or pinch the edges to seal.  You’ll need to trim some dough off the sides because if it’s too thick, it won’t cook completely.
  • Place the packages on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Brush the egg wash over the tops and sides of each package and bake at 425°F until the pastry is golden brown – approximately 20 minutes for medium rare
MUSHROOM DUXELLES
    • Heat the butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat
    • Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds
    • Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper – reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and they’ve begun to caramelize (about 10-12 minutes)
    • Add the wine and cook on medium-high heat, stirring to deglaze the pan, until all of the liquid has evaporated
    • Remove from heat and let it cool before using



Hushway

This Middle Eastern dish literally translates to “stuffing.”  It’s what my mom stuffs our Thanksgiving turkey with – minus the peas.  It’s super easy to make and really gives you the feeling that you’re eating something exotic.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. – 1  1/2  lbs. ground beef
  • 1 cup uncooked white basmati rice
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • In a medium pan, season the ground beef with the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and then brown it
  • Once the meat is cooked, add 2 cups of water to the pan and stir
  • Bring the water to a boil and add the frozen peas and mix
  • Bring the water to a boil again and add in the rice and stir
  • Lower the heat on the stove to low and cover the pot
  • Keep stirring the rice often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
  • Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is tender

*Try topping this rice with cool plain yogurt – it’s not only a refreshing combination, but it also hits all of the food groups!