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Baked Vegetables to Beat the Winter Blues

Posted Apr 23 2009 5:23pm
Brrr! Is it ever cold in Cleveland, Ohio!

To be fair, it's not just here. I don't know if you've stepped outside to check - and if you haven't, I couldn't blame you - but there's this horrible cold front sweeping over the whole Midwest and East Coast. With the wind chill, the forecast estimates tomorrow will be  negative twenty-five degrees (Fahrenheit).That kind of number doesn't even make sense in my brain. 

As we inch closer and closer to absolute zero on the Kelvin scale, it's clear that a good meal is in order to keep our spirits up lest we fall victim to some serious winter weather blues. Something comforting, something well balanced, something to warm you from the inside out. They say if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, and if mother nature isn't going to provide the warmth, a homemade dinner will have to do. 

With the chill in mind, my boyfriend and I were trying to figure out a high veggie count dinner on our low budget. Potatoes, of course, were on the menu but what to go with them? He likes his potatoes mashed - I rejected, too fatty. Next he suggested stir fried - I rejected, takes far too long and the idea of a potato stir fry has never really sat well with my Asian cooking sensibilities. I suggest we shred them into that kugel - he rejected, he didn't want me to spend our evening hunched over in the kitchen, not to mention how I tend to smell like an onion for days after kugel baking. Finally he suggested we just plain bake the potatoes. 

Baked! A quick, warm, easy, cheap. Perfect. And while the cooking wheels in my head started to turn - I could top the potato with sauteed spinach, and red pepper, and garlic, oh and some goat cheese! - I began to worry that this potato meal was more of an overgrown side dish than something that would satisfy hungry tummys on a cold winter's night. 

As I milled about the market, worrying that this meal was going to leave us hungrily raiding the freezer by 9pm, I turned to see my boyfriend picking up a package of two precut portabella mushroom tops. Think you can do something with these, babe? 

Oh yes I could, and far far better than that rotten place we went to for New Year's. This dinner was nutritious, filling, warming, and oh so cheap (cost about $12.00 for all ingredients involved). Take that, winter weather blues. 

Spinach & Red Pepper Saute over Baked Potato
As remembered with the help

2 potatoes

1 bag of spinach - washed, and trimmed if needed 
1 red pepper - diced into bite sized pieces 
5 -6 cloves of garlic - minced 
1/4 - 1/2  teaspoon of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 Table spoons of herbed Goat Cheese (check to make sure the added herbs haven't added any gluten, if not regular goat cheese and add any herbs you like - rosemary, thyme, etc - or none at all!)

Really, this is a method and a semi obvious one at that. Any veggies you have on hand, or ones you love, will do. Zucchini and yellow squashed sliced long and thin, a melange of peppers, broccoli florets, strips of mushrooms, really the list goes on and on. Garlic spinach is a favored dish of mine, but this simple food pairing - of potato meets sauteed veggie - welcomes innovation. 

Bake your potato as desired - in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about an hour (check it after 45 minutes, but ours took 75 minutes to cook!) or in the microwave for an easy-peasy 8 minute potato. 

When your potato is closed to being done, grab a small frying pan and either the largest frying pan you have or a large pot and heat the oil (2 T in the large one, the 2 ts in the small one) and garlic (4 minced cloves in the large pan, 2 minced cloves in the small one). Stir, and after a minute or so, add the diced red pepper to the small pan. Add about 1/3rd of the spinach to the large pan / bowl. (Rachel Ray tells you to remove the garlic before adding the other vegetables. I'm far less fussy and don't like to potential burn myself with hot oil, so I leave mine in.) 

Let the peppers cook about 5 minutes, or until done. 

Turn the spinach gently in the pan and as it wilts and reduces, add another 1/3rd in. Turn and add the last of the spinach. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. 

Grab your potato, cut in half and top with wilted spinach, red peppers, and goat cheese. So very good. 

Oven Baked Portabella Tops  
as found on whatscookingamerica.net   and then halved for our 2 person meal purpose

2 Portabella mushroom tops (cleaned and stemmed) 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon dried thyme 
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Score the tops of the mushroom with a diamond shaped pattern, flip over, and on the gill side, cut a shallow "X" where the stem was once attached. Place - gill side down - on an oiled baking pan.  

In a small pan heat garlic and olive oil for about two minutes - until the oil has been infused with the garlic - and the remove from heat. Remove a good deal of the garlic (you can use it in the spinach above!) and let the oil cool. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, thyme, olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the mushroom tops and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and bake for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, until tender. 

Simple. Easy. Filling. Unexpectedly amazing. 

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