Spinach Casserole

    This is another one of those versatile recipes that can be a side dish or a full meal with vegetarian options as needed. The truth is this recipe was inspired by the Greek Spanakopita spinach, onion, cheese, and herb pie. The mushroom layer is optional and not even part of the dish that inspired this – I just like mushrooms a lot and the ones in the produce section were locally grown and looked especially good. This is a great low-carb meal for the New Year’s get-back-in-shape resolutions as well as a super healthy year around choice.
    The spinach layer is where the essential combination of seasonings comes together. Fresh parsley really sparks this and it is worth waiting to get your hands on some before you put this together. I scattered a packet of seeds in the flower bed 4-5 years ago. In spite of my black thumb, deer, rabbits, Texas sun, and most recently freezing rain there was still fresh green parsley out there on January 1for this recipe. The dill came dried in a jar; you can use garlic powder, but please find fresh parsley somewhere. The lemon zest is part of the classic seasoning but afterwards I decided not to use it anymore.
   Classic Spanakopita is enclosed in rich flaky phyllo pastry dough. This casserole ignores all grains and either stands alone or layers with meat, tofu, or beans. We had some extra lean ground turkey with Italian seasonings in the freezer that I sautéed for the bottom layer to make a hearty meal for Rita and David before they departed for Virginia. The leftovers made my lunches for a couple of days . . . .

Spinach Casserole
Optional extra protein layer:
1 lb. ground lean meat, well seasoned
Equivalent amount of seasoned tofu
2 cups of cooked, seasoned drained beans

Optional mushroom layer:
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing
1/2 lb. fresh sliced mushrooms

Spinach layer:
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 lb. spinach (frozen OK, fresh is better)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground dill
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Cheese and egg mixture:
2 large eggs
8 ounces feta cheese, coarsely grated, reduced fat OK
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, green can OK
1/3 to 1/2 cup thick yogurt or sour cream, low-fat OK

Prepare your optional protein layer and set aside. If using mushrooms then sprinkle lightly with sea salt, sauté them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil until they are fragrant and slightly brown and then set them aside.

Add the tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the onion and garlic. When they are translucent then add the spinach, cover, and steam until the spinach is bright green and tender, maybe 6-8 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, and lemon seasonings and mix well.

Lightly oil a square, oven-proof baking dish. Cover the bottom with cooked ground meat, sautéed seasoned tofu, or your favorite cooked beans (well drained) if you use this layer. Then layer the sautéed mushrooms in if you are using them. Then carefully spoon the spinach mixture in next. Beat the eggs and dairy products together and spoon over the spinach, spreading to cover.

Place the casserole in a 350*F oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes. The mixture will be firm enough to cut into squares for serving. Let it cool for 5 minutes or so before serving. The recipe makes about 6 – 8 servings depending on your layers and how hungry you are.



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