Most of the meals on the menu this week are simple to prepare, plus you can make them ahead of time and freeze all but the pita pizzas. These recipes can easily be doubled to feed larger crowds, so I suggest you feed your family this week and freeze the rest for the week between Christmas and New Year's, when you may be feeling run-down and uninspired in the kitchen.
If an unexpected holiday guest drops by, all you have to do is reach into the freezer—my Winter Soup is the perfect warming treat. My hearty-but-healthy stuffed shells are another easy crowd-pleaser.
Rarely do people take the time to make baked beans from scratch, but I promise you it's worth it. They're the ultimate fuss-free winter meal. I love to eat them on whole-wheat toast for a quick lunch or simple supper, or reheated and stuffed into a baked potato. You will definitely want to double that recipe!
1 head garlic
1 can cannellini beans
1 package all-natural chicken sausage
1 box large shell pasta
2 jars pasta sauce
1 jar pizza sauce
1 bag mozzarella/Italian blend cheese
One 15-ounce tub part-skim ricotta
10-oz bag frozen spinach
2 sweet potatoes
2 red bell peppers
1 bag green lentils
12-oz tub reduced-fat cottage cheese
Homemade Baked Beans
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp hot sauce
8 oz tomato sauce
One 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes or until soft and translucent.
3. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds more.
4. Add the maple syrup, tomato sauce, salt, ground mustard, hot sauce, and ketchup, and simmer for five minutes.
5. Add the beans and bay leaf, stir, then cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, stirring once during the baking process.
6. Allow to cool and serve warm.
Four Cheese Stuffed Shells
Serves about 10, split into two casserole dishes
15 oz part-skim ricotta
1 cup Italian blend cheeses (look for the bagged, shredded cheese in the dairy section)
3/4 cup Parmesan
About 12 oz cottage cheese (I buy the 1-lb container and eyeball it)
1 lb jumbo shell pasta
Two 1-lb jars of tomato sauce (or homemade)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and water pressed out
1 tsp sea salt
Dash of freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb chicken sausage, cut into chunks
1. Boil the pasta in salted water. Drain and lay out shells on a wax-paper-lined kitchen counter. Let cool and make the filling.
2. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, Italian cheese blend, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and spinach. Mix well.
3. Spoon about a tablespoon of cheese into each shell and lay each seam side up into a greased casserole dish. Pour sauce over the shells and sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. Note: If adding meat, I usually combine it in the sauce before pouring over the shells.
4. Bake covered at 375° for 30 minutes.
2 parsnips, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
4 whole cloves garlic
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 quart vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry lentils
1. Put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30–35 minutes, until tender. Drain.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Combine all vegetables plus garlic and rosemary in a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil.
3. Roast the veggies for about 40 minutes, until completely tender.
4. Move half of the roasted vegetables to a blender (or food processor), add the stock, and puree until smooth. Pour into a pot.
5. Add the other non-pureed veggies to the pot with the puree. Add the lentils and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then serve when heated through.
Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas
4 whole-wheat pitas
1 cup reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
1 can pizza sauce
Soy pepperoni slices
Sliced red onions
Baby spinach leaves
1. Preheat the broiler to medium/high.
2. On each pita, spread pizza sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Add desired toppings and broil for about 6 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve alongside a green salad for a healthy and simple kid-friendly meal!