Turkey and kale spanakopita

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Aack! Monday! (I am a Kathy comic, in case you were wondering.)

Monday, you're a bummer. What should be a fresh start is always an uphill climb for me. Weekends with a toddler are exhausting and getting back on schedule is tough after two days of loosening the reigns. Enter, spanakopita: An easy, healthy, and totally customizable way to keep your food making and eating on track.

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Spanakopita is a traditional Greek dish that usually employs spinach and a lot of spices (dill, oregano, etc). However, while I love spinach, M does not. And dill is my MORTAL ENEMY. So, this is my version, which uses kale, turkey, feta, oregano, and Aleppo pepper and wraps everything up in a freeform galette.

The beauty of this dish is in its adaptability. Skip the meat for a veggie version or use ground lamb, ground beef, or shredded rotisserie chicken. If you can't find frozen kale, any frozen greens will do. But, definitely use frozen veggies that you thaw and squeeze dry instead of anything fresh.

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Don't be intimidated by filo dough. While it can dry out and crack relatively fast, we're talking about a few minutes, not a few seconds. Some people recommend covering the dough with a lightly damp towel while others recommend brushing butter or olive oil on each layer. I say, if you organize your ingredients and work fast, you don't need to do any of those things. At least, not for this recipe.

*One quick note: I completely forgot to add the eggs when I made this dish for the photos! See also: "Aack! Monday!" So, yours will be considerably less crumbly than these photos imply. However, if you happen to forget the eggs in yours, it will still be delicious.

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Turkey and kale spanakopita

1 lb frozen kale (or spinach or collard greens or mixed greens, whatever you like), thawed and squeezed
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb ground turkey
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp aleppo pepper or ¼ tsp smoked paprika + 1/8 tsp cayenne
½ tsp oregano
6 oz crumbled feta (or about 1½ cup)
3 eggs
6-8 sheets of filo dough

Preheat oven to 350.

If the kale is straight from the freezer, empty the bag into a large bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes, just until the ice has melted. Squeeze well with a cloth or paper towel to get out as much moisture as possible. Set aside.

Saute the turkey just until no pink remains, breaking into tiny pieces with the back of a spoon while cooking. Add the garlic, Aleppo pepper, oregano, and salt and cook for one more minute, or until fragrant. Add to the bowl with the squeezed kale.

Add feta to the large bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning before adding the eggs and adjust accordingly. Add all three eggs and mix well.

Prep your workspace before opening your filo package. Cut a piece of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Have your bowl of fillings and a small bowl and brush or spray can of olive oil ready.

Next, unwrap and unroll the package of filo and, working quickly, lay out one sheet of the dough. Then, take the next sheet and rotate it slightly so that the points of the sheet underneath stick out. Repeat, rotating the third sheet of filo in the other direction. Repeat the first three steps again exactly until you have six sheets of filo in a rough star shape. (See photos to better illustrate what I mean.)

Dump the filling mixture into the middle of the six filo sheets and spray or brush the filling and the filo with olive oil. Then, wrap the sides of the filo over the filling. If there is a very large gap in the center revealing a lot of the filling, crinkle up one or two more sheets of filo and stick them on the top. Spray or brush the whole packet with olive oil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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Carrot flatbread pizza

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How is it Passover and Easter again? I've been thinking a lot about the passage of time lately. Having a sick parent has made me feel more like an adult than any other milestone has, while simultaneously making me feel like a helpless kid. How am I old enough to sleep next to a hospital bed and interact with doctors who seem to think I know what I'm doing? And also, isn't someone else supposed to take care of this stuff? Like, the mom who's in the hospital bed?

Last week was also M's 3rd birthday and while I felt the obligatory, "How is this kid 3 already?" I also felt a little bit like, "How is he only 3?" In the best way possible, it feels like he's always been here.

So yeah, time. It flies and crawls.

M also starts school on Monday. Real school where I drop him off every day and he makes friends and has relationships with teachers and learns things that I don't know. We flirted with this type of setting before we moved last summer, but then we relocated and decided to get on a waiting list for a school we liked instead of jumping right in as soon as we got to Connecticut.

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So! This means I'll be actually posting lunchbox meals over on instagram instead of talking about them theoretically. This carrot pizza is a good place to start! First, it's "pizza" which is appealing to lots of kids. Carrots are also a good gateway vegetable because they're sweet, especially when roasted.

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A few notes about the pesto: We're lucky that M's classroom isn't nut-free, but if your school is, swap in pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for the cashews. Also, the carrot tops lend a fresh, green taste to this pesto. Use 2 packed cups of carrot tops and basil, in whatever ratio you want. My carrot tops usually measure between 1 and 1.5 cups, so I fill up the remaining cup with basil. And be sure to pack it tightly.

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Carrot flatbread pizza

Carrot top pesto
1-2 cups leafy carrot tops (see note above)
1/4-1 cup basil
¼ cup raw cashews, toasted
1 large clove garlic
½ cup olive oil
splash of lemon juice
½ tsp salt, to taste
pepper

Yield: about 9 oz, or 1.5 cups sauce

For the flatbreads
2 lb carrots
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
4 flatbreads
6 Tbsp ricotta
6 Tbsp carrot top pesto
4 Tbsp parmesan
1-1.5 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 400. Peel the carrots and arrange in roasting pan. Add oil and salt and roast for 35-40 minutes, until thickest part of the carrot is fork tender.

To arrange the flatbreads: Mix together the ricotta and pesto. Spread 2 Tbsp of the cheese and pesto mixture on top of the flatbreads. Top with about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of mozzarella. Arrange carrots in whatever pattern you like and top with 1 Tbsp parmesan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese has begun to brown and the breads are crispy.

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Sweet potato peanut noodles

I love love love peanut noodles, sesame noodles, and basically any noodle with a creamy, nutty, salty sauce, as does my child. He likes to pretend he can use chop sticks (he's actually pretty good, considering) and make a huge mess. It's adorable.

But peanut noodles don't exactly make a "feel good" meal. So I swapped out the soba or lo mein noodles that are the usual base for this dish and used swoodles instead and they're fantastic. A little bit crunchy and just a tiny bit sweet to balance out the salty sauce. Yum. The toddler agrees.

I like to saute the noodles briefly with a little olive oil and a hot pan. Really, you just need a few minutes to take away the rawness of the sweet potatoes. I don't look for any color, just a slight opaqueness. You aren't really cooking the noodles, just making them not raw, if that makes any sense. I'm guessing you could eat them totally raw and it would be fine, I just haven't done it. I also feel like swoodles beat zoodles in a "could this pass for pasta" contest, hands down. And vegetables! If you don't have a spiralizer, you could just use a vegetable peeler to make long, thin noodles. 

I've tried many different recipes and have winged it many times in making peanut noodles, but I always come back to Smitten's recipe. It's a little lighter than your typical peanut sauce because Deb swaps in some tahini for peanut butter. I always want to add tahini to this dish, but never seem to get the right balance when adapting other recipes. I add one more Tbsp of peanut butter and use an even 4 Tbsp of soy sauce because I really like peanut butter and salt. I also use half of the sugar because the sweet potato noodles are already sweet, but other than that, I use the recipe as written. I love it.

This base is also perfect with just some crisp cucumbers on top, but you could also add edamame, leftover protein, dried seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and ANY other raw, steamed, or roasted veggies. You could kind of use this as a base for a noodle bowl. This is also the perfect accompaniment to turkey dumplings.

Sweet potato peanut noodles

1 extra large sweet potato (about 1 lb), peeled and spiralized
1 Tbsp avocado or other neutral oil
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp peanut butter
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
½ Tbsp brown sugar
1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove

Heat 1 tbsp of avocado or other neutral oil in a pan over medium flame. Add the sweet potato noodles and sauté for 5 minutes until the potatoes are slightly opaque. Flip the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes more. Let cool.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients from sesame oil to the garlic and blend until smooth.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and serve. Also, this dish lasted for quite some time in the fridge and maintained its crunch and freshness for at least 1 week.

Yield: about 4 servings