Friday, December 14, 2007

Eat Your Greens!

I’m not much of a seasonal eater. Any seasonality to my eating is probably more frugality than a strict adherence to eating what is local and in season. I am trying to embrace seasonal eating. If you remember, all the items that I made or ate off of the Summer Cooking Wish List were seasonal items: Rainier cherries, Lunar Gazpacho, and Dairy-Free Peach Sorbet, all bought or made and eaten at the height of summer deliciousness. That said, you won’t find me buying fresh berries in February because I’m just too cheap. Frozen berries, yes. Fresh berries, no.

It seems winter has come early to the Midwest. We’ve had snow on the ground for more than a week now, the temperature is frigid, and the days just keep getting darker. During this cold and dark month, all I want to do is hang out in my kitchen and eat chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and sleep. I could just hibernate until spring and that would be just fine with me. Unfortunately, I’m not a bear, so hibernation is not an option. And while a chocolate chip cookie at the end of the day is dessert, one shouldn’t make a meal out of them.
But my taste in food this time of year does not run to the foods that are best for me. Bring on the carbs and the cheese! Green vegetables, I have had enough of you for one year.

Or maybe there’s a happy compromise to be found at the corner of health and hedonism. At a time when salad has lost its appeal, we can find a place for our green vegetables by slipping them into hot meals that warm the kitchen, chase away the winter chill, and make you feel anything but deprived. Over the next few months, I will be posting my best ideas for winter-friendly ways to eat your greens. Once you’ve eaten your greens, you can have a cookie and turn in early. I know that’s what I’ll be doing!

Spinach Enchiladas
Adapted from
this recipe at
Serves 3-4

These Spinach Enchiladas are a lightened-up version of a delicious recipe I found at I love this recipe! The spinach filling is savory and creamy with ricotta cheese, and the corn tortillas start to disintegrate deliciously into a tomato-based enchilada sauce that complements the creaminess of the filling. This entrée is very filling, but it packs in a good serving or two of vegetables. Serve it alongside a vegetable (roasted sweet potatoes are good here) and call it dinner.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 tbsp. butter or olive oil
½ cup sliced green onions
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 10-oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 cup ricotta cheese (I like lowfat, but feel free to use any type you like)
Lots of salt and pepper or to taste
2 oz. cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (or more to taste), optional
10 6-inch corn tortillas
2-3 cups of enchilada sauce (recipe for Cupboard Enchilada Sauce follows)

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the green onions and garlic to the skillet and saute them for several minutes to tame those wild flavors. Add the spinach and stir everything around to mix it with the green onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes.
3) Turn off the heat and stir the ricotta cheese into the spinach mixture. Add lots of salt and pepper to season the filling. Taste a bit to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
4) In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, heat a corn tortillas until it is soft and flexible (about 15-30 seconds). Spread ¼ cup of the spinach mixture in the middle and use a spoon to spread it lengthwise down the middle. Roll up the tortilla and place it seamside down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat this step until all the tortillas are filled or you run out of filling.
5) Pour enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. If you are using the grated cheese, pull the dish out, remove the foil, sprinkle the enchiladas with cheese, and place the baking dish back in the oven. Bake for another 5 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Remove the baking dish from the oven and serve immediately. Because the tortillas start to disintegrate while they are cooking, this dish is a little difficult to serve prettily. Have the plates close at hand when lifting enchiladas out of the baking dish. And don’t worry if it’s a little messy.

Cupboard Enchilada Sauce
Adapted from Cupboard Enchilada Sauce, Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon
Makes enough for 1 batch of enchiladas

Hopefully Crescent Dragonwagon and her publishers won’t come after me, a humble non-profit blogger, for posting a slightly adapted version of her recipe for this tasty, quick-as-a-wink enchilada sauce. If they do, well, I suppose this recipe will vanish mysteriously from my blog. I have used this sauce for every batch of enchiladas I’ve made for the past three years. No kidding. I think it’s great, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The Necessities:
1 14-oz. can of whole tomatoes (undrained)
½ onion, roughly chopped as needed to stuff it into a food processor
1 tsp. salt

To Jazz It Up (optional additions):
3 cloves of garlic (peeled)
Several spoonfuls of spicy salsa (highly recommended)

1) Place all the ingredients in your handy food processor*. Buzz to a chunky puree. Done!

*Some day I will tell you all the charming and unromantic story of how I came to acquire my food processor.

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