Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who says you can't make the most outta nothing?!

Today I came home from the work and the gym, and decided to clean out the fridge and cabinets to accomplish three goals:
  1. Figure out what I have left and need to cook
  2. Create a healthy dinner for myself and husband with whatever I find
  3. Make a healthy, no more gaining weight, grocery run 
And so I started with the cold items, then moved to my pantry.  In my fridge I had some leftover goat cheese, some fresh spinach leaves (that looked like today may be the last day before they start to go bad), a few loose cloves of garlic, some lost and found basil, half a container of ricotta cheese, and a few leftover eggs from the last week's grocery run.

I also discovered 7 roma tomatoes, a few onions, about 10 manicotti shells, and what I think was once bunch of radishes (those went to the trash immediately).  Of course there were some other snacks and spices, but I always have a stock pile of random ingredients, as I often turn my kitchen into a food lab.

That poor wilted Spinach...
So... what to make?  I needed t0 use that spinach (like yesterday), and the goat cheese looked pretty lonely...  and then I thought up of a recipe that, I hoped, worked as good as I just imagined it to:

Goat Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Manicotti 
w/ Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce!
(mind you I have never had anything like this, nor made manicotti... but I believe in myself!)

And so I started cooking, and as I did I wrote it out to share with everyone who, like me, either like to go buy ingredients for an amazing recipe, or find the ingredients hanging out in their house.

Just like any experiment, I always had a backup plan.  If this didn't work out, then I would just make a smoothie and call it a night.  But I had faith in myself, and got busy in the kitchen:  The goal: An Amazing Flavor with a Lower Fat Recipe!

Goat Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Manicotti w/ Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce
What You Need:
4 oz. Chevre (or your favorite Goat Cheese)
1 cup Low Fat Ricotta Cheese
3 Egg Whites (whole eggs for normal recipe)
1 tsp Parsley
1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Salt (unless using parmesan cheese)
1 Large Handful Raw Spinach Leaves, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup after chopping)
If you are not making this low fat, I would also add 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese to the Filling

7 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
4 Basil Leaves, minced
1 tsp Fresh Parsley, minced
1/2 tsp Salt

9 Manicotti Shells (3 per person)
Low Fat Mozzarella Cheese for topping

To start, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and whisk the egg whites with the spices.  Next, whisk in the goat cheese and ricotta.  If you are using Parmesan, whisk in now.  The lower fat recipe is slightly runny when raw, but as soon as it heats while baking, the egg whites will kick in and make it thick, creamy, and perfect!

Next, place the filling into a zippy bag (or pastry bag) so you can pipette it into the shells.  Set aside and begin to boil salted water to cook your shells.  After boiling the shells to al denti, remove and chill immediately with ice water to stop the cooking.

Meanwhile, add 1 tsp olive oil, the minced garlic, and the finely chopped onion to a large skillet.  Heat 3-5 minutes, just to swat the onions and flavor the oil with garlic  Add the tomatoes, salt, and basil, and heat 8 more minutes.

This will help cook some juice out of the tomatoes, while also adding flavor to the entire sauce.  While this is cooking, toss (or stir) often to prevent any garlic from burning.

Finally, it's time for stuffing!  I used small baking dishes for each serving, 3 manicotti per person.  Spray each dish with cooking spray, then spoon about 1/4 cup of the tomato mixture into the bottom of each.  Slowly and carefully pipette the filling into each shell and lay in the dish.  Next, spoon some of the tomato mixture over the shells, and top with some low fat mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, then either turn up the heat to brown, or broil -- the goal is to get a nice golden top and a well done center.

As I am typing this, I am multi tasking and trying out the dish.

Oh.  My.  G O O D N E S S !  How do I do it sometimes?!  This is amazing, and what a budget friendly way for me to use all the ingredients I am sure would not have lasted much longer in my fridge.

Nom Nom Nom Nom!!!!
Now, with a full belly and a grin on my face, I am writing up my grocery list -- Since I am trying to cut back on fat and get back into shape, I think Lettuce will be a featured item of this weeks shopping!  That and enough vinegar to make some super healthy salads and dressings!

I hope you find this recipe as amazing as I.  I think the goat cheese filling for this would totally rock in a veggie, or even a meaty lasagna.  Something about the zingy flavor of the goat cheese with the baked, crisp, pasta and juicy tomatoes that made this one of my best experiments of the week!

Enjoy!  And happy pantry cleaning!



  1. I really just ate another one.... its.... just... so... yummy!!!

  2. How I would love to get a look into your pantry if this is what you come up with when cleaning it! That close up picture really does have me hooked, there is no doubt that my family would enjoy this. Keep up the experimenting-yum!

  3. Thanks Tina! While cleaning a few more experiments came to mind. I have one in mind for tonight, as I was cleaning out the freezer: Paper Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken!

    We will see how this goes!


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