Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lentil Spinach Cups

Featured Ingredient: Ricotta Cheese

Conjuring up images of gooey lasagna, ricotta is made from the whey that is drained away when making mozzarella, provolone, and other cheeses. Not just for bodybuilders, research suggest that whey protein can bolster immunity and contribute to satiety. Just think about it: You can eat cheese and feel full. Awesome! Fat-free versions of this snowy, white cheese are more protein dense than full-fat versions because they have additional non-fat milk solids mixed in. I almost always use lower fat versions in cooking as I don’t find that I miss the fat very much with respect to this cheese. Other cheeses? Bring on the fat baby! Ricotta also has the benefit of being lower in sodium than cottage cheese. Beyond lasagna, try it in protein shakes, scrambled eggs, pizzas or spread on toast.

These elegant, tasty gems prove that you should live green and eat that way as well. You can use frozen spinach if desired, but make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Lentils add protein and fiber, making these cups a satisfying meal centerpiece. I prefer dried lentils for their very low cost, better texture and lack of sodium, but canned versions will work as well.

Lentil Spinach Cups


1/2 cup dry green or brown lentils
8 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup light ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 leek, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste


Bring lentils and 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan saucepan. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. In a food processor, pulse spinach in batches until finely chopped. Add spinach to a bowl along with ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, leek, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Drain lentils and add them to the spinach mixture; mix well. Divide mixture evenly among 10 medium-sized muffin cups. Bake until set, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool before unmolding.