Wine Party with Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Pasta

Just like I love Groupon, I also love Living Social. There was great deal for an in-house wine tasting party with six different wines from PRP Wine International.  How could I resist???  It turned out to be a great deal and one of the best nights with my girlfriends.

We did the wine-tasting on a Wednesday, which was great because it broke up the work week very nicely.  We turned it into a potluck with plenty of wine, cheese, bread, crackers, pasta… overall, quite the delectable party.

Cheers!

I decided to make a stuffed pasta dish as the main course, to give us some extra padding for the wine.  I decided on a Spinach-Artichoke Stuffed Pasta, and of course, added some more veggies to the layers.

Spinach-Artichoke Stuffed Pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz frozen spinach
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
16 oz low fat ricotta cheese
3 cups low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp basil, chopped
1 bag of pasta (I used tubes)
2 zucchinis, chopped and stir fried
2 jars pasta sauce of your choice

Directions:
Cook pasta “al dente” style (some of the sauce will be absorbed when the noodles are baked)
For the stuffing, mix garlic, spinach, artichoke hearts, basil, ricotta and 1 cup of mozzarella in a bowl

Place a layer of pasta sauce at the bottom of the baking dish
When the noodles are cooled, stuff the pasta with the spinach-artichoke mixture

Pack the dish with the stuffed pasta and top off with the cooked zucchini

 Fill the dish with the pasta sauce and top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese

Bake covered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes and uncovered for 10 minutes

To save time, I cooked the noodles and the stuffing the night before.  Fun fact: to store cooked noodles over night, place them in a ziploc bag with a little bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking and getting mushy!

I have the most incredible friends ever, who are quite the chefs themselves.  Take a look!

Appetizers

So proud of this homemade cheese ball by Shane 🙂

Kelly’s amazing fruit skewers

Superfood Spotlight: Beans and Lentils

Beans and Lentils, which are in the legume family, are powerful superfoods which should be incorporated into your diet.  They are low in fat and sodium yet high in fiber and protein. Also…

  • They have a low glycemic index, meaning that your blood sugar will not rapidly rise when you eat them.  When you eat foods with a high glycemic index (sweets and baked goods), your blood sugar rises rapidly, and your body releases insulin at a faster rate, which contributes to fat storage.  By eating foods with a low glycemic index, your blood sugar rises at a slower rate and insulin is released at a steadier pace which your body can monitor better.
  • They are healthy for your skin!  These legumes are anti-inflammatories, due to the their glycemic index, which helps the prevention of dry, saggy and dull skin.  You can help your skin look younger and less wrinkly by eating them.
  • Fiber!!!  Of course, I have to highlight this benefit.  One cup of cooked beans can have a whopping 12-14g of fiber.  Most people do not get enough fiber (adult males should get 35g/day and females 25/day), and beans are an easy way to get to these daily amounts.  Read more about fiber at one of my earlier posts… All About Fiber
  • They are also a great source of protein with 15g in one cup of cooked beans.  To determine how much protein you should be receiving, take 1/3 of your weight to get a decent estimate. (ex: 150 lb person, should get around 50g a day)

I don’t mind eating beans play but I love to incorporate beans in my soups, salsas, eggs, and salads.  I am new to lentils, but I have recently made a few lentil soups and also added them to my quinoa.  They are very easy to make for a quick meal after work!
 

Quinoa with beans
Rice and Beans… my college staple!
     
Lentil based soup

    Garlic Shrimp Scampi

    I have gotten substantially behind on my posts, but in the last few weeks, I did a lot of cooking, so I will be sure to make up for it.  A few weekends ago, I decided to try a shrimp recipe.  I LOVE shrimp, and conveniently, so does my roommate.  We had the most blissful day with a workout, the farmer’s market and then we spent the rest of the day at the beach relaxing and reading.  We topped it off with a delicious homemade dinner and some wine… just the perfect Sunday night date 🙂

    We made a shrimp scampi that was cooked in garlic, parsley and white wine and tossed it with some whole-wheat noodles.  Like most of my cooking, it was very simple to make, and didn’t take long at all!

    Shrimp Scampi
    1.5 lbs shrimp
    2 tsp olive oil
    4 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/2 onion, chopped
    1/4 c. white wine
    2 tbsp parsley
    3 handfuls of spinach
    Whole Wheat Spaghetti

    Directions:
    Heat the olive oil, onions and garlic until the onions are browned

    Add the shrimp, cook through (I like to brown them on each side a little)

    Add the spinach, white wine and parsley.  Let it simmer for 5-8 minutes…

    Toss with noodles and enjoy! 

    Superfood Spotlight: Spinach

    The next Superfood I am going to talk about is spinach.  These beautiful leafy greens are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can contribute greatly to your health.  Let’s chat about why these leaves are so good for you…

    • Plenty of Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatories :  Ones prevalent in spinach are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc.  These contribute to the decreased risk of several blood vessel- related problems such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.  Additionally, these antioxidants create an anti-inflammatory effect and help fight free-radicals that potentially cause cancer.

    • Great for your eyes!  Antixoidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to aid in eye health.  There is some research that shows it might be absorbed better if you eat it with a little fat, such as a small amount of olive oil .

    • Vitamin K:  In one cup of boiled spinach, you will receive 1110% DV of Vitamin K.  This vitamin is very good for you bones because it fights osteoclasts, which are the cells that break down bone.

    • Magnesium:  In one cup of boiled spinach, you will receive 39% DV of magnesium.  Magnesium has been shown to protect against heart disease and helps lower blood pressure. 

    • Iron:  In one cup of boiled spinach, you will receive 36% DV of iron. Iron helps carry oxygen to your cells, providing you with energy.  I have low iron levels and spinach is what I eat to keep up my iron!  Spinach is a great alternative for red meat as an iron source because you forego the saturated fats and cholesterol.
    Cooking Spinach:
    Spinach is easy to incorporate to any meal.  You can eat it raw, sautée it, boil it, and mix it in smoothies.   Here is a good site I found for some spinach recipes that I want to try… “Spinach Recipes”

     

    I just learned that because of the high level of nutrients, there is a high content of oxalic acid.  Oxalic acid can prevent the absorption of calcium, iron and other minerals.  Some say it is best to boil spinach for just one minute to lower the acid content.  Although you may lose a little Vitamin C in the hot water, you will be able to absorb the other minerals more effectively.
    Here are some other ways I incorporate spinach into my meals!
      
    You can throw it in just about anything… enjoy!