Food & Nutrition

Healthy Cooking on the Cheap: Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells, Beans 'n' Greens, and More

Now that the days are getting longer and winter is finally subsiding, I want to spend my evenings outdoors—not standing over the stove. If you feel the same way, this week’s recipes are perfect for you. Try prepping parts of these meals on Sunday afternoon or while the kids are napping so you can throw dinner together in a flash on a weeknight. My favorite recipe (and one that’s bound to become a favorite in your family too) is for Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells With Spinach. The recipe serves a big crowd, so stick the leftovers straight into your freezer. I tend to freeze individual portions for an easy grab-and-go lunch or rushed dinner.

Grocery list:
3 large sweet potatoes
Dry giant lima beans
3 garlic cloves
1 large bag baby spinach
1/4 cup hazelnuts
2 cans coconut milk (reduced fat is fine)
8 oz. tempeh
1 container part-skim ricotta
1 cup Italian blend cheeses
Cottage cheese
1 lb. jumbo shell pasta
Two 1 lb. jars of tomato sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and water pressed out


Four Cheese Stuffed Shells
This is one of my very favorite dinners to make, either for a crowd or just myself. Plus, it freezes perfectly, making it a great quick meal when you just don’t have the time to cook.

Serves 10, split into 2 casserole dishes

15 oz. part-skim ricotta
1 cup Italian blend cheeses (the kind that comes in a bag)
3/4 cup Parmesan
About 12 oz. cottage cheese (I just buy the 1 lb. container and then eyeball it!)
1 lb. jumbo shell pasta
Two 1 lb. jars of tomato sauce (or homemade)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and water pressed out
1 tsp sea salt
Dash of freshly ground pepper

1. Boil the pasta in salted water. Drain and lay out shells on a wax-paper-lined kitchen counter. Let cool and make the filling.

2. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, Italian cheese blend, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and spinach. Mix well.

3. Spoon about tbsp of cheese into each shell and lay each seam side up into a greased casserole dish. Pour sauce over the shells and sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.

4. Bake covered at 375° for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato Soup With Tempeh “Croutons”
This simple soup comes together in a matter of minutes, and small cubes of tempeh make for high-protein “croutons” that even kids will love!

3 large sweet potatoes
2 cans coconut milk (reduced fat is fine)
8 oz. tempeh, cubed (Tempeh can be found in the produce department of your local grocery store. I like Westsoy brand.)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of garam masala or curry powder (These can be found in the international section of your supermarket.)

1. Preheat the oven to 400° degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes multiple times with a fork and bake potatoes for about 45 minutes or until very tender. Let cool.

2. When the potatoes have cooled, peel them (this should be very easy!) and blend them in a Vita-Mix or regular blender with a can and a half of coconut milk plus spices. Blend until very smooth and processed and then add more coconut milk if too thick. Once the soup has reached the desired consistency, pour into a medium-size pot and keep warm on the stove while you prepare the tempeh.

3. In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast the tempeh cubes until golden on all sides. Toss the cubes around like you would if you were toasting nuts and be careful not to burn. Once golden, add the “croutons” to the soup and stir to combine.

4. Soup may be prepared and stored a few days in advance. Just be sure to add the tempeh right before serving.


Beans ‘n’ Greens
This vegan main course is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. It could also be made as a side dish for chicken or steak. Cooking your own beans makes a huge difference in the flavor of the dish, so plan ahead and prep this part on a Sunday!

1 cup dry giant lima beans
1 quart (or so) water to cook beans in
1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bag baby spinach
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. The night before, soak the beans in the water in a large pot. In the morning, drain the water, add fresh water, and simmer for about an hour until the beans are tender and the skins are just beginning to slip off. This is easy to do while you are getting ready for work or making breakfast. Once beans are cooked, drain again and store in a container in the fridge until ready for use.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the beans and cook for 4–5 minutes without stirring or shaking (this way the beans will have a nice almost crunchy exterior and a creamy interior). Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes longer until just beginning to wilt. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the nuts just before serving.

Read Jenna’s daily food and fitness blog, Eat, Live, Run.

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