Friday, April 27, 2007

Spinach and Chicken Lasagna



Who remembers the animated cartoons of Popeye the Sailor? He would save his sweetie Olive Oyl from the hands of the villain Bluto after he got his dosage of super spinach. As soon as he downed that can of spinach his muscles would pop out and he would get mega superpowers, which would allow him to lift huge tree trunks, iron bars and beat Bluto black and blue.

All this from just a can of spinach?



So, what is behind spinach anyway? I remember mummy telling me to eat up my spinach - "it's healthy and full of iron!"

Well now I am 34 and although I know that spinach is a powerhouse, I also know that spinach has somewhat of a shady side to it too.


Spinach
Spinach contains oxalic acid which inhibits the absorption of its calcium and iron. It also contains other nutrients that are not fully absorbed when it is consumed raw. However, this is not to say that spinach is not good for you.

It's loaded with calcium, folic acid, vitamin K and iron. What's more spinach has a low calorie count and has more protein than many other vegetables and is abundant in vitamins and minerals. It has been researched that certain carotenoids found in spinach and other green leafy vegetables may help fight human prostate cancer. It helps to make bones stronger and healthier, as one cup of fresh spinach leaves provides about 200% of the daily value for vitamin K. Heart health may also be strengthened by the folate content of spinach.

There are 4 basic types of spinach:

  • Savoy is dark green with crinkly and curly leaves. It is sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets.
  • Flat/smooth leaf spinach has broad smooth leaves. This spinach type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach.
  • Semi-savoy is a hybrid. It has slightly crinkled leaves and has the same texture as savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing.
  • Baby spinach is a smaller Flat-Leaf variety. It is very tender and desirable for salads.


Spinach originated in Persia, where the earliest records of its cultivation go back 2,000 years. In the 600's it was introduced to China and brought to Spain around 1100. The Spaniards brought it to America. By the 16th century it was well established in Europe.

Selecting and Storing
When buying spinach choose leaves that are vibrant deep green and stems have no signs of yellowing. The leaves should be fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised.

Fresh spinach should be loosely packed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. It will keep fresh for about five days. Avoid washing it before storing as the moisture will cause it to spoil. Cooked spinach does not keep very well.

So, with this wealth of knowledge on spinach you understand why I have been going spinach mad lately with a Spinach Salad, a Spinach Bread and now this delicious Spinach Chicken Lasagna. Have I got little Popeye type super muscles yet? No, not yet, but I know I am serving a super powered vegetable for my family and myself. Being so versatile, spinach is one of my favorite foods and I always feel really satisfied after a nice spinach meal.



Reminder!


Come celebrate Spring with me. This month Spring Is In The Air.
Deadline: May 09, 2007!








Music while cooking:



Beautiful Liar - Shakira & Beyoncé

Listen to it
Buy it







Ingredients:

500g Spinach leaves - you can also use frozen spinach here
2kg ground chicken meat
2 garlic cloves - crushed
3 slices bacon - chopped
450g canned tomatoes
120g tomato puree
120 ml tomato sauce - use your favorite Italian style tomato sauce for this. Homemade is best but store bought is fine too.
120 ml chicken stock
Fresh lasagna sheets - you can use dried ones here to but don't pre-cook them.
120g Parmesan cheese - grated
olive oil

For the cheese sauce
60g butter
40g flour
600ml milk
120g Parmesan cheese - grated






Method:

Pre-heat oven at 180 degrees Celsius. If using fresh spinach chop off the stems and clean thoroughly. Frozen spinach should be thawed completely and drained of all access water. In a large pan heat up some olive oil and sauté the spinach gently, jut enough so that it falls together. Take out and place in ice water so that it retains its color and does not cook further. Take out and allow to drain.

Add some more oil to the pan and brown the meat, bacon and garlic on a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce, tomatoes, tomato puree and chicken stock and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat, place the lid so that it covers half of the pan and simmer until the sauce thickens - approx. 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium sized pan and sprinkle with the flour. On a low heat, gently cook the mixture for approx. minute until it takes on color and has a smooth texture. Remove from heat and slowly mix in the milk. Place back on a medium heat and under constant mixing warm through for approx. 4 minutes. The sauce will thicken and foam slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

Now it's time to assemble the lasagna. Grease a deep oven proof form and pour 1/4 of the chicken/tomato sauce onto the base of the form. Cover with enough lasagna sheets and then pour in 1/3 of the cheese sauce. Cover this with more lasagna sheets then add the spinach and cover again with lasagna sheets. Pour in another 1/3 cheese sauce, lasagna sheets and then the chicken sauce. Once again cover with lasagna sheets. Repeat this until all the ingredients have been used up, leaving the top layer covered in cheese sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is nice and golden. Serve with garlic bread and a nice Chianti!




Verdict:
On your marks, get set ....GO! This dish has my men ready to dig in with forks in their hands. Even I can hardly wait to cut out a nice big, steaming piece of this lasagna. Satisfying and fulfilling to the core. Not convinced? Take one last look at the picture. Now tell me ... want a bit? ;-)

Enjoy!

Jihva comes a full circle and is back home at Mahanandi with it's creator, Indira. She chose to celebrate Leafy Green Vegetables. This is my offering.




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All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2007 Meeta Albrecht unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

22 comments :

  1. I just had a spinach salad last night - I knew it was healthy, but it was very nice to read all of your research! I love spinach - I happily add it to many things!

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  2. what a healthy dish! this is a wonderful version of lasagna and the spinach really adds the nutrition in it.

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  3. Oh my! Gorgeous. But it has chicken... can I use other veggie? Asparagus, perhaps ?

    Been a lurker for a few days now.. but you de-lurked me !

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  4. I love spinach and it's great to love something that's so good for you! Although I manage to make it a lot less healthy by covering it with butter :-)

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  5. You had me with the first pic! That's a lot of chicken though!

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  6. I love me my spinach, Meeta! And I love the combination for this lasagna. The pictures are a masterpiece!

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  7. Meeta, very interesting discussion on the merits of spinach. I am a bit confused however if spinach has an enzyme which does not permit the absorbtion of the calcium, then why tout the benefits of the calcium of spinach? The lasagna certainly looks delicious! Thanks!

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  8. More delicious food! I love this special lasagna. I also used to love watching Popeye the Sailor Man. ;-)

    Paz

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  9. I do... remember Popeye and Olyve
    I do... want a piece of your lasanga.

    As Rachel Ray would say: Yummo! :)

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  10. Dear dear Meeta, Its been ages since I did any blog-hopping and the first blog I visited after all this time was your blog. The lasagna is out of this world. I'll definitely will try it out. The photos are so good its just unfair that I cannot actually eat the dish right from the photos.

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  11. Spinach is one of those ingredients that I look for places to sneak it in, I love eating it and it's nice that it's healthy. As always Meeta, great research. Such a great character Popeye!
    Yes, my fork is at the ready.

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  12. Yum! I always use spinach in my lasagna as well. I have the recipe posted on my site!

    Spinach is so versatile and so good for you that you should always have it on hand!

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  13. Lovely photo and delicious recipe, Meeta. I always, always have fresh spinach in my fridge--I love its versatility and flavor. Now, when are my biceps gonna start bulging? ;)

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  14. Popeye reminds of my brother, when he was a little boy. asking mum for spinach so that his muscles would bulge.so lovely. I am a very big fan of spinach and this lasagna will appear in my kitchen.thank you.btw, what a great shot.

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  15. I remember Popeye, Olive Oyle, Bluto and Wimpy...I also remember friends who would only eat spinach because they were convinced that those green leaves would make them really strong. I needed (and still don't) need any such convincing as I've always loved spinach...and I love that lasagna!

    j

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  16. Since Saturday spinach is on my task list to prepare it the Greek way of course. Today I took a day off and I will be making ...... my contribution to the spring MM :-)

    As for the absorbtion or non absorbtion of calcium, if I remember well it had more to do with the habit of people eating spinach a la creme, and the calcium of the milk or cream would not be absorbed. Time to dive in my nutrition books again.

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  17. Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback. I am really amazed to see so many spinach lovers out there!!

    ANONIn many different research studies, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits - including absorption of calcium - from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid.

    Hope that helps answer your question!

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  18. This was a great post, but the photos are what really drew me in. Amazing, as always!

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  19. Chicken and spinach...different combination......love it

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta