Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vegetarian Canneloni that kids will love!

I introduced veggies to my kids at an early age, wanting them to pick up a good eating habit from the very beginning. But when my first born turned 3, it was as if he just woke up one day and decided he will not each vegetables anymore!

And so began my many innovative efforts to "hide" the veggies somewhere in the dish whenever I can. Thankfully, they are now coming around and have gotten back to it, slowly but surely. They now eat pansit and veggies, sans the meat as well as the all-tomato spaghetti sauce and garlic and mushroom pasta with no fuss nor negotiations.

I call myself a pseudo-vegetarian, feasting on lovely greens, carrots and fruits on weekedays. But giving in to the temptation on weekends when I'm with my family. Then it's back to fruit detox on a monday. I eat meat just so I don't feel deprived. I prefer fish, seafood and chicken. I do enjoy pork ribs and sausages... and I do fall prey to an occassional prime rib--only and only if it is THAT good. But I digress...

I blanched and froze a big batch of spinach a couple of weeks ago. And as my younger boy would say, it's a special dish to welcome his brother home from a weekend youth retreat.
Special it is-- because its filling,albeit slighty rich and nonetheless healthy.
Spinach Filling
  • 2 cups, frozen spinach, excess water squeezed, then chopped, THEN measured
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped button mushrooms
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 block light cream cheese
  • 10 - 12 tubes of canneloni pasta
  • 1-2 cups tomato/spaghetti sauce

Homemade Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T finely chopped garlic
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely minced carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely minced celery
  • 2 cups stewed tomatoes with tomato paste* OR 2 cups canned pureed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • About 1 tsp of dried oregano or italian herb seasoning
In a non-stick pan, saute onions in butter then add mushroom and spinach. Since the spinach is already cooked, simply heat the mixture through. Put in a bowl and mash in the cream cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can sprinkle a little cayenne pepper if you like some heat. Set aside.
In a pot, saute garlic and onion in olive oil till aromatic, simply add the vegetables and heat through. Add the tomatoes and herbs and simmer on low to medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, stir every now and then. Unless the sauce is served on spaghetti, I don't put fresh basil. Because it will overwhelm the creamy taste of the spinach-mushroom filling. Bay and oregano is just the kind of herb that you taste but somehow stays in the background and not get the attention away from the central ingredient.
I personally let it cool down and throw in the blender for a smooth and velvety finish.

To assemble:
Put the spinach mixture in a piping or plastic bag, cut at the corner and squeeze filling into the canneloni tubes. Pour sauce over filled canneloni. And proceed to bake for about 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve while piping hot!

TIP: Let the sauce sit on the uncooked pasta first to soften it, for about at least 30 minutes. That way, when you pop it in the oven, it will cook more easily. This is the type of dish you can make ahead of time. Assemble and put in the fridge, to be popped in the oven the next day.

*Remember my homage to the tomato last month? I've cooked quite a number of pots and turned in some very good stewed tomatoes. Get about 8-10 fresh,red, ripe tomatoes and cook in boiling, salted water for about 5-10 minutes; until the skin breaks making it easy to peel off. You can choose to coarsely slice or keep whole, mix in a small can of tomato paste, put in a freezer container (tomato juices,seeds and all) and keep in freezer till needed.

Local tomatoes are yummy but are not as bright red as italian plum tomatoes. The tomato paste boosts not only its color but its flavor. My version of this homemade sauce can get orangy at times because local tomatoes are quite pale--but hey! it beats synthetic color red#41 anytime. Happy Healthy Eating!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Maria! This canneloni is really interesting using the real canneloni pasta. I only used lumpia wrapper and used chicken instead.
    Finally was able to check your blog sign up.
    More blessings!