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5-Course Fabulous

Start-to-Finish Dinner for the Family

Spinach Artichoke Lasagna

2 cups marinara sauce
9 whole-wheat, no-boil lasagna noodles 

Spinach and artichoke mixture:

2 cups (16 ounces) low-fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup jarred artichokes, drained
12 ounces baby spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (5 ounces) shredded mozzarella
Chopped fresh basil as a garnish

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to stir, about 30 seconds. Add the artichoke to the skillet and a few large handfuls of spinach. Cook, stirring and tossing until the spinach has wilted. Repeat with remaining spinach. Continue cooking for about 12 minutes, stirring until the spinach has dramatically reduced in volume and little moisture remains in the bottom of the pan. Transfer the spinach artichoke mixture to your food processor and pulse until the contents are finely chopped, not puréed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add ricotta cheese; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble your lasagna: Spread ½ cup tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of an 8 by 8-inch square baking dish. Layer three lasagna noodles on top, overlapping their edges as necessary. Spread half of the spinach mixture evenly over the noodles. Top with ½ cup tomato sauce, then sprinkle ½ cup shredded cheese on top. Top with three more noodles, followed by the remaining spinach mixture. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup shredded cheese. Cover your dish with aluminum foil, but don’t let the foil touch the cheese. Bake for 18 minutes, then remove foil cover, bake for an additional 12 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes, sprinkle with chopped basil, and serve warm.

Winter Apple Slaw

¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 lime, juiced
1 small purple cabbage, cored and sliced into small strips (about 2 cups)
8 radishes, finely sliced and coarsely chopped
2 medium tart crisp apples, chunked (I used Granny Smith)
½ cup chopped cilantro
Sea salt and pepper 

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard, honey, and lime juice to make the dressing. Next, toss chopped cabbage, radish, and apples into the bowl with your dressing. Feel free to use your hands to thoroughly toss the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and chill in the fridge for an hour. Mix in the chopped cilantro right before serving. This recipe is best served and eaten within a day.

Minestrone Soup

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium ribs celery, chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
2 cups chopped vegetables in season (potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, or peas all work)
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with liquid
4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 bay leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole grain elbow or small shell pasta
1 can (15 ounces) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained or 1½ cups cooked beans
2 cups baby spinach, chopped kale, or chopped collard greens. I used kale.
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Freshly grated parmesan cheese as a garnish (optional) 

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Once oil is simmering, add chopped onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables have softened and onions are translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add your choice of seasonal vegetables, garlic, oregano, and thyme. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Mix in diced tomatoes and their juices, broth, and water. Add salt, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with your lid, leaving enough room for steam to escape. Reduce heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, beans, and greens. Let the soup continue to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and greens are tender. Remove the pot from the heat, and remove the bay leaves. Stir in lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Garnish bowls of soup with grated parmesan if you would like, and enjoy.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus

2 medium sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can of chickpeas, rinsed, and drained)
3 tablespoons tahini
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lime, juiced
½ lime, zest
Ground sea salt to taste
1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you prefer mild temp)
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cumin 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake sweet potatoes on the middle oven rack or in a baking dish for 45 minutes to an hour. Sweet potatoes will be done baking when soft to touch. While the sweet potatoes are cooling, toss all of the other ingredients into a food processor. Once the sweet potatoes have cooled, use a knife or your fingers to peel off the skin. Add the sweet potatoes to the food processor. Blend well, and serve. You can garnish with a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

Cranberry Orange Granola Bars

1 cup pecan pieces
13 cup raw sunflower seeds
23 cup dried cranberries
1¾ cups quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, to taste
1 cup creamy unsalted almond butter or peanut butter
½ cup honey
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. This will make it easy for you to slice the bars and remove from your dish. Toast the pecans and sunflower seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Transfer the toasted pecans and sunflower seeds to a food processor. Add the cranberries, and run the food processor for about 10 seconds, until the nuts and cranberries are all broken up. In a large mixing bowl, combine the contents of the food processor with the oats, orange zest, cinnamon, and
salt. Whisk well to combine. 

In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using your hands or large wooden spoon, mix all your ingredients together until everything is evenly combined and no dry oats remain. Transfer the mixture to your prepared pan. Arrange the mixture fairly evenly in the baker. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or preferably overnight. When you are ready to slice, lift the single piece out of the baker by grabbing edges of the parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to slice the bars into 1-inch strips, then slice them in half through the middle. Bars keep well for a couple of days at room temperature, but you can store bars in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for best flavor.

Allie Farley, MS, RD, LD, registered dietitian at VCU Health and VCU Massey Cancer Center, blogs about diet and nutrition at For more recipes and information about the role that diet plays in cancer, check out that resource.
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