Squashta

Tuesday was DC Emancipation Day (Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in DC about 8 months before the Emancipation Proclamation freed them in the rest of the country), so I decided to cook. We had leftover butternut squash in the fridge from some uninspired veggie burgers my mom made while she was here, and I suddenly remembered a recipe I had made once about a decade ago when I was new to Weight Watchers and living on my own in Texas. I hadn’t made it for hubby due to lactose issues. But he recently discovered Kite Hill almond milk ricotta, so I figured I’d take advantage of that. This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, and minus meat. It’s not minus fiber, as hubby’s tummy has attested over one dinner and leftovers for lunch. But it’s tasty!

Lactose-Free Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash and Ricotta

16-20 oz butternut squash (the original recipe calls for 20, but I only had 16; if you have the chance, get the kind that the grocery store has already cubed for you)

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (the original recipe calls for 2 tsp minced)

Generous grinds of black pepper (the original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp)

1 Tbsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped, or not chopped at all, leaves just stripped from woody stems (I did about 2 1/2 tsp chopped and 1/2 tsp stripped)

12 oz. uncooked penne (the original recipe calls for whole wheat, but I found that regular pasta works at least as well)

1 1/4 cup lactose-free skim milk (if you were trying to make this vegan, rather than just lactose free, I would try cashew milk)

1/2 cup Kite Hill almond milk “ricotta alternative” (the original recipe calls for part-skim ricotta)

1/3 cup grated parmesan (really aged cheeses like parmesan are naturally lactose-free)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (bought in bulk, thus in the paper bag in the photo)

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Preheat the oven to 375F. Meanwhile, start a pot of water boiling. Also meanwhile, toast the walnuts, then set aside to cool. Once the oven is at temperature, spray a cookie sheet with spray oil and put the squash on it. Roast in the oven until the pieces are soft, about 20-30 minutes (mine took 25). Don’t turn the oven off. Transfer the squash to a large bowl and mash. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and return it to the pot. Meanwhile, you’re going to make a white sauce: put the milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper in a pot, and whisking constantly, slowly bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the mashed squash and 2 1/2 tsp of thyme (this is the batch I chopped). Add this squashy sauce to the pasta and stir to completely mix. Use cooking spray to coat a 9″x13″ baking dish (I used Pyrex), then transfer the pasta mixture to the dish and even it out. Dot it with small dollops of almond milk ricotta, sprinkle with parmesan, and then with walnuts. Bake until there are a few brown spots on the top, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with the unchopped thyme. This ends up being 8 servings, each serving is 7 smartpoints.

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Case the Deal

Last night I was cooking for only myself, so I decided to make a one-serving recipe from Simply 6: a spinach quesadilla. It’s quite easy and also very tasty, especially if you don’t burn it, I imagine (I burned it because I got distracted opening a bottle of wine). This recipe is minus meat and minus high smartpoints, along with being minus hard work.

Spinach Quesadilla for One

3 cups chopped spinach

3 cloves garlic, pressed through the garlic press (the original recipe calls for 1 tsp chopped garlic)

2 Tbsp crumbled lite feta (the original recipe doesn’t say lite)

1 piece lavash (the original recipe calls for a large high-fiber tortilla)

1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning (not pictured)

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Get a skillet ready with cooking spray (the original recipe says to use a large skillet, I used a medium one, which worked fine), and heat over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Stir while cooking until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the feta quickly, then immediately transfer to a bowl. Clean the skillet if needed, then put the lavash in, sprinkle the mozzarella all over it, then put the spinach mixture on one side, and cook until the mozzarella is melted. Fold the mozzarella-only half over the spinachy half, press lightly to seal, then flip the quesadilla and cook until just brown (not burned) and crispy.

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I cut it in triangles to eat it. The whole quesadilla is 5 smartpoints, and is tasty with no accessories (but I’m sure sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole would make it even better).

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Not a Girl Scout–A Brownie!

My mom is visiting this week, and she’s been making a lot of things from Hungry Girl’s Simply 6. But tonight, after lackluster veggie burgers, we decided to make a delicious dessert, also from Simply 6: brownies! And they are, indeed delicious, though a bit unconventional. This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, minus meat, and minus troublesome fiber.

Brownies

1/2 cup white flour (the original calls for whole wheat, but I only had white)

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Penzey’s high fat cocoa powder, but the original calls for dark cocoa powder)

1/2 cup Truvia spoonable no-calorie sweetener

1/2 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light (the original calls for whipped butter)

3 eggs, beaten (the original calls for 1/2 cup egg whites)

2 1/2 Tbsp chocolate chips (the original calls for mini, but I only had normal sized)

1/4 tsp salt

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Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray (I used ceramic, which worked well, but you could probably use metal). Mix the flour, cocoa powder, Truvia, and salt together (a whisk works well for this). Meanwhile, microwave the butter for about 30 seconds until it is melted. Add the egg to the butter, and whisk to combine. Add the liquid to the dry and whisk until it’s uniform (a few small lumps are fine). Mix in 1 Tbsp of the chocolate chips, then pour into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the corners and smoothing out the top, if necessary. Top with the rest of the chocolate chips, and lightly press them in if you don’t think they’re going to adhere. Bake until a knife comes out mostly or totally clean, which the original says is 20-25 minutes. I did it for 25, which was perfect.

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Cool for 1 hour before cutting into 9 pieces. Each piece is 4 smartpoints.

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Banana Bread Biscotti

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been making things from Simply Six. The Blender Banana Bread looked good, and hubby is a giant banana bread fan, so I decided to try it today. It didn’t end up looking like the picture in the book, but I’ll get to that in a minute. This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus meat, minus lactose, and minus gluten.

Blender Banana Bread

2 cups rolled oats (the original calls for old-fashioned, but as far as I know, they’re the same thing)

2 medium (about 1 cup mashed) very ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup egg whites

1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

3 Tbsp Truvia spoonable (the kind you can bake with, not the little packets you put in your coffee)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

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Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray. In a blender (this is where I pulled out my trusty Vitamix), pulverize the oats until they’re a coarse flour. Add all the other ingredients. Now, if you’re doing this in a Vitamix, you actually have to take the flour out, because you should add the most liquidy ingredients first (the almond milk and the egg whites), and the driest ingredients last (the oat flour, truvia, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt). The banana gets in the middle between liquidy and dry. Run your blender until it’s all blended smoothly (I thought about it after the fact that a Vitamix is so powerful that I could probably have skipped both the pulverizing the oats step and the mashing the banana step, but oh well, next time). You can stop from time to time to scrape down the sides, etc., as needed. It will be thick, but still definitely a batter. Pour/spoon into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top. Put it in the oven for at least 35-40 minutes, or until a knife (I used a butterknife, but I assume you could use a sharp knife, too) inserted in the middle comes out clean. So here’s where I messed up. I got impatient, and even though my knife was not coming out completely clean, even after giving it some more time, I got impatient and took it out of the oven anyway. I flipped it onto a cooling rack to cool, and this is what it looked like:

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Yup, very flat. And when I cut into it, I noticed that it was also not really done on the inside–it was very doughy. But hubby and I had a piece each anyway, and then went for a walk. During the walk, I thought about it, and decided on a way to doctor it.

Becoming “Biscotti”

When we got back home, I sliced the remainder (hubby ate one of those pieces), and put the pieces cut side up on a small cookie sheet that I had sprayed with cooking spray. I also sprayed that cut side with cooking spray, and preheated the oven to 375F (because I looked up a biscotti recipe to find out what temperature you bake biscotti at, figuring I’d use the same technique. I realized too late that you don’t spray the cut side of biscotti before putting them in the oven.) I put the sheet of sliced banana bread in the oven for 10 minutes, then took it out and flipped over each piece and put it in for another 10 minutes. I then took them out to cool on the cooling rack again, and they looked like this:

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They’re not crispy like biscotti, and they’re not soft like banana bread. They’re actually kind of chewy, but they taste like banana bread. The original recipe says it makes 8 slices, and when I cut the first couple that we ate before our walk, I thought I was cutting it into eighths, but apparently I wasn’t, because I ended up with seven pieces to go into the oven, so that totals to 10 pretty even slices (2 eaten pre-walk, one eaten post-walk, and 7 going into the oven). At 10 slices, each slice is 2 smartpoints (at 8 slices, it’s also 2 smartpoints, because there are 17 smartpoints in the whole recipe).

What’s In Your Pocket?

I’m I splurged a little and bought myself a copy of Simply Six, the newest Hungry Girl cookbook, after hearing her talk about it on her podcast. This, of course, means that I wanted to start making things from it immediately. So last week I made the pizza pockets recipe, modified slightly. And even though we ate them cold (hubby was late home from work that day), they were really good! This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, minus meat, and minus troublesome fiber.

Pizza Pockets/Calzones

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (the original calls for whole wheat, but I had all purpose in the house, and I didn’t have whole wheat)

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup marinara sauce with 3g of fat or less per serving (I used Organico Bello, which only has 1g of fat per serving)

1/2 cup Daiya mozzarella-style shreds (the original calls for shredded part-skim mozzarella)

1/4 tsp garlic powder (I used Penzey’s roasted garlic powder)

1/8 tsp salt (I would call this optional–I left it out, and didn’t feel like they weren’t salty enough)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Put the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, and salt (if using) in a bowl (the original says a big bowl, but I used a sort of medium one, and it was fine), and whisk until it’s thoroughly mixed. Add the yogurt, and mix until a dough is formed (you may need to switch to your hands at some point–I did). Split the dough into two pieces, and spread each piece on the prepared cookie sheet (the original says to do it in two 6″ x 6″ squares, I did it in roughly two 6″ circles). Evenly spread the marinara over the bottom half of each piece of dough. Sprinkle the marinara with the cheese. Fold over the top half of each piece of dough, and do your best to get the top to stick to the bottom. This is where I ran into difficulty, as mine kept leaking out when I folded. The original suggests crimping the edges with a fork, I ended up trying to fold and pinch instead, like I was making an empanada or something. Either way, mine leaked in the oven, and leaked even more as they were cooling (unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture of the finished product). Once you have them closed to your satisfaction, spray the tops with cooking spray and put the cookie sheet in the oven for about 20 minutes, until they’re light golden brown. This makes 2 pizza pockets/calzones. Each one is only 5 smartpoints. I think next time I make them (which will probably be tomorrow), I’ll double the recipe, so we can have leftovers to take to work. And then I can post a picture of the finished product, too.

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Fresh out of the oven (I forgot to double the recipe.)

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Ready to eat!

The Joys of Cooking Together

Normally when I cook, I cook alone. Sometimes hubby cooks, and he cooks alone. But he found this recipe, and I said I’d get started on it before I got home, but by the time he got home, all I had done was gather all the ingredients and wash the brussels sprouts. So he did all the chopping and roasting, and I did the other stuff. It worked out well, it came out well, and we had a nice dinner. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus gluten, minus high smartpoints, and minus troublesome fiber. Hubby got the recipe from Bon Appetit, not one of my usual go-tos for recipes, but he’s been liking what he’s finding. And this is a great example.

Roasted Broccoli and Tofu with Creamy Miso Dressing

1/2 lb brussels sprouts

1 lb broccoli (the original calls for 2 small heads, about 1 lb total–as you can see in the picture below, we had a huge head, so I chopped off parts of it until it totaled 1 lb.)

14 oz firm tofu

2 tsp ground coriander (the original calls for 2 tsp coriander seeds, and then has you grind them in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder–I didn’t see the seeds in our spice cupboard (even though both of us thought we had them), so I substituted already ground, and decided to keep the amount the same)

1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or you could use another ground red pepper, but Aleppo is awesome, and the original recipe actually calls for it specifically)

1 Tbsp olive oil (not pictured, sorry, didn’t realize I was going to use it originally)

olive oil spray (the original recipe calls for a total of 5 Tbsp olive oil, which it divides for various uses)

kosher salt

4 garlic-stuffed green olives, sliced (the original calls for 1/3 cup green olives, coarsely chopped, but we literally only had 4 garlic-stuffed olives in the house, because hubby has been having some martinis of late)

5 Tbsp + 1-1 1/2 tsp lemon juice (the original calls for 6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice; we used bottled)

1/2 cup hemp seeds

2 Tbsp white miso (if gluten-free matters to you, check this, because this is the one ingredient that isn’t 100% guaranteed to always be gluten-free)

2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted if you feel like it (the original recipe calls for toasted; I started toasting them in a small frying pan on the stove, and gave up after a few minutes)

optional for serving: more sesame seeds, parsley, crushed toasted almonds (we didn’t end up using any of these, even though dried parsley is pictured–simply forgot)

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Preheat the oven to 425F. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray. Cut the stems off of the brussels sprouts and throw them out. Then remove the outer leaves (hubby kept peeling until they were too tight to peel) and put the leaves on the cookie sheet. Then chop up the cores very finely (the original recipe says slice thinly, but to aid in digestion of this quite fiber-ful item, hubby decided to chop finely). Put the chopped up cores in a medium bowl and set aside. Then cut the broccoli into “large florets” (remember, you need to be able to eat it, so don’t make them too large–a big bite-size seems good), and also put it on the cookie sheet. Tear the tofu into bite-sized pieces (hubby did this by cutting the block into 3 horizontal slices, then ripping the slices into pieces). Put the tofu on the cookie sheet, too. Spray all the stuff on the cookie sheet with olive oil spray (in the original recipe, you’re supposed to drizzle it with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, but why waste the calories/points?), and toss it all together.

Meanwhile, mix the coriander and Aleppo pepper together. Like this:

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Sprinkle this mixture on the broccoli/brussels sprouts/tofu mixture, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and toss it all again. Put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then stir/toss, and put it back in for another 10-15 minutes (total should be 30-35, and you’re looking for browned broccoli to know it’s done).

In that medium bowl that you put the brussels sprouts cores, also put the olives, and a light sprinkling of lemon juice (this is the 1-1 1/2 tsp part). The original recipe tells you to add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp lemon juice to this, but we didn’t want to waste calories/points on the oil, and if you don’t have the oil, we figured you didn’t need the same level of lemon juice. Sprinkle in some salt, and mix it all up. Set aside while the other stuff is roasting.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a blender, combine (in whatever order works best for your blender–in the Vitamix you always want to start with the wettest and end with the most solid/driest ingredients, so that’s what I did): 1/4 cup water, 5 Tbsp lemon juice, olive oil (the original calls for 2 Tbsp here, this is where I put my 1 Tbsp that isn’t pictured), miso, hemp seeds, and sesame seeds. Puree until it’s smooth, like this:

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The original recipe says to season it with salt, but frankly, I forgot, and I didn’t notice the difference.

Once the oven is done, get out your most giant bowl, and put everything from the cookie sheet in it (the original recipe says to cool it first, but we were hungry!). Then add your brussels sprouts core mixture, and stir it all up. Like this:

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To serve: in each bowl, put about 1/4 of the dressing (it’s thick, you’ll have to spoon it, rather than pour it, I learned the hard way), then on top put 1/4 of the veggie-tofu mixture. If you remember, feel free to garnish with additional sesame seeds, crushed almonds, and/or parsley. But even without any garnishes, it’s quite tasty and satisfying! It’s also only 6 smartpoints per serving.

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Strata-Various

About a week ago, our friends announced they would be in town, spending Saturday afternoon and night with other old friends, and then they wanted to see us on Sunday morning. So, we thought about it, and decided we would make them brunch. I decided to make a vegan strata (by the way, in hubby’s home state of Minnesota, they use the term “egg bake” instead of strata, but that seems completely inappropriate for a vegan version), and hubby’s reaction was, “I don’t think they’re vegan.” They’re not, but they are “meat reductionists” and hubby can’t eat dairy or eggs. I found this great recipe, and Saturday morning we went to the grocery store and got everything we would need for this fabulous brunch (including hubby’s dream of vegan cream cheese and smoked salmon on garlic-rubbed ciabatta, with a side of orange juice). Since this recipe needs time to sit for flavors to meld and the bread to fully soak, I started working on it on Saturday afternoon. I was partway through prepping ingredients when hubby got a text saying our friends weren’t coming after all, because their daughter (who was supposed to come along) was sick. We decided I’d make the strata anyway, and we could have it ourselves on Sunday morning. Prep is time consuming, so pay attention! This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus troublesome fiber, and minus high smartpoints.

Vegan Egg Bake Strata

2 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds (the original recipe says “thin rings,” but I’ve never encountered hollow zucchini)

3 campari tomatoes (the original recipe calls for one medium tomato, but we were getting camparis for another reason anyway), seeded, all the juice squeezed out, and diced

1 onion (I decided on a relatively small, sweet onion), finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, pressed through the garlic press (the original recipe says “crushed”)

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (that’s 4 tsps for any of you conversion fans out there) olive oil

1 jalapeno (the original recipe says “moderately hot chili pepper like jalapeno”), stemmed, seeded, and minced

10+ basil leaves

1 cup cashews or cashew pieces (in the bulk section, the cashew pieces were considerably cheaper, so I got those, it’s not like you’re using them for decoration and need them whole)

zest of one lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks, and boiled (I weighed them after peeling and got 2 lbs 4.5 oz)

4 sage leaves, finely minced

5 oz good, crusty bread (I used ciabatta; the original recipe called for “5 slices of bread” and said you could use pretty much any type), cut into cubes

salt and pepper to taste

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First, get the cashews soaking. To do this, put them in a bowl and cover them with water. Let them sit at least 30 minutes.

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Then, drain off the water into a liquid measuring cup and add enough to get you to 2 cups. Now put the water, the cashews, the lemon juice, the 10 basil leaves, and the jalapeno in a blender and blend until smooth. This is cashew cream. Yes, it looks like melted mint ice cream.

Meanwhile, get the potatoes boiling. For this, I consulted Alexa, who was no help, so I consulted my mom, because her mother made boiled potatoes for every dinner every day. I did remember the part about putting the cut potatoes in the pan with a lot of water as you cut them, then draining out the water, and adding new water to boil them in (this reduces some of the starch). Then put them on high on the stove, with the lid on, and once they actually come to a boil, let them boil for at least 10 minutes before poking them with a fork to see if they’re done (if the fork goes in easily or causes the potato to fall apart, they’re done). Keep checking every few minutes until they’re done, then drain them and return them to the pan. Now you get to make mashed potatoes! Add the 1 Tbsp olive oil, the sage, and the lemon zest, and mash with your favorite mashing tool (mine is a Foley food fork).

Meanwhile, put a large frying pan (I used non-stick) on the stove on medium heat (the original recipe doesn’t specify), and add the 1 tsp olive oil. Add the garlic, and saute a few seconds, but don’t let it brown. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, onions, Italian seasoning, and some black pepper. Saute about 5 minutes or until the zucchini is soft, but not mushy. If there’s extra liquid left in the pan (there was for me), turn the heat up to high and let most of it boil off.

Get out your biggest bowl. I have this giant blue bowl that my mom sent me off to college with to catch the popcorn coming out of the hot air popcorn popper she also sent me off to college with. That bowl has been incredibly useful since that time (and hubby still sometimes eats popcorn out of it). Anyway, in the bowl, put the sauteed veggie mixture, then the cubed bread, then half the mashed potatoes, and mix it all up. Find your favorite 9″ x 11″ baking dish (the original recipe says 9″ x 2″, but the photos give away the real dimensions). Put this mixture in the dish evenly, lightly packing it in. Pour the cashew cream directly from the blender all over the mixture in the baking dish, and push down on any bread that’s sticking up so it’s completely covered. The original recipe uses the verb “scatter,” and I can’t think of a better way of describing it, so scatter the remaining mashed potatoes over the top of the green gooey mess you have created. Here’s what it looked like before it went into the refrigerator:

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This is what it looks like at this point. Put a lid on it, if your dish has one (mine does), or cover it with plastic wrap. Put in the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to all combine and the bread to soak up all the green goo. Here’s what it looked like when it came out of the refrigerator:

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The next morning, take it out of the refrigerator and leave it on the counter while you first rearrange your oven racks so that one is near the broiler and the other is roughly in the middle of the oven, then preheat the oven to 350F. Remove whatever you covered the strata with, and bake for 40 minutes on the rack in the middle of the oven. While it’s baking, roughly chop or rip up your remaining basil leaves (these will be garnish). After 40 minutes, put your oven on broil (the original recipe says “set custom broil to 450 degrees,” my oven only has the options of high and low broil, so I chose high), and move the dish up to be under the broiler. Broil 8-10 minutes, until there is a little browning on the top of the potatoes and bread.

Sprinkle on the remaining basil, and let it sit and cool for about 10 minutes before digging in.

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The whole strata is 66 smartpoints, so you can do your own math on what that means for how much you eat. The original recipe says it serves 6, but I don’t know many people who could eat 1/6 of a 9×11 hearty dish.

Edit, now that we’ve tried it: I had only broiled it for 8 minutes, so it turned out quite pale, and also didn’t add any crispness. You should definitely broil longer, so that you get some true brown crispiness. The whole texture is quite mushy, and probably would do well with chunks of some sort of sausage in it. And we totally didn’t eat 1/3 of the dish between the two of us!