Spinach, Tofu and Tomato Casserole: My Babymoon Bake
Some of you out there know that in my other life, I work as a postpartum doula (as well as other in childbirth & baby related roles), which means I help take care of women and their babies during the “Babymoon” period, a.k.a. the fourth trimester, a.k.a. the first three months of a newborn’s life. Along with breastfeeding support, giving tips on infant care, and light housecleaning, one of the most popular functions of a postpartum doula is, happily for me, meal preparation! I love this part of my job almost as much as holding sweet little bundles in order to give mama a break.
Many relatives and friends like to bring over casserole-style dishes, which are highly practical as they can be frozen, stored efficiently, and are easily reheated – they can, however, be a bit on the heavy side. I have a few favorite recipes for new families, with an emphasis on nutrition and digestibility, but I recently tinkered around and figured out what might be the ultimate meal for a new mama. A midwife in Jennifer Block’s bookÂ “Pushed” described the postpartum meal that she always prepares for her clients as being nourishing, quickly absorbed, high in iron and in fiber; it’s typically based in greens and brown rice, then sweet potatoes, or any other favored vegetable. My version includes spinach (though you could use fresh kale or chard), brown rice and tomatoes. You could omit the tofu and use more cheese; I would just caution you to keep it minimal, as constipating foods can be especially difficult in the early postpartum days. (Did I just go there on a food blog? Yes I did. Co-blogger, please forgive me.)
For the sweet potato component, I simply toss some sweet potato slices in olive oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika and a touch of salt, then bake them on a cookie sheet at the same time the spinach-tomato casserole goes in. Finally, I’m sharing a recipe that was NOT mine originally (though I tweaked it), some lactation cookies. These treats include several galactagogues; ingredients known to help enhance milk production.
Bring these three items over to any new mama – satisfaction guaranteed.
SPINACH, TOMATO, TOFU & BROWN RICE BAKE
2 cups brown rice (I prefer short grain)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
14 ounces firm tofu, frozen, then defrosted and squeezed thoroughly dry
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil, or about 1/4 cup fresh, if you have it on hand
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese or, for a vegan option, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
SWEET POTATO ROUNDS
2-3 sweet potatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Step one is easily done while you prepare the rest. Combine rice with 4 cups water and a dash of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 45-50 minutes. Remove from heat when done (try not to peek until at least 45 minutes have elapsed), fluff with a fork and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 and add the prepared sweet potato slices, if making, as soon as it comes to temperature. Set the timer for 20 minutes and start checking them then; you’ll want them to get to golden brown on the bottom before you flip them (just once). We’re going for overlap with the casserole, or they may be finished at the same time. Either way works.
As the rice cooks, do the rest of your prep, including defrosting the spinach if it hasn’t been done yet, then removing the excess moisture by wringing it in a dishtowel or pressing it through a fine-mesh sieve.Â Ready? Okay, now we heat the olive oil over medium-high in a large saute pan, then add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until starting to soften, then add red pepper and cook another 4-5 minutes, then in goes the garlic for another minute or so. Add the defrosted, squeezed tofu – you’ll want to crumble it right into the pan; the consistency will be a bit like ground meat. Saute it with the vegetables and oil for a few minutes. Add the crushed tomato, bring to a simmer and then let it cook for 5-10 minutes over low, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced a bit. Add spices, spinach, and about half the cheese, stir well.
Now spread the rice out in the bottom of a 9×12 glass or ceramic baking pan (sprayed with a touch of nonstick, just to be safe), then layer the spinach, tomato, tofu mixture over it. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top and bake for about 2o minutes (using which ever rack isn’t occupied by the sweet potatoes, which at this point might need to be flipped to brown on the other side, then rotated to the other rack anyway).
When both are finished,Â get going on the cookies, if you haven’t started already/eaten your way through the dough.
1 cup butter (or palm shortening)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 eggs or Ener-G egg replacer
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour OR flour of your choice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground fenugreek
3 cups thick cut oats
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner.
Mix the flaxseed meal into warm water with fork, set aside 3-5 minutes. Cream butter or palm shortening and sugar. Add eggs or prepared egg replacement. Stir flaxseed mix into butter/shortening mix and add vanilla, blend well.
Sift together all dry ingredients except oats and chocolate chips. Stir wet ingredients into dry, then stir in the oats and the chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonful onto on baking sheet and bake 8-12 minutes.
These are easy to healthify if you want to make them vegan and/or avoid white flour or refined sugar: just substitute a gluten-free or a whole grain flour, and use brown rice, pure maple syrup, or a substitute of your choice in place of the sugars. As denoted, palm shortening can replace the butter and Ener-G egg replacer for the eggs.
– posted by Anne