If you’re like me, your mornings involve groggily climbing out of bed to hit snooze on your phone alarm (which you cleverly hid several feet away), only to return to bed with your pesky little alarm snuggled safely within arms reach. At about the 5th snooze, you finally roll out of bed, and meander around your apartment, half dazed, looking for food or, more importantly, caffeine. On a good day, you start to consider whether or not you really want to make the effort to go to the gym that morning. Usually the answer is no. My favorite excuse? “I have nothing to eat, and working out on an empty stomach never bodes well for me…”
The answer? Mini spinach bites!
They’re wonderfully packed with protein from the ricotta, healthy vegetable goodness from spinach (it worked for Popeye, no?), and sharp pecorino romano cheese to (semi) satiate your morning craving for leftover pizza. And if you love small things, baking them in mini muffin tins just makes it all the more adorable.
The best part? They actually keep incredibly well in the fridge (or tightly wrap them in saran wrap and freeze them in an airtight container if you won’t eat all of them in a week. I never have this problem). Reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, and you’ve got a ready to go pre-gym snack. Genius!
Adapted from EatingWell.com
1/2 cup fat free ricotta cheese (You can also use 2% or whole milk ricotta, as well as cottage cheese – I don’t b/c the texture of that stuff creeps me out)
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (or parmesan – but pecorino is sharper, a little more salty, and has that extra zing I love)
2 eggs or egg beaters
12 ounces of spinach (I use 10 ounces of the frozen kind, legit cooks would use fresh spinach and chop it up in a food processor)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped sundried tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon of your favorite spice (cayenne pepper for heat, rosemary for a hint of Christmas, basil for happiness, thyme if you have it leftover from another recipe)
Muffin tin (I prefer the mini ones, with 24 cups)
Grater (if you want to grate the cheese yourself – I highly recommend this, it just tastes so much better for not much more work!)
Set the oven to 400 degrees.
If you’re using frozen spinach, microwave it on low heat or defrost for a minute or two until most of the ice crystals are gone. Carefully squeeze out the moisture (I use my hands, but please…wash them. Your friends might love you, but they don’t love your germs). Get out as much moisture as you can, else your cakes might turn out runny. The end result looks sad because your big bowl of spinach just shrank down to a tennis ball-sized lump, and your hands are freezing. No worries, it’s worth it.
In a bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese and egg, and add the spinach, sundried tomatoes, grated cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and whatever spices your heart desires. Your mixture will look like green goodness. Do you feel healthier already? You should – and mom and dad would be proud that you’re eating your veggies.
Take out your mini muffin tin – I use one with 24 cups, or you can just use a 12-cup medium size muffin pan. Spray it lightly with cooking spray (like Pam!). Fill the cups about 3/4 of the way. In a mini tin, it should fill up about 20 cups. Stick it in the oven, and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Check it every so often – the mini ones take more like 10-15 minutes. It’s done when the cakes have set and pop out of the tins easily / keep their shape. The tops will also be oh so slightly browned.
Sprinkle the cooked cakes with a little more cheese, and try a few (gotta make sure they taste okay. And you have to try more than one, the first 1-2 might be a fluke…). Once the rest have cooled, put them in an airtight container and refrigerate. They’ll be waiting for you tomorrow morning – one less excuse for not going to the gym!
Nutrition Facts (per mini cake, assuming you made 20): 25 calories, 1g fat, 4mg cholesterol, 195mg sodium, 2g carbs, 3g protein