A couple of friends came over last night to watch Mamma Mia. The Swedish awesomeness of ABBA…. a singing Pierce Brosnan… the beauty of Greece… this was the perfect movie to cheer me up in the midst of the current deep freeze we are experiencing here in the DC area. It was also the perfect occasion for me to honor the Greek movie setting by dusting off my cookbooks and finding a lightened up version of a Greek favorite: Spanikopita– AKA “Spinach Queen” (I was trying to come up with an entertaining play on a song title from the movie, and this was the best I could do. If you think you can do better, I’d love to hear your suggestion! Spinach Trouper was also an option, but I thought it was even worse than Spinach Queen!)
Cooking Light has been a very useful resource for me over the years, and when I’m looking for a lighter version of an old favorite, they often have just the recipe I need. Once again, Cooking Light came through for me. Last night I made “Mini-Spanikopitas (Greek Spinach Pies)” from Cooking Light, and I thought I could give you a little recipe review (Click HERE for the recipe from Cooking Light). I hope you don’t mind that I posted the link rather than the full recipe. I figure the folks at Cooking Light can make the recipe look much prettier than I can.
This recipe, although involving a few steps, didn’t really take that long to make. The first step is to make the filling. I had to sauté both the spinach and the green onions, but the other ingredients involved no cooking at all. I will add that I sprayed my skillet with cooking spray before putting the spinach in although it was not called for in the recipe. The green onions are cooked in a bit of olive oil so nothing extra was needed for those.
The recipe directs you to drain the spinach in a colander. If you think your spinach looks pretty dry sitting there in the skillet, trust me when I tell you that more liquid will come out than you expect. I suspect that soggy spinach results in a soggy spanikopita, so I would definitely give this step a shot even if you think you don’t need to. You can see what mine looks like above, and I can tell you that I was able to squeeze plenty of liquid out.
After I finished draining the spinach, I put it in the bowl and sort of pushed it over to one side so that I could break my egg whites into the empty bowl space and beat them with a fork rather than dirty up a new bowl. I hate dirty dishes!!
After I beat the egg whites a bit, the rest of the ingredients were a snap to incorporate. I had the green onions in the skillet on the stove, and I turned them off and let them sit to cool a bit while I put everything else together. I told y’all about the Cowgirl Creamery in my post about unexpected treats, and, in addition to the lovely cottage cheese, I picked up some very creamy, mild, yummy feta while I was there last week. By the way, I will be having cottage cheese and jam this week since I bought a big carton of 1% cottage cheese at Safeway to go into this dish. Yay!
So, this is what the finished filling looked like:
After the filling was finished, it was time to break out the phyllo. I will admit that I haven’t had tons of experience working with phyllo dough, and it made me a little bit nervous. I know that it dries out quickly so keeping it wrapped up and away from the air is important. I also know that it tears very easily. I also know that it has potential to stress me out. It turns out that a few tears don’t matter a bit in this recipe. Here’s a picture of the phyllo spread out on my baking mat, cut into four strips, and brushed with the olive oil and egg white mixture:
My hands were all covered in spinach and oil so I didn’t take any pictures as I was folding the filling inside the phyllo, but let me just tell you that there is lots of room for error. I had some tears in my phyllo. I used more than the tablespoon called for in the last few so that I didn’t have leftover filling, and it was fine. Even if the bundle looks more like a trapezoid than a triangle after the first couple of folds, it will probably look fine when you reach the last fold. In other words, my nervousness was not well founded. It does take some time to roll all 20 little triangles up, but it was actually pretty easy.
After they came out of the oven, I put them all on a serving platter:
I would absolutely make these again. An informal poll of my guests came out in favor of this recipe as well. The fresh dill gave it an unexpected punch of freshness that we liked, and the phyllo got nice and crispy even without being slathered in tons of melted butter. I was also impressed because they weren’t teeny tiny. I’m a fan of this recipe, and I was pretty happy to have a few leftovers!
Making lighter versions of old favorites is one strategy that I use when I’m having people over, and it helps me to enjoy myself and still stay “on track.” I have other strategies too like having lots of fresh veggies around so that I can fill up on them while enjoying smaller samples of “pointier” foods. Last night, in addition to the spanikopitas, I put out some grape tomatoes (yum), cucumber slices, hummus, pita, feta and olives, so I had some good choices to keep me entertained and to fill me up.
In addition to my little spread, my friends brought some exciting additions to the party. One friend made some rich and tasty Swedish meatballs (in honor of ABBA, of course), and I had a couple. They were so good! I would have really missed out if I hadn’t tried them. My other friend brought a Praline-Pumpkin Cake made from a recipe on the Weight Watchers website. The cake was delicious, and I’m so glad that she gave that recipe a try. I will know what to take the next time I go to a potluck brunch (or movie night, for that matter.) We had some coffee along with the cake, and I thought it was the perfect finish! I was able to have some of everything, eat a filling meal, treat my sweet tooth and stay on track. Win Win!
Movie night was so much fun! My cake baking friend brought over her ABBA Gold CD/DVD set, so, after the movie, we watched old videos of ABBA. Let’s just say that special effects have come pretty far over the years. The videos were so funny with cheesy mirror effects, a strange looking snowman, lots of choreographed head turning, and the clothing and hairdos… well, the word “awesome” doesn’t even begin to describe them. I also found it hard to sit still so I’m thinking that I need to add some ABBA to my running mix.
The evening was a great kick off to my long weekend, and I had just enough leftover mini-spanikopitas to have some for lunch today with vegetable soup and an open faced turkey sandwich. They reheated really well and crisped back up nicely. I put the spanikopitas on a baking sheet, spritzed them with cooking spray, and reheated them for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
Notes about the points for this recipe: If you aren’t on WW and don’t give a flying fig about points, you might not want to keep reading, although you are certainly welcome to! You should just know that this is a pretty healthy recipe and it is really quite delicious too. If you are on Weight Watchers, here’s the scoop, unofficial, of course, on the points for the spanikopitas. When I plugged the nutritional information from the Cooking Light recipe into the points calculator, it told me that 1 mini-spanikopita was 1 point. If you put the information into the recipe builder, however, you may find that these are one of those foods that… well… you know how sometimes 1 serving of a food will be 1 point, but 2 servings will be 1.5… this is one of those foods. If you are interested, I’d encourage you to plug the recipe into your recipe builder. I ate six of them last night for 5 points, according to my unofficial calculations.