This time of year we’re all busy and meal times seem to suffer. With the pressure for time that we are all facing, it’s hard to get nourishing from-scratch meals on the table consistently. Now that there are only two of us at home, it’s tempting to grab a package of noodles or a mix just to speed things up. But then we have the health consequences of not feeling great, from those extra carbs and chemicals. This Greek-style lamb and spinach pie is one of my favorite make ahead meals, for winter. My version has less fat and more flavour than you’d probably expect from such simple ingredients.
Corningware™ recently sent me a package of Meal Mugs™, their innovative freezer-to-oven and oven-to-table solution for make ahead dinners. And frankly this has solved a problem for me.
It’s so much easier to spend a few hours one afternoon making several meals in individual mugs, then popping them in the freezer. They are convenient for those busy days, when I look up from a project and realize it’s already 6pm. (Don’t judge. You’ve done it, too). I tested it last weekend with this recipe. A fully frozen meal mug can be heated in the microwave in 4 to 5 minutes, depending on your power-strength. The BPA-free lid can be vented to prevent the food from splattering inside your microwave. (I actually didn’t use the plastic lid though) So even if you get in “the zone” when you are working on a project, you don’t need to stop. The meal is waiting. And it’s from scratch.
If you are putting the prepared mugs in the oven instead, thaw the mug in the fridge, then place them in an already preheated oven. Don’t put the plastic lid in the oven. (You knew that already!) The meal mug shouldn’t go above 400°F. Moving it from the freezer directly to the oven can shorten the life of the stoneware mugs though.
Since these are a durable stoneware material and not the old Corningware™ pyro-ceramic glass, you need to use a few precautions when working with them.
- Don’t place the hot mug on a wet surface, use damp oven mitts, nor a damp towel when handling.
- Don’t put a frozen dish on a hot oven baking sheet.
- Don’t put the mug in the oven and then preheat it. The fluctuating temperatures may damage the mug. Don’t heat higher than 400°F.
- Don’t put the hot mug on a cold, wet surface. Use a dry heatproof surface.
- Don’t use an abrasive metal pad to clean them, like steel wool. A steel wool pad will scratch the surface.
- Don’t leave the stoneware immersed in water for long periods of time.
This Greek-style lamb and spinach pie is one of my favorite dishes. It’s like a cross between spanakopita and a gyro. (Just typing that makes me want some.) The crispy, golden filo pastry, the warm, salty lamb and feta cheese, and the creaminess of the filling is the best thing the ever came out of a home oven.
My recipe has mushrooms added to extend the lamb, add more vegetable servings, reduce the fat content, and increase the flavour and the vitamins. It’s an interesting technique that blends the mushrooms into the texture of the ground lamb. See the recipe for instructions on this interesting “Blend and Extend” cooking technique from Mushrooms Canada.
The feta cheese adds a lot of saltiness so there is no need for additional salt. Having a few of these set aside in my freezer, means that even on busy days, when I may forget to start a meal in the Instant Pot, my husband and I can still enjoy a from-scratch dinner in minutes. And the pasture raised lamb is our own from Joybilee Farm. It doesn’t get better than that.
Greek-style Lamb and Spinach Pie
Yield: 4 — 20 ounce meal mugs.
Serves 4 large appetites for dinner or 8 medium appetites for lunch
8 sheets of Filo pastry
350 grams of mushrooms
1 pound of ground lamb, thawed
2 tbsp. coconut oil, for frying
2 stalks of celery chopped
½ large onion or 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped finely
2 tbsp. lemon zest, finely grated
100 grams ( 1 cup) feta cheese, cubed
100 grams of baby spinach, washed and finely chopped
½ cup butter, melted
- Thaw the filo pastry according to package instructions.
- Wash the mushrooms. Quarter them and put them through a food processor with the chopping blade. Chop them on low speed until the mushrooms are the same consistency as the ground lamb. Set aside.
- Add coconut oil to a large sauté pan. Heat over medium heat. When the frying pan is warm enough that a sprinkle of water sizzles when splashed on the frying pan, add the mushrooms, ground lamb, celery, and onions. Stir frequently while the meat is browning to avoid scorching the meat. When the meat is brown and most of the residual liquid in the pan is evaporated, turn off the heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, add the eggs. Beat well. Add lemon zest, feta cheese, and baby spinach. Mix to incorporate.
- Stir the meat mixture into the egg, cheese, and spinach mixture. Set aside.
- Melt ½ cup of butter (don’t use margarine).
- Lay out filo pastry on a wooden board, so that it is flat and no longer folded. Take a linen towel and cover half of the filo pastry to prevent it from drying out. Working with one layer of filo pastry at a time, using a pastry brush, brush the uncovered half of the filo pastry with melted butter. Take the unbuttered side of filo pastry, that is covered with the towel, uncover it and fold it over the buttered half. Cover the unused filo pastry with the towel again. This prevents the filo pastry from drying out.
- Brush butter on just the top half of this folded filo pastry. Fold the filo pastry again. The filo pastry is folded into quarters. Brush the side of the same piece of filo pastry with more butter, fold it again. The filo pastry is folded into eighths.
- Brush the inside of the Corningware™ Meal Mug™ with melted butter to prevent sticking. Now gently push the folded rectangle of filo pastry into the meal mug, so that the center of the pastry is against the bottom of the meal mug, and the edges of the pastry cover the insides of the meal mug. It will look like a ragged pastry crust.
- Spoon the lamb-spinach mixture into the meal mug on top of the pastry crust. Fill the cup ¾ full of lamb-spinach mixture.
- Take another piece of filo and brush with butter, fold, brush with butter, fold until it also is folded in eights. Brush it with butter again and fold it once more. Place it on top of the mixture in the meal mug, so that the insides of the meal mug are covered in pastry. Brush the top of the filo pastry with butter.
- Repeat steps 7 to 10 with the other three meal mugs.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Once the oven is preheated, place the meal mugs on a heavy baking sheet, and insert into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven. Allow the pies to cool for 10 minutes to firm the sauce, before serving.
- At this stage the pies can be cooled completely. Once they are cool, cover with the Meal Mug lid and placed in the freezer for storage. Lamb and spinach pie will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. To serve allow the pie to thaw in the refrigerator. Heat in the microwave for 4 minutes or return the thawed dish to oven for 20 minutes at 350°F to reheat.
Tips for working with the Corningware™ Meal Mug™
- These Meal Mugs make cooking up memorable meals super easy. It’s the only tool you’ll need to make everything from coffee and cocoa to soup, chili, oatmeal and more. The mug’s vented lid allows steam to escape, keeping your microwave clean and you safe from steam burns.
- The Meal Mug is made with a durable stoneware material. The mug is dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and preheated oven safe. The Meal Mug should only be placed in a preheated oven. Do not heat higher than 400°F.
- The nonporous surface of the stoneware does not absorb odors, food, flavours, or stains.
- The patented vented lids are BPA-free. They are safe for the microwave and the top rack of the dishwasher. But don’t put the lids in the oven.
- Meal Mugs hold 20 ounces or almost 600ml of liquid. They are larger than other cocotte dishes.
- They retain the heat and keep your food hot for a long time.
Other uses for Meal Mugs:
Mac and Cheese
Breakfast Casserole (Christmas breakfast!)
French Onion Soup (of course! but don’t put the mug under the broiler)
Where to buy Corningware Meal Mugs?
Meal mugs come in vibrant rainbow colours. The ones I received from Corningware were “Blueberry”. The only colour I didn’t find was purple. They’d make a lovely shower gift, grad gift, or wedding gift.
You can also purchase them online at World Kitchen. (They ship to Canada)
Other Canadian Retailers that carry Corningware Meal Mugs:
- Walmart Canada
- Home Outfitters
- London Drugs
Come to the Twitter Party!!! (Fun!)
When: Thursday December 15 at 9pm to 10pm (EST) (That’s 6pm to 7pm PST)
Where: On Twitter using the Hashtag #MealMug — RSVP here
Your Host: Food Bloggers and Canada (@FoodBloggersCA) and World Kitchen LLC (@WorldKitchenLLC)
Prizes: Cookware and Bakeware (see the official rules here!)
This blog post is sponsored by Corningware™.
What is your favorite make ahead meal that you keep in the freezer for those busy days when you lose track of time? “Reservations” doesn’t count.