Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spinach – It’s not Just for Popeye, the Sailor

Ok, so you grew up with canned spinach and don’t like spinach.  Well, now that you are an adult, it may be a good time try spinach again.  Your taste buds have matured and spinach is available in a number of forms.  Canned is no longer your only option. 

You may be wondering how I got on this spinach kick after all I the fattening stuff I write about.  Would you believe I was looking for something a little redeeming?  Ok, you are not buying that.  Here is the truth.  A colleague of mine has an abundance of spinach.  She is up to her eyeballs in spinach and needed a few suggestions for spinach.  So I thought why not blog about spinach.  Maybe give a few ideas for using and preserving spinach for those of you lucky enough to have an abundant supply.

Spinach Ideas.

1.     Spinach wrap – Use larger leaves as a wrap, the same as you would for lettuce.  You can wrap a vegetable or meat based salads.

2.    Make a frittata – For each person, use 2 eggs, 2 ounces cheese, seasonings (garlic, onion, salt and pepper) to taste, 1 cup firmly packed spinach.

3.      Spinach pesto – Use spinach instead of basil to make pesto.  Use with spaghetti or lasagna.

4.      Stuffed chicken breast – Combine spinach with cheese such as ricotta, parmesan, goat and stuff inside a chicken breast and bake.

5.     Salad on-the-go – Toss spinach leaves with your other favorite salad ingredients.  Add your favorite dressing and put inside a pita. 

6.       Twice baked potatoes – Add sautéed spinach to baked potatoes.

7.     Spinach fruit salad – Spinach pairs nicely with a variety of fruits, like, strawberries and mandarin oranges.

8.       Sautéed spinach – Sauté spinach with garlic and olive oil.

9.       Creamed spinach – This is an old favorite.

10.   Toss spinach into a stir-fry.

Thai Inspired Spinach Wrap


4 cups rotisserie chicken, skinned and boned
2 celery ribs, cut into small dice
2 medium green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped peanuts
Juice of one lime
2 Tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger, squeeze to remove juice
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
Large spinach leaves


1.     In a medium bowl, mix chicken, celery, green onions and peanuts.  In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, fish sauce, ginger liquid, sugar, red pepper, cilantro and mint.

2.     Toss dressing with chicken mixture.  Allow individuals to place desired amount of salad in a spinach leaf.  Roll.  If making ahead of time, hold together with a toothpick.

 If you still have too much spinach, here are a few suggestions for using the"excess".

Fruits and Vegetables – More Matter -
University of Nebraska Lincoln – Extension -
National Center for Home Food Preservation -

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Haloumi Cheese – A Continuation of My Assignment


As some of you may recall, months and months ago, I gave my students an assignment to visit grocery stores they do not normally visit and look for cheeses they would not normally look for.  My goal was to get them out of their comfort zone. An education should move one to a higher level of thinking on a variety of subjects – food included.   
To say that I am behind schedule on my assignment is an understatement.  But, I am not getting a grade.  However, I am bound and determined to complete my assignment.  Never let it be said that I left a job undone. 

For my fourth assignment, I picked a Middle Eastern cheese, haloumi.  I learned about this cheese from reading Greek recipes.  I have never tried it, so this is a new experience for me too. 

Haloumi (Halloumi) originated in Cyprus and is also popular in the rest of the Middle East and Greece.  Traditionally, it is made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk.  Haloumi is a white cheese, similar to mozzarella.  It has a salty taste.  It is unusual in that it can be fried or grilled until brown without melting due to its higher than normal melting point.  Its resistance to melting comes from the fresh curd being heated before being shaped and brined.  Haloumi can be used to make saganaki, a fried cheese appetizer often found on Greek menus. 

Although some of my sources state that haloumi is similar to mozzarella, I’m not sure that I agree.  First of all, I did not find it to be as tough as mozzarella.  The texture was more grainy and fell apart easier than mozzarella.  It has a stronger flavor than mozzarella.

I decided to make saganaki with my haloumi.  Saganaki is often served in Greek restaurants as an appetizer.  Saganaki gets its name from the pan in which the cheese is cooked.  However, I made mine in a small cast iron skillet.   I have never made this before and was a little intimidated.  As I was making this dish, I thought of fried mozzarella.  I now wonder if this is how fried mozzarella got started.  If anyone in the blogosphere knows, please let me know.

Classic Saganaki with Olives and Lemon

Serves 4 to 6.

1 package (8 ounce) haloumi
All purpose flour
2 Tablespoon olive oil
½ lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Tomato wedges
Pita wedges
Kalamata olives

1.      Rinse cheese under cold water.  Do not pat dry.  Coat with flour.  Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add cheese and cook until beginning to brown, about 1 minute per slide.  Transfer to plates and serve.
2.       Squeeze lemon over cheese; sprinkle with oregano.  Serve with tomato, pita and olives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Woman vs. Rabbits

Every year I plant a garden, probably more to see who will win, me or the elements.  Up until this year, I thought I stood a chance.  This year, I am fighting the heat.  The heat won.  You see, it was cold in the Midwest and then, boom, it was hot. 

And now to top things off, the rabbits are loose and wrecking havoc in my garden.  I tried putting little cutout milk jugs over the tomatoes.  It appears the rabbits used them as a perch from which they could gnaw my entire garden of tomatoes.  Instead of tomatoes, I have stalks.  My gardening buddy took one look at my garden and promptly stated, “Why, Miss Jones, your garden looks worse than mine”.  Now if that isn’t a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is.  I’m on my third planting of tomatoes.  I once had hopes of tomato sauce and a few other tomato dishes.  I now hope for enough tomatoes for a couple of BLT’s.

I planted okra this year, just like all the other years.  I thought they were safe.  They came up, so nice and cute.  I went out one morning and my okra plants were just a thing of beauty.  Yes, I’m a proud mama.  I went back later in the afternoon and what did I have?  Okra stalks!  Those little jokers ate my plants in broad daylight. 

I now have my entire garden in either a fence or milk jug cover (thank God I drink milk).  It’s actually quite comical.  Some of the milk jugs are even double stacked. 

I suppose in some ways, this is sweet revenge.  You see, as a child my favorite book was Peter Rabbit.  I thought it was so cute for Peter to be loose in Mr. McGregor’s garden.  Well, you got it.  I am now Mr. McGregor.  And Peter Rabbit ain’t cute.   I have now switched over to Mr. McGregor’s side.

For those of you who have managed to grow a few strawberries, here is a recipe for you.  For the rest of us, a trip to the farmer’s market might be necessary.

 Strawberry Sauce

 Serves 4.


1 quart fresh strawberries
¼ cup sugar


1.       Slice strawberries.  Add sugar and stir.  Refrigerate mixture for about 1 hour.
2.       Cook over low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool.
3.       Serve with ice cream, pancakes, angel food cake or as you desire. 

Regardless of how you serve your strawberry sauce, eat it outside so that you can guard the garden.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buttermilk – The Wonder Ingredient

Buttermilk is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with.  I use it to marinate chicken.  I would never consider making biscuits without it.  It is often used to make cakes.  It is used to make salad dressings.  There is even a buttermilk pie.

When I talk to my students about buttermilk, they frown as if it is the worst thing they have ever heard of.   The name buttermilk seems to imply “full of fat”.  However, the original buttermilk was the milk left over after making butter; thus the name, buttermilk.  There is very little fat in buttermilk, making it a lowfat product. 

As a kid, I remember my parents and grandparents pouring buttermilk over cornbread and eating it for supper.  (Yes, supper, not dinner.)  With a touch of sugar, it wasn’t a bad dish.  Americans don’t seem to favor consuming buttermilk as a beverage.  I always thought that when fruit was put into yogurt, they would do the same thing for buttermilk.  It seemed like a natural progression of things.  But there was no such luck.  Buttermilk still languishes in the frig waiting for your next favorite dish. 

Well, I think it’s time for buttermilk to step out on its own, no more hiding out in cakes and salad dressings.  A few years ago, I came across a recipe for mango lassi. 

As I did research for this posting, I found that lassi is a beverage with its origins in India.  Indians make this beverage by blending yogurt with water or milk.  Traditional or salted lassi is a savory drink, sometimes flavored with ground cumin.  Sweet lassi is made with fruits and sugar can be added.  I believe it is traditionally made with yogurt, but this recipe called for buttermilk. 

If posssible, make this recipe with ataulfo mangoes.  Ataulfo mangoes tend to be more flavorful and juicier.

Mango Lassi

Serves 4.


2 ½ cups chopped peeled mango
1 quart buttermilk
¼ cup sugar


1.       Purée mango in blender until smooth.  Add buttermilk and blend well.
2.       Strain mixture through a sieve.  Add sugar, stir and serve.
3.       Add ice, if desired.