Greens For Dinner!

A favorite at our house is sauteed fresh spinach with red onion and bacon. And it is so convenient that it comes bagged and ready to use . . . maybe. Yes, most fresh spinach products claim to be freshly-washed but I never feel it is freshly-washed up to my expectations!

I’m making spinach this evening and decided to show you what you can  expect if you don’t wash and soak your spinach.

First of all, always clean twice as much spinach as you think you will need as it cooks down drastically. My cleaning method is to put it into a very large bowl, fill the bowl with water to cover the spinach leaves and then pour in a half cup to a whole cup of cider vinegar depending on how much I’m making for dinner. I stir it around a bit and let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes while I work on other dinner prep. When I’m ready for the spinach, I put a colander in the sink and put in several handfuls of spinach into it, rinse, and place on a triple layer of paper towels, usually about four ‘sections’ of paper towel long. I continue this way until I have rinsed off all the spinach. Now, look at the water left in your soaking bowl. Doesn’t look too great, does it?

 

Salad Bites?

Vegetable Soup was simmering on the stove and cheese bread was baking in the oven. It seemed that the meal needed something a bit more to satisfy a hungry husband who would have had to fight the Friday night traffic coming home from work and a daughter who is always nibbling.

Then, I remember something on Facebook where someone peeled a cucumber, sliced it lengthwise, scrapped out the seeds and then filled one side with lunch meat, greens, etc. and topped it off with the other side of the prepared cucumber and sort of an instant gluten-free sandwich. The moment had come for me to try this!

I prepared my cucumber and lay in a half leaf of Romaine, layered tuna salad with tomatoes on top of that with an extra touch of freshly ground black pepper. I ‘closed’ my ‘sandwich’. To stabilize the whole thing, I stuck in toothpicks every half inch or so and sliced between them. They were now easy to access at dinner and kept their good looks until dinner!

Walnut Apple Spice Pound Cake

Walnut Apple Spice Pound Cake

2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups apple; peeled, cored & finely diced (tart, green apples work best.)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Mix sugar and oil, add eggs and beat well. Combine flour, soda and salt. Add flour mixture to beaten egg mixture. Stir in vanilla, apples, spices, and walnuts. Mix well. Spoon batter into a greased tube pan. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Allow cake to cool to room temperature before removing from pan.

*Some of the gluten-free flour blends are ‘cup-to-cup’ measurement meaning the same amount called for in wheat flour will work with the same amount gluten-free flour.

Deconstructed Beef Pot Pie

When the children were little, making pot pies was a mistake because they would only eat the crust and forget about the meat and vegetables. Very frustrating when you carefully fill and top individual pot pie dishes only to have most of the contents returned. And, yes, cries of desperately hungry children 30 minutes later didn’t move my heart to make them a peanut butter sandwich.

The parents, on the other hand, felt that they would prefer a bit more of the crust which evolved into my Deconstructed Beef Pot Pie. Hey, I couldn’t find any laws on the books saying that the crust has to be baked on top of the meat. As you can see from the pictures, the meat gets stewed into a tender treat and the crust can be cut to order. These days, everyone wants their beef pot pie contents on the crust rather than under it. Another plus is that I don’t end up having to crowd four to six individual pot pie dishes into the dishwasher.

The crust is gluten-free and made with butter, some olive oil, and enough iced water to form a dough. I bake it at 400 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Ethnic Food Appropriation Night?

Not sure with the craziness of the world, but I think that we are still allowed to cook any kind of food we want in the privacy of our kitchen. Being of German heritage from my mother’s side of the family, naturally, I’m making fajitas and homemade tortillas for dinner!

Anyway, I learned a long time ago in my family meal preparation, homemade is better and less expensive. I’ve been making flour tortillas forever and no longer even follow any set recipe. When my husband had to be declared a gluten-free zone, I just switched the flour ingredient in my recipe to a gluten-free blend. Authentic Foods Gluten-Free Bread Flour Blend is currently my favorite although I still enjoy using BetterBatter Gluten-Free flour.

We decided we had a yearning for fajitas for dinner this evening. My husband only has one or two Saturdays a month off so we decided to celebrate this. I spent the afternoon with food prep and he cleaned the house for me. Since I’d rather cook than clean house and he’d rather clean house than eat the mediocre dinner he might venture to prepare, it was a good deal for both sides!

My recipe for flour tortilla? Basically, I put around three or four cups of wheat or gluten-free flour in the bowl, add a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt, combine, and then add hot tap water slowing to the dry ingredients until a workable dough evolves. I use an ice cream scoop to parcel out the amount of dough to roll out for each tortilla. I have a cast iron pan but most any frying pan would work for cooking them on both sides or until some bubbles and browned blisters show up. You want them baked but not crispy!

Hard as I try to roll them out to a beautiful, uniform circle, I usually end up with what looks like various countries removed from the map. I do have a tortilla press (More of that German heritage!) but it only makes small one and, sometimes, you need a larger size.

This is also a fun kitchen activity for mom and the children so they can see what goes into fixing a meal and be proud of the results of their efforts.

Quick Thinking in the Kitchen – Super Easy Bundt Cake

Yes, there are some times that you actually need to have a cake ready within hours for unexpected company, a birthday cake, a gift for a friend, etc. Unfortunately, we find the rest of the day crowding in on us and have no idea what to do except head over to the store bakery for something that will taste and look store bought!

This has been a favorite recipe in my family for years. My mother came across it over 40 years ago and it has saved the day many events since. I like the fact that it is open to interpretation in that you can use whatever flavor cake or pudding mix you like for the perfect end result. Don’t care for the sherry, use water or juice.

Don’t have a bundt pan? Make cupcakes or use a loaf pan.

Easy Bundt Cake

1 yellow cake mix
1 small package instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sherry
Combine all ingredients and mix just until well incorporated. Smooth into a well-greased and floured bundt or tube cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees approximately 35-40 minutes. Cool ten minutes in pan and invert onto serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar.
Variations:
Add ½ cup ground walnuts or pecans to the cake batter before baking.
Add 3/4 cup toasted coconut to the cake batter before baking.

Eating Healthy And Paying Too Much?

Face it, sometimes, eating healthy can up the grocery bill a bit. I notice that these days there are more vegetables than carbs and meat when we check out at the grocery store and we have grown to enjoy the meals that transpire from healthy shopping.

One item I’ve been wanting to try but couldn’t bring myself to put out the cost for has been Kale chips. I’ve seen small bags going for three to five dollars for a handful of the stuff. I’m one of those people who like to solve problems, however, so did some research and discovered that crispy, toasty Kale is easy enough done in the oven. Simple recipe! Clean and pat dry a bunch of Kale and pull the leaves from the woody stems. Toss the stems and tear the Kale leaves into smaller pieces. Put in a large bowl and put in a bit of olive oil – just enough to put a light shine on both sides of the leaves. You soak it in oil, you add calories IF you can eat the soggy results!

One you have your Kale LIGHTLY shining with good olive oil, add a tiny bit of salt, pepper to taste, whatever herbs and spices you have and like in the cupboard and toss to coat evenly. I also like to add a few good shakes of nutritional yeast to the mix.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the Kale. In a 350-degree preheated oven, bake the Kale for approximately eight minutes or until they are crisp to the touch.

Let the Kale cool a minute and enjoy. We often make a batch for a dinner vegetable. It isn’t much trouble to make for a snack for the children either once you get the process down and second nature to you. And, when you see how much Kale you can make vs. the few shreds you get in a bag at the health store, you would gladly pat yourself on the back . . . if you weren’t already busy eating free Kale chips.