Posts tagged spinach
I get pretty creative when it comes to getting my kids to try new foods, but this idea came right from my tween.
Here’s the deal: I’m a spinach lover, and my youngest kids…well, not yet. I’m working on it. I recycle my spinach containers as giveaways when I take treats to friends or into my kids’ classes. My kids found my stash of extras and discovered another use for them–as fish “aquariums.”
My kids tend to spend every waking moment once the weather gets warmer fishing in a nearby creek. They’ve discovered that my spinach containers make the perfect holders for their catch.
So my tween made the connection that when we eat more spinach there are more containers for fish. Lately, my tween has started eating spinach without complaint. Coincidence? Well, I’m still thanking the fish for my tween’s new-found interest in greens.
My tween went on a hunt today to find something green to wear tomorrow so that she won’t get pinched on St. Patrick’s Day. Her quest got me thinking that this holiday might just be the perfect
excuse inspiration to encourage kids not just to wear green, but to eat more green.
Here are a few ideas that seem to be working around my house:
Keep it smooth
My teen and youngest are now hooked on my magic smoothies, which include spinach and go from green to red once you add in berries.
Add it in!
Whenever I make pasta I try to throw in some spinach or other greens too. I figure the more my kids see it on their plate, the more likely they are to eat it.
Make it easy
I make little baggies of cut up veggies and put them in the fridge so my kids can grab them as a quick snack.
Use the power of TV
While there are plenty of TV shows and ads that might have your child reaching for junk food–there might just be a few that could encourage them eat their veggies. For example, my youngest is a huge fan of the BBC Merlin series. She’s entranced with all things English. So when I mentioned that there were “English” cucumbers she decided they’re now her favorite.
Be an example
If you like greens, chances are your kids will too.
Maybe it’s from watching one too many episodes of Popeye growing up, but I love spinach. I try to eat at least a little spinach every day, whether it’s a simple salad, sauteed with pasta, or in smoothies.
So the other day when I was hankering for some summertime flavors, I decided to use some baby spinach as a stand in for part of the basil in a pesto recipe I ran across in Lidia’s Italy in America cookbook. Sure, I mixed in some basil, but the spinach gave the pesto just the right consistency and bright shade of green. As Lidia suggested, I mixed the pesto in with my pasta. We used the extra as a dip for the bread. Next time, I’d skip the pasta and just serve the pesto with the bread. I was literally scrapping the bowl of the food processor with bread to get every last drop–it was that good.
Getting kids to try it tips:
- My youngest will eat just about anything if it’s dippable. She gave the pesto rave reviews.
- My tween isn’t a spinach fan. So I thought I might tempt her to give it a try if I mixed it with something she does like–pistachios. She tried the pesto, said it was, “Okay,” and left the rest untouched on her plate (uh, I ate it later;). She didn’t like it this time, but she was at least willing to give it a try, especially when she knew something she liked was in the mix.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: About 1 cup
1 1/2 cup packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves (opt.)
1/4 cup pistachios
1-2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)
2/3 cups olive oil
1 tsp. white vinegar (or fresh lemon juice or my preference, white balsamic vinegar)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- In a food processor, pulse together the spinach, parsley, basil, garlic, and pistachios.
- Slowly pour in the olive oil. (In my Cuisinart, you can pour the liquid into the feed tube and it works perfectly.)
- Process the ingredients until smooth.
- Add in the pepper, if using, cheese, vinegar, and adjust the seasoning.
Braces = pizza around our house. Our family’s favorite Italian deli happens to be right by the orthodontist’s office. So when she’s done having her braces tightened we swing by Alesci’s for their refrigerated pizza dough.
As I was digging through the refrigerator for topping ideas I stumbled on our prized chunk of Trader Joe’s truffle cheese. The cheese has the consistency of sharp provolone speckled with bits of truffle for an earthy, umami flavor. A little goes a long way.
Serves: 4-6 people
Prep time: 20 minutes + 20 minutes baking
1 lb. prepared pizza dough
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup truffle cheese (or sharp provolone)
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Roll out the pizza dough to fill a 9″ round pan. Generously oil the pan and add the dough.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. *I saute the veggies in my cast iron skillet and then bake the pizza in the same skillet. Yeah for easy clean up!
- Saute the mushroom and onions together in the heated oil until barely soft.
- Lightly brush the pizza dough with olive oil.
- Drain any extra liquid from the ricotta and then crumble it over the dough.
- Add the mushroom mixture, then fresh spinach. Sprinkle with mozzarella and truffle cheeses.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow the pizza to sit for 5 minutes before cutting.
- Turn up the heat by adding a dash of cayenne pepper on your pizza before baking.
- I served the pizza drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It was perfection!
- My oldest daughter loved this veggie pizza but my younger kids opted for the standard pepperoni; their loss! (Admittedly, I didn’t push them too hard to try it because I really, really wanted leftovers. And this pizza is even better day two, cold.)
Question: what do you do with leftover spinach? You know when you’ve forgotten about a bag of spinach and it ends up mushed in the back of the fridge until you discover it there. It’s a not so fresh that you want to make a salad out of it, but you don’t want to throw it away. Around our house, I often saute “leftover” spinach and put it in baked ziti, pasta, or even smoothies.
Flipping through the July/August issue of Cuisine at Home, I found another idea–green rice. The simple recipe uses a puree of spinach and cilantro to serve with BBQ shrimp (I wasn’t impressed with the overly sweet “creole” shrimp recipe). The flavor-infused rice is a great way to perk up a normally ho-hum side dish. Here are my two versions:
Green rice with spinach & cilantro
*Works well with spicy Mexican or American dishes
Prep time: 30 minutes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup Basmati or Jasmine rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 serrano chile (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft.
- Rinse the rice in cold water, then add it to the pan; cook for about one minute.
- Stir 1 cup broth and the milk into the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minute until tender.
- Meanwhile, puree the spinach, cilantro, juice from the lime, pepper (if using) and 1/2 cup chicken broth in a blender. Stir the spinach mixture into the rice and heat through (about 3 minutes).
Green rice with spinach & basil
*Works well with Italian or French dishes
Substitute 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves for the cilantro, a lemon for the lime, and add a dash of cayenne pepper in place of the serrano.
My youngest shied away from trying the rice at first saying, “What’s the green stuff, mom?” But after watching her older sisters finish off their plates she downed hers too. I served the rice with a wedge of lime for squeezing. I’ll definitely make this again.
Did you know chocolate is a vegetable? That’s right. Explaining her recent study results, which showed that people who get a daily dose of chocolate are slimmer than those who don’t, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said, “It’s my favorite vegetable.” Dr. Golomb cited chocolate’s antioxidant prowess when comparing it to other vegetables. She also relayed that chocoholics those in the study who ate chocolate each day had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn’t.
Well, of course, I want to make sure that we’re all getting enough vegetables in our diet so here’s a week’s worth of recipes so you can get your fill.
Keep 100% whole wheat bread moist by adding in plenty of Greek yogurt and chocolate, of course!
These brownies have a boost of extra nutrition from a blueberry-spinach puree that you mix in the batter. My teen loves these brownies even though they do turn out a bit softer than your straight-chocolate recipe.
Easy peanut butter cups (no bake!)
These homemade peanut butter cups are easy to put together. Thanks for the idea Martha and Me.
From Garlic Girl, add cocoa to your chocolate chip cookies for a extra boost of the good stuff.
My signature dessert that I try to make infrequently because it’s soo tempting. (I should point out that technically you should be sticking to around an ounce of daily chocolate so you’d need to be nibbling your cheesecake slice.)
Chocolate and lemon make such a surprisingly perfect combo–add a toasty marshmallow topping to make this updated kid classic from Good.Food.Stories.
End your week with these simple treats that have both cocoa powder and mini-chocolate chips (although feel free to add the regular size if you feel like you haven’t been getting enough chocolate in your diet).
*Special thanks to the National Institutes of Health for funding this study and others like it. Dr. Golomb mentioned she needed to do additional studies. The big question: WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?
A few weeks ago I noticed someone posted on a picky eater dilemma on Facebook–when you give your kids a smoothie spiked with spinach, do you tell ‘em about it…especially if they’re liking said smoothie packed with one of nature’s premiere superfoods?
Full disclosure: I love, love spinach. Regular lettuce has no heft and doesn’t fill me up, but give me a bowl of fresh baby spinach (or let me sip it down) and I’m happy. My kids, well, I’m working on that.
I don’t believe in sneaking veggies into foods. After all, you want kids to like veggies, right? Well if they don’t even know what they’re eating, how will they know they like them? But, I do believe you can be a little creative in your veggie presentation. And St. Patrick’s Day offers a perfect chance to convince your kids to try this veggized version. Explain to your younger kids that you’re going to make a magic smoothie–it’s going to change colors from Leprechaun green to pink. My youngest has a fascination with leprechauns ever since one of her teachers convinced her the little guys existed by moving all of the desks around in her classroom on the holiday and claiming, “The leprechauns did it.”
So if you want to weave some sort of leprechaun lore into your smoothie prep, by all means. Frankly, I’ve found the best texture for a spinach smoothie comes from mixing the spinach with applesauce, water and Greek yogurt before adding in the berries. If you mix everything at once the spinach doesn’t always get blended well enough (as much as I like spinach, no one likes a big leaf hanging out in their smoothie). I add in the berries at the end. Sure enough my green smoothie becomes pink with just a few pulses. Whether you want to tell your kids the color change is magic, the leprechauns did it, or just serve them up spinach smoothies without telling them what’s inside, well that’s up to you. I will say that first time my tween saw me making this smoothie her reaction was “Ex, gross there’s spinach in there.” I asked her to give it a try and she balked, sipped, then declared, “Oh mom, I can taste the spinach that’s nasty.” Well, I made again and she didn’t say anything, just slurped away. When I was making it today I didn’t try to hide the spinach–and she didn’t ask about it–her only question, “Mom, where’d you put the straws?”
Prep time: 5 minutes
1 cup fresh baby spinach, loosely packed
3/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek)
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 cup water
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2 cups water
1 tablespoon agave or honey
- In a blender, pulse the spinach, yogurt, apple sauce and 1 cup water together until thoroughly combined. The mixture should be a bright green.
- Add the fresh or frozen berries along with another cup of water and the honey or agave. Pulse again.
- Pour in more water to get the consistency you want. Blend until smooth.
- Optional: squeeze 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice into the smoothie, pulse and serve.
Five ingredients. One prep time. Three meals. What does it add up to? Easy baked ziti. I make a big batch of baked ziti one night that fills one, 9 x 13″ pan (for dinner that night and leftovers the next), then I fill a 9×9″ aluminum foil pan that I freeze and save to eat a couple weeks later. The only hard part about this meal is mixing all of the ingredients together before putting ‘em in the pans (hint: grab your biggest bowl).
A few notes on baked ziti:
•The noodles really do make a difference. Forget the penne, rigatoni, or even macaroni, ziti pasta is best.
•This dish is simple to make meatless. Skip the Italian sausage and use roasted veggies or spinach.
•I often add in spinach to this dish. The kids don’t seem to notice, plus I really like spinach.
•You can add as many different kinds of cheeses as you want–the last time I made this I put in Truffle Cheese (thank you Trader Joe’s!).
Baked ziti has all of the same flavors as lasagna, without all the work. So if your family likes lasagna, they’ll love baked ziti.
Prep time: 25 minutes + 40 minutes baking + 15 minutes cooling
1 16-ounce package ziti pasta
1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
3 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
2 24-ounce jars spaghetti sauce
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (optional, but recommended)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Cook the Italian sausage, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces with the spatula.
- Cook the pasta according the package directions. Note: this recipe works best with ziti cooked to al dente, make sure not to overcook the pasta.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta and sausage, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, all of the ricotta cheese and both jars of spaghetti sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Coat a 9×13” pan with baking spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Place the filled 9×13” pan on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get in and out of the oven. (The pan will be heavy!)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cheese becomes golden brown.
- Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
*We have a winner to the Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook giveaway! Laura will be receiving her copy soon.
It’s been a mild winter here in Ohio, but I’m still finding myself a little stir-crazy for Springtime. This salad gives me a bit of a taste of spring–with both kicks of fruit (both fresh and dried) along with a light vinaigrette.
Kid reaction: My teen liked the fruit/spinach combo but asked for it sans onions next time. The two youngest still aren’t convinced about vinaigrettes–to them salad dressing equals something creamy. I’m working on that.
Prep time: 10 minutes
12-ounce bag baby spinach (romaine works well too)
1 apple (Gala, Empire, Pink Lady), cut into thin slices
4 thin slices of red onion
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
¼ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the spinach and toss along with the apples, red onion, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries.
- Serve right away.
This recipe takes a little planning ahead: you rub a flavorful paste into the meat the night before you plan on grilling. (I usually make two at the same time—one for dinner that night, one for leftovers for a meal the next). Don’t be put off by the rub’s main ingredient. The mustard base (note: DIJON, regular mustard won’t work) brings together several marinade musts, including vinegar and other acidic ingredients so you don’t have to hunt down each one. They’re in there. I add in a few of my favorite seasonings like garlic and paprika, but if you have a good smoky seasoning mix you like, toss some of that in too.
You’ll notice I upped the pepper in here. Most of the pepper’s spicy edge is burnt off during grilling, it’s the tanginess that’s left over. But, you’ll need to use freshly ground pepper versus the finely ground variety you’ll find in most shakers. Don’t have a pepper shaker? They aren’t much more expensive than the regular variety and it really does make a difference. Plus, unlike some spices, you’ll use pepper all the time.
As with most meats hot off the grill, this one is better if you wait about 5 minutes before cutting. A little patience gives the meat time to soak up all those marinade ingredients you worked to rub in. Flank steak works well with many meals, fajitas come to mind, but I like serving it with a simple spinach salad.
Prep time: 15 minutes + marinating + grilling
1 pound flank steak
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½-1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
Agave syrup or honey
1 bag baby spinach
1 tomato, sliced
fresh basil (optional)
- Stir wet rub ingredients together to form a paste.
- Rub the paste into the flank steak using your fingers.
- Place in a large plastic bag overnight.
- Remove flank steak from the bag about 30 minutes to an hour before grilling.
- Bring grill to high heat and place the meat on the rack.
- Grill for 5-7 minutes on each side.
- Optional, but REALLY good—in the final 1-2 minutes cooking on each side brush generously with a combo of equal parts soy sauce and agave or honey (called a finishing sauce). If you don’t use the finishing sauce, make sure to sprinkle with salt at the end of cooking.
- Allow meat to cool for 5 minutes before cutting to retain juices.
- On each plate place a generous serving of spinach, followed by tomato slices. Place several pieces of steak on top followed by a drizzling of Balsamic vinegar then green onions, Parmesan cheese and bits of fresh basil.