traditional spinach salad

lovely spinach salad

When I was in college I worked in the kitchen of a very old-fashioned eatery. The restaurant had been in the same family for five generations, and some items had been on the menu for decades. We served things like creamed cod, old-fashioned homemade chicken pot pies, lobster bisque, and spinach salad. Not the spinach salads you see today, with strawberries and chicken, served with a new-fangled raspberry vinaigrette. No, sir. The old-fashioned spinach salad with artery-clogging bacon and hard-boiled egg, a hearty helping of raw onion and a thick, sugar-and-mayonnaise-based dressing.

lovely spinach salad

When I saw the lovely baby spinach in my combo box last week, I started craving this old-fashioned salad and got to work at making it. I am trying to avoid eating refined sugar right now and I was out of mayonnaise, so I reinvented the dressing and it turned out scrumptious.

Traditional Spinach Salad
makes one dinner-sized salad
2 cups firmly-packed baby spinach
2 strips of organic bacon
1 organic hard-boiled egg
10 very thin red onion slices (or to taste)

Dressing
¼ cup organic plain yogurt
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoon maple syrup

lovely spinach salad

1. To make your dressing, whisk together the ingredients and refrigerate while you create the rest of the salad.

2. Cook your bacon until nice and crispy, drain and cool on a paper towel. When cool, dice into bits.

3. Unlike other salads, I do not like to mix and toss this salad with the dressing, but rather prefer to plate the salad greens and dress the salad with the other ingredients, sprinkling the dressing on at the end.

lovely spinach salad

I enjoyed this meal with a nice slice of homemade bread and butter. Hope you have a chance to enjoy this traditional Spinach salad soon!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

mexican beans and greens

lovely green beans

While our household is trying to eat more and more local and seasonal produce, it’s good every now and then to shake it up and let yourself enjoy a more varied selection of fruits and veg- especially when spring is so long in coming as it has been this year. Instead of our usual local box, this past week we treated ourselves to a combo box, which features such mouth-watering delights as oranges, kiwi, bananas (expect a recipe with these goodies soon!) and some lovely baby spinach. While I love baby spinach raw in a salad, I also love the flavor it gives when sauteed into a dish, and my wheels began turning on how I could best put these box of green gold to use.

lovely green beans

I love Mexican food. I lived in Arizona as a kid and my palette has never been lacking in fidelity to southwestern cuisine. We often eat dishes with lots of chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Even our little girl enjoys our Mexican food, just with lots of sour cream and cheese to mellow out the flavors.

Mexican Beans and Greens
Makes 2-3 servings
1 Large carrot
1 medium onion
2 cups firmly-packed baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup cooked beans (any will do, I used a 6 bean medly in this version)

Spices:
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cayenne (or to taste)

lovely green beans

1. Peel and shred your carrot and set aside.

lovely green beans

2. Assemble our spices in a small dish.

3. Peel and dice your onion very fine (I like to use my food processor). In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and saute onions and minced garlic for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

lovely green beans

4. Add spices to onions, making sure you spread them evenly over the pan so they are able to toast and become aromatic evenly.

5. Add your shredded carrot, mixing in well. Next add your spinach, and add just a tablespoon or two of water to the pan to help steam the spinach quickly and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Saute the carrots and spinach until the spinach is sufficiently wilted.

lovely green beans

6. Add your cup of cooked beans, stirring in well. Saute until heated through.

lovely green beans

Serve with your favorite rice or other grain, with sour cream and fresh avocado to garnish. This is a great dish for little ones, I combine a scoop of the beans and greens, a scoop of rice, and a nice big dollop of sour cream in the food processor and pulse until desired consistency for baby. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

green eggs


Normally I have our weekday meals pretty much mapped out by the end of the weekend so the evenings run smoothly. Otherwise the dilly dallying of “What are we having tonight?” makes me crazy and I end up running to the store for this or that last minute, wasting time, and I hate that.

This week was all mapped out except that, at around 4 p.m. today, I realized that Wednesday night somehow got forgotten about. So I had no plan. I also had this week’s spinach in the fridge and no plan for it, so I knew I was creating a meal out of spinach but with little time or ambition.

So, I fell back on that old desperate standby, breakfast for dinner. In this case, green eggs, bacon and potatoes. Not a meal to be especially proud of, but one that did make use of two Loft ingredients, so hey, we got some organic veg into us.

To make the potatoes, we peeled about four little brown ones and grated them on a box grater. Heated a little olive oil in a pan over medium, threw in grated potatoes, tossed here and there, added some salt and pepper. Took no time and tasted great.

Green eggs: I washed that big old bunch of spinach, steamed it, let it cool, squeezed all the water out, and was left with one large handful. (That always amazes me). I chopped that up and set it aside. Then I whisked 6 eggs and poured them in a pan with a little melted butter. As I started to scramble them, I sprinkled in the chopped spinach, some salt and pepper, and carried on tossing it around until cooked.

A couple of pieces of really flavourful Berkshire bacon on the side — a happy mid-week treat — and dinner was served.

green eggs

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

baby risotto


So, I call this baby meal “Baby Risotto,” but it isn’t, really. All it really is, is tarted-up rice cereal, but my boy loves it. And it’s a good vehicle for hiding vegetables when I feel he would reject them if presented with them straight-up, which is often. It’s a fast, foolproof little person meal.

To make this recipe, you’ll need some ground up rice. I buy organic brown rice and put it in the blender and grind it until it’s nice and fine. You can do this ahead and keep a jar of the stuff in your fridge. (I actually use a Magic Bullet for grinding, which was a gift to me and has turned out to be one of the greatest little kitchen appliances I’ve ever owned.)

To make, put 1 cup of water in a little pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and stir in 1/4 cup of your ground rice and stir until you’ve got a nice, smooth consistency — just a few mintues. Stir in some grated cheese (or smooth cheese, like goat) to taste.

Here’s where you can get creative adding in whatever veg you’ve got in your fridge. Last night, I used some of this week’s spinach, which I chopped up into thin ribbons, and some tomatoes that I oven roasted, then froze. But you could use anything else, like maybe some of your broccoli, chopped up small, or grated beet, carrot or sweet potato (in which case you’d want to saute them first, until nice and soft, then add the water and the rice). You could roast some of your dumpling squash ahead and stir it in. For something breakfast-y, you could omit the cheese and add cinnamon and grated apple — maybe even a drizzle of maple syrup.

Irv, my 13-month-old, opens his mouth wide like a little bird for this stuff. He likes it so much he forgets to wrestle me for the spoon. I often save this idea for his Friday night supper, when I am fully out of ideas, ambition and want to just get him fed, and fast.

baby risotto

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

soup


I bow down to the inventor of the slow cooker. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen on various projects yesterday afternoon, including some slow cooker prep for tonight’s supper. But I came home at 4:30 today and dinner was on its way to being ready. Makes for a ridiculously less harried evening when dinner is already done. And the clean up is negligible, too. All I had to do was slice up a Golden Hearth whole wheat loaf (best bakery in town, I say) and butter it. Done.

Lots of good bag items ended up in this soup — several carrots, the leek and all the spinach — so it’s super healthy, but filling and hearty, too. And there is a load of room to play and make substitutions. You really can’t mess it up.

And I do believe if I whiz some of this up in my Magic Bullet, I may have a nice bowl of healthy mush that, if I am lucky, my little one will eat for dinner tomorrow.

Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup (from Canadian Living)

6 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped (omit to keep it vegetarian)
2 onions, chopped (I used the whole leek instead, green and white parts only)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped (didn’t have any, so skipped it)
2 carrots, sliced
1 tsp dried basil (if you have an herb garden, use fresh and add it at the end)
1 tsp oregano (ditto)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) white kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I soak my own and freeze them in can-sized portions — for a how-to, click here)
4 cups (1 L) sodium-reduced chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup)
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes (I had some romas that needed using up so I skinned them and added them whole)
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup (175 mL) tubetti or other small pasta (I used orzo)
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh parsley (forgot to add this, darn)
1/4 cup (50 mL) tomato paste (oops, forgot this too)
1/3 cup (75 mL) grated Parmesan cheese (I added a parmesan rind from the freezer instead — this is a great trick for adding flavour to soups. Omit the parm for a vegan soup)

In skillet, fry bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; transfer to slow cooker. Drain fat from skillet. Fry onions, garlic, celery, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.

Mash 1 cup (250 mL) of the beans; add to slow cooker along with remaining beans. Add stock, tomatoes and bay leaf; cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until vegetables are tender.

crock pot

In pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until tender but firm, about 8 minutes. Drain and add to slow cooker. Add parsley and tomato paste. (Here’s where I also added the whole bunch of spinach, stemmed).

Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes or until hot. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

soup bowl

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.