Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Spinach Tale

Oddly enough, growing up, I liked spinach. As in, the green, slimy spinach that was found, in a box, in the freezer section. Mama would cook it and then toss in some tangy vinegar (I think that was the key to this salt-lover's acceptance) and I'd gulp it down happily.

That algae-like spinach is every child's nemesis, so why did I like it? I have no idea. Nowadays, I don't eat that spinach anymore. I eat fresh baby spinach, steamed or au naturel in lovely salads.

Unless I'm at a steakhouse. And then I eat creamed spinach. Which of course, is food of the Gods. But really, you could probably braise crabgrass in a sauce that redolent with butter and cream and it'd taste okay. Cream sauce can vault almost any vile substance to ethereal heights.

Alas, cream and butter don't lovva my ass. Suffice it to say that I rarely allow myself to eat it.

I was grilling steaks the other night and thought about creamed spinach. And then I remembered a recipe from Ellie Krieger for healthy creamed spinach. After a quick run to the store to purchase evaporated milk, I got down to business.

I'll admit, I was dubious. A creamed spinach recipe that contains neither butter nor cream? Hmph. Sort of sacreligeous, in my opinion.

I made the recipe and served it up. The girls, naturally, would not touch it. We ate ours, and it was okay. Just okay. Next time I make it, I'm using cream instead of the evaporated milk. In my opinion, 1/2 of a tablespoon of cream per serving is not at all excessive. And really, it needs that lush note that cream delivers.

But the interesting part comes later. The next day, I turned on the Food Network, and my archenemy, Rachael Ray, was perking it up on the screen. Let it be known that I don't think she's a bad cook. It's her freaking perk that I can't abide. And the weirdo made-up words like "stoup."

Still, she got my attention, because she was making Green Eggs and Ham in cups. With creamed spinach. Which I happened to have left over in my refrigerator, along with eggs and proscuitto di Parma.*

It got me thinking. My girls love eggs. LOVE them. They also happen to love all things salty and pig-fleshed.

Could the combination of the two cancel out the yuck-factor of the spinach?

I had to try, just in the name of curiosity. I DID stack the deck in my favor by encouraging the girls to help me make the dish. I have two very eager helpers in the kitchen, and if I am not pressed for time, I am finding that my favorite times of the day are when they're next to me in the kitchen, stirring or sifting or beating some eggs. It also increases their chances of trying something new by at least 30 percent.

They happily helped out, cooing and marvelling at how cute the little egg baskets were.

~Bunny had to help, too.

~Miss D. thinks that dancing is a crucial step in the recipe-testing process.

~Admit it--they're cute.

Green Eggs and Ham
recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray
serves 4-8

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted in microwave and excess moisture squeezed out
1/3 to 1/2 heavy cream
salt and pepper
dash of ground nutmeg to taste
8 slices ham or proscuitto di Parma
8 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the extra-virgin olive oil and the butter and sweat the shallots for a few minutes. Add the spinach and stir in the cream, season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Cook the spinach, stirring occasionally, until the cream has thickened, 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

**Author's note: I didn't make the spinach Rachael Ray lists above. Instead, I substituted leftover creamed spinach from Ellie Krieger's recipe, which I've included below.

Fold each slice of ham or proscuitto in half and line a nonstick muffin cup with one slice meat (only 8 cups of the muffin pan will be used). Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the cooked spinach into the cups, then crack an egg into each, making sure the egg stays whole. (hint--if you're worried about breaking the egg yolk, crack the egg into a small bowl first, then pour it into the muffin cup. Season the top of the eggs with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until set, about 15 minutes. Allow the baked eggs to cool in the muffin cups for a couple of minutes before removing them from the pan. Serve immediately.

Verdict: These little egg cups are genius! They're adorable, fun to eat, and delicious! Well, hubs and I thought so. The girls ate the eggs, but not the spinach or the crispy proscuitto cups. I think proscuitto is a little too strongly flavored for small palates.

However, I'll be making these again with some adjustments. I'll use just regular ham for the girls' cups, and I think I'll replace the spinach with some finely diced, cooked potato. THEN I think this family is in business!

Creamed Spinach
serves 4
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1%)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Squeeze all of the water from the spinach. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the low-fat milk and the broth and cook, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the evaporated milk and nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*No, I'm not a snob because I always have proscuitto in my refrigerator. It's called Salt Addict.


  1. I just found my way over from another blog. First--what an adorable "one pot meal" on your header! Second--I hated spinach as a child because my mother emptied that slimy stuff out of a can! It took years for me to try spinach as an adult. Now I have it as often as possible. I do like creamed spinach--now. I shall return and hope you'll stop by for a visit.


  2. Bunny looks even perkier than Rachael Ray. And dancing makes all bitter green vegetables taste better, doesn't it?? =>

  3. I never ate spinach as a kid, but I love the fresh kind and my kids gobble it up too. Strangely, I'm not a fan of the creamed variety.

  4. I'm a firm believer in everything in moderation, so the occasional foray into indulgent dishes is better I think than trying to make "healthier" versions that end up leaving you feeling a bit cheated. Way to be creative with leftovers, though!

    I hated the frozen stuff in a box then, and I hate it even more now--it's fresh or nothing for me.

  5. Dancing is definitely a critical step in recipe testing! These look adorable and would be perfect for a Mother's Day brunch.

  6. I would eat spinach as a child, but my mom would use some squeezed lemon juice over it. I still have to eat it that way if I'm eating cooked spinach.

    Ha! I feel the same way about RR, can't stand the made up words like stoup! It just gets to me..I even shudder when I hear it. I would have Food Network on in the kitchen while doing whatever I have to do in there and she'd be on in the background...and it's worse when you just listen to her and not really watch...then you get those little giggles she does...well you know!

    These egg cups look good. I don't eat ham or prosciutto, but like you we can adjust. Maybe even use a slice of bead flattened then line the cup, buttered of course. I like pancetta but it's a little pricey! got me thinking!

    Would love to have your girls help me in the kitchen, they seem so animated! :D

  7. I actually never even tried spinach until about 5 years ago - now I can't live without baby spinach in the house, and I get panicked when I am almost out!

    And I agree about creamed spinach - nectar of the Gods! We just ate at Ruth's Chris a week or so ago, and my hubs ordered it - divine!

  8. Much like Popeye, I love me some spinach...those egg cups look beautiful and I may make them soon for breakfast with my in-laws.

    As for Rachael Ray, she needs a shot of bitter to make her at least tolerable...Plus, the English language needs no more made up words...especially stupid ones...

  9. Looks like you found a great way to jack-up "okay creamed spinach"....That was destiny.

  10. Rachel Ray is not invited to perk it up anywhere in my vicinity...
    But that recipe looks great :)
    And your girls are so cute!! What fun helpers to have in the kitchen.

  11. Rachael Ray's perk raises my hackles faster than MY ass grows when I consume butter or cream. But green eggs and ham I like.

  12. Your girls are so flippin' cute...and I like Rachel Ray's recipes but her? I'd like to smack her. ;)

  13. I too was a weird child and loved spinach..however I preferred the canned variety (shudder) with lots of butter salt and pepper. But then I also loved escargot!
    However my kids look at me like I have 6 horns growing out of my head when I serve them sauteed spinach!

  14. Your girlies are wicked cute.....Creamed spinach reminds me of creamed peas...on toast.....not good. BUTTTTTTT I think I would try it non the less because you have yet to lead me astray.

  15. I can only eat spinach raw, but I love it. Let me amend, I can only eat it raw without masking its taste. I love spinach dip and my version of creamed spinach (which is a Weight Watchers recipe that calls for an egg, fat-free cottage cheese, and fat-free shredded cheddar cheese mixed into the thawed/squeezed out frozen spinach and then baked - yum!).

    Your girls look like they'd make anything more fun!

  16. Yum! I love everything in here... the creamy spinach, the egg, the ham. I wonder... would these be good reheated the next day? And portable? They might make a great take-along-to-work breakfast. But I wonder if the baked eggs would get gummy.

  17. So admit it you are taking a shine to my Sunday morning buddy Rachel Ray! What can I say everything about this looks good. Steakhouse style spinach, eggs and Prosciutto. this has to be perfect.

    As happens so often I agree with Miss D. dancing helps with the testing process (I have a yummy dance too).

  18. I still love boiled spinach and vinegar. And now I've learned to love raw spinach in salads... but only with poppyseed dressing. It's the opium factor that swings me.

  19. Your photo threw me- eggs with strawberries so I was intrigued- I love the idea, just pissed you got it from RR (which I also cannot stand!)

    Very cool, I have just had Max in the kitchen which I will blog shortly, we seem to be a little in sync ;)

  20. Great minds think alike. I cannot stand RR's bounciness and I also always have prosciutto in the fridge, can't live without it!

  21. Man, I wish I liked spinach when I was a kid! Something about the sliminess (yes, ours was frozen out of a box, too) was really off-putting -- which is why I to this day can't get into creamed spin.

    But good on you for getting your lovely girls not only to eat it, but to help make something with it! I love tales of people cooking with their young'ns!

  22. I never had fresh spinach until I was in my 20's. Isn't that dreadful?

    What's not dreadful are these lovely morsels.

  23. The creamed spinach in particular sounds great. Like you, I hated spinach as a kid but now I love it!!!

  24. My mother always cooked spinach with bacon in it! It's certainly not my favorite veggie, but as an adult I like it well enough. (Better in a salad...which I KNOW your girls wouldn't touch!)
    Ms. Ray is not in my favorite column either... although her hair is looking better than it used to..she IS perky to a fault. I am certain I have never copied a recipe of hers down. Just not my cup of tea. But I'm glad she came up with an idea for your kids. (Even though they still didn't touch the spinach! Which was the purpose of this exercise, right?)

  25. I love how you ended this post since as I was reading it I thought who the frick has prosciutto just laying around?!

  26. Hmmm...I always have left over evaporated milk from doing pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving...I have some spinach. I don't happen to have prosciutto around (!) but I may improvise with some pepperoni or even turkey and chilli powder (daft, I know). We're scrapping the bottom of the fridge just now (being frugal and trying to use up stuff), so finding creative new combinations is a must! Thanks for a great idea!

  27. I've made a similar recipe that uses sauteed mushrooms under the eggs. Equally delish! Also, if you're only using a tablespoon of the creamed spinach in each cup, maybe you could just go for broke and use real creamed spinach. Would the girls take any kindlier to it that way?

    That sheepish smile on Miss M's face is priceless!

  28. Kudos to you for working with your girls in the kitchen. My youngest loves to help cook, but I get so frustrated with the mess and how much longer it takes. I am a bad cooking mom...

  29. Love love love spinach, but generally raw (eat it daily), or steamed 5 minutes or less. I'm a little dubious on creamed spinach, but may give this a whirl.

    And yes - damn cute!!

  30. My mom was known to whip up a slimy batch of spinach now and then. Usually it would be served up along side liver and onions. I think she was just going out of her way to torment me! She would put a nice pat of Golden Soft over it. We always had to finish our veggies before leaving the table. I made sure to eat my spinach first. Warm slime was a bit more tolerable than cold slime. I'm with you on the fresh spinach. I don't know if I've had creamed spinach. I'm up for trying it though.

    I'd love to try this green eggs and ham recipe.

  31. Ok, I admit it - they ARE cute! Your daughters, that is. I think I told you before - I can barely "read" the word, let alone eat it since my pregnancy. And so sad, because the "S" word used to be my hands down favorite vegetable. So sad....I would have so loved these recipes just a few short years ago.

  32. I like your Rachel Ray is annoying tag. ;) They did turn out very cute, though! Another to put on my list to try!

  33. I have always loved spinach too - all kinds actually (now can sneak baby spinach into my kindergartner's lunch salads :-) - so ...thanks for the recipe. Your little ones are so cute - pretty, pretty girls (do you have a little boy too?). AND - we are BIG bacon and egg fans in this house - a good thing, I think. Thanks for your support on my rant, btw... I left a response.... And - yeah - Rachel Ray can be a bit annoying... Funny how we all have slimy, vinegary spinach memories here....

  34. I think those are just the cutest things ever!! My kids actually don't mind spinach, but hate pork of any kind-- what's up with that?!

  35. Your girls are adorable!

    I have similar feelings about RR. I have a friend who used to work at RR Everday magazine, and heard some pretty awful stories about the perky girl.

  36. Well, the girls are obviously onto you, TKW. They love cooking (or messing up the kitchen, anyway) and then they only eat what they like!

    I think I'll just keep my spinach in salads...

  37. terrific recipe, tkw--a marvelous way to eat one's greens. incidentally, the only thing that can match the severity of rachael's perkiness is my hatred for it. :)

  38. I love spinach, but didn't until my Mom made it once--fresh spinach that she sauteed in butter--and then covered it with parmesan. Some things just need a little fat, you know? And way to go for taking a stand on Rachel Ray!

  39. You crack me up with Rachel Ray being your archenemy. I thought I was the only one who thought her perkiness and made up words were annoying. But I have to admit the Green Eggs and Ham look yummy. I'll have to try them and see if I can get something green past my youngest. He's the one that insists green M&Ms count as green vegetables.

  40. These sound great and super easy. I adore spinach, but can't do anything with even a hint of cream in it. I think I'll just add some sauteed spinach in it's place. I am always looking for super quick dinners during the week in between this practice or that game. Thanks for a good one!

    PS-those girls of yours are just too cute! :)

  41. Your girls are adorable!!

    This made me laugh out loud. I too, love "all things salty and pig-fleshed." Ha!!

  42. You've got to reconsider spinach -- I'm addicted to spinach with melted cream cheese mixed in nom nom nom

  43. I opened your post to read it over an hour ago and then, in true motherly fashion, got called away. The photo at the top inspired me though and so we're having fried egg sandwhiches for dinner. Not as divine as the cups, which I agree, my kids probably wouldn't eat, but who can resist a friend egg sandwhich right? I know, very backwoods.

  44. I think I only like spinach because of Popeye. But still, that IS a decent and commendable reason, right?

  45. I don't have your cooking prowess to "sneak" veggies into my kids' food. So I surrendered and got a Vita-Mix from Costco this past weekend. The clincher? She made Spinach ice cream by adding handfuls of fresh spinach and non-diary creamer and ice. My 7-yo gobbled up 2 cups of it. The first time he ate leafy greens since birth.

  46. Sounds wicked - we actually talked about this on my course a bit - without the spinach. Shame your girls didn't get enticed by the ham and spinach but definitely worth a shot! One day they'll look back and marvel at all your culinary creations with such fondness I reckon! xxx

  47. I didn't think I could love you more than I already do, and yet, with your anti RR proclamation, I realized I was wrong. Sending big hearts your way.

    (PS: Your girls are beautiful.)

  48. I, too, was a lover of spinach when I was little. Still, I haven't tried cream spinach yet! What the crime? Anyway, I am not too fond of yoke. Do you think this would still taste fabulous with scrambled eggs instead? : )

  49. OMG I am making this on SATURDAY! Adorable. Easy! I love it!!!

    My kids eat spinach out of the garden like its grapes. Its crazy. But they don't recognize the frozen stuff and won't eat it. I love the stuff with vinegar still TKW. And I lovva your ass!