Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eat Your Spinach...Morning, Noon and Night

There seems to be a special day for everything these days. You know where I'm going with this... Sunday is National Spinach Day! That’s a good thing because it gives me the opportunity to share a few recipes for using this glorious green.

Spinach Breakfast Frittata

Spinach is not only versatile in cooking, it’s really good for you. One of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, spinach is low in calories and high in vitamins. 

It gets even better; according to the USDA, spinach is fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free and high in dietary fiber. In addition, those dark green leaves are high in vitamins A and C, high in iron, high in folate, and a good source of magnesium. What’s not to love?

Here are a few recipes to help you enjoy your spinach at breakfast, lunch and dinnertime.

Spinach Breakfast Frittata
Like a quiche without the crust, frittatas are a versatile dish that can be modified for all tastes. With lots of veggies, plus eggs and cheese, a frittata will give you the nutrients and protein you need to get your day off to a great start.

Servings: 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded and chopped
8 large fresh mushrooms, chopped
5 ounces fresh spinach
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend
(or any combination of cheese you like)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep-dish pie plate with olive oil spray. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, bell pepper and carrot until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and then spinach. Cook until spinach wilts. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add sautéed veggies and mix well. Pour mixture into pie plate. Bake for 35-40 or until frittata has set.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
This bright and colorful salad is wonderful on its own, or give it an extra boost of protein by adding sliced grilled chicken or steak.

Servings: 4
½ cup walnuts
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
8 ounces baby spinach

1 shallot, peeled and quartered
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender, add vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture is smooth. Slowly stream oil into mixture and pulse until blended. Refrigerate leftover dressing.
(Vinaigrette recipe adapted from

Greek Spinach Pasta
This pasta dish is loaded with fresh spinach, and you can control the amount of feta that you use, making it healthier than lasagna or other cheesy pasta dishes. Don’t shy away from the cinnamon in it though. It gives the dish just enough sweetness to balance the tartness of the spinach and feta.

Servings 4 
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons minced garlic
15-ounce can tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine (optional)
8 ounces penne pasta
A few handfuls of fresh spinach
Crumbled feta
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onion. Drain well. Add oregano, cinnamon, garlic, tomato sauce and wine to beef mixture. Simmer over low heat.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Stir pasta and fresh spinach into beef mixture. Simmer until spinach wilts. Add crumbled feta to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Host the Perfect Pasta Party

When it comes to feeding a hungry crowd, there aren’t a lot of foods that fill the bill as well as pasta. Loved by kids and adults alike, pasta is one of those versatile foods that can be customized to satisfy all tastes including meat lovers and veggie lovers. Why not plan a party where your guests can create their own masterpieces with a build-your-own pasta buffet? 

From choosing the shape of pasta and the type of sauce to their favorite toppings – it’s all about personalization. Here are some ideas to help you plan the perfect pasta party.   

It’s all about the base. Serve two types of pasta – one long-stranded pasta such as spaghetti, linguine, fettucine or bucatini and one shaped pasta such as penne, farfalle (bowties), rigatoni or conchiglie (shells). Cook the pasta to al dente, which is Italian for to the tooth, meaning the pasta should be cooked until tender, but slightly firm. Drain the pasta, place into a serving bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

The sauces. Include two or three types of sauce on the buffet to choose from such as a marinara, a tomato-based sauce; an Alfredo, a creamy sauce made with butter and Parmesan cheese; and a pesto sauce, which is generally made with fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. A bottle of good, quality extra-virgin olive oil is a nice addition to the buffet for guests who prefer no sauce.   

The accoutrements. The sky’s the limit here. Include a couple of meats such as meatballs, crumbled Italian sausage, or grilled chicken. Set out bowls of toppings - chopped fresh basil leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, boiled shrimp, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and sautéed bell peppers and onions.

The drinks. A variety of beverages such as S. Pellegrino sparkling water with lime wedges, fruity Italian sodas, and a couple varieties of wine will ensure there’s something for all tastes.

The décor. Fill large baskets with market goodies such as loaves of crusty bread, packages of dried pasta, canned Italian tomatoes, fresh herbs and wine bottles. A red-checkered table cover and classic candle in a Chianti bottle will set the mood.

Marinara Sauce 
¼ pound pancetta (Italian bacon), diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
Two 28-ounce cans Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes 
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil, chopped 
Fresh oregano, finely chopped
Pinch of sugar (optional)

In a large saucepan, cook the minced pancetta until browned, but not crispy. Add the onion and the garlic and cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the canned tomatoes and about ½  can of water. Cook over low heat for about 45 minutes. Add the fresh herbs. Continue to cook for 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If sauce seems slightly acidic, add a pinch of sugar.

At this point, you have two options. If you like a thicker, chunkier marinara, you can leave it alone. If you want a smother marinara, process Quickly in a food processor or with an immersion blender. 
(Recipe by Liz Donaldson, assistant chef at Walt Churchill’s Market, Maumee) 

Alfredo Sauce
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 ¾ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and the sauté the garlic. Add the cream and heat through on medium-low heat. When hot, add the cheese. Heat for about 10 minutes until it thickens. Add the parsley.
(Recipe by Liz Donaldson, assistant chef at Walt Churchill’s Market, Maumee)

Basil Pesto
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
¾ teaspoon garlic sea salt
¼ cup pine nuts
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup basil-infused olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
To prepare the pesto, pulse first five ingredients in a blender or food processor. Slowly add basil olive oil.
(Recipe from Ashleigh Tresso, owner of Bumble Olive Oil Company)