Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Spinach Lots of Ways!




Simple things make me happy!  I am delighted to live just 45 minutes from the birthplace of Elzie Segar, the creator of Popeye!  Chester, Illinois is the place!  1929 is the year that Popeye first appeared in one of Seger’s comic strips.  Spinach is the topic of today’s post.  We all know that Popeye’s strength came from spinach.  When I was a child, we could buy cans of spinach with the sailor’s picture on the label.  That didn’t make me like it!  Yuck.   My mother combined cooked spinach with her liver and onions menu.  I couldn’t stand any of it, but she was determined to make sure we got our iron!  Today I love liver and onions, and I love spinach … even out of the can!  To learn more about Segar, click right here.


Food historians believe that spinach originated 2000 years ago in Persia.  Then it was introduced to China via Nepal in 647 AD and was called the ‘Persian vegetable.”  In 827, Arabs introduced spinach to Sicily.  Spinach is first found in writing, recorded in 10th century Mediterranean works.  At the end of the 12th century, Spain was using spinach; a hundred years later it was known in Germany; and finally, spinach was introduced by Spain to England and France in the 14th century.  There is no wonder that we find spinach included in cuisine world-wide!   

It came to America with the earliest settlers and is found in an
American seed catalog published in 1806.  Spinach recipes are found in early American cookbooks … boiled, stewed, wilted.   By 1920, there are recipes for creamed versions of preparation.  In the 1940s, we start to see spinach layered with breadcrumbs … sometimes with broth … other times with cream … with lots of cheese.  It was also in the 40s when Americans began to enjoy crisp cooked spinach.  The still popular artichoke spinach dip became popular in the 1950s.  Baked sausage/spinach balls were also popular in the 50s, long before the packaged stuffing mix came out, and it reemerged in the 70s with the advent of the stuffing mix and the new recipe!  In 1960s and 70s we began to love eating it raw in salads.  Now, we drink it!  You can hide spinach in smoothies and fool the kids! 

I’m sharing a couple recipes today.  I have a grand daughter approved hot dip recipe, a bread maker recipe and shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach!


Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:
 
1 block of cream cheese
4 ounces Velveeta
4 ounces Queso Oaxaca
4 – 6 ounce jar of marinated artichoke pieces or hearts
2 cups fresh spinach, shredded
½ cup cream or canned milk
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon pepper

I make this in a small crock pot.  Cut all the cheeses into small cubes.  Chop the artichoke pieces so they are bite size.  Shred the spinach.  Put all the ingredients into the crock pot.  Cook it on high for 2 hours, stirring it a few times.  Serve it with chips, toasted bread, quesadillas or fresh vegetables.  Refrigerate any that is left and reheat it in the oven or microwave.




Spinach Swiss Bread

Place the following ingredients into your bread machine in the following order.

1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
3 cups bread flour
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast.

Set the bread machine on the white loaf setting and turn it on.  When the bread is done, brush the top with butter.  It is scrumptious ... makes great sandwiches … and can be cut in fingers and toasted … and dipped in the hot Artichoke Spinach dip.





Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta recipes are often very large.  I have designed this one to feed 4 people with a side serving of vegetables or a big salad … or to feed 2 people.

Ingredients

12 large pasta shells
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded fresh spinach
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
Small package of fresh mozzarella pearls
Jar of your favorite red sauce

Boil the pasta shells; drain them; run cold water over them to cool them.  Let them sit in cold water, so they don’t stick together




Prepare the filling by running hot tap water over the spinach to wilt it.  Drain it and squeeze the water out of it.  Doing this easy step makes it more pliable for the filling.  Mix the ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper, parsley and spinach together.  Add an egg and mix it well.

Pour a little red sauce in the bottom of a medium sized baking dish.  Fill the shells and place them in the dish.  Stuff the mozzarella pearls on top of the filling in each shell.  The recipe will use just half a jar of sauce, so I pour it out into a measuring cup with spout.  I add a little sugar to any packaged red sauce to cut the tartness, but that is optional.  Pour the sauce around the shells … not on top of them … around them.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10 more minutes. 





This article is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable Column.  To see similar posts, click my menu tab.

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