SPINACH RAREBIT – The Perfect Party Vegetable!

Creamy SPINACH RAREBIT

Creamy SPINACH RAREBIT

Menu planning dinner parties is challenging, even for the most experienced cooks. There must be a variety of food so everyone has at least something they can eat.  Then, you need to organize preparation  to ensure everything is done at the same time. Yikes!

Particularly troublesome is vegetable selection – once cooked, many need to be eaten promptly, since they begin to decline in taste. As soon as my steamed broccoli or roasted carrots are ready, I’m like a mad woman trying to get everyone to the table so they can enjoy the food at its peak of flavor. (For some strange and irritating reason, the announcement that dinner is served seems to provoke a desire in my husband to use the bathroom.)

I serve two vegetables, one generally being SPINACH RAREBIT. Not only is it delicious, but it can be prepared a day or two ahead. I LOVE THOSE RECIPES!!!

But wait, there’s more! It’s forgiving in terms of cooking temperature, so if something is in the oven at a different temperature, go ahead and add the SPINACH RAREBIT anyway – just adjust the time a bit. Plus, as if that’s not enough, it retains its flavor throughout the meal – even for the next couple of days as leftovers. It’s the perfect party dish!

Did you notice I said ‘party dish’? That’s because SPINACH RAREBIT is a little labor intensive.  It’s not hard – just takes time. Not that my husband and kids aren’t worth it….but, let’s be honest – we pull out the big guns for company.

NOTE:  You can save time by buying frozen Welsh rarebit (Stouffer’s makes it). Of course, I encourage you to make your own – you can save money, adjust to your taste, AND you know what’s in your food!

SPINACH RAREBIT – will serve at least 8 people

  • 24 oz frozen chopped spinach
  • 8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped in bite sized bits
  • 6 oz canister French fried onions – (I use French’s)
  • 4 slices fake bacon – (I use Morningstar)
  • Welsh rarebit (recipe follows) – if you buy frozen, you’ll need two 10 oz packages

Oven bake the bacon 15 minutes at 375º, flipping midway. Remove from oven and let sit so it gets crispy. If you have a toasteroven, use it – no point in heating up a big oven for 4 slices of fake bacon.

Rinse spinach in a sieve, then squeeze out water. Wrap in paper towel, then wrap that in an absorbent towel, such a terry cloth. You want to get rid of as much water as you can.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, water chestnuts, and enough Welsh Rarebit Sauce (recipe below) to moisten mixture. Pour this into a casserole dish big enough to hold everything (I use a 10.5″ x 7.5″), smoothing top.

Spread remaining Welsh Rarebit Sauce on top, completely covering spinach mix. Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top. Add the French fried onions (you don’t have to use the entire amount). Cover with foil. Casserole can be refrigerated at this point and baked later – I leave off the onions until just before cooking to make sure they’ll be crispy (not sure it matters).

Bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 5 minutes.

     Welsh Rarebit Sauce

  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups milk (I use nonfat)
  • 6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 T vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

Melt butter in a saucepan. Turn off flame. Add in flour and work a little of the flour into the melted butter at a time, making a smooth paste. Do this slowly, preferably using a flat headed wooden stirrer. This is the only time you’ll be able to prevent lumps. Keep going until all the flour is incorporated (see photos below). Add in the mustard, paprika, and chili powder. Then cook paste for another minute or two, mashing out any lumps from the spices.

white sauce paste

 

Pour in milk and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until thickened. Turn off flame. Add in cheese, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to blend. Adjust seasoning, if desired.

 

 

 

 

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CURRIED LENTIL STEW – A Slim-Down Special

CURRIED LENTIL STEW

CURRIED LENTIL STEW

I have to admit, I’m not a huge lentil fan. They’re a little bland and mealy, as a rule. But they are a superfood – full of protein, fibre, and all kinds of nutrients, so I was determined to find a recipe that was, at least, palatable.

CURRIED LENTIL STEW goes beyond palatable – it’s downright good! I also found that it actually gets better the next day – thicker and more flavorful. Bonus! That means it can be made ahead of time, which I love. One less thing to do during the dinner-time rush hour.

This dish is low-fat, low-calorie, and easy to throw together.  Who could ask for more?!

NOTE: Lentils are high in phytates, which reduce the bioavailability of nutrients. To counteract this problem, soak the lentils overnight in warm water.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you’re daunted by all the spices, you can simply use 1 T curry powder. It’s not as flavorful, but it’s quick.

CURRIED LENTIL STEW – makes about 7 cups

  • 1 cup dry lentils (I used red)
  • 1 cup dry rice (I used Chinese white rice)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (I used homemade: VEGETABLE STOCK)
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 2 cups cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 15 oz can whole tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves (or leave it out completely – my husband doesn’t like it)
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 T lemon juice

If you’ve soaked the lentils, drain them in a sieve. If not, rinse the lentils and let drain.

Cook the rice.

In a saucepan, sauté the onions in a tablespoon of the vegetable stock for several minutes. Add in carrots, garlic, celery, and cabbage. Sauté another 2 minutes.

Add in turmeric, dry mustard, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and ginger powder. Sauté another minute or two – until you can smell the spices.

Add in lentils, remaining vegetable broth, lemon juice, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, lower flame to bring down to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Adjust seasoning to taste. Add in cooked rice.

Can be served immediately or refrigerated and served the next day (which is better, IMO).

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOW-CAL CHOCOLATE DELIGHTS – Watch Your Figure AND Enjoy Dessert!

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LOW-CAL CHOCOLATE DELIGHTS go wonderfully with tea.

I’m a gal who requires (yes, requires) a bit of chocolate everyday. I save it until the end of the day – if I have it earlier, I’m STILL going to have some after dinner.

However, this is a troublesome time of year for us chocoholics. With the weather warming up, the clothes are paring down, and those excess winter pounds are going to show.

Fear not! Have I got a dessert for you: LOW-CAL CHOCOLATE DELIGHTS!

These yummy cookies appeal not only to my sweet tooth, but to my frugal nature. As the self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze, I always have frozen egg whites as a result of recipes that call for only yolks. No way I’m throwing out precious food – waste not, want not!

The calorie count per cookie is going to depend on how big you make them. So I’ve added up the calories for the entire batch – 1267 calories. Divide the number of cookies you make into 1267 and that will be the per cookie calories. I made almost 4 dozen, so each cookie is approximately 30 calories.  Not bad considering even the worst tasting store-bought are at least 60. I allow myself 3 or 4 – this way I feel like I’ve had a full dessert, but only consumed 90-120 calories.

LOW-CAL CHOCOLATE DELIGHTS – I made 43 cookies

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Beat egg whites just until they become stiff (when the peak that forms when you lift up the spatula doesn’t collapse). With beaters going, add in sugar a tablespoon at a time. Whites will become glossy.

Scrap the batter clinging to the beaters into the bowl. Pour in the chocolate and vanilla, and gently fold everything together using a large spoon. It’s okay if it’s a little streaky – they look pretty that way.

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Spoon batter onto greased or nonstick cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cookies set 2 minutes on hot sheet before transferring them to a wire rack. Store in airtight container.

 

 

SATAY POTATO SALAD – A New Twist On An Old Favorite

SATAY POTATO SALAD

SATAY POTATO SALAD

Easter may have come and gone, but not the multitude of decorated hard boiled eggs. (Hopefully,  all have been found.) Just how many egg salad sandwiches can you serve before everyone cries, “enough”?

While mulling over this dilemma, my mind wandered (as it often does) to the leftover satay sauce in my fridge. It had reached that critical point where I needed to use it or freeze it. As a frugal cook, loosing it was NOT an option.

And then the ah-ha moment:  potato salad to use the eggs, and satay to replace the mayonnaise. I thought scallions instead of yellow onions and some leftover red pepper for color and crunch. The result was delicious. In future, I’ll throw in some toasted peanuts.

Potato salad is not a measure-carefully dish. My recipe is for the amounts that I used THAT time. The next time I’m sure I’ll vary it depending on what I have available.

NOTE: Last year I posted another great recipe to use up those hard boiled eggs: MOM’S “CHICKEN” CASSEROLE.

SATAY POTATO SALAD – makes approximately 3 cups

  • 1½ lbs Yukon potatoes
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 stalks scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Satay Sauce (recipe below)
  • optional:  toasted peanuts

Scrub potatoes, leaving skin on. Chop into 1/2″ cubes. Boil until fork can pierce the cubes. Rinse with cool water.

Combine the potatoes with the eggs, celery, scallions, red pepper, and Satay Sauce.  Serve either refrigerated or warm.

Satay Sauce – makes 1¼ cup

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use the grind-it-yourself kind in the store)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 T sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Pour into a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. (Can be frozen).

 

 

 

CURRIED CHEESE AND OLIVE SPREAD – A Savory Treat!

Savory CURRIED CHEESE AND OLIVE SPREAD tidbits.

Savory CURRIED CHEESE AND OLIVE SPREAD tidbits.

 

Last week in a quest to de-clutter my home, I did a purge on my overly stuffed recipe drawer. Two of the surviving recipes beckoned from my now organized pile: Curried Cheese And Olive Spread to be served on English Muffins and, coincidentally, English Muffins.

The Curried Cheese And Olive Spread was my mom’s recipe. FYI, by “my mom’s recipe” I mean my mother found it somewhere. My mother was a very nervous cook – she never created her own recipes, but she did have a talent for finding amazing ones conceived by others.

In actuality, Curried Cheese And Olive Spread is meant to be an appetizer served on quartered English muffins. But I’ve always had leftover spread and simply used it as a hot sandwich topping.  Waste not, want not!

In my last blogpost, How Clutter Control Lead To ENGLISH MUFFINS, I shared my surprisingly simple English Muffin recipe. One benefit to making them is that you can size them according to need. If you choose to purchase ready-made, you’ll have to cut them into quarters, which makes these tasty tidbits more prone to spillage onto your brand new silk blouse.

NOTE: This easy-to-make spread can be made ahead of time. Bonus!

CURRIED CHEESE AND OLIVE SPREAD – makes 2 cups

  • 4.2 oz can chopped black olives
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced (buy the thinnest stalks you can)
  • 1½ cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 20 mini English Muffins OR 10 full-sized, halved

Mix together the olives, scallions, cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and curry powder.  Top English Muffins with the spread. Unless your English Muffins are literally one bite-sized, don’t pile too much topping on them – they can be messy.

Preheat broiler.

Place loaded muffins on cookie sheet and broil 4″ from heat for about 3 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

If using standard sized English Muffins, let set for a moment and then cut into quarters.

Serve hot.