Happy New Year readers (reader?)! Those of us who had the luxury of time off from work have officially been back to the grind for three days, halfway there! I was actually kind of excited this year to get back to work (read: back into my routine), it’s always fun to see the kids after Christmas and hear all about their holiday. This year I had a fun holiday of my own to tell them about…California! Robert and I had an amazing and very full trip. We successfully navigated two brand new cities, plus the airline giving away our seats, an extremely long rental car line, possible food poisoning, and driving in LA, but more on all that (and lots of fun photos!) later. No photos of the food poisoning part, promise.
I left you last with a breakfast casserole recipe a few days before Christmas. I hope everyone’s holiday was as nice as mine, full of family, friends and food (not necessarily in that order). But really, aren’t those three F’s the best thing about every holiday? Sleep and traveling are close seconds. Renly got a brand new haircut for Christmas. Check him out!
This is much shorter than we normally keep him cut but I have to admit it’s kind of growing on me. He’s pretty adorable with any haircut. When we got home late Friday night I thought his little tail was going to wag right off, but for the first time ever I think Robert and I were both more excited to see him than he was to see us, and that’s really saying something. Having a dog is literally the best.
For as long as I can remember, I have been eating the traditional New Year’s Day meal on January 1st. What, you may ask, is this traditional meal I speak of? I’m pretty sure it’s widespread considering both my mother and Robert’s mother do it but it could just be a southern thing. On New Year’s Day you are supposed to eat certain things for luck in the year ahead; pork for prosperity, greens for wealth, black-eyed peas for luck and cornbread for…something….maybe just a delicious starch? My mother-in-law always makes cornbread muffins and hides a penny in one, whoever finds it gets EXTRA luck that year. It’s a fun tradition but if you adopt it, don’t forget to wash your penny thoroughly and warn your guests so that no one cracks a tooth!
Since Robert and I didn’t return from California until the 2nd, we missed our traditional family meal While lamenting this fact on the flight home as we ate airport food, I remembered I had a Boston Butt in the freezer and decided to make Robert and I a mini version of this beloved tradition when we got home. I didn’t have any cornbread ingredients or black-eyed peas, but pork and spinach I could definitely handle on short notice (hello crock pot!). My sweet mother-in-law is NOT a cook, but the few dishes she has in her arsenal are tried, true and delicious….they are also top-secret as she refuses to share them with me for fear that she then won’t have anything to make or bring to family functions. Someday I’ll wear her down . On New Year’s she always serves her spinach casserole which is sinfully cheesy and delicious. I say sinfully because I’m pretty sure it’s also terrible for you. Like a whole stick of butter, three eggs, a container of full fat cottage cheese AND a whole block of cheddar terrible. Mmmm, why does bad usually taste so good?
I love having her spinach casserole as a treat, but since I enjoy healthy cooking (and I don’t have her recipe), I decided we would go a different route this year. I created this yummy and MUCH healthier creamed spinach recipe that Robert gobbled right up without ever missing that block of cheddar.
I remember loving frozen creamed spinach as a kid, although looking back those little plastic tubs seemed to consist of lots of cheesy “sauce” with only the minimum amount of green flecks thrown in. Definitely not the healthiest option, but probably a smart introduction to spinach on my mom’s part. Now, I LOVE spinach and go through 3-4 bags of it weekly, but had my mom plopped a raw spinach salad in front of me as a kid I’m sure I would have turned my nose up. By starting me out with creamed spinach, I realized that spinach was good, and was then much more apt to try sautéed spinach, and eventually raw spinach as I got older. This is called “food chaining” and is a concept I learned about in graduate school. As a speech pathologist, it is within my scope of practice to work on swallowing and feeding. These are not skills I use in my current job, but was always an area I found interesting. Food chaining is particularly helpful for picky eaters, kids and adults alike! The idea is that you find a more familiar food that the person is willing to try, and then slowly move them towards the “disliked” food until they are comfortable eating it (and hopefully enjoying it!). For example, lots of children dislike tomatoes, or at least they think they do. Almost all kids love ketchup, so if you have a tomato hater, try starting them with tomato soup, and then maybe chips and a mild salsa. If the salsa is successful you could slowly transition them from a thinner salsa to more of a chunky, fresher pico de gallo variety. If that is successful, your child should then be more comfortable with pieces and chunks of actual tomatoes and may be ready to try cherry tomatoes with a fun dip. It may take quite a while to get from ketchup to whole tomatoes, but it is possible and definitely worth a shot if you want to expand your picky eater’s taste horizons, or even your own!
Ok, enough about food chaining, that was a quick and dirty run down but I’d be happy to discuss it further if anyone wants more information, feel free to contact me! Otherwise I’ll get on to the recipe. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and hopefully it will bring you lots of luck in the new year, no matter when you eat it!
Lighter Creamed Spinach
2 bags of Spinach
1/2 an Onion, diced
2 cloves of Minced Garlic
1 tsp. Olive Oil
4 oz or 1/2 C. of Mozzarella Cheese, shredded (Gruyère would be yummy and rich too!)
3/4 Cup of Milk (I used skim)
2 tsp. flour (I used all-purpose but feel free to sub whole wheat or whatever you have on hand)
1/4 C. Plain Greek Yogurt (you could also sub light sour cream)
Salt and Pepper
1. Heat Olive Oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add Onion, Salt and Pepper generously and saute until soft and slightly browned. Add Garlic and saute for an additional minute until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside onto a plate.
2. Add Spinach to the pan, and saute until wilted. I find this easiest to do in batches (e.g. add a few handfuls and once it starts to wilt add a few more handfuls, etc. until all spinach is wilted). Salt and Pepper spinach generously while you are sauteing. Once all spinach is wilted, remove from pan (you can just dump it right on top of your onions.
3. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of cold Milk and the Flour together to form a slurry. Add the slurry to your hot pan and stir constantly until it begins to thicken. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk and again stir constantly until it begins to thicken. Once thickened, remove from heat and add Cheese and Greek Yogurt, stir until cheese is melted and Yogurt is fully incorporated.
4. Salt and Pepper your thickened cream sauce to taste. Add Spinach and Onion to cream sauce and return to heat, stirring until warmed through and fully incorporated. Remove from heat, serve and enjoy! This amount should easily feed 4-5 people as a side.