Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spinach Loaf: a tasty main dish

Ruth Yaron’s Spinach Loaf is a healthy and tasty dish. For my son, Michael, I serve it as the main dish and toss a few pieces of grilled meat on the side. He usually picks at his meat and gobbles down the Spinach Loaf as if it were apple pie.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine:
2 cups cooked frozen chopped spinach
One recipe white sauce (see page 334)
2 beaten eggs
1 sautéed onion (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)

Pour into buttered casserole and bake 35 to 40 minutes until knife comes out clean. One casserole makes four servings. I serve Michael one square a day until it's gone. So, a casserole lasts four days typically.

My oven seems to cook all of Ruth’s recipes a little slow, so I crank up the heat to 375 degrees. I wait at least 40 minutes and often longer for my loaf to be done. To cook two loaves at the same time it takes an hour. Although the ingredient list for this recipe is only five lines, I use three burners to make it: onions on one, spinach on another, and white sauce on the third. Lots of dishes! I highly recommend doubling the recipe and freezing one of the loaves.

I keep a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer so I’m equipped to make this recipe at any time. I’m always cautious to measure 2 cups “cooked” spinach. If I add 2 cups “frozen” spinach, it’s too little. This recipe is also an excellent way to use up a fresh head of spinach on the verge of wilting. I steam all the leaves, and then chop them. One head makes two loaves.

Dirty dishes aren’t the only thing that can scare me off from making this recipe. There’s another thing: the white sauce. I have to turn to another page in the Super Baby Food book to finish my loaf! It makes this seemingly short recipe so much longer. But I usually get over it and flip to the white sauce page.

Yikes, the white sauce calls for arrowroot! What’s that? I still don’t know and don’t let it freak you out. Arrowroot is supposedly a healthier alternative to corn starch, but I still haven’t tracked down the stuff and I successfully make loaves with corn starch. Here’s my white sauce recipe. It’s the basic one on the yellow Kingsford’s corn starch box:

Stir until smooth 1 tablespoon corn starch and 1 cup milk.
Add 2 tablespoons butter.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Ruth includes the onion and cheese as optional, but I change that to mandatory! Onions and cheese make everything taste better—Michael would agree. I also add more cheese than 1/2 cup. In fact, I take about two fistsful of grated cheese and mix it in. I always grate my own cheese with the food processor, using the cheese-grating insert that comes with it. This is easy to do and far less expensive than buying the pregrated cheese.

For the baking dish, I like a 2-quart square dish—but I have only one of those so I use a pie dish for the second loaf when I double the recipe.

I have followed all the eating guidelines to raise my son to eat well. And he does eat nutritious meals, but he doesn’t eat what my husband and I eat. My pediatrician tells me not to break my back making two meals. He suggests that we give our son a little of what we cook for ourselves. But, a lot of the time, I disagree with this advice. When we make homemade pizza it works but when we make stir-fry, Michael starves. Or rather, I’m getting up in the middle of dinner to fix him something else to eat. Argh! So exhausting!

I think kids like food to be fresh and simple. It is good to add salt, pepper, garlic, and onions but the Thai green curry sauce that we use in our sir-fry pushes the limit of seasoning that he'll accept. Maybe he knows that it's from a glass container that I bought at Trader Joe's. Maybe simple, fresh food is just plain better. I know a four year old that eats very well, but she wants everything fresh and separated on her plate. If her mom makes a fruit salad, she carefully picks out all the best tasting fruit and leaves the not so good fruit behind for her mother to clean up. Maybe we could use our kids as food watch dogs. Send them out on front line to tell us what is fresh and what to stop buying.

We may eat different things, but I still believe in eating our meals together as a family. It’s quite relaxing (even when Nate’s throwing food) and a learning experience for my baby. According to Ruth, “Mealtimes are the foundation for a lifetime of the healthy attitudes and the eating habits so necessary for the prevention of adult eating disorders.” Read pages 71 to 83 for more great information on this topic. That said, spinach loaf is one thing that we can all eat—as I always cut myself a slice too. It’s nutritious—and delicious!

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