September 27, 2012

Baked Spinach Casserole


This casserole has to be one of my all-time favorites ... so easy and so delicious. I first enjoyed it at a buffet dinner served along side perfectly roasted slices of rare beef tenderloin and some sort of potatoes ... but the spinach truly was the star of the meal. Simple, sophisticated ... a perfect signature dish. 

For the life of me, I have no idea why I don't make Baked Spinach Casserole more often! 

Last week, though, I remembered how much I love it and served it to out-of-town guests who were staying with us for a too-short two day visit. I invited two more couples to join the six of us for what turned into a potluck dinner. But, of course I invited friends who love good food as much as we all do and they also always offer to bring a dish. Love them!

Dinner included grilled and sliced ribeye steaks seasoned with my favorite Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning and olive oil, the baked spinach casserole, Nancy's decadent mashed potato casserole with all kinds of yummy stuff in it, an unusual and delicious roasted beet salad Sally made from my best friend Annya's recipe and two of Gail's perfect apple pies with vanilla ice cream ... a sensational summer-into-fall meal!

Yes, the roasted beet salad recipe is coming soon.

No, we did not eat two entire pies! 

In the meantime, here is the spinach casserole recipe, with just a few adaptations to the original from Epicurious.com. I like to mix it up early in the day, or even the day before, and refrigerate before baking. Bring to room temp before baking, or simply leave it in to bake a few minutes longer, if straight from the fridge. If it finishes baking earlier than the rest of the dinner, cover with foil until serving time.  Easy AND forgiving -- a signature dish that should be enjoyed more often, for sure!

The picture above shows the casserole in the raw, before baking, so you can see the generous  cheese to spinach ratio. Also, once baked, it is ... well ... just a flat green landscape in a baking dish ... with a tiny bit of brown around the edges. The original version includes cracker crumbs baked on top, probably to jazz it up a bit, but I find that to be an unnecessary addition. I know, not like me at all to turn down a crumb topping, but sometimes ... every now and then ... I do skip a few calories here and there. Now, if you were to cover the whole thing with buttered Ritz cracker crumbs or nice crunchy Panko ... now that might bring me right back to the crumb topping version.

You decide for yourself. I am only here to suggest recipes and guide you to good things, some of which -- like Baked Spinach Casserole -- are good for you too!

Just a couple more ideas I've considered, but have not tried yet:
  • I think this would make a great quiche baked, pretty much as is, in a tender, flaky crust. 
  • As an appetizer, it could be mixed up and rolled into little round balls and baked to serve with picks as a pick-up party food. 
  • Or, how about baked inside layers of buttery phyllo, like an Italian sort of Spanokopita.
  • Maybe baked in an oblong dish and cut into squares or rounds, topped with poached eggs and covered with a light, lemony Hollandaise and sprinkled with some of that crispy, toasted Panko.
  • One more ... I might add some herbs ... basil, oregano and/or thyme ...  for a flavor twist. 
If you like this as much as I do, I hope you won't let it languish with the other recipes you save ... get it out and serve it to anyone and everyone. And I won't be surprised to see a few more new and interesting signature versions popping up in the Comments below.

That's what Comments are for, you know.

Now eat your spinach ... and enjoy every bite! 



BAKED SPINACH CASSEROLE
(adapted from Epicurious.com)
4 large eggs
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
3 cups grated Fontina cheese (about 12 ounces)
OR blend of Gouda, Monterey Jack and/or Fontina cheeses
1/3 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil reserved from tomatoes 
2 cups finely chopped onions
4 large garlic cloves, minced or 2 tablespoons prepared chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon (scant) pepper
several drops of Tabasco to taste
freshly ground nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Beat eggs in large bowl to blend. Mix in spinach, then cheese and tomatoes. Heat 2 tablespoons oil reserved from tomatoes in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions just begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add to spinach mixture. Mix in salt and pepper, Tabasco, and nutmeg. Transfer to prepared dish. Bake spinach mixture until set in center, about 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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September 13, 2012

Autumn Snack Mix


Lately, autumn themed snack mixes have been everywhere, especially on Pinterest. After seeing several variations, I collected my own favorite ingredients and mixed up an enormous jar full to keep on the kitchen counter.

I like the nuts and crunchy stuff, but I added plenty of candy corn and Reese's Pieces for some sweet to balance the salty.  My store did not have any fall color M&Ms, but I'll search some out tomorrow. I also decided I should have bought some candy pumpkins and Cocoa Puffs for better balance, as well as the chocolate crunch factor.

The jar looks so seasonally jolly on the counter! Generous scoops went into some clear bags brightly colored with a scattering of fall leaves and tied with bits of leftover ribbon in a mix of season colors. Perfect for instant hostess gifts and snacks for all the house guests we are expecting over the next two weeks -- or a "just because" treat for friends and neighbors.

Fast, simple and festive for fall ... or autumn ... or whatever you call it! Don't you just love the temperatures ... the colors ... the change in the angle of sunlight light ... and the anticipation of a whole new season of yummy foods?

Enjoy!


Autumn Snack Mix

Stir together your favorites from the following:

Small Pretzels
Oatmeal Squares Cereal
Chex Cereal
Cocoa puffs
Caramel Popcorn
M & M's
Reese's Pieces
Malt Balls
Raisinets
Candy Corn
Candy Pumpkins
Lightly Salted Dry Roasted Peanuts
Goldfish Crackers
Cheez-Its

Store in a large airtight container or scoop into gift bags or containers to share.

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