Tag Archives: spinach

The Whole Foods Salad Bar: A User’s Guide

Gentle Readers, it is serious confession time. I love the Whole Foods salad bar in a way most people reserve for God and Country. I love the variety. I love that I didn’t have to prep 1 million individual ingredients. I love the fresh crispy vegetables and the potential of using squash casserole as a topping.

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

That’s right, squash casserole. Don’t judge. Here are my tips to making the most of your trip, without taking out a second mortgage.

The Whole Foods Salad Bar: The Practical Cook Way

1. Limit the salad dressing. Nothing cranks up the cost like too much dressing. Also, it overpowers your careful selections. Let other things flavor your salad, like couscous, quinoa, egg salad, fruit, etc.

Quinoa can add flavor, and is typically already dressed. Whole Foods Salad.

Quinoa can add flavor, and is typically already dressed. Whole Foods Salad.

2. Diversify your offerings. There are so many things from which to choose, don’t get caught loading up on any one thing. If the salad is just for you, take one of each kind of tofu, one tomato, one broccoli, and so on.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

3. Don’t skip the hot bar. The vegetables don’t stop at the edge of the salad bar, try steamed green beans and asparagus, cooked carrots, salsa, squash casserole (can’t recommend that enough), the sky’s the limit.

Whole Foods Quinoa and Firecracker Slaw: Working Mom Food

Whole Foods Quinoa and Firecracker Slaw: Working Mom Food

4. Meat is salad too. This will cost you your weight in gold, so limit the addition. However, the smoked meat bar is perfect for a single wing, a portion of brisket, or the top of a rib (skip the bones).

5. Sweet, Crunchy, Salty. The best salads are balanced in composition. Look for different ways to bring color, texture, and taste. Try unusual combinations. If you’re stuck, employ your kids to assist. They don’t come with the same barriers and restrictions you do in terms of “right” and “not right.” Be prepared to eat some combos that would be best on Man vs Food. My favorite right now? Adding a piece of fried yucca on the top.

Whole Foods Salad Bar, I love you.

Whole Foods Salad Bar, I love you.

What’s your favorite trick or foodstuff at the Whole Foods Salad Bar? Post a comment here or on the Facebook page, or Tweet my way!

Send heavy items, good ideas, and legitimate questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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Spinach Crostini: A Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, the best vegetable is the one that is eaten without complaint. Though I’m very fortunate to be raising a couple of foodies who don’t run screaming from green things, crostini is a secret weapon in the war for nutrition and good taste.

Spinach Crostini: Sauteed spinach, goat cheese, toast.

Spinach Crostini: Sauteed spinach, goat cheese, toast.

Bread (toasted), cheese (goat, in this case), and garlicky sauteed spinach. Done. It’s an appetizer, it’s a vegetable, it’s a miracle. You can mix this up at will. I served these the other night, and we consumed an entire bag of baby spinach between the three of us. It was unbelievably delicious, and we all ate it not just without complaint, but with joy.

Try cream cheese and roasted red peppers, or sauteed broccolini with goat cheese. Change the bread from loaf to baguette. Use what’s at hand, stack it, and cut into manageable pieces.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

This is the perfect lead-in to a pasta meal, or to soup. It stretches what’s being served, and it is so very easy. Spinach on bread, Popeye would be proud.

What’s your favorite green vegetable? Post a comment below! It is easy AND fun.

Send deep thoughts, kitchen confessions, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up on Friday: Bachi Burger, I Think I Love You.

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Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms Recipe

Gentle Readers, on rare occasions, everyone in the family likes the same thing. Team Practical Cook prides itself on individual palates, to the point that certain Practical Cooks regret raising Juniors with discriminating tastes. Overheard at the table: that’s not how it tastes to my mouth. Arrgghh!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Yes, the Practical Cooks Junior are seriously 2.0, with all the requisite improvements, but you try cooking for short people with very clear notions of food. Enter Trader Joe’s shelf-stable polenta. It was the featured sample a few weeks back, and it’s graced our kitchen ever since.

Trader Joe's Shelf-Stable Polenta

Trader Joe’s Shelf-Stable Polenta

This time we made it hearty. The Youngest didn’t like mushrooms much before, so we had everyone select their own type of mushroom from the bin. Naturally, she went for the shitakes, at $9.99/lb. Oh well. They were delicious.

The More Affordable Portobella Mushroom

The More Affordable Portobella Mushroom

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms Recipe

1 package Trader Joe’s shelf-stable polenta, or feel free to make it yourself, I won’t wait
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
about a pound of mushrooms, any variety, cleaned and sliced
salt
red pepper flakes
1/2 bag prewashed baby spinach
6 grape tomatoes, quartered
3 – 6 eggs
Romano cheese

1. Slice the polenta in 6 to 8 slices, and prepare according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat a dollop of olive oil in a medium-high skillet and add the garlic cloves. When you can smell them, add the mushrooms. Add salt to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute until they lose their water and reduce.

3. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the spinach. Saute until wilted. Add the grape tomatoes and heat briefly.

4. By now the polenta should be done. Turn off the heat but leave in the pan. Meanwhile, fry as many eggs as you want, over easy or medium, at least one per serving.

5. Make a stack: polenta, mushroom mixture, egg. Top with grated Romano cheese. Enjoy.

This was a runaway hit. It was beautiful, it felt special, and with some fruit on the side, made for a very filling meal. After all, polenta is really just Italian for grits.

Polenta Frying in the Pan

Polenta Frying in the Pan

Are you a polenta fan? How do you serve it? Post a comment below, I’m listening!

Send your confessions, questions, and bacon to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, on video: Booberry vs Frakenberry: The Ultimate FauxBerry Taste Challenge

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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/14/2012

Gentle Readers, what a whirlwind it has been. Hard to believe that it’s time to carve pumpkins, plan costumes, and eat a lot of deep-fried food. Well, the latter may be a unique Team Practical Cook tradition, but still. Full write-up of our visit is coming on Wednesday, but here’s a preview.

Deep Fried Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon Sprinkles

Deep Fried Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon Sprinkles

As we also weighed in at the standards and measures center, you may notice that this is a bit of a detox week on the menu. The last few weeks of travel and the upcoming cholesterol check necessitate some communing with carrots.

Enough chatter, here are this week’s weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 10/14/2012

Weekly Menus: 10/14/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/14/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/14/2012

Which all adds up to:

Sunday: Salad and pasta
This will probably be a walnut/tomato/goat cheese fest. I’ll imitate the salad in the pasta.

Monday: Breakfast for dinner
Served with a big fruit salad, this is a guaranteed winner. Good opportunity to push eggs and feed the Youngest grits, her favorite. Trying to balance her favorites with a need for vegetarian meals (which she does not always love).

Tuesday: Leftovers
It’s turned a little cold, so I may thaw some stock, add the leftovers, and call it soup.

Wednesday: Polenta with mushrooms and spinach
One of my new favorite quick meals from Trader Joe’s, the sliced polenta serves as an interesting based for a lot of nutritious toppings.

Thursday: Salmon cakes
This is a vegetarian compromise. The Eldest probably won’t eat them, but I can serve her a faux chicken patty instead.

Friday: Beans and rice
A family favorite, I plan on making Cuban-style black beans and rice, freezing the leftovers.

Saturday: Dine out!
Perhaps it is tapas time?

What is your favorite fall meal? Pumpkin based? Post a comment below! The crickets won’t mind.

Send deep fried items, menu ideas, and cooking questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Wednesday: The Deep-Fried Review of the N.C. State Fair or I Can’t Believe I Ate That.

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Barcelona in Review: Food Travels

Gentle Readers, what a week it has been. Exploring the food and culture of Barcelona for a few days, I want to go back for another round, with the Practical Cooks Junior in tow. They have seen the pictures and already volunteered. The cafe culture, the pace, the attention to service in detail, wow, just wow.

I love the tapas concept. Many little plates, ideal for sharing.

I love the tapas concept. Many little plates, ideal for sharing.

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

Though I’m not a huge potato person, I could easily eat patatas braves every day for quite a long time. If I lived in Barcelona, I would quest endlessly to find the best of the best. I ordered potatoes and padron peppers every time we had tapas.

Patates braves are a staple of Barcelona.Try them all.

Patates braves are a staple of Barcelona.Try them all.

One of many plates of patates braves.

One of many plates of patates braves.

Ironically, some of the other winning meals were Italian. I had two amazing mushroom based dishes, one paparadelle and one risotto.

Risotto with mushrooms in a parmesan bowl. Yes, please.

Risotto with mushrooms in a parmesan bowl. Yes, please.

And of course there was pig. In all its forms. You call it jamon, I call it delicious. More than one dispute broke out around the International Bacon Line, with British folks being the most outspoken American Bacon dissers. To them I say, I’m sorry you lost. 🙂

Pure jamon goodness.

Pure jamon goodness.

Another pleasant surprise, and a lingering favorite, street food. This take on tomato bread, with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins, was off the charts good. Portable and with a vegetable, brilliant.

Tomato bread with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. One of my favorite things from Barcelona.

Tomato bread with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. One of my favorite things from Barcelona.

Street food in Barcelona: juice bar style.

Street food in Barcelona: juice bar style.

Overall, my only regret is not having more time or more stomachs. I will return to Barcelona, and encourage you to add it t your bucket list if you haven’t already been.

Down every narrow street in Barcelona, great food awaits.

Down every narrow street in Barcelona, great food awaits.

What’s your favorite non-US food city? Post a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your questions, lucrative deals, and extra coffee to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus!

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Tortellini in Mushroom Broth with Spinach Recipe

Gentle Readers, sometimes inspiration strikes in the form of a recalled memory. Years ago, one of my favorite vegetarian cooks (looking at you Veggie at Sea) introduced me to the idea of Tortellini soup, where one pours the broth last. This same notion is in full effect at ONE Restaurant in Chapel Hill (pouring liquid at the table). Worlds collide, idea is born.

Tortellini in Mushroom Broth with Spinach

Tortellini in Mushroom Broth with Spinach

Nothing is more inspiring to me than a good challenge. The Eldest Practical Cook Junior is now a vegetarian, and I have to up my game. This soup was for her. It’s earthy, satisfying, and has more than a little bit of curbside appeal. Bonus, it’s incredibly simple. Even making the mushroom stock.

Tortellini in Mushroom Broth with Spinach Recipe

1 package of tortellini of your choice, cooked (we used cheese, mushroom would be nice, obviously)
1/3 of a bag of prewashed spinach, cut into ribbons (this is important, don’t skip it)
a few cups of mushroom stock, brought to a boil and then brought to the table

Optional Add-Ins:
chopped scallions
Parmesan cheese
Sriracha

How to assemble. Put the spinach in the bottom of a small to medium sized bowl.

Put spinach (and we added parsley) into a cute small bowl.

Put spinach (and we added parsley) into a cute small bowl.

Place the tortellini on top.

Layer the tortellini on top of the spinach!

Layer the tortellini on top of the spinach!

Pour the hot stock over the tortellini. Stir and customize with add-ins to taste.

Tortellini in Mushroom Broth with Spinach

Tortellini in Mushroom Broth with Spinach

I had everyone’s attention when I was making this table-side. It is incredibly satisfying, and cool at the same time. Are you a fan of pasta soups? Table-side presentation? Don’t be shy, the comments section below awaits you.

Send your great ideas, kitchen confessions, and general mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus Yet Again!

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Not Quite Carbonara Recipe (Vegetarians Welcome)

Gentle Readers, sometimes The Practical Cook winds up in the kitchen in less than perfect circumstances. This past week, the days were perfect, time spent on vacation in the mountains. But we had so much fun we failed to really grocery shop, and got home tired. What to do?

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Work with what you’ve got. In this case, we were feeding a vegetarian, and there was not a strip of bacon in sight. But there was pasta, and spinach, and eggs. Go!

Not Quite Carbonara Recipe

Please note that absolutely everything about this is an approximation. I was trying to feed people, not document each step.

olive oil
garlic (2 or 3 cloves, whole or minced)
baby leaf spinach

fresh pasta (dried will do), 1 pound will feed a crowd
3 eggs
lemon juice (depends on how potent it is, at least a teaspoon or two)
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan

1. Put pasta water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic over a strong medium heat until you smell garlic. Toss in the spinach and saute quickly until leaves are coated with garlicky oil and just starting to wilt. Pull off heat.

2. Scramble the 3 eggs with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Blend thoroughly.

3. By this point the pasta water should be boiling. Make the pasta according to direction (we used fresh black pepper spaghetti, but anything will do). Cook until just al dente. Drain and toss in heatproof serving bowl with the egg mixture immediately.

4. Toss thoroughly to coat and cook the eggs a bit. Add in garlicky spinach. Toss and top with a bit of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remember, with enough garlic and Parmesan, you won’t miss the bacon. That much. 🙂 This egg sauce technique will work with many other combos. Enjoy! Special thanks to Waldorf for allowing me to co-opt the idea and technique.

S'mores solve the dinner dilemma too.

S’mores solve the dinner dilemma too.

What’s your go-to dish when things are looking bare in the cupboard? Post a comment below!

Send your pasta, wisecracks, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Summer is flying by, it’s time for Weekly Menus again this Sunday!

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Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Recipes