Market Monday & 200th Post Giveaway Winner

heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market

I wanted to buy everything at the farmers’ market this week. We’re actually getting both sun and rain here in Iowa (finally!), which means that the more colorful vegetables of summer are finally ready to harvest.

I went to our CSA stand first thing on Saturday morning to get eggs. We’ve become pasture-raised egg snobs around here. First, we love buying the eggs directly from the man who raises the chickens so we know that they really are pasture-raised–we’re not just relying on a sticker on an egg carton at the store. Second, the yolks are brighter, the whites cook up more tender, and we pretty much devour the carton of eggs within a few days of purchase.

From our CSA, we also bought four tomatoes, three cucumbers, three eggplant, a pile of tomatoes, a red onion, a head of garlic, and fennel.

I bought another bottle of Lemon Basil Balsamic Vinegar from Pickle Creek Herbal. We’ve been following the simple (1:2 vinegar to oil ratio with a drizzle of honey) recipe for salad dressing Jocelyn gave us when I first met her and have exhausted our first bottle. She also recommended using it on caprese salad, which I think will be a good use for those four tomatoes. (Or three tomatoes. See how the top one looks a little funky? It looks really funky now.)

I also stopped at a stand to by goat cheese for a muffin recipe I wanted to try for Sunday morning breakfast. I’ll share that recipe with you soon so you can see if you want to start waking up to goat cheese.

We bought the cherry tomatoes and yellow squash from an organic stand that was very friendly and helpful to Dexter one morning as he was getting his stand set up. Dexter loves these cherry tomatoes and will enjoy having them in his lunch in place of the carrots I usually send.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should tell you that we also bought apple cider doughnuts and a savory tomato auf lauf at the farmers’ market. They were devoured much to quickly and ravenously to make it onto the camera.

Some of the cucumbers will probably make it into a salad, but we’ve been using them to add some pizzazz to our drinking water. I fill the pitcher in our fridge with water and add five slices of cucumber and half a lemon, sliced thinly or cut into wedges. (Wedges make it easier to squeeze the juice directly into the water, but I’ve found that slices flavor the water well enough if left to sit.) I usually refill the pitcher without replacing the cucumber and lemon slices once or twice so we can extract all the flavorful goodness from them before tossing them in the garbage disposal. Dexter doesn’t like plain water, but he was enamored with this water when I made it once last month and has been drinking it almost as enthusiastically as he drinks coffee.

I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I really want to like it. I plan to bake it (like in the first half of this recipe) and then serve the crispy slices on top of spaghetti. It’ll be my adapted version of eggplant parmesan. (My beef with real eggplant–or chicken–parmesan is that everything gets soggy, and I don’t want to go to the trouble of making something delicious and crispy if I’m just going to dump sauce all over it. Does anyone else feel this way? Am I the only one who has soggy-parm issues?)

The large pile of yellow squash will go into Sunny Summer Squash Soup, which I found on Once A Month Mom’s August Vegetarian Menu. The onion, some garlic, and two of the potatoes will go in the soup, and the rest were eaten, grilled in slices, with Monday night’s dinner.

What I’m left with, however, is a bulb of fennel. I didn’t have any plans for it. It was sort of an impulse purchase. (You know you’re kind of a kitchen dork when fennel is your impulse buy.) Any suggestions for my fennel?

Finally, before I hit the sack on this barely-got-it-posted-on-Market-Monday, I want to announce that Sarah is the winner of the Eating Animals giveaway. Your book will be in the mail as soon as I confirm your address.

Top Ten Ice Cream Recipes

Dexter and I are alike in a lot of ways.

We love dogs.

We love to read.

We love pizza and ice cream.

(I know. Can you believe people with such uncommon interests found each other in this great big world?)

One thing we do not agree on is what kind of ice cream makes a good dessert.

Dexter likes vanilla. I found out a long time ago that it drives him crazy when you call vanilla-flavored things “plain.” (More recently, I found out that we are done with that joke at this house. So you won’t find any disrespect of vanilla’s identity ’round these parts.)

I, on the other hand, think of ice cream the same way I think of pie crust. Yeah, I like it, but I’m not going to waste my calories eating it if it’s not holding something else delicious. I’ll turn down a bowl of chocolate ice cream without flinching, but top it with toffee or peanut butter cups and I’m a goner.

One thing that complicates our love of ice cream is the source of the milk it is made with. Although I’ve made the switch to dairy from humanely-raised cows for all the dairy products we consume in our home, we haven’t yet given up going out for ice cream. But I want to.

Instead of going cold-turkey, I’m going to try the “switching addictions” technique. I need to stock my freezer with ice cream so good that we won’t want to go out. I also need to ensure that there’s enough variety available that we can both have flavors we enjoy.

Alden’s Organic Ice Creams are locally available to me. Their product is delicious, but their website does not delve specifically into how their cows are treated. In my eyes, the more detail, the better. (I’ve contacted them for more info to see if I should continue to consider it an option.) Also, a good sale for this ice cream is $4.50 for 1.5 quarts, which is about $.50 more expensive than the regular price of other high quality ice creams.

So this summer, I’m hoping to try to kick my ice cream shop habit with some of the delicious sounding recipes below. I’ll let you know how they turn out and try to come up with a cost analysis to see if it’s worth making my own.

Fresh Bing Cherry Ice Cream – Dexter requested this flavor after we picked up a bag of cherries from the co-op. They’re on sale for even cheaper this week, so I’m planning to make this as soon as I can! (Thanks to Karen from The Hazel Bloom for use of the photo.)

Vanilla Ice Cream – When you eat vanilla ice cream, you don’t have anything to cover up the flavor if you use a crummy recipe or sub-par ingredients. That’s why I went to Ina. It’s my theory that she tells Jeffrey about all the men she hangs out with throughout the week as he eats this ice cream, so he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream – My mouth is watering. I will make this. I will eat it right away. And I don’t predict feeling any remorse. (Thanks to Joy from Joy the Baker for use of the photo.)

S’more Ice Cream – I love s’mores when I’m sitting around a fire, and I’m pretty sure I’d love them just as much in a bowl with ice cream! To make this totally cruelty-free, I’d use homemade marshmallows and slavery-free chocolate. (Thanks to Megan from Megan’s Cookin’ for use of the photo.)

Brown Sugar-Balsamic Swirl Ice Cream – One of my favorite restaurants ever serves an amazing, liquid-centered chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries, and some sort of honey-orange-berry concoction on the side. In college, my roommate and I referred to it as chocolate paradise. One day, they were out of vanilla and asked if they could substitute balsamic ice cream. I am so glad they did, because it was delicious, and I’ve been wanting to recreate it ever since.

Burned Peach Ice Cream – I discovered last week that I do not like grilled bananas. They seem to lose their flavor, get dry, and develop an extra layer of skin. I do, however, like grilled peaches, and can’t think of a better way to eat them than in vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Ice Cream – I love pumpkin, so I won’t wait for the holidays to try this one. You can use canned or homemade puree.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato – If I didn’t need the money so badly during college, I would have accepted the chocolate-hazelnut gelato from Capanna as pay. As a former gelato maker, I can tell you that this recipe will not make real gelato. It will make really good ice cream, though, if you live to far away from Europe or Capanna to get the real thing.

Bacon Ice Cream with a hint of Maple – If this isn’t incentive to start eating meat, I don’t know what is.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream – This will be the perfect way to use the mint that has been flourishing (yes, flourishing!) on my front porch.

What is your favorite flavor ice cream?

Visit OhAmanda for more Top Ten Tuesday!

Market Monday

This spring, I read a little about detox diets or cleanses. Before heading to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning, I made a mental note that I’d probably want to buy food that I would make into a healthy meal rather than…ahem…rhubarb, which just begs to be paired with butter and sugar.

I bought some cute and delicious organic carrots from Grinnell Heritage Farm, one of the oldest family farms in central Iowa. They offer a CSA delivered to several cities across the state. If you’re considering joining a CSA but aren’t sure it would be the right fit, you can check out the newsletter archives to see what each week’s box contained for the past two years. I can vouch for the carrots; they were delicious, and the two pounds I bought are now gone.

We bought a bag of mint from one market stand for $1, the carrots for $4, two cucumbers for $5, and everything else from our CSA. We took home three heads of bok choi, a bag of spinach, green onions, radishes, and a dozen eggs.

So far, because of the cleanse, I’ve burned through this delightful produce. We’ve had stir fry with carrots, bok choi, and store bought organic red peppers on top of brown rice coated in pureed spinach and broth. We’ve had salads topped with carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and beans. The onions went into salads and fried rice. I plan to use the mint in a batch of iced tea.

I’ve been tossing my radish greens. Does anybody know if they’d be good in a green smoothie?

What did you find at the farmers’ market this week?

Top Ten Rhubarb Recipes

It’s safe to say that I have developed a bit of a rhubarb obsession. It’s so red and cheerful, and I love an excuse to bake when I’m just baking for fun. I’ve come home from the farmers’ market with rhubarb the past few weeks, knowing I would make something delicious, but not having any idea what that something would be.

The following is my list of rhubarb inspiration. I’ve personally tested the top three recipes and can attest that they are worth turning on your oven even on a hot summer day.

Rhubarb Crisp – I told you about this last week. When rhubarb season is over, the crisp part of the recipe can be used in another other type of fruit crisp. Since it contains walnuts, it would be great for apple crisp.

Rhubarb Muffins – I took this decadent Smitten Kitchen recipe and substituted in white whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup honey for both kinds of sugar. I also left off the crumb topping. I was left with a delicious, barely sweet muffin that traveled well and didn’t leave my fingers sticky with sugar after a rushed breakfast.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake – My roommate bought a New York Times paper last week and left it on the end table with this recipe facing up. It was so thoughtful, or clever, that I decided to make the cake Sunday evening. The rhubarb turned out the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and the cake was  sturdy but soft, and rich but mild enough to balance out the tartness of the rhubarb.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam – I am confident that combining two foods that I am mildly obsessed with into something that can be spread on toast will be a winning combination.

Rhubarb Custards – I’m hoping this will be reminiscent of the custard/pie combination we saw on our trip to the United Kingdom. Since it lacks a pie crust, it’s probably significantly lighter, too.

Rhubarb & Red Lentil Curry – What fun is a “secret ingredient challenge” if you don’t make a savory application of the usually sweet food?

Mexican Rhubarb Chocolate Chunk Brownies – I am not a proponent of mixing fruit and chocolate. Generally, I believe it ruins both perfectly good fruit and perfectly good chocolate. However, I think this needs to be attempted if just for a taste.

Rhubarb-Cream-Filled Brioche Doughnuts – Brioche is a rich, eggy bread that I fell in love with while eating French Toast Napoleon at the Cheesecake Factory in Illinois. It was love at first bite. And I don’t think frying, cream, or rhubarb could possibly not improve something delicious like brioche.

Rhubarb Tart – I know that pies are the natural application for rhubarb, but I love tarts because you don’t have to make the edges pretty–the pan does it for you!

Frosted Rhubarb Cookies – Again, I’m appealing to the “good + good = really good” argument. Frosting + rhubarb + cookies = Really awesome good.

What is your favorite rhubarb recipe?

I’m linked up at OhAmanda‘s Top Ten Tuesday.

Guest Post Mania

Today is a triple threat at Mrs. Dexter. Kind of like these oatmeal raisin cookies are a triple threat of sweet, buttery, and delicious.

I’m guest posting for Sarah at Loved Like the Church where I share my recipe for Magical Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

Then, Shawna and Krystal of Simple Life Celebrations are guest posting right here on how minimalism can save us money.

I am continuing the Ultimate Blog Swap trail by posting about clutter hot spots on I Dream of Clean.

Market Monday Begins

I have a confession to make.

Those of you who might consider me your connection to youthful-vegetarian-hipster-environmental culture may be disappointed. And it’s not just because I’m past the quarter-life mark and sometimes throw away my tin cans.

Until last year, I didn’t like farmers’ markets. Don’t get me wrong. I like farmers and I like food, I just hated going to my city’s farmers’ market. I only went occasionally on a weekday night to pick up my CSA box, exhausted from a day at work, and in a hurry to get home. The aisle between the vendors was interminably filled with strollers, old people, and chatty gawkers.

One Saturday morning last summer, we were lured downtown by free coffee (a benefit of Dexter’s job which we possibly appreciate as much as the insurance premiums my job pays). Our secret free parking area is just steps away from the farmers’ market, and for some reason we decided to go in. We had no time constraint and no goal other than to look around. We took one lap around to take it all in. We took another lap around to distinguish who was advertising spray-free or organic produce.

I think it was the point at which we bought our first pastry that I fell in love with the farmers’ market. One week we found handheld apple pies. The next week we discovered cherry turnovers. We have developed an addiction to the apple cider doughnuts.

Our Saturday morning addictions are from Barb’s Pantry.

My curmudgeonly distaste for farmers’ markets has turned into a somewhat fanatic enthusiasm. And only in part because farmers’ market day can also be referred to as coffee and doughnut day. I looked forward to the beginning of the farmers’ market all spring, and looked forward to going all through the work week. My beginning ESL students have all known what a farmers’ market is since last fall when we eased into Monday mornings with a “What did you do this weekend?” conversation and all their teacher could talk about was food.

Fortunately, I have also become aware of the vegetables and other products that are sold at farmers’ markets. We decided to forgo our traditional CSA for a variety of reasons (which I will delight you with in a future post) and make a point to shop at the farmers’ market this summer.

This week, I bought a dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens. (I actually bought them from a man, but they originally came from hens.) Last week, I bought these same eggs but used them all up in baking projects. My goal this week is to eat the eggs alone or make omelets so I can find out what these eggs really taste like!

I also bought a bunch of rhubarb. Last week, I made rhubarb crisp. Print off this recipe and make it. If you’ve never tried rhubarb, buy some now and follow this recipe. You will be changed. I thought my mom was crazy for years because she like it, but I made her a mothers’ day dessert with it once and now I have a slight obsession.

Finally, I bought a bunch of radishes. I don’t have a radish obsession by any means, but the the combination of green leaves, red bulbs and white tips was just irresistible. We used the radishes in this delicious salad:

Spring Market Salad

Serves two as a generous side dish

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 small head romaine, rinsed and dried,
  • 2 handfuls spinach, rinsed and dried (leftover from last week’s farmers’ market purchase)
  • 1 handful radishes, trimmed and washed
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, broken into small pieces

Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • a drizzle of honey or agave

Instructions:

  • Combine dressing ingredients in jar. Secure lid on jar. Shake.
  • Chop romaine and spinach into bite sized pieces.
  • Slice radishes
  • In a large bowl, toss dressing with lettuce.
  • Divide lettuce into two salad bowls. Top with radishes and feta.
  • Add meat, nuts, and/or dried fruit to make into main course salad.

I knew I’d want to blog about my farmers’ market finds. I also knew I’d want to hear about what friends and strangers on the world wide web were finding at their local markets, and maybe more importantly, how they were using those finds in meals throughout the week. Because buying kohlrabi is a cool thing to do, but cooking with it and subsequently eating it is much more impressive.

marketmonday

And so begins Market Monday. I plan to share with you each week what I found at the farmers’ market and how I plan to cook with it. Here’s how you can play along:

  • Leave a comment below telling what you found at the farmers’ market and your plans for cooking and eating it. Or link to a post you’ve written addressing the same things. (Then, link back to me in your post so your readers can get in on the fun.)
  • Couldn’t make it to the farmers’ market? Tell us about what was in your CSA box, or even what seasonal produce you found at your grocery store. Did you choose local tomatoes over imported? The goal here is learning and progress, not farmers’ market snobbery.
  • Read the comments below for inspiration. Visit the links and comment on those people’s blogs because comments are so exciting to get. Seriously, I get palpitations when I see a notice in my inbox that I’ve received one.

So, what did you find at your farmers’ market this week?

P.S. – Want to grab the cute Market Monday button my handsome graphic designer husband made for me? Use the code below:

<a title=”marketmonday by kjacobs729, on Flickr” href=”http://mrsdexter.wordpress.com/category/market-monday/”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5308/5748976749_a03567b98d_m.jpg&#8221; alt=”marketmonday” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>

Homemade Salad Dressing

I’m a bit of a salad dressing snob. When I was a kid, I only liked French dressing, and only a certain brand. Eventually, I tired of the sweet red dressing on my salads and ate my lettuce leaves plain. Or, preferably, with lots of cheese. When I was in high school, I discovered Panera’s poppy seed dressing that they use on their fruity summer salad.

In the past few years, I’ve branched out and included a few vinaigrettes in my repertoire, green goddess dressing, and even some gingery Asian dressings. However, all these have come from the salad dressing aisle at the store. When we decided to eat more whole foods, I realized that the list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients on the back of my beloved ready-made dressings probably aren’t considered “whole.” For a few months, I bought some expensive organic dressing, but that didn’t agree with my budget.

One summer afternoon, I was assigned to bring a salad to my house church for dinner. The dressing I bought wasn’t gluten-free, which was a need for one member of my church, so I did some quick thinking. I threw apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a jar and shook it up. Maybe my gluten-free friend was just being polite, but she said the dressing was great.

A year and a half later, I realized, “Hey, I could do that for myself and probably save some money.” So I did. And it worked. And it was quick and easy. And you should try it too.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 pinches of salt
  • a pinch (or grind) of pepper
  • a small pinch of onion powder and/or garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic minced or grated (optional)

Instructions:

  • Put all ingredients in a jar.
  • Seal jar.
  • Check to see if the jar is really, really tightly sealed.
  • Shake.
  • Pour on top of salad and enjoy!

This has been so successful and so convenient that I’ve even tried my hand at other recipes. For example,

Orange-Lime Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3 oz. olive oil
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • 1 pinch ground ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Instructions:

  • See super complex ingredients from Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe.

I’d really like to find a french dressing recipe since I don’t even know of a healthy brand to buy. I’m thinking of trying this one or this one.

Have you ever made salad dressing at home? What salad recipes do you love?

For more new adventures, visit Alicia’s Try New Adventures Thursday. Also, visit Jill at Diaper Diaries for Things I Love Thursday.

Meal Plan Monday 4.18.11

It’s been a long time since I posted a meal plan, but since I’m cooking for four, I need to organize. What better place to organize my links the new recipes I’ve found than here? I’ve found some very yummy sounding recipes that I’m excited to try this week.

Although I cook for four people total, I only cook for all four at once on Sundays–and yesterday they were both busy at dinner time. On weekdays, we only have three at the table each night. I’ve decided to cook three meals a week, and serve leftovers two nights a week. Most of the time, my sides are frozen veggies, salad, or canned fruit. Saturdays, it’s just Dexter and me.

Here’s the plan for this week:

Sunday “family dinner” – Meatloaf inspired by this recipe, balsamic baked onions and potatoes, canned fruit (I’ll eat leftovers instead of meatloaf)

Monday & Tuesday - Greek turkey or chickpea/lentil burgers with tapenade, tater tots one night and fresh green beans the other, quinoa & black bean salad (adapted from here)

Wednesday & ThursdayVegetable soup with corn bread croutons, leftover balsamic baked onions and potatoes or frozen green beans, canned fruit

Friday – Pizza, salad, fruit

I knew that eating a meal I actually cooked every night this week would be a stretch for a girl who has served canned soup, frozen soup, pasta, and Papa Johns for the last two weeks. However, I made sure to do my grocery shopping on Saturday and lots of prep work on Sunday. To give you an idea of how I prepared for the week and plan to finish cooking later on this week, here’s my meal plan work schedule:

Sunday

  • Make meatloaf, balsamic potatoes and onions in the oven
  • Wash and chop vegetables for soup; saute veggies in soup pot; store in fridge for Monday
  • Make chickpea/lentil burger mixture
  • Make turkey burger patties
  • Make quinoa & black bean salad

Monday

  • Cook burgers
  • Make tapenade
  • Cook tater tots
  • Make cornbread for Wednesday’s croutons

Tuesday

  • Cook burgers
  • Cook green beans

Wednesday

  • Add 2 c. water to soup, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Use cornbread to make croutons
  • Warm up veggie side dish
  • Make pizza crust; possibly parbake

Thursday

  • Reheat soup
  • Warm up veggie side dish

Friday

  • Top pizza crust
  • Chop and wash salad
  • Open can of fruit (or be lazy and just eat pizza & salad)

What are you planning to cook this drizzly spring week?

I’m linking this meal plan to This Week For Dinner for the very first time this week!

More Adventures in St. Paul

I wrote about the top ten things we did on our trip to the Twin Cities on Tuesday, but I only shared the highlights from Saturday and Sunday. Monday was filled with new adventures that we loved, so I thought it deserved its very own post. We started our final day in the Twin Cities with breakfast at Nina’s Coffee Cafe in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul. I’ll admit, I was a little wary of a place that has both “coffee” and “cafe” in its name. But I’m so glad we didn’t give up the first two times we drove past it.

Excuse my sunlit face. I tried to photoshop some color in. Although, since I chose to travel north for spring break, I probably deserve the pale skin I have. In this photo, I have not yet enjoyed one of the best lattes I’ve ever had. I was impressed that the barista steamed Dexter’s and my milk separately. It was definitely worth the wait. She also did some pretty latte art, which was only worth the wait because good latte art usually comes after milk has been steamed perfectly. I ate a giant oat-fig-ginger scone for breakfast. Needless to say, I’m now obsessed with the oat-fig-ginger combination. Lucky for me, Smitten Kitchen has a new oat and maple syrup scone recipe out for me to play with!

Before moving on to the science museum, we headed to the basement where Garrison Keillor’s bookstore, Common Good Books, is located. It had a nice variety of non-mainstream books to peruse. It also had quotes printed on the walls. Not all were as depressing as the one pictured above, which I did not read until I was uploading it to my computer earlier.

Next, we dropped a chunk of change for tickets to the Science Museum of Minnesota. We saw a King Tut exhibit with artifacts from his tomb and the tombs of several other pharaohs. The highlight, for me, was seeing a sculpture of Ramses, since Moses could have seen the very same statue. It was also interesting to learn that pharaohs started preparing their tombs as soon as their reigns began and often reclaimed sculptures of other pharaohs by scratching out the names and dates and carving in new ones. Dexter, my typography-loving graphic design nerd, liked seeing the hieroglyphics worked into the sculptures.

Then, I made Dexter pose like a T-Rex was eating his head.

Also, there were dinosaur poop fossils pinned in a display.

After we had museumed to our hearts’ content, we headed back to Cathedral Hill to eat at The Happy Gnome.

Dexter enjoyed his Minnesota game burger with lingonberry spread. I had a salad with salt-roasted bosc pears, dried cranberries, walnut relish, black river bleu cheese, and port vinaigrette. It was yummy, but the pictures of it (and me) were terrible.

But the highlight was dessert. Oh the dessert. I wish I had skipped my entrée, as much as I enjoyed it, and ordered another dessert because their dessert menu was a collection of every dessert I never knew I wanted to eat. Chocolate flourless torte. Warm pear and almond tartlette. Caramel apple bread pudding. But we finally decided on the Dulce de Tres Leches cake, which was tres leches cake, drenched in a chocolatey soup, topped with caramel corn.

Then, reluctantly and with full, happy stomachs, we got back in the car and drove home.

We drove past the fields of windmills in northern Iowa. I like for people to know that Iowa is more than pigs and corn.

We also, apparently, have fields of cars.

It was after sunset when we got home to our puppies.

Click over to Alicia’s Homemaking to read more Try New Adventures Thursday. Check out Diaper Diaries for Things I Love Thursday.

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I didn’t know about spinach-artichoke dip until I was in college. I first had it at a wine-tasting party that my friend Amy hosted. I was wary at first.  A food with two vegetables as the name of the dish? No thank you. There is no amount of wine that could make me think that is a good combination. What I didn’t realize was that wine isn’t the key to making vegetables taste good–cheese is.

The cover-it-with-cheese principle has served me well, helping me to include tomatoes, mushrooms, and brussels sprouts in my diet when they never would have made it into my mouth before. As I’ve grown accustomed to vegetables, I’ve reduced the amount of cheese I use to accompany them. It might be too great a shock to my system to completely take it out.

Last week, my April issue of Whole Living Magazine arrived, and inside I found 30 ideas for delicious, nutritious sandwiches. I was inspired by their combination of artichokes and white beans and created my own easy, real-life dinner-time recipe. These sandwiches, while not as decadent as their namesake dip, are a great way to add flavor, fiber, and protein to a grilled cheese sandwich.

Reviews from my table:

“These are pretty good.”

“Mmm…cheese.”

“I don’t like spinach, but I really like this sandwich.”

You’re sold, aren’t you?

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich
adapted from Whole Living, April 2011
makes 5 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 can great northern beans (or other white beans)
  • 1 10-oz. box frozen spinach
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I used light, made with olive oil)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 14-oz. can artichokes in water
  • 5 oz. white cheese in 5 slices or grated (I used organic raw sharp cheddar because it was on sale)
  • 10 slices 100% whole wheat sandwich bread (frozen for easy assembly)
  • 3-4 Tbsp. butter, olive oil, or non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Thaw frozen spinach in microwave. Squeeze out water in a towel over the sink.
  2. Put beans, spinach, mayonnaise, parmesan, and olive oil in the food processor. Blend for 30-60 seconds until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Drain and chop artichokes into small pieces.
  4. Combine artichokes and bean mixture in a small bowl.
  5. Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread, brush with olive oil, or spray lightly with non-stick spray for a lower fat option.
  6. To assemble sandwiches, put 3 tablespoons of artichoke mixture on the un-buttered side of a piece of bread. (I used a 1.5 Tbsp. cookie scoop to measure.) Top with 1/2 oz of cheese. Place a second piece of bread, butter side out, on top of cheese. Repeat for four remaining sandwiches.
  7. Cook on a griddle heated over medium heat, on a panini press, or in a George Foreman grill until brown and crispy. I put mine on the George Foreman for about 4 minutes.

Pictures to come. Somebody pressed “Schedule” instead of “Save” and forgot about it.