October is National Spinach Lover’s Month. Spinach isn’t just for Popeye anymore. It has become one of the most popular green vegetables in the nation. March 26 has been declared as National Spinach Day. Spinach can be served fresh or cooked by steaming, boiling or sautéing.

The health benefits of eating spinach are numerous. Spinach contains more than 15 different vitamins and minerals that are helpful to our body’s health. It also promotes heart health.

In the 1930s, the United States had a 33% increase of spinach consumption. That increase was attributed to the popularity of the Popeye character and his cartoon. Children observed his brute strength after eating a can of spinach. Fans of Popeye wanted to be just like him. In Crystal City, Texas, a statue of Popeye was erected in 1937. This city is a major producer of spinach. Just think: If Popeye had liked escargot instead of spinach, he would be known as Popeye the Snailorman!

The state of California is the No. 1 supplier of spinach in the United States. Other major contributing states include Arizona, New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, Maryland and Arkansas. An annual spinach festival in Alma, Arkansas, each April and claims to be the “Spinach Capital of the World.”

Spinach is best when served fresh. It will last for about one week in the refrigerator before it begins to lose its freshness. Freezing whole spinach is simple. Pick out any leaves that have begun to lose their freshness. Place them in a ZipLoc freezer bag, squeeze out excess air and place in the freezer.

The first frozen spinach was advertised in Life magazine in 1949 by the Bird’s Eye food company. This vegetable could now be readily available to the consumer.

Another valuable quality of spinach is the fact that it will help you to eat less. Supplementing your diet with spinach will help you to feel full and not eat so much at mealtime.

Even if you aren’t a spinach eater, I hope you will give these recipes a try. I think you’ll be glad you did. Thanks for reading.

SPINACH MADELEINE

2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach

2 tablespoons chopped onion

½ cup evaporated milk

½ cup vegetable liquor (from the cooked spinach)

1 (8-ounce) Velveeta Mexican style (hot or mild)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¾ teaspoon celery salt

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

¾ teaspoon garlic salt

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Red pepper to taste

Ritz crackers/melted butter for topping

Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain well, reserving ½ cup of the vegetable liquor. Melt butter in saucepan over low hear. Add flour, and stir until blended and smooth. Add onion, and cook until soft but not brown. Add liquids slowly, stirring until thick and smooth. Add seasonings and cheese that has been cubed. Stir until melted. Combine with the spinach, and place into a casserole dish that has been lightly greased. Top with buttered, crushed Ritz crackers. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

(I sometimes place a layer of quartered artichoke hearts in the bottom of the casserole before adding the spinach mixture. This recipe also makes a great dip.)

SPINACH BALLS WITH MUSTARD SAUCE

(This is one of my son’s favorites.)

2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (cook and drain well)

4 beaten eggs

1½ sticks butter, melted

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups herbed stuffing mix

1 large onion, chopped

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients well. Form into 1-inch balls, and chill for 2 hours. Bake on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with mustard sauce.

Mustard Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup milk

¼ cup prepared mustard

4 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and chill before serving.

BEEF FLORENTINE

2 pounds ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (4-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese

2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 (16-ounce) carton small curd cottage cheese

Brown and drain ground beef and onion. Add garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, mushrooms and seasoning. Mix well and simmer for 15 minutes. Mix cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray, and layer as follows: half the meat sauce, half the cheese mixture, spinach, cheese and top with remaining meat sauce. Add some additional mozzarella or Parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

(Any recipe with the word Florentine in the title will have a significant amount of spinach in the dish.)

• Contact Lee Ann Flemming at lafkitchen@hughes.net.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.