Peak Produce: Satisfying Spinach

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All About Spinach

Health Benefits

  • Spinach is an excellent source of iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C
  • Spinach also contains oxalic acid which inhibits the body’s absorption of calcium.
  • For more nutrition facts and caloric information on spinach check out this great guide at Self.com

Organic? Seasonal?

  • Spinach is ranked in the top 10 of the EWG Shopper’s Guide list of produce with pesticide residue.
  • Fresh spinach is available year round; it peaks in spring and fall.
  • For the most delicate flavor and tender texture choose “baby” spinach.

Several interesting facts you may not know about spinach

  • Spinach leaves can be curled or smooth depending on the variety.
  • Spinach is a member of the beet family.
  • If you see the phrase “a la florentine” on a menu, expect to see spinach as an integral ingredient.
  • In the 18th century, spinach was often served cooked; its juice was used as food coloring.
  • Spinach has never been particularly popular in America, although the cartoon character Popeye did help!
  • Clean spinach thoroughly to avoid grittiness.
  • Cooked spinach has a lot of liquid. Drain and squeeze excess moisture from cooked spinach before adding it to other foods.
  • Nutmeg and spinach complement each other nicely.
  • Be prepared for shrinkage – when cooked, spinach’s volume is reduced by about 3/4.

Ideas for Use 

Do you like spinach as much as Popeye?

Outrageous Oatmeal

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Oatmeal is a great breakfast. At home or on the road, oatmeal is easy to prepare. If you have a hotel room with a microwave or ability to boil water, you are set. Simply pick up some oatmeal at your destination (or bring it with you if you are going somewhere without oatmeal) and top with dark chocolate chips, dried cherries, and walnuts.

Oatmeal can also be great if you’re on a long flight where breakfast will be served. While airlines are definitely not known for their food, I find breakfast particularly difficult with lots of carbs, a few small pieces of fruit or some mysterious egg dish. Take a small container with a serving of oatmeal and another with your toppings; request a cup of hot water and you’re good to go.

I often eat this breakfast concoction – home or away. The great thing is that it’s completely customizable to your taste! From an assortment of nuts and dried fruit, even topping with yogurt or fresh fruit, think outside the bowl with oatmeal.

The amount of water you use is completely up to you. I prefer oatmeal that is more fluffy and less porridge-like. With more water added, the rest of the flavors may be more diluted than my version.

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What are your favorite oatmeal toppings?

Paper Peonies Tutorial

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The lunch idea posted earlier this week celebrating friends and flowers featured a ton of paper flowers. Today’s post will give you the tools to create them yourself!

Creating items with paper, especially flowers, is one of my favorite crafts to do. It’s so easy and creates an impressive and beautiful result that is fun to decorate with. From construction paper and crepe paper to coffee filters, paper flowers can be made of many things. For these flowers, I wanted a fun, floppy feel inspired by the invitations and place cards, as well as these beautiful large peonies I spied about a year ago at a local grocery store (See bottom right of peony picture for scale. Yes – those are normal-sized peonies down there!).

This tutorial is so simple, you’ll be making bouquets in no time!

Materials

  1. Hot glue gun and glue
  2. Scissors
  3. 4 Large Petals (4-Petal Template below) cut out of thick tissue paper, natural fiber paper, or construction paper
  4. 1 Backer Circle out of construction paper
  5. 16-inch piece of yellow crepe paper (1 1/2 inches wide)
  6. 1-inch diameter glitter pom pom
  7. 6-inch pipe cleaner
  8. 2-inch square piece of scrap paper for backing

Template

Download and print the template on 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

PerfectPeonyTemplate

Tutorial

 

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Modifications

This flower can also be made quite easily into a smaller, five-petal version (see the orange and yellow flowers in the top picture). Follow the same steps as a above, simply use the smaller petal template and make 5 petals. Curve the paper and rough it up as with the 4-petal version; slightly curl in the tips.

What’s your favorite type of craft?

Edible Flowers

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Nature is amazing and has such a wide arrange of beauty, especially when it comes to flowers. From flowering trees, like banksia and wattleseed, to bushes like gardenias, and flowers like daisies and roses, there are so many varieties. Some flowers are rare and hard to grow, while others grow like weeds. And some are poisonous (poinsettias and oleander – to name a few), while others are quite edible. Edible flowers have a range of uses from simply garnishing a meal, a salad, or a cake to making ice cubes beautiful.

Not all flowers are edible and you should definitely research specific flowers before consuming. The best bet is to purchase edible flowers from grocery stores or farmer’s markets that are specifically grown and marketed for that purpose. They can often be found in the produce section near the herbs. Generally, florists are not good sources as their flowers are usually treated with pesticides.

  • For some helpful tips on selecting and using edible flowers, check out this article or this one.
  • For a specific list of edible flowers, go here.
  • More extensive lists of edible/poisonous flowers here and here.
  • Edible flowers are best eaten the day they are picked but can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for up to a week. Before use, rinse edible flowers gently but thoroughly under a slow stream of cool water and drain between layers of paper towels. Discard any with signs of mold.

There are so many fun ways to edible flowers – below are just a few ideas.

Would you eat flowers? Have you?

Lunch Celebrating Friends & Flowers

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust FF flowers 1.jpg FF flowers 2.jpgMy husband and I made a goal this year to spend more time enjoying our friends. Whether it’s meeting them for dinner, having more game nights, or including them in more of our plans around town, having friends is fun! What better way to celebrate your girlfriends than by inviting them over for a homemade lunch full of simply delicious food. With flowers in full bloom, it seemed a good occasion to take advantage of the season and focus on flowers from the invitations to the decor.

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flower ball.jpg flower lantern 2.jpg   ff arch.jpg I wanted to have a lunch that was relatively easy to pull off. This menu works great for four to six guests and could definitely be expanded for additional ones. Baked Goat Cheese with Bread to start; a nice, super-easy, yet decadent appetizer that tastes fantastic. For lunch, we had Strawberry and Spinach Salad, Spinach Quiche, and fresh fruit. To finish it off, lemon bars topped with edible flowers (more on that here). FFtable1.jpg FF table 2.jpg Celebrate your friends and enjoy their company! The Menu

FF salad.jpg   ff lemon bars.jpg   The List  Friends & Flowers Luncheon (2)

The Schedule This party was at 1:00 p.m. so adjust your schedule accordingly based on your start time.

Several Weeks Before

  • Make paper flowers (tutorial here)
  • Send out invitations

Week of

  • Purchase groceries
  • Set table, pick up house, set out serving dishes

Day Before – Optional 

  • Make Quiche Crust (could also be done several weeks ahead and frozen or done the morning of)
  • Make the Quiche (optional)

Morning Of

  • Remove items from fridge that need to be at room temperature for recipes: cream cheese, 2 sticks of butter, 4 large eggs, lemons, spinach (defrost)
  • 8:00 a.m. – Make quiche crust and chill.
  • 8:30 a.m. – Cut and prepare fruit then refrigerate.
  • 9:00 a.m. – Make lemon bars (make crust; chill 20 minutes; bake 20 minutes and prepare filling; bake 30 minutes). Roll out quiche crust while lemon bars are baking.
  • 10:00 a.m. Make quiche and bake.
  • 12:00 p.m. – Prepare and plate salad items and toast nuts.
  • 12:30 p.m. – Make any last minute touches to your house and table. Prep and bake goat cheese appetizer. Top lemon bars with flowers.
  • 12:45 p.m. – Set out food and drinks. Put quiche in oven for 5-10 minutes if you prefer it warmer than room temperature for serving.
  • 1:00 p.m. – Party time!

Which flowers are your favorite – the paper decorations, the real ones in the centerpiece, or the edible ones on the lemon bars?