Winter

Image I would like to say that I loved spinach as a kid, but I mostly detested it along with other vegetables like peas and Brussels sprouts. But now I adore them all. I remember my mom using the Popeye cartoon as an example of why I should eat spinach: so I would grow up big and strong. I'm pretty sure that cartoon was created as propaganda by a team of spinach farmers and mothers. As children, we are all genetically programmed to dislike bitter flavors. That is why kids don't like most vegetables. As we grow into adults our taste buds develop to appreciate and enjoy bitter and even hot and spicy foods.

This simple recipe for spinach is almost too easy for me to include here, but it's my favorite way to enjoy it. It begins with sautéing thinly sliced garlic and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. The spinach is added and cooked until it wilts. For a bit of crunch, I garnish with toasted pine nuts. The flavor of the sautéed spinach is hardly bitter. There really is no excuse to boil or blanch spinach. Doing so just removes all the nutrients and blackens the leaves. Try this side dish with a wonderful dinner and you will see how rewarding it is. I recently paired it with roast beef, mashed potatoes, and Côtes du Rhône wine.

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milletcakesWithout being super conscious about it, I have been making more and more vegetarian meals. Millet, lentils, quinoa, black beans, and lots of green vegetables are consumed weekly while less meat and chicken grace our dinner table. Don’t get me wrong, I like my animal protein. As long as it is pastured and raised in an environment that you and I would want to be raised in.

Last winter, when we switched over to a gluten free diet, I cleaned out the pantry. I was amazed at how much food I had on hand and I realized that I could feed my family for a month based on the existing inventory.

In that inventory, there was an unopened bag of millet. I have always liked millet but pretty much forgot about it. Instead, I was making a lot of farro, quinoa, and barley. Quinoa is one of the few grains that we continued to eat and I decided to open that bag of millet and start experimenting.

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ducksalad.jpgIf you don’t think salad is a hearty enough meal for the dead of winter, this one will certainly change your mind… With a warm duck breast sliced atop a flavor packed mix of greens, vegetables, nuts and cheese, it’s a dish that’s rich and satisfying but also pretty skinny.

I only recently stumbled upon this fabulous combination of flavors at The Waterfront Restaurant in our favorite home away from home, Camden, Maine. It was Christmastime and there was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground…but the sun was bright, the sky a vivid blue and the outside temperature was an almost balmy 34 degrees. Somehow, I didn’t feel like a cold seafood salad but didn’t really want a hot chowder either.

I ended up ordering this dish instead and, by the time lunch was finished–and everyone at the table had sampled my plate–we all decided that this warm salad would be perfect any time of year.

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orangearugulasaladHomemade vinaigrettes just taste better and it's really worth the extra few minutes it takes to shake up a batch in jar.

I like to use this recipe during the winter, when there are lots of great citrus fruits to choose from in the grovery store.

Blood oranges, clemetines, or any favorite orange make a nice additiion to this simple green salad and compliment the marmalade in the vinaigrette.

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