Things have been busy today! I started off the morning shooting Christmas pictures of a precious baby boy. Christopher came along and was a big help. He’s very good at following all of my hand-me-get-me’s. Whether it was holding a blanket backdrop, holding my camera, or moving a rocking chair, he was a big help and it was fun to have him along.
Then it was back home to roast carrots and make two big pans of broccoli cheese casserole – one for my parents’ Thanksgiving table and one for Michael’s mom’s. I did manage to sit down for a few minutes to work on the blanket that I’m crocheting for Elizabeth. My Aunt Linda taught me to crochet when I was thirteen years old. She and my mom’s other sister, Aunt Pat, are both so talented at sewing and crocheting! Aunt Linda had to be especially patient with me since I am left-handed and she’s right-handed. What she came up with was for me to sit across from her and mirror what she did. She taught me a beautiful zig-zag pattern. To this day, it’s the only pattern I know. I never learned to read crochet patterns, so zig-zag it is! I don’t live near Aunt Linda, so I can’t go whine and ask her to teach me a new pattern. The funny thing is, I started making Elizabeth’s blanket and she came in when I had about four or five rows done. Her eyes lit up and she said, “So cool! I didn’t know you could crochet a chevron pattern!” Yeah. That’s it. Chevron! At the rate I’m going, it’s going to be a while before she gets this blanket. I don’t have time to crochet when we’re going to school, of course, so my time is limited to school breaks. Of course, Christopher saw me making it and has put in his order, too. He wants his in his favorite college’s colors. Hopefully I will start and finish it before he goes to college! Anyway, this was hers after the first three hours of working on it. She likes it so far. I have the added incentive of colder weather. The bigger the blanket gets, the warmer my lap will be!
I always try to take one “new” dish to Thanksgiving. I decided to create something new this year. I love Spinach Madeline, but I wanted to come up with my own take on it.
This dish is awesome! Cheesy, creamy, a little spicy from the green chiles and Cajun seasoning…
I’m lucky that my kids love spinach. They loved this dish! They are my official tasters when I create something new. Michael really liked it, too. He’s usually my biggest critic. I don’t mean that in a mean way. He’s just very thoughtful when he tries a new dish. He’s very good at making suggestions about ways that I can tweak the recipe. He didn’t have anything to suggest this time – which is the best thing ever! He just loved it.
Because I used flavors that Elizabeth loves – queso, green chiles, Cajun seasoning – I decided to name the dish after her!
- 2 16-oz. bags of frozen chopped spinach
- 1 stick of butter
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup of chopped onion
- 2 cups of reserved spinach cooking liquid
- 16 oz. of Velveeta Queso Blanco, cut into large cubes
- 1 7-oz. can of chopped green chiles
- 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
- 2 teaspoons of garlic salt
- 2 cups of plain breadcrumbs
- 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed into crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large stock pot, pour frozen spinach and cover with water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes. Place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the spinach into the strainer. Press the spinach into the strainer to force out more liquid. You need to keep this liquid. I left my spinach in the strainer for about 15 minutes before starting the dish to make sure most of the water was out.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Sprinkle flour over the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon (or use a whisk if your skillet isn’t nonstick). Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes to allow flour to cook – but NOT brown. Add chopped onions and continue to stir and cook for about 5 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add 2 cups of the reserved spinach cooking liquid – 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Once mixture has thickened to the consistency of gravy, reduce the heat to medium and add the cubes of cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add Worcestershire sauce, green chiles, and seasonings, stirring until combined. Stir in heavy cream. Add spinach to the mixture, stirring to break it up and to thoroughly combine it into the mixture. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed. Add breadcrumbs and stir to combine.
Pour into a 9X13 baking dish and cover evenly with cracker crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes or until cracker crumbs are golden.
Well Duh #1: If you forget and strain the spinach over the sink, thereby losing your cooking liquid, please don’t freak out. Just use chicken stock. It will be fine. I promise.
Well Duh #2: I usually crush my crackers by putting them in a big zippered bag and crushing them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a small sauce pan.
Well Duh #3: Heavy cream is the same as heavy whipping cream. NOT whipped cream. This stuff comes in a carton like half and half. I’ve also seen it in a fat-free form, which will work fine in this recipe.
Well Duh #4: The cracker crumbs are entirely optional. My tribe would have eaten this straight from the skillet had I not been wielding a very large wooden spoon! I poured this into two 8X8 pans and covered them with foil. I will pour the cracker crumbs on just before baking on Thanksgiving Day. If you choose not to use the cracker crumbs, there’s no need to bake at all. Just serve it straight from the skillet – or from a pretty serving dish, if you don’t mind the extra dirty dishes!
Well Duh #5: My recipe is not very spicy. If you want to add a little kick to yours, you can use a spicier cheese (Mexican Velveeta maybe?) or you can add more Cajun seasoning. Michael will probably add Tabasco to his serving because he adds Tabasco to most everything. Just spice it up however you want!
Well Duh #6: Cut your butter into slices or cubes before adding it to the skillet. It will melt faster that way.
I love that crocheting is using something handed down to me by somebody I love. I think of Aunt Linda every time I pick up a crochet hook. Hopefully my recipes will be something that my kids feel I’ve handed down to them. Something to make them think of our family and the fun we have every time they make them.