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These were supposed to be Swiss chard pancakes, but I always have spinach in my fridge (and I don’t like Swiss chard), so that’s what I made them with. Do what you can with what you’ve got, right?

Up until about the middle of last week, I’d been eating a lot of spinach as part of my pre-pregnancy diet. Seriously, I was eating it 3-4 times a week. As soon as I became pregnant, I lost almost all interest in spinach – in all green vegetables, actually. I don’t even really like to look at them, and the thought of even preparing them sometimes makes me want to gag. I have found that once I do get everything prepared and cooked, I have no trouble eating it. I just don’t like looking at it!

Which explains why I put these off until yesterday. When we voted on April recipes, this was one I was looking forward to. Spinach is one of the very few leafy greens I willingly eat. The dish seemed relatively simple – a savory pancake flavored with herbs and something green. Easy and quick to make, something anyone can appreciate, pregnant or not.

In France, these little green pancakes are called farçous, and Swiss chard is the traditional green filling. They can be served as a snack, as a side dish, or as a light main meal along with a salad. Well, that last option sounded absolutely terrible to me and my uncooperative stomach (and to Geordie, who likes some meat in his meals), so I decided that these would have to be a side dish.  I served them along with some sauteed mushrooms and a nice piece of filet mignon.

These pancakes are very easy to assemble; pancakes typically are, which is one of the things that makes them so great.

Milk, eggs, flour, herbs (fresh rosemary and thyme), garlic, and spinach.

Milk, eggs, flour, herbs (fresh rosemary and thyme), garlic, and spinach.

Everything but the spinach goes for a nice whirl. Once a smooth batter is formed, the spinach is added in batches until the batter is  nice and green-flecked.

Everything but the spinach goes for a nice whirl. Once a smooth batter is formed, the spinach is added in batches until the batter is nice and green-flecked. Now, it’s time to make pancakes!

A nice hot pan, a little oil - that's all it takes!

A nice hot pan, a little oil – that’s all it takes!

These cooked very quickly, so we had a nice collection of green pancakes in no time at all.

These cooked very quickly, so we had a nice collection of green-tinged pancakes in no time at all.

Dorie states that these are fine without much in the way of garnish or topping – and she’s right. There’s enough flavor in these little pancakes that they don’t need any boosts. But, I served them with a little sour cream anyway, just to add a little creaminess to them.

Spinach Pancakes

Spinach Pancakes

Perfect.

I’m really glad I made these. They smelled great while I was making them, but I still wasn’t feeling the whole spinach thing until I ate one of them. This has become pretty common for me – I spend the whole day feeling queasy and wanting to eat nothing, but as soon as I start eating, my appetite takes over and nothing is as bad as I feared it would be. I actually think these were exactly what I needed to get a little spinach into me; they’re mild but not bland, with enough flavor to be tasty without being overpowering. By themselves, they’re a bit on the light side, but they could be easily adapted go with various proteins. With a little cream cheese, they were great as a breakfast this morning!

They definitely need to be served as a side dish, though. They just don’t have what it takes to stand as a main dish, especially since they’re so adaptable to whatever protein dish might be presented. The herbs can be played with a bit; Dorie suggested parsley and chives, but I opted for rosemary and thyme, which was a great combination. Also, the topping can make a difference – we added a little BBQ sauce to our steak, and it actually went pretty well with the pancakes too! (And no, it was not an idea produced from strange pregnancy tastes – Geordie tried it before I did!)

These will be really nice to have in the fridge – when pregnancy hunger descends upon me, it hits hard, and these are handy to have when I need to put something in my stomach immediately. I get the feeling I’ll be making these again before this pregnancy is over! A nice way to trick my body into ignoring the greenery aversions and eat something healthy for a change. This week, all of my cravings have revolved around pizza heaped with cheese and fried chicken sandwiches. Comforting and delicious, perhaps, but probably not the best stuff for baby and me. Why can’t I have a craving for something healthy?

To see how the other Doristas did with their farçous, check out the French Friday links. Happy cooking!

Oh, and before I go, I must wish my husband a Happy Birthday today! Usually, I make him something special for his birthday, but this year, he really wants a good Japanese meal, so we’re going to give a local restaurant a try. Which I’m okay with, because cooking has been a little beyond my capabilities lately. Gasp! It’s just a temporary thing – once the first trimester passes, I should be feeling a bit like my old self again. I hope!

One of the Doristas stated that this may be the easiest recipe in the entire book, and she may well be right. It’s steamed spinach. There, done.

Except, this is Dorie we’re dealing with. It’s not quite as bare-bones as that.

We start with spinach. Lots and lots of spinach.

Ten ounces of spinach, to be exact.

Ten ounces of spinach, to be exact.

I dislike stems a great deal, so I take the time to remove them. It’s pretty boring. But it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, the steaming apparatus can be warming up. I have three steaming contraptions, all of which I use on occasion but none of which are the steamer basket that Dorie suggests. The method I like to use the most is a microwave steamer, but ten ounces of spinach doesn’t fit into that. Not in one batch anyway. And my big electric steamer is nice, but it needs a good cleaning, and I didn’t feel like messing with it when my counters were already crowded.

Instead, I got out my bamboo steamer, which is my favorite steaming tool. It’s just so cool.

All ten ounces of spinach stuffed into the two levels of the bamboo steamer.

All ten ounces of spinach stuffed into the two levels of the bamboo steamer.

I love this thing. I’ve had it for years, and it’s starting to show its age. It’s easier to use than the electric steamer, and it’s less likely to over-cook than the microwave steamer. It’s also incredibly easy to use. The hardest part is waiting for the pan full of water to boil. Once that’s done, you just set the steamer in the water and let it go for however long the recipe suggests.

In this case, Dorie starts you off with three minutes, suggesting that it might take a couple more than that. Mine took four minutes.

So much steamed spinach.

So much steamed spinach.

To be honest, this was the only one of Dorie’s directions that I followed. I didn’t even season the spinach beforehand, which is one of the little genius twists on this simple side of steamed spinach. Nor did I add olive oil. Or even any lemon. When I reached for a lemon to zest before setting the spinach to steam, I realized that I was all out of lemons. This hardly ever happens.

Alas, sometimes it does happen.

Fortunately, I like steamed spinach well enough that I didn’t mind. I think Geordie would have preferred the spinach with the olive oil and the lemon, and he’d be right, it is better that way.

Mmm, steamed spinach smells delicious.

Mmm, steamed spinach smells delicious.

I’ve made this lemon-steamed spinach three or four times, and I wouldn’t mind making it more often. The olive oil adds great flavor, and the lemon zest adds a beautiful brightness. It also looks a lot prettier with flecks of yellow adorning all that green. It’s a very simple, very wholesome, very delicious dish that can round out any number of meals. I served mine with Dorie’s “roasted chicken for lazy people,” and it brought a much-needed green-ness to the dinner plate. It’s easily my favorite side dish from Around My French Table, doing well in any season. I could make this once a week and eat it happily every time.

Spinach is one of the few leafy greens that I will eat and never get tired of – in fact, it may be the only one. Though I do enjoy a good spinach salad, steamed is probably my preferred way of cooking it. And this recipe is easily my preferred way of preparing it. It’s a no-fail recipe that gets it done right each time.

Unless you hate spinach, it’s hard not to like this easy side dish. Check out the French Friday links to see how the other Doristas liked it. Happy cooking!

About a month ago, Geordie was sick with a persistent cold. Like any normal person, he craved some Chinese hot and sour soup. We had not been to any Chinese places since moving to San Antonio, and nobody really had any suggestions for us (we have, however, found an awesome Middle Eastern place we eat at whenever possible, as well as a great Mexican place). All we really wanted was some soup, but we figured it would be nice to know of a good place when we had cravings for full plates of Chinese food.

The first place we tried was a family-style restaurant that is pretty much like every other family-style Chinese restaurant in America. We went there the day before Thanksgiving and managed to put in a to-go order right before they closed. We ordered hot and sour soup, egg drop soup, and crab rangoon (because I’m an addict). Nothing left much of an impression, except for the crab rangoon, which was terrible. It had more green onion in it than actual crab. Or fake crab. I’m pretty sure that was fake crab. The soups were bland and uninteresting. They not only did nothing for Geordie’s health, they seriously dampened my mood.

That weekend, still hopeful for decent Chinese soup, we decided to try again. We settled on a Chinese restaurant near the Salvation Army store (where we were hoping to find a decent couch for cheap). I checked it out online, and the one we were going to had decent enough reviews; there are two other locations, and this was the original one. We figured it couldn’t be worse than the other restaurant.

Famous last words. It was like a cosmic joke had been played on us. The website is very slick-looking, very professional, very inviting. The restaurant itself was the exact opposite. They had all the blinds drawn against the afternoon sun, which made it very dim; it looked more like they were trying to hide what a disappointment the place was. You order at a cash register, grab a glass at the drink bar, and seat yourself. A waitress (and it looked like they had one on duty, at 1pm on a Sunday) delivered food, refreshed your drinks, and otherwise tended to you. That waitress was the only good thing about this restaurant. We weren’t sure if tipping was in order, but we left her one anyway, because it seemed like she was the only person in the place putting any effort into her job.

I could probably forgive all that if the food was good. That was not the case here. They have a soup and rice bar, and right in full view of everyone, they bring out big containers of soup and just dump it right into the bar when something needs refreshing. Kind of annoying when you’re trying to get some soup, and also considerably unappetizing. Their egg drop soup was completely flavorless and a frightening orange color. Their hot and sour soup was extremely sour, extremely hot, and otherwise not very good.

The crispy noddles (you know – the ones you pile onto your soup and usually taste stale if you eat them alone) were the best part of the meal. They were actually tasty, which makes me horrified to think what they might have been fried in. Our meals were terrible. I ate maybe 5% of mine, a platter of sweet and sour pork, wherein the pork was severely over-cooked. Geordie got something that looked disgusting. Some kind of shrimp dish that had a faint fish smell to it. He ate more than me, but that’s because he paid for it. It’s quite obvious why they make you pay for your food before you even see it.

The best thing that can be said about this place? It was cheap. I think most Chinese places run on the cheap side, but at least the food is edible. This was not edible. And the place was not very welcoming. It had a aura of complete apathy about it, like everyone inside – even the patrons – had just completely given up on life. It was the saddest meal I have ever eaten. We fled as quickly as possible.

On our way home, Geordie said, “Can you make me hot and sour soup for Christmas?”

All sorts of yummy. Mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and all sorts of yummy Asian-style flavorings. No disappointments here!

Mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and all sorts of yummy Asian-style flavorings. No disappointments here!

Yes. Yes, I can.

I made it in the slow-cooker, working from this recipe. I added wood ear mushrooms, which are often a traditional hot and sour soup ingredient. Geordie really wanted pork, but I didn’t feel like making any and the pre-cooked stuff at the store wasn’t exactly appetizing. Considering how easy this was to make, I might just consider cooking up some pork and adding it next time.

I mean, there has to be a next time. I made a pretty decent hot and sour soup, if I do say so myself. And, oh, it made the house smell so delicious! The only (minor) issue was that we both would have liked the broth a little thicker. I’ll have to see if I can tweak that. As it is, it’s a very tasty soup, full of flavor – just enough sour, just enough hot. We added a drop or two of rayu sauce for added kick, and that was just plain delicious. Definitely something I’ll put in my make-again file. Especially when colds come to visit!

The best thing, though, was that it was done in the crockpot, which allowed me to focus on the 40+ cupcakes I baked up that day. I sold some cupcakes! True, I sold them to one of Geordie’s co-workers, but she requested them and offered money for them, and she wanted to buy cupcakes from me! It was quite exciting. I made her chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes and almond-orange cupcakes. Both turned out very nice, which was a relief. I would hate to make crappy cupcakes for someone who wanted to pay for them.

Anyway, the soup. Apparently, Texas (or at least San Antonio) is not so keen on the Chinese food. I realize that most Chinese restaurants in America are going to be, well, American-ized, but these were just plain bad. We’re still looking for a decent Chinese place to call our “go-to” but for now, I think I’m going to have to explore more homemade Chinese dinner options. If a restaurant can’t even get a simple hot and sour soup right, how can I possibly trust them with an entire meal?

Merry Christmas, Geordie! I’d gladly make you homemade hot and sour soup anytime!

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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