Spinach Isn't for Popeye

By: Missy Sorg

My office is back on their weight loss kick!  This time, we’re doing a Couch-to-5k option with meal planning – in lieu of having us do our own things for weight loss and simply counting numbers.  

The fun thing I like about this year’s challenge is that we earn participation points by doing certain things.  For instance, we do a weekly “lunch hour” walk through Mt. Lebanon – which earns us points.  And, we have a weekly recipe and “super ingredient.”  If we make the recipe and send a pic to our office manager, we earn points.  Same goes for making something with the special ingredient.  Make something with it, share the recipe, and earn points.  

This means I get to have a little bit of fun with something that could otherwise be, honestly, not so much fun.  

For my office, this week’s ingredient is spinach.  I’m not a huge fan of spinach.  I don’t care how much strength it gives Popeye.  However, I’m in for the experience with my office weight loss thing.  So, I’ve got a couple of recipes that we can try together!

First, Spinach-Quinoa Cakes!  (If I think “tiny hamburgers” I may be able to do this one.)

Spinach-Quinoa Cakes (recipe from My Recipes)

2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/3 cups organic vegetable broth
2 cups spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Cooking spray


  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. To prepare relish, arrange bell peppers, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 10 minutes or until charred. Remove pan from oven; wrap peppers in foil. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and finely chop. Combine peppers, parsley, vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and ground red pepper.
  3. To prepare cakes, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes or just until tender, stirring frequently. Add quinoa; cook 4 minutes or until toasted and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 17 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed. Stir in chopped spinach. Spread hot quinoa mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet; cool 10 minutes.
  4. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375°.
  5. Combine quinoa mixture, cheese, panko, 3/8 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and eggs in a bowl, and toss well to combine. Let mixture stand 5 minutes. Shape into 4 (4-inch) patties.
  6. Remove preheated baking sheet from oven; coat pan with cooking spray. Place patties on pan, and return to oven. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and thoroughly heated. Top with bell pepper relish.

The second recipe we’re going to try is Ricotta-Spinach Dumplings.  (I think there’s more hope to the extent that this includes ricotta – and my brain is immediately equating it to stuffed shells!)

Ricotta-Spinach Dumplings (recipe from My Recipes)


1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) plus 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese (such as Calabro or Polly-O)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2.25 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce


  1. Cook spinach in microwave according to package directions; cool slightly. Place spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze until very dry.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon 1.5 ounces flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, spinach, ricotta, and next 6 ingredients (through 1 egg) in a medium bowl. Stir gently just until combined.
  3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour on a baking sheet. Drop ricotta mixture by tablespoonfuls onto floured pan to make about 36 dumplings. Sprinkle dumplings with remaining 1 tablespoon flour, and very gently shape each into a ball; gently roll on pan to lightly coat with flour. (Dumplings can be shaped ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.)
  4. Place marinara in a large skillet over medium heat; cover and keep warm.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 9 dumplings to water; cook 5 to 6 minutes (do not boil). Remove dumplings from pan with a slotted spoon, and place in marinara; keep warm. Repeat procedure 3 times with remaining dumplings.

So, we’ll see how these recipes hold up.  Let us know if you have some recipes you want us to try, too!