Hungry kids after school? Check. Superfast homemade snack? Check. Late-night snack for the adults? Check. This recipe ticks all those boxes. In less time than it takes to make a trip to the store, these spinach bars will be baking away in the oven. I first made this recipe while doing one of my “quick-fire challenges”. For those of you who’ve watched “Top Chef” you may be familiar with this term. It’s when the chefs, using a limited selection of ingredients and a short amount of time, must whip up something worthy of the judges. So sometimes just for fun I’ll challenge myself with what I have in my pantry and see what I can make (yes, I am a food nerd). On this particular quick-fire challenge day I had some cheese odds-and-ends, frozen spinach and other pantry staples like onions, eggs, flour, butter. After a quick search on the world wide web, I came across this recipe.
Not only is it simple and quick, it is addictively good. I used my brownie pan for these bars, and just like with brownies, I found myself for most of the evening, hovering around the pan and cutting off “just one more slice”.
Yet they still have respectable nutritional value, thanks to whole wheat flour and spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins K and A and iron. It’s also easy to keep on-hand (for quick-fire challengers) because unlike many vegetables, it freezes well. Not to knock fresh spinach leaves, which are brilliant, but I typically save those for a salad (or a saute with olive oil and garlic) and leave the frozen for the baking.
I admit I was a bit skeptical to put the onion in the batter raw. However it softens up when the bars are baked, and the sharpness, that can get lost when an onion cooks on the stovetop, remains and lends good flavor.
Give these bars a try and let the snacking begin!
Spinach Bars (makes 2 dozen bars)
Note: These can be made ahead of time and frozen. To defrost, place frozen bars on a baking tray and bake at 325º F (165º C) for 12 minutes, or until completely thawed and slightly warm.
10 ounces (275 grams) frozen spinach
1/2 cup (60 grams) plain, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat / wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup (225 ml) milk
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces (225 grams) sharp cheese such as cheddar or gruyere, grated
Preheat the oven to 350º F (175º C). Grease a large baking dish (23cm x 33cm or 13” x 9”) using either nonstick spray or butter.
Microwave frozen spinach in a microwave-proof bowl, covered with cling film for 3 minutes on high. Remove film, being careful of the steam. Stir the spinach and if still frozen recover and cook 2 more minutes. Repeat this process until spinach is defrosted. Squeeze the spinach, removing as much water as possible.
In a large bowl whisk the flours, salt, baking powder and pepper. Stir in the eggs, milk and butter until combined. Stir in the spinach, onion and cheese until well-distributed among the batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top has a bit of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.