Let’s keep the “green” theme of March going with one more recipe!
There’s a popular local restaurant here in Knoxville called Calhoun’s. It started in town back in 1983 and has grown over the years to include nine different locations in the East Tennessee area. It’s famous for its ribs and barbecue — but also boasts a popular side dish called Spinach Maria.
It’s a rich blend of creamy, cheesy green goodness with a hint of a peppery kick. I’ve enjoyed it a few times and wanted to recreate it to make it more Paleo-friendly.
The Calhoun’s version calls for a lot of cheese, including Velveeta (which isn’t really cheese, but “processed cheese product”). I trimmed the amount down, but kept some cheese in it. After cutting dairy completely for a while earlier in my Paleo journey, I’ve found I tolerate it just fine on occasion. But I know that not everyone can, so I also made a dairy-free version for those of you who can’t eat cheese. Nutritional yeast lends a hint of the flavor of cheese and you can still enjoy the creamy goodness without upsetting your body. In fact, I enjoy using both cheese and nutritional yeast to give it even more cheesy flavor.
Spinach Maria makes a fabulous special occasion side dish (it’s great with steak), but it also can be a good appetizer. Serve it with some Paleo-friendly crackers and it would be a delicious party offering.
- 2 16-ounce packages frozen spinach
- 1 13.5-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons grassfed butter
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1½ cups raw cheddar cheese (optional, but recommended if you can tolerate dairy)
- Coconut oil for greasing pan
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease an 8x8 baking dish with coconut oil.
- Thaw spinach and squeeze as much excess water from it as possible.
- Combine coconut milk, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and nutritional yeast in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Add butter and stir until melted.
- In a small bowl, mix together arrowroot powder and water to form a slurry. Pour into sauce and stir until thickened. Add cheese and stir until melted.
- Stir in drained spinach and mix until well blended. Pour into greased 8x8 baking dish.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until bubbly.