Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hot Mess (a.k.a. Broccoli Brown Rice Casserole)

As I was making this dish, I had the following thought: "I'm going to have to throw this out at eat popcorn for dinner."

Occasionally, disasters happen. Sometimes you can foresee those disasters before you're even finished with the dish. You're looking at it thinking that you've definitely messed up somewhere and things just don't look right. You start coming up with alternatives while you're standing at the stove.

In this case, I was tweaking a recipe from Food Renegade. I thought I had read the recipe correctly, but it turns out I hadn't. I was also missing an ingredient. I did things in the wrong order. My roux looked more like a paste because I ran out of milk. I was convinced that there was no way this dish as I had prepared it would be edible. But sometimes food surprises you.

Notes: I've written the recipe the right way and not the bastardized way I actually did it. This dish isn't pretty, but it's comforting. It's also a great way to use up any vegetables you have on hand. I just included the vegetables I used, so feel free to use what you like. It would work with frozen veggies as well and you wouldn't even have to defrost them.

4 cups cooked brown rice
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup chopped or grated zucchini
8 oz. of grated cheese (I used a smoked cheddar, which was excellent), plus more for sprinkling
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your baking dish by buttering the bottom or spraying it with cooking spray. Add the cooked rice and vegetables to the dish and set aside.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until your have a roux. Pour in the milk while whisking and let the mixture thicken slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Then stir in your 8 oz. of cheese and let it melt until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

Pour the cheese sauce over the rice and vegetables and mix everything together. Top it with the remaining cheese, cover it in foil, and bake for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up, take the foil off and let it bake just a few more minutes to brown the cheese on top. Serve hot and enjoy!

It's a hot mess, but it sure is tasty.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Q.E.D.: Zucchini Chive Fritters

After overdosing on Thanksgiving or after going out to eat too much, you need a meal in your arsenal that's on the lighter side. I suppose that should mean something that isn't fried, but let's not quibble. It's made of vegetables.

I've been wanting to experiment with a variation on potato pancakes (latkes, if you want to be fancy and probably correct). Normally I make potato pancakes with mashed potatoes, but I don't make mashed potatoes much anymore. And I'm not keen on the elbow grease it takes to grate a potato. And sure, potatoes have vitamins, but vegetables have more vitamins.

Smitten Kitchen's recipe for zucchini fritters looked like the perfect way to experiment. I tweaked it a bit.

Notes: I would not use flour next time. I would definitely use a mix of flour and cornmeal or a mix of cornmeal and just grated cheese. I think I had slightly smaller zucchini than the recipe called for, so mine ended up a little on the gummy side in the middle. Not so appetizing. Something other than flour would have prevented that problem. Other than that, these were excellent. Mine yielded 8 2-2 1/2 inch fritters.

2 medium zucchini
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
1 large egg
1/4 cup of grated romano or parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons frying oil of your choice
Unsweetened applesauce (for serving)


Grate your zucchini on the large holes of a box grater directly on to a clean kitchen towel. Add the teaspoon of salt and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop your chives. Crack the egg into a bowl big enough to hold your zucchini and beat it.  Add the chives and pepper.

When the 10 minutes is up, wring the excess water out of your zucchini. Taste it to check the salt levels and add more if you need to. Add the zucchini to your egg mixture and mix in flour, baking soda, and grated cheese.

Heat your oil to medium-high. Drop in a tiny piece of zucchini to test it: if it does nothing, the oil isn't hot enough. If it burns up in a fury of bubbles, the oil is too hot. It should bubble immediately, but not burn.

When the oil is ready, drop your fritters into the pan. Flatten them a little with your spatula. I have a big skillet, so I can fit four 2-inch fritters at a time. They need about 5-6 minutes on the first side and only about 4 minutes on the second side. Drain the finished ones on a paper towel.

Serve them hot with a dollop of applesauce. Enjoy!

Apple Butter Pumpkin Muffins

How can you have Thanksgiving without dessert? You can't, which is why you need these muffins.

I love pumpkin pie as much as the next person (who also loves pumpkin pie, we're assuming), but I've made a pumpkin pie nearly every Thanksgiving ever since I started cooking. A girl's gotta change it up some time.

Notes: I originally made these with less flour and they came out a little too moist, so I adjusted the amounts.

2 1/3 cup of spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup (8 oz.) apple butter
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup honey

Directions: Heat your oven to 350.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, salt, spices, baking soda) together in a bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, stir together the pumpkin, apple butter, cider, yogurt, honey, and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three stages, stirring after each addition. Just stir it enough to incorporate the flour mixture.

Dish the batter into your muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.


Q.E.D.: Thanksgiving!

Hi! It's been awhile, hasn't it? The good news is I'm enjoying the new job and the new town. The bad news is that the new job and the new town don't leave me as much time for writing up recipes as I would like. I can't promise I'll be posting with the same frequency I did over the summer, but I have been cooking and I have yummy food to share.

I figured my first post in a few months had better be something impressive, so I present our Thanksgiving menu!

Scott came to visit me over his break and I love having him here. I especially love cooking for him, due in no small part to the fact that I know he eats breakfast cereal for dinner more often than I like. Thanksgiving is probably my second favorite holiday (next to Halloween, of course). It involves both food and football. What's not to love?

Since it was just the two of us, I saw no reason to make a turkey. I decided to make killer sides. Scott loves stuffing. I just made a stove top version, so I won't bother sharing that one. But it did need some delicious gravy to go with it. Add roasted brussel sprouts and roasted butternut squash and you have a delightful Thanksgiving for two

Notes: A Q.E.D Thanksgiving? Surely you jest! It qualifies due to cooking time, but prep time is only a little longer. Here's the menu:

Roasted Butternut Squash with Herbed Butter
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped

Bacon Chive Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb of brussel sprouts
2 tablespoons of bacon grease
1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Mushroom Thyme Gravy
1 lb of mushrooms (I used crimini)
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 of mushroom or beef stock
3-4 thyme stems

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and chop the butternut squash into 1/2 inch pieces. Trim the ends and outer leaves off the brussel sprouts and cut the larger ones in half.

Drizzle the squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Toss the sprouts with 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. Season with black pepper and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast the squash for 20-25 minutes and the sprouts for 25-30 minutes (I just put my baking sheets side-by-side in the oven).

While the veggies are roasting, add 2 tablespoons of butter to a skillet and heat it to medium-high. Slice the mushrooms thin and add them to the hot pan. Once the mushrooms have a little color on them, season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the butter and once it melts whisk in the flour. Pour in the stock and let the whole mixture simmer and thicken. Add the thyme stems (just fish them out before you serve).

While you're waiting for everything to cook, add the chopped thyme to the 2 tablespoons of butter and chop the chives. When the squash comes out the oven, toss it with the thyme butter. When the sprouts come out, top them with the chives. Pour your thickened mushroom gravy over your favorite stove top stuffing and enjoy!