Broccoli Wild Rice Casserole (veg, gf) & Planting Herbs Like a Boss

So I’ve cautiously planted a few things this year… useful things. Herbs. This is my first shot at eating something I’ve grown and, as of this morning, the herbs were still alive (victoreeeeeeeyyyy!). Though the herbs aren’t dead, I’ve formed a bad habit of tending to but not using them- and what’s the point of that?! Sheesh. I decided to make this casserole to pick some thyme and let it do it’s thing. To give it its thyme to shine, if you will (yuk yuk yuk).

cass2

Here are the products of my attempt at green thumbing-it. Irises I didn’t plant, the suspiciously healthy herbs, succulents that survive in desert conditions, coreopsis and other native plants that were the lone survivors of a Washington University drought experiment (thanks, Julie!), and basil, which would probably grow in a highway ditch.

Stand back. I am a master gardener.

To use my homegrown, real-life, big girl thyme and combine my love of grains, casseroles, and veggies, I made this delicious fare last night. Largely based on Heidi Swanson’s wild rice casserole (I know, I know, I keep coming back to Heidi), I added more dairy and waaay more veggies to make this a hearty and filling vegetarian side. Served with greens, another veggie, or with salmon as Dave enjoyed it, it’s a main dish. It’s quite tasty and addictive- I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

cass veggies

get jazzy on it

BROCCOLI WILD RICE CASSEROLE

Inspired by Heidi Swanson

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz cottage cheese
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
  • 5-6 cremini mushrooms, diced
  • half a large yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic or 4-5 cloves roasted garlic
  • 3 leaves kale, ribbed and cut into ribbons
  • 1 small head broccoli, stems diced and florets cut into quarters

Directions:

To cook the wild rice: in a small stockpot, add the wild rice, water, and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the rice is chewy. You may need to drain this, depending on how temperamental and stubborn your rice is. Set aside!

I got some wild, wild rice

I got some wiiild, wiiild rice**

As the rice cooks, heat the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add your pre-chopped veggies and sauté in this order:

  1. carrots, mushrooms, thyme, onion, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt for 3 minutes
  2. add kale and broccoli, cook another 2 minutes
  3. add celery and garlic, cook 2 minutes more
  4. your kitchen smells amazing now.

cass veggies cook

Set the veggies aside or just scoot the pan to a cold burner. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, milk, and as much pepper as you’d like. You can whisk in the last 1/2 tsp salt here or omit it altogether.

cass eggs

Preheat your oven to 350. Using a bit more olive oil or some butter, grease a casserole dish. I used a large Corningware but a 9X9 would work well here, or even a 9×13. Fold the rice into the dairy and egg mixture and then fold in the veggies.

cass all mixed in bowl

Pour the rice and veggie mix into the greased casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 20-25 minutes depending on the depth of your casserole dish. You want the casserole to be heated through and the top to be golden brown. All done! Let cool slightly and serve!


**

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Eggplant Lasagna with Ricotta and Parmesan (veg, gf)

I love eggplant parmesan. I love lasagna. I do not necessarily love heavy meals that can’t be scarfed without guilt and/or heartburn unless those meals involve pizza and/or cookies, which have their own special place in my life and in the universe. This lasagna is really a lovely meal to serve, is very cheap to make, and is easy to assemble. Fresh veggies, grain free, a blender sauce, creamy ricotta, earthy eggplant, light and rich all at once. Ahh.

eggplant lasagna

So satisfy your Italian cravings and up your veggie intake. I served it with mixed greens on the side and Parmesan for passing. How will you serve your eggplant lasagna?

EGGPLANT LASAGNA WITH RICOTTA AND PARMESAN

Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise (see photo below)
  • 1/2 lb Roma tomatoes, seeded
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup light ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped or torn
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • Parmesan for serving
  • salt and pepper

lasagna finished

Directions:

You will probably want to slice your eggplant first, as it’s the only pseudo labor-intensive part of this recipe. Cut the top off of your eggplants so you can stand them sturdily on one end. With a large knife, slice them in 1/4 inch slices from top to bottom (you may instead slice the eggplants horizontally, if you like; comme ci, comme ça). Brush both sides of the slices with 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then arrange on two baking sheets.

sliced and ready to broil

sliced and ready to broil

Okay, now preheat your broiler. While it heats up, puree garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper in a blender. Sauce: done! Fabulous! Slide the first baking sheet of eggplant into the oven and broil your rustic slices for 3-4 minutes per side, flipping once. Repeat with the second batch.

sauce in blender

While the eggplant cooks, grab a small bowl and combine the ricotta, egg, basil, and another 1/4 each salt and pepper. Mix throughly to combine. When all eggplant slices have been broiled, lower the oven heat to 400. In the bottom of a deep 8″ baking dish or a 9×13″ dish (whichever will hold the length of your eggplant slices), spread half of the tomato sauce. Layer one-third of the eggplant slices over the sauce and top with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat the eggplant layer and the ricotta layer, using the remaining ricotta.  Top with the last of the eggplant, the sauce, the Parmesan, and a few decorative basil leaves if you’re feeling fancy.

eggplant heading for oven

Bake for 15-20 minutes, uncovered,  until the lasagna bubbles and the top is slightly browned. Take an artful picture of your cat in the meantime.

artful cat

rawr

Remove lasagna from the oven and let cool ten minutes before serving. The mixed greens with oil and vinegar really were a perfect accompaniment. We had a few chicken breasts left over from the night before, so we had those, too. The greens alone would have been fine. This meal makes a very pretty and light lunch or dinner, all while being easy on the wallet and waistline. Enjoy!

eggplant dinner


Quickie: Chicken and Vegetables, Roasted in Cast Iron (gf)

This is a lovely and impressive dish that involves very minimal effort, and can be made with (more or less) what vegetables you have available. And I’ve included a pan gravy recipe below! Since this is a quickie entry, let’s get to it:

chicken veg

CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES, ROASTED IN CAST IRON

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken leg quarters, washed and split into a leg and a thigh
  • a cast iron pan or deep, heavy casserole dish
  • 1/2 bag carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 4-5 stalks celery, washed, ends trimmed, and cut in half
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4-5 fresh thyme sprigs
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper

Directions:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees, placing rack in the middle of the oven. Arrange vegetables and thyme in the bottom of your cast iron pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Place your washed, dried, and split chicken pieces over the vegetables, and sprinkle those with salt and pepper. Coat your fingertips with about a teaspoon of olive oil, and rub the chicken pieces well, rubbing some oil (and salt) under the skin. Repeat until pieces are well-coated, using 3-4 teaspoons of oil. Pop the pan in your hot oven and roast for 45 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. So easy! So pretty! So delicious! Enjoy.

Here’s a little brainstorm of substitutions that could be made:

  • rosemary sprigs or dried thyme instead of thyme
  • cut potatoes or sweet potatoes instead of veggies listed
  • leeks or ramps instead of yellow onion
  • add a halved lemon to the pan

Also, you’ll have some delicious pan juices left from this recipe. Here’s a simple formula for pan gravy:

Pour pan drippings into a measuring cup, let sit for a few minutes, and  pour off all but 1/2 cup fat.  Add 1/2 cup fat back to pan, whisk in 1/2 cup flour over medium heat, and cook until hot and thick. In a large measuring cup, measure remaining juices (fat has been discarded), and add chicken stock to equal four cups. Add to pan and allow to cook- when it bubbles, cook for 1-2 minutes to cook off floury taste, then remove from heat. Taste and season accordingly.


Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie, or: To Feed an Ironman, or: M Dot Pot Pie

Hello, all!! Dave had two things to celebrate this weekend: a great race result and a few days of leniency within his diet. We both watch what we eat, but he’s been watching his intake like a hawk for quality and quantity approaching his last tri of the season…. and it paid off!! Now, time to undo all of the hard work.

Ironpie

To welcome him home from his out-of-town race, I wanted to make some hearty and comforting meals without completely blowing his clean-eating efforts (or contribute too much to my recent lazy gal on the couch syndrome). This was the richest of the dishes I made, due to the double pie crusts. If you want to lighten this up, feel free to make a different crust, use only one, or serve this filling over brown rice or with mashed potatoes. If you do make a double-crust pie, though, congratulations! Your dish is delicious.

DEEP DISH CHICKEN POT PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp canola oil 
  • 2 lb bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 2 cups skim milk, divided
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp chicken base or bullion, to taste
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1 pkg Pillsbury Pie Crusts (2 ready-o-use roll out crusts), at room temperature 
  • several dashes white pepper

Directions:

In a large stockpot, boil chicken breasts in 6 cups of water until they are cooked and no longer pink. Reserve about 4 cups of the cooking water. Set chicken aside and let cool. Open a beer with a favor from your cousin’s wedding. Yum. Dont’ you feel better?

you’ve got to cool it now… oooh, watch out

When the chicken is cooling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Set your crusts out in their packaging and let them come to room temperature. Heat oil in the same large stockpot over medium heat, and add onion, thyme, and sage, cooking for 3-4 minutes, until onion is translucent but not browned. Add the frozen (stay with me here) bag of vegetables to the pot, the chicken base or bullion, and about a half cup of the reserved cooking water.

chop chop chop

While that mixture is thawing and cooking, chop the parsley and cooked chicken. In a small bowl, whisk the 3 tbsp flour into one cup of milk, and add the flour slurry, along with the chicken and parsley, to the veggies. Stir well. This is going to get very thick very fast. As soon as the flour mixture and chicken are incorporated, add the other cup of milk and another cup of cooking water. Stir this all together and give it a taste for seasoning. You may add more milk or water at this point to reach the filling the consistency that you’d like. Remove this mixture from heat and set aside.

filling, ready to go

Remove your first pie crust from its packaging, draping across the bottom and pressing up the sides of a deep-dish pie pan. I used a disposable foil pan and it worked perfectly. Pour the filling right into the crust, smoothing out with a spatula and leaving a slight buffer near the top of the crust. Drape the other crust over the filling, crimping to meet the bottom crust. Vent this top crust in any design you’d like using a butter knife. Allow me to suggest the Ironman logo… ha! Cover the edges of the crust with some foil strips so they don’t burn, and put the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet.

unbaked, vented pie

Bake at 350 for 55 minutes, removing the foil strips at about 45 minutes. Bake until the crust is a beautiful golden brown and until your kitchen smells amazing. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve to all hungry athletes under your roof.


White Bean Chicken Chili with Spoonbread

Dave made a request recently for chili. Since it’s, you know, May (and hot outside), traditional beef and bean red chili seemed way, way too heavy. Thinking of an alternative that would still have protein, be filling, fast, and relatively low-carb, BAM! It hit me! White chicken chili! I’d never eaten it, let alone made it, but I figured that if I stuck with tex-mex flavors, I’d be fine. And it turned out really well! In our house, if you top hot, spicy food with avocado, it will be well-received, so I tried my best with a recipe and threw a bunch of the creamy, green stuff on top. Instant hit.

chicken chili nom-noms

And because it was so healthy, I had to counteract at least some of the nutritional benefits with a side of my fast spoonbread- essentially Jiffy corn muffin mix with canned and creamed corn (recipe below).  It is tasty! And goes well with so much, especially soups and chilis. Here goes:

WHITE BEAN CHICKEN CHILI

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ground white meat chicken
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cans white beans, rinsed and drained*
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalepeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro- leaves minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, or one tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp chicken base
  • 1-2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • diced avocado, sour cream, hot sauce to serve

Directions:

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add your olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, peppers (all three kinds), and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the chicken and all spices.

peppers, onion, and garlic cooking away

Cook, stirring, until the chicken is broken up well and is no longer pink. This will take another 5-7 minutes. Add the canned beans- and here’s the thing about canned beans- *you can either drain and rinse them to cut salt content or just dump them in. I drained mine but then added a tablespoon of chicken base, so was I really cutting salt? Probably not by much. I do prefer the flavor of the chicken base to the boring, super salty-msg-like flavor of canned beans. But this is up to you. Are you a drainer or a dumper? That sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it?

all done!

Anyway, add water, and you can add by the half cup, depending on how soupy you like your chili. Add the chicken base or bouillon here, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer about ten minutes. You’re all done! Stir in the cilantro and serve, with avocado, sour cream, hot sauce, and….

FAST SPOONBREAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 can creamed corn

Directions:

SO EASY! Love recipes that start with those words! Mix everything well (the batter will be lumpy, which is okay). Let rise for a few minutes as you preheat the oven to 400. Grease a baking dish- an 8×8 pyrex should be the right size (I like using a white Corning Ware casserole dish for presentation points). Bake for about 45 minutes. You want this to be a very moist bread- not uncooked but very soft. The sweetness and moisture of the corn and creamed corn really make this a delicious bread, and it’s forgiving- another 10-15 minutes in the oven wouldn’t hurt it at all. Serve.

*This post has been categorized as gluten-free; Jiffy mix isn’t 100% gf, so homemade cornbread would be the best bet if you need to be a stickler.


Lotsa Chicken Casserole

Surprise, surprise… another busy night and the need for a quick dinner. After speaking to my mother on my way home, I was compelled to make her tuna casserole; upon arriving home, I realized I had ingredients for a new spin on this old favorite. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: lotsa chicken casserole! Behold the chickeny goodness:

LOTSA CHICKEN CASSEROLE

(uber adapted from Anne Rivas)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans Trader Joe’s white meat chicken, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can healthy request cream of celery
  • 1 can healthy request cream of mushroom
  • 2 cups frozen peas and corn, slightly thawed (I used about 2 cups). You could just as easily use other veggies here; spinach and artichokes sound delish!
  • 10 oz whole wheat egg noodles
  • Milk
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil; add noodles and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until quite al dente. *Under-cooking the noodles a bit here is no sin, as they’ll be baked later, and no one likes mushy noodles. Read More