We Always Buy Broccoli [broccoli, cheddar and wild rice casserole]

One of my favorite marriage stories happened this year when I sent my husband off to the store with a list a mile long. I don’t remember why I couldn’t go, and it may well have been because I didn’t feel like it, thank you very much.  He ended up at the check out line, and the cashier said, “Wow, you have a lot of groceries.”

He told her, that yes, indeed this was much more than he usually buys and it took him an hour to find everything, but, “If my wife had been shopping, it would have taken her about 10 minutes.”

Which is a bit of an understatement, yet there is some truth there.  Our grocery list holds a fairly stagnant lineup of foods.  Though we rarely eat the same meals from week to week, the ingredients that go into our dinners are similar.  There’s always some pasta, chicken, rice or quinoa, and broccoli.

broccoli rice casserole

There is always broccoli.

I wasn’t one of those children who despised broccoli, in fact, I’ve never been able to get enough of the stuff.  As such, it always finds its way into the cart on my weekly trips to the store, not because I meticulously plan the vegetables that will accompany our meals, but because I like it, plain and simple.  I can’t think of a week in my life that’s passed where I haven’t eaten broccoli at least twice.  And I’ve never tired of it.  Steamed, with salt, plus butter when I feel extra-indulgent.  And a squeeze of lemon like Grandma Glass of Milk taught me.

Thus, when Deb put her spin on broccoli, cheddar, and rice casserole, I wasted no time in getting it on the table.  Holy dream flavors, Batman.  This is absolutely amazing, and the way the flavors work together feels like someone really thought about the way the ingredients would meld, just like The New York Times said it would.

broccoli rice casserole 2

To make broccoli, cheddar, and wild rice casserole, you will need:

  • 3 T butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • salt
  • 2/3 C uncooked wild rice (or, like I had, a wild rice blend)
  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or, garlic powder, like I used in the ultimate act of laziness)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 C whole milk (yes, you can use lowfat, but I’d hesitate before choosing skim)
  • 2/3 C low-sodium chicken broth (veggie is fine too)
  • 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 T butter in skillet till melted.  Add onion, and saute till translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add rice, and cook 1 minute.  Add 1 2/3 C water (or other amount depending on package directions).  Bring mixture to simmer, then reduce heat, and cook on low, covered, for 50 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel broccoli stems, and cut into small, one-inch chunks.  Cut florets into pieces about the same size.  Cook in boiling, salted water, for 2-3 minutes, then drain.

Melt remaining 2T butter in saucepan.  Add garlic and cayenne, and let cook for 1 minute.  Add flour, and whisk till combined, cooking 1 to 2 more minutes.  Add milk and broth, whisking constantly.  Let mixture come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, continuing to stir, till mixture thickens.  Depending on the milk you used, this will take between 5-10 minutes.  The lower your milk is in fat, the longer it will take, and the thinner the sauce will be, no matter how much you stir or cook.  Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 of cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place broccoli in bottom of oven-proof skillet, and top with sauce.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of casserole and bake for 10-15 minutes, until sauce is bubbling, and cheese is fully melted.  Crank the oven up to broil and give the casserole another 2-3 minutes to crisp it all up.

Some Help with your Resolution

It seems like all around the Internet, people are picking words for the year, not making resolutions.  But I have to believe there are some of us out there who still set a few intentions for the next 365 days of our lives.  If yours has anything to do with being/getting/staying healthy, allow me to introduce you to cauliflower fried rice.

cauliflower fried rice

Yes, cauliflower.

As in, the vegetable I detest except in this one casserole.

And now in this fried rice.  Because you pulse it in the food processor till it’s small and grainy, just like rice would be.  Throw in some soy sauce, and maybe even chili oil if you’re feeling daring, and you won’t know that you’re eating cauliflower.  Ali brought it for lunch one day and I had to run home and make it for myself.

To make cauliflower fried rice for 4, you will need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 C frozen peas
  • 1/2 C frozen corn
  • 1/2 C shredded carrots
  • 1/2 C edamame
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, small diced
  • 1 T sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tsp. chili oil, if you have it, and if you like a kick (you could also add some Sriracha at the end)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 C reduced sodium soy sauce

Throw large chunks of cauliflower in food processor and pulse till you have pieces about the size of grains of rice.

In large skillet, heat oil(s), garlic, and onions over medium heat and cook till soft, about 3 minutes.  Add frozen vegetables and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Add beaten eggs, and stir gently till scrambled.  Add cauliflower, and stir around till cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  For me, the key to knowing when everything was cooked through was to pick a forkful out of the skillet and try it.  Remove from heat, add soy sauce, and serve hot.

*A note – my husband really wanted to add shrimp to this

Why Christmas was Awesome

I know that for a lot of you, Christmas ends on the 26th, and you’d like nothing better than my not mentioning it again until December, 2014.

Christmas Tree

Indulge me for a second.

This Christmas was awesome and I fear that if I don’t take the time right now, fresh out of it, to record what made it so, it will be lost for the ages.

home for Christmas

It wasn’t the kind of awesome where everything was perfectly decorated or someone unwrapped a puppy.  It was the kind of awesome that you get from a nice, low-key day, where the gifts are thoughtful, and the dinner isn’t just good, it’s easy.

peppermint stacks

Two Christmases ago, my husband and I were in Chile, and last year, we went to Rome.  I loved our trips, but after two years away, I vowed that this was a year for Christmas in America.

chocolate peppermint log

We did our usual routine of Christmas Eve with my in-laws, and an early morning shoot up 95 to my hometown.

icebox buche de noel

We arrived, open presents, hung out for a little, and then, per tradition, Sous Chef Lauren arrived to start cooking dinner with me.

Christmas Dinner

But there really wasn’t much to do in that department.

penne with five cheeses

With the exception of our annual Christmas latkes (oh hey, early days of this blog), everything was either prepped in advance, or simple to throw together.

Star of David cupcakes

Well, it helped that I wasn’t responsible for the main dish.

So here is what we had.  And though we ate these foods on Christmas dinner, nothing here is Christmas specific.  This would all work brilliantly for a dinner party, or other situation where you find yourself in need of recipes for an indulgent meal.

candlelight

Thus, I bring you a simple Christmas dinner, 2013 style:

Appetizers:

Smitten Kitchen’s Latkes – These are the best, and Sous Chef Lauren’s and my traditional Christmas fare.
Advance Prep: Not really possible with these guys.  But this is the only part of the menu that requires hands on time right before serving.

Smitten Kitchen’s Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms – I emailed Sous Chef Lauren with the parts of the menu I had cobbled together so far, and asked her to fill in the holes.  She knew that mushrooms were an integral part of this meal.  We never got as far as slicing bread to soak up the juices.  We dug right into these as-is.
Advance Prep: Get everything ready in the morning and just pop in the oven 20 minutes before you need them.

Dinner:

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak – Because I never need an excuse to ask for it for dinner.  The honey gives the meat this hint of sweetness that drives me over the edge.  This steak is the best.
Advance Prep:  Marinade this baby the night before, and hand it off to a loved one to grill for you about 20 minutes before dinner.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Penne with Five Cheeses – We had some vegetarians round our Christmas table this year, and they needed something of sustenance.  I remembered that I made this for Christmas Eve many moons ago (the power of making notes in the margins of my cookbooks) and it was darn good.  Of course, I forgot the penne back in DC and so I scrambled to make this work with the pasta we had in the pantry.  Testudo pasta for the win.
Advance Prep: Make the dish, the night before or the morning of, and bake it off when you need it.  If you’re taking it straight out of the fridge, put it in the oven while it preheats, so it warms up gradually.  If you take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature first, then you can just stick it in once the oven is preheated.  If you think of neither of those options in time, no worries, it just might need longer to bake.

Green Beans with Almonds – There’s no link for this one, dear readers.  Saute up some Trader Joe’s frozen green beans in some onions.  At the end of cooking, add a couple splashes of red wine vinegar and some toasted almonds.
Advance Prep: Get everything ready in the morning, cover, leave it on the stove.  When it’s time for dinner, uncover, and reheat over a medium to high flame.  If you do prepare the green beans in advance, hold off on adding the almonds until right before serving.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon – Per Wooden Nickels’ request, because she heard they were the best around.
Advance Prep:  Get everything ready that morning and throw in the oven when you’re ready.

Dessert:

Skinnytaste’s Cranberry Bliss Bars – Cutting a 9 x 13 pan’s worth of bars in little triangles leaves you with more bars than you know what to do with.  So despite gifting these to my morning Starbucks team, I had plenty left for our Christmas table.
Advance Prep:  Make these a couple days in advance, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap, refrigerate, and place on the table when the time is right.

Star of David Cupcakes with the leftover chocolate frosting from this cake – Santa brought me these in my stocking last year, and Christmas seemed as good a time as any to break them out.  The box did come with frosting mix, but I had whipped up my father-in law’s birthday cake/Christmas Eve dessert that same night, and my husband suggested I use the remnants of the bowl for these as well.
Advance Prep:  Make these a couple days in advance, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap, refrigerate, and place on the table when the time is right.

Joy the Baker’s Chocolate Peppermint Icebox Yule Log Cake – And then I found out that Grandma Glass of Milk made an icebox cake right before my parents’ wedding.  And all was well.  It’s worth noting that the peppermint whipped cream that goes into the making of this cake is absolutely heavenly, and you will still have a bit left after stacking everything together, so I’d suggest having hot chocolate at the ready.
Advance Prep:  Joy’s cake needs some time in the freezer before it’s served.  This one is a must-make in advance, at least 24 hours before serving.  Then it needs 20 minutes out of the freezer before you’re ready to slice into it.  The perfect pause between dinner and dessert.

December Daily

scrapbooking

christmas trees

rice krispies

grading

sunset

selfie

auburn fan

december dailying

christmas sheets

wrapping

sunrise

card wall

I hope your December isn’t too hectic.

I hope you’re finding some joy in the annual baking of the cookies/mailing of the cards/buying of the gifts/wrapping of the gifts/whatever it is that seems to eat up all the time in December.  I’m working on a December Daily album, inspired by the amazingly talented Ali Edwards, and I have to say, it’s helping me slow down just a bit, and look for the best in each day.

sprouts

I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for my Christmas menu, but through some emailing with Wooden Nickels, we decided that if nothing else, we’d have brussels sprouts.  My husband and I have been eating these at least once a week, so I was looking for a new twist to add variety to our lives.  I came across citrus and pomegranate brussels sprouts from the ladies behind A Beautiful Mess, and I knew that was our next recipe.  We are suckers for a good pomegranate anything, and the fresh crunch they provide would certainly be a far cry from the deep, smoky, bacon crunch we’re used to.

They hit the table, and the spot, last night.

To make citrus and pomegranate brussels sprouts that probably feed 4, unless I’m there and then it feeds 2 (I eat a lot of brussels sprouts), you will need:

  • 6 – 7 C halved brussels sprouts*
  • 1/2 C panko
  • 1/2 C pomegranate aerils
  • juice of half a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Roast brussels sprouts for 12 minutes, shake the pan to redistribute all those flavores, and roast another 12 minutes.

While brussels sprouts are cooking, heat 1 T olive oil in small skillet.  Add panko, stirring constantly until crumbs are toasted, and a golden brown color.  Remove from heat immediately and set aside.

Transfer brussels sprouts to serving dish, and squeeze a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over top.  Toss with breadcrumbs and pomegranate aerils, and serve immediately.

*A tip I got from my girl Ina–Don’t discard those outer leaves that flake off as you cut your brussels sprouts in half.  Save ‘em, roast ‘em right alongside the bigger pieces.  They crisp up, kale-chip style, and you’ll be in heaven over the results.

What’s that Green Thing?

Growing up, we had a book with that title.  I don’t remember it well, nor is Google giving me any help, but I do remember the page where the younger sister pokes at something green on her plate, while her (no doubt bossy) older sister blathers on about it being some healthy vegetable or another.

brussels sprouts

I actually wasn’t terrible about eating vegetables when I was a kid.  I loved broccoli, green beans, and cooked carrots.  But I have vivid memories of Wooden Nickels trying to get us to eat steamed brussels sprouts.  Blech!  I wouldn’t go near them.

And then, a couple years back, those little green things I wouldn’t touch so many years ago were everywhere.  They popped up on food blogs around Thanksgiving time, and haven’t gone away since.  Were they always a Thanksgiving food, and I just didn’t notice because we never ate them on that holiday?  Are they a more recent foodie trend?  Are they here to stay?

brussels sprouts

When I caught on that people love them roasted, and with bacon, I started rethinking my point of view.  These brussels sprouts were deep in color, and caramelized round the edges.  I love food that’s deep in color and caramelized round the edges.  I love anything roasted.  I love bacon so much it hurts.  Do I love brussels sprouts?

I think I do.

Especially, and this is where we all gasp in shock, Ina’s brussels sprouts.  The difference between her recipe and the one I had been using till now is 1 T of balsamic vinegar.  That’s all it took to take brussels sprouts from something I felt noble eating on my own, to something I felt like shouting from the mountaintop that is this little old blog.

To make roasted brussels sprouts, you will need:

  • Several handfuls of brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half.  Ina taught me to leave those single leaves that flake off.  They crisp up as they cook and add to the finished product.
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 oz. bacon, 1-inch diced (Ina actually calls for pancetta which would be so much better, but who keeps that on hand?)
  • 1 T syrupy balsamic vinegar (Really good balsamic vinegar is syrupy.  Balsamic vinegar that you boil to half it’s size is syrupy.  Balsamic vinegar that we peons buy is not syrupy but will work just fine.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with salt and pepper.  Spread bacon pieces all over the baking sheet.  Give everything a good toss so it’s combined.  Roast for 35 minutes, stopping to toss things again halfway through.

When the brussels sprouts are fresh out of the oven, drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar, and serve immediately.

The Side of All Sides

When asparagus season sneaks up on you, you know warm weather is here to stay.  You can pack the sweaters and fleeces away and break out your open toed shoes.  And the thing is, when asparagus season, and thus, warm weather is here, you probably don’t want to crank up your oven to 400 and roast those little green spears.

pan friedDear readers,

IMG_4767I found a better way.

Chop up an ounce or two or three of pancetta, or bacon, if that’s all you have.  Cook on a skillet till brown and crispy.  Remove, bacon to another plate, reserving the fat in the pan.  Measure out 1/3 C panko breadcrumbs (this is way more because my hand slipped).  Acting quickly, add the panko, stir once or twice till crumbs turn brown (this happens almost instantly), and remove pan from heat.  Remove panko from skillet.  Give the pan a swirl of olive oil or a pat of butter and set it back over heat.  Place one bunch asparagus in skillet, and cook over high heat for a couple of minutes, say, 5.  Layer asparagus, salt, pepper, panko, and bacon on a serving plate.  Dig in to the best thing to happen since, well, roasted asparagus.

There’s Something About the Beach

Something that lingers in the salt air that slows you down.

morningLast night, I fell asleep to the sound of the waves.  I woke up to the sunrise over the ocean.  And things felt right.

It started raining just before noon, but I wasn’t fazed.  I was off to the grocery store and well-equipped to spend the day cooking.

sunsetYou know when people tell you why French women don’t get fat?  Because they go to the market each morning, buying only what they need for that night’s dinner?  It’s a charmed existence.  It’s also my existence at the beach.

Of course, instead of buying fresh baguette, I’m buying cheese balls.

But on a recent trip, I picked up some produce, and realized what I wanted more than anything else in the world was roasted vegetables for lunch.

roasted veggiesSo i went home, cranked up the oven (400), and set to cooking.  I halved some potatoes (40 minutes), and chopped up some broccoli (25 minutes), and that was pretty much it.  I thought I would douse the whole mixture in pesto, but once the oven timer went off, all it took was some salt, pepper, Parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon.

There’s this book, What We Eat When We Eat Alone, and I love the idea of it.  What kinds of food do you eat when it’s just you?  When you don’t have to think about anyone else’s palate?  When all bets are off?

Why Are We Here?

While I am certain I can’t help you with that question in a broad sense, dear readers, I can shed some light on why we’re here on this little blog.

Well, why I’m here.

evening sceneThe other day, a friend asked me why I started A Glass of Milk.  And I told her that I did it to keep track of all the recipes I was making.  They’re from cookbooks, other blogs, torn out magazine pages, and of course, family members.  So this was a way to round everything up into one little spot online.

But when I go back through my old posts, I realize there’s another reason.

grocery shoppingEven if I didn’t know it then.  I’m here so I can remember.  This blog now houses three years’ worth of memories.  Three years’ worth of birthdays and holidays.  And three years’ worth of everydays.  Three years’ worth of evenings where I didn’t feel like making a real dinner, so I made something appetizer-y instead.

This is one of those meals.

mushroomsIt’s every bit as memorable as the show-stoppers I pull out on the big days.  Especially when the juices are sopped up with some of this.

I made it after I heard Joy and Tracy talking about it on their podcast.  Joy mentioned that it was the perfect dish to bring to a potluck.  I had all the ingredients ready to go when I hosted a potluck of my own.  And then the whole making sure everyone had a full glass thing got in the way, and I never actually made it.  Till one random night when I didn’t want to make a high maintenance dinner.

Sure, you could make this and entertain a crowd of vegetarians, or gluten-free guests.  Or, you could make it for yourself, while nursing a bottle of wine, and wearing your fuzzy slippers, and swinging by the table for just one more bite as the evening wears on.  It’s your choice.

To make enough for a little gathering, or for one, you will need:

  • 1 pound cremini, or white mushrooms, the larger ones cut in half
  • 2 T capers, drained, rinsed, and chopped (I didn’t have these, so left them out)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 3 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 C chopped flat leaf parsley, although chives wouldn’t be too bad either

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, and oil, and a pinch of salt and generous pinch of pepper.  Pour in an oven-proof dish and top with pats of butter.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms brown, and sauce below is bubbly, 15-20 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and parsley and serve immediately.

 

Dress Up Your Veggies

On any given night, vegetables take a back seat to whatever main dish graces the stage at our house.  I need some nudging if I’m going to go the extra mile with the green portion of my plate.

But the other day, on my never-ending quest to de-clutter, (Seriously people, what is the secret to keeping crap off horizontal spaces?) I came across Grandma Glass of Milk’s recipe for green beans.

I had forgotten how much I love this dish.  *Hides head in shame.*  To make up for a couple years without them, I’ve eaten them pretty much every day for the past two weeks.  It helps that the farmer’s market is overflowing with baskets of green beans right now.

Grandma Glass of Milk’s green beans are dressed up with sauteed onions, and tomatoes, splashed with red wine vinegar, and cooked for a flash just to lose that little bit of crunch they hold.  They’re simple, but inspired.

And when your main dish is something you could make with your eyes closed, then use the 5 minutes you found to dress up your veggies.

To make a side for 4, you will need:

  • A bunch of green beans
  • 4 T unsalted butter (don’t tell my Grandma, but more often than not, I only use 2)
  • half an onion, finely chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tomato, chopped, seeds discarded

Steam your green beans till they retain a little bite, drain, and set aside.  Melt butter in large skillet.  Add onion, and salt and pepper, to taste, and saute till golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, and stir quickly.  Throw green beans back in the skillet, toss everything around, and remove from heat, so the tomatoes retain much of their brightness.  Tell your main dish to step aside.

 

 

Share the Wealth

We’re well into the time of year where a little knock on the door may send you running for cover.  Because this is the time of year when that little knock from a friendly neighbor means one of two things.  Tomatoes.  Or zucchini.

I was lucky enough to be a recipient of the former just the other day.  So I roasted the former with some of the latter, and pulled together Deb’s zucchini rice gratin.  Which I would like to rename TOMATO zucchini rice gratin, because, to me, the tomatoes were the star.  They were home grown, vibrantly red, and juicy beyond my wildest dreams.  And they, with a little help from some Parmesan cheese, take this over the top.

This gratin is packed with summer flavors, and light enough that you can still put a bathing suit on after a helping for lunch.

It also solved my age-old what-do-I-do-when-Ina’s-vegetable-tian-produces-a-veritable-soup-at-the-bottom-of-the-pan question.

Answer:  I layer cooked rice with the onions in the bottom, and that absorbs any and all errant juices.

To make this as a side dish for 4, you will need:

  • 1/3 C (uncooked) rice, or 1 C leftover cooked rice
  • olive oil
  • 2 or 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 lb. tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan, divided

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place tomatoes and zucchini on baking sheets, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Not too much salt, as there will be salt in almost every step of this dish, and you don’t want to overdo it.  Roast tomatoes for 10 minutes, zucchini for 20.  When you take the tomatoes out, flip the zucchini over to let the other side crisp up.  While that’s going on, cook rice according to your favorite method (side note–this was my husband’s and my first fight in our relationship).

Heat large, heavy (oven-safe) skillet with 2 T oil, and add onions, garlic, and another sprinkle of salt.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and let cook, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes, until onions are limp and tender.  If you had the time and/or patience, you could keep going and caramelize them to make the dish a little more indulgent.  Add the onion mixture, eggs, thyme, and half of the cheese to the cooked rice, stirring till combined.  Throw in a generous grind of black pepper too, if you like how it feels.

Add another T olive oil to the bottom of that heavy bottomed pan.  Layer half onion mixture in the bottom.  Top with an even layer of zucchini, using about half of what you roasted.  Spread another layer of the onion mixture on top of that, and repeat with the remaining zucchini.  Top with tomatoes, and top that with cheese.  Pop the gratin in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the eggs have done their thing to hold the mixture together, and the cheese is golden brown.