Little Plates [mushroom and spinach baked rice bowls]

baked rice bowl.

There’s something about food served in an individual dish.  It feels so much more personal than a casserole you heap straight out of a 9×13, doesn’t it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about communal tables, family style eating, and all that jazz.  But every once in a while, it’s nice to have something that comes in a little dish just for you.  Like pot pie, or penne with five cheeses.  Or, as was the case the other night, mushroom and spinach baked rice bowls, from Shutterbean, by way of Everyday Food* (RIP).  This was a great post-beach, stop eating so much junk, kind of dinner.

ingredients.

Using my ramekins (which are just basic Corningware), I got four small servings, and two medium sized ones.

ramekins.

To make mushroom and spinach baked rice bowls, you will need:

  • 2 C cooked rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 C milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C dry, white wine
  • 2 C frozen spinach
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter 4- 1o ounce ramekins with 1 tablespoon butter. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine rice, milk, eggs, and 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a larget skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 to 7 minutes to soften the mushrooms. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute, making sure to not burn the garlic. Pour the wine into the mushroom mixture and stir in the frozen spinach. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes to reduce the moisture. Set mixture aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Stir the mushroom spinach mixture into the rice mixture until well combined. Spoon the rice mixture into the buttered ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and top each ramekin with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until warmed through and golden brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve rice immediately with lemon wedges.

*Growing up, my next door neighbors subscribed to Everyday Food, and I used to pore over the issues obsessively when I babysat for their kids.  It was the prettiest magazine, and all the food looked amazing.

Words, Words, Words

It’s not that I want to be such a fan of inspirational quotes, but I am such a fan of inspirational quotes.  And with Pinterest, and Etsy, and Tumblr (oh my!), there are so many out there.  These are my faves.

keep your head down and do the work.

Put your head down and do the work has long been one of my mottos. (can’t find the original source)

still.

Laura was a wise woman.  And this is still true. (source)

go do them.

I’ve posted this before.  (source)

there will be an answer.

This, too. (gone from her shop)

makes me miss oprah.

I miss watching Oprah every day SO MUCH.  (can’t find the source)

the twits!

I still remember this from when my teacher read us The Twits in third grade.  (source)

so live your life.

I read this in All Joy and No Fun and it was life-changing. (can’t find the source)

you never know.

The great truth of life.  (source)

He was Marie Kondo-ing before there was a Marie Kondo. (source)

Image of Philippians 4:8 Small Canvas

Life goals. (source)

truth.

Humor is everything.  (source)

these words.

Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. (prize to anyone who finds the original source)

The Not So New Girl + Zucchini

Dear readers, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but in addition to being a forever friend, The Not So New Girl is a gifted chef.  She and her husband, #ChefJon whipped up a dinner for us when we were displaced this spring, and she has been killing it with the zucchini treats she’s been gifting me.

baked zucchini crisps.

First up are Baked Parmesan Zucchini Crisps.  The Not So New Girl is almost always “the healthy one” in a gathering, so when we figure out what we’re bringing together and calling a meal, she’s the one who comes through with the guiltless dish.  She showed up with these and I devoured them one by one by one, until the entire baking sheet was gone.

cheesy garlic zucchini muffins.

And next are Cheesy Garlic Zucchini Muffins.  Though I would call them biscuits.  The texture is to die for.  These are rich, without being heavy.  It should surprise no one that these are amazing, because the recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking.  I need to crack that one open more for staples like this.

It’s Coming [fluffernutter bars]

It’s coming.  You can feel it in the air.  You can see it on Instagram and Facebook.  People are showing us their carts full of pencils and notebooks, or lamenting about the daily annoyance that is packing a small child’s lunch.  Planners are filling up with dates (I have almost no free weekends this fall, despite not having a single wedding.  What is my life?), and life seems to be speeding back into overdrive.  It’s back to school time, and it’s struck again.  We should probably wash it down with fluffernutter bars and a big glass of milk.

fluffernutter bars.

To make a 9 x 13 pan, you will need:

For the bars:

  • 1 c. salted peanuts, chopped
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. quick oats
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 c. peanut butter chips, coarsely chopped

For the topping:

  • 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 – 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter chips
  • 1 1/2 c. salted peanuts, chopped

In a mixing bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. Mix until well-blended. Stir in peanut butter chips. Press into a greased 9×13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Dollop peanut butter over hot crust and carefully spread it evenly. Dollop marshmallow creme over top the peanut butter layer, and carefully spread evenly. Sprinkle with peanut butter chips and peanuts. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges. Cool completely. Cut into bars.

My Kind of Friends [Asian broccoli salad with peanut sauce]

When you’re inviting people over, no matter what the occasion, or what food you serve, the most important thing is the people.

You need the kind of people who you want to linger at the table.

You need the kind of people who will forgive whatever is in your medicine cabinet.

You need the kind of people who will understand that your house is finished being remodeled, but you don’t have a rug in your living room yet, and the glass for your cabinets isn’t installed, or even ordered, because you just aren’t there yet.

smorgasbord.

I have those people, and they are the only people who have seen #AndThenWeBoughtAHouse so far.

I thought when we moved in I would start hosting my weekly dinners instantly.  After all, when we moved into our condo, we invited people over for a housewarming party a mere three weeks after moving in.  It was a great way to get the boxes unpacked, but this house is different.  This is the forever house, and so I’m not interested in finding quick fixes for tricky-to-fill spaces.  But I know I shouldn’t be waiting until the house is “good enough” to have people over.  It has a kitchen than can crank out food, so I should be cranking it out to feed the people I love.  Working on it.

asian broccoli salad with peanut sauce.

When my people came over most recently, I pulled off a riff on Gimme Some Oven’s Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce.  I doubled the sauce recipe, added 2/3 pound pasta, and swapped the peanuts for almonds.  It was a great addition to the smorgasbord.

On Thankfulness, and A Week in the Life

I decided to do Ali’s Week in the Life this year because I hadn’t done it for a while, and because I wanted to get back in the habit of taking pictures.  We’re 3 days in and I’m LOVING it.  So glad to be behind the “lens” of my phone, and snapping pictures throughout the day.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve watched Ali do it for years, because I had a trial run a couple summers ago, or because I’m in a new space this year, but something is clicking in the best possible way, and this project is making me think a lot about life right now.  Deep, I know.

When I see Ali’s daily posts, I sometimes get bummed that my photos don’t look as great as hers.  But then I remind myself that Ali has done this project in some capacity for 10 years.  Her job is taking photos and telling stories with them.  And she uses a DSLR.  Someday.

In the meantime, I’m looking at my photos from the past three days, seeing some true favorites, and realizing how thankful I am for the people in my life.

hair..

Part of the morning ritual.

laughing.

Laughing while trying to record a new voicemail message.  Why is it so hard?

witl supplies.

Getting my album together.

barre.

Driving to barre.

making the bed.

 

Making the bed.  Whoever wakes up (gets out of bed) last has to do it in our house, and the season is changing.  It’s about to become my husband’s job again.

morning commute.

New morning commute.

smorgasbord.

Lunch smorgasbord with friends who are willing to combine whatever’s in their fridge, with whatever’s in mine.

jro.

Collecting autographs.

frog.

Grandma Glass of Milk’s frog on the windowsill.  Forever thankful for Grandma Glass of Milk.

I’m Gonna Be Honest [shepherd’s pie]

Dear readers, I don’t ever want to come across as conceited here, but I have to tell you something.  I am awesome at repurposing the dregs of the fridge into fabulous meals.  If it’s a lot of produce, it gets thrown into a frittata, but sometimes, other inspiration strikes.  Like when I realized we were leaving the beach, but I still had leftover mashed potatoes and frozen peas.

shepherd's pie

Hello, shepherd’s pie.

I never eat shepherd’s pie because it seems entirely too much trouble to make the filling and then make mashed potatoes and then put them together and bake.    But when I had the mashed potatoes made anyway?  No problem.  I put this together int he morning and baked it for dinner.

This particular recipe has a richer filling than I was used to.  Shepherd’s pie doesn’t usually have tomatoes in the filling, does it?  This one has not only tomatoes, but also red wine, and it’s hearty and warm, and perfect comfort food.  I worked loosely off of this Food52 recipe, adjust quantities for the size dish I was making.

To make shepherd’s pie for 5, you will need:

  • 2/3 lb. ground beef
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • 1 C water
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • leaves from 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 4 C mashed potatoes
  • Parmesan cheese

Brown the ground beef in a skillet, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.  When it’s cooked through, remove it to a plate lined with paper towels, drain the fat from the pan, and return the pan to the stove.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat about a T each of butter and olive oil, and add onion, celery, and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8-10 minutes (there is nothing I hate more than celery that isn’t soft enough).  Add tomato paste, and cook 2 more minutes.  Add red wine, scraping brown bits off the bottom of the pan, and cook till reduced by about half.  Add water, Worcestershire and thyme, and continue to simmer until sauce is thickened.  This may be another 15 or so minutes.  Add frozen peas.

Pour sauce mixture into 11×7 casserole dish.  Combine mashed potatoes and some Parmesan cheese (we probably had about 1/4 C leftover, but lots more would not be a bad thing), and spread on top of meat and veggie mixture. Bake 30-40 minutes, till top starts to brown.

On Landmarks

I’m not sure how it took me 31 years to recognize the day we drive back from the beach as a major yearly landmark in my life, but the day we drive back from the beach is a major landmark in my year.

It signifies the end of summer.

And dear readers, if you are not ready to read that in a month that fully belongs to my favorite season, then please click elsewhere, and know you have my full support.

But when I was little, the day we drove back from the beach was the day we got our mail that had been held for weeks.  It was the day I sorted through to see if I had any postcards from friends.  And the day I found out who my teacher would be the next year.  This inevitably led to phone calls with SCL to see who her teacher was (shocker–the school made the mistake of putting us together once, and never again).  And that inevitably led to back to school supply shopping.

And now that I’m on the other side of the desk, the day we drive home from the beach means the return to work and a whole host of other responsibilities.  It means the return of to-do lists.  Swoon.

And I will also tell you that after 31 years, I can appreciate that cycle.  Being at the beach is the most relaxing time in my year, every year, and being there as long as we are allows me to return to real life fully recharged.  The drive is just the perfect amount of time to help me transition from vacation mode back to life.

Let’s stop over-thinking the end of summer and make key lime pie instead.  When I saw the recipe, these were advertised as key lime bars, but you know what?  It’s key lime* pie, except sometimes you’re in a beach kitchen where you have no pie plates and so you’ll take the recipe that uses an 8×8 pan even if that does mean you’re making key lime pie/bars.

key lime pie bars.

Doesn’t it look like this is frowning?  Ugh, I can’t get over it, but it’s the only picture I took.

To make key lime bars, you will need:

For the crust:

  • 5 oz. animal crackers, crushed
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 4 T butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:

  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1.5 T lime zest
  • 1/2 C lime juice (5 or 6 limes)
  • pinch of salt
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg yolk (oops, I stopped paying attention and put in the whole egg)

Preheat the oven to 325, and grease an 8×8 inch square pan.

Combine crust ingredients and press into the bottom of the pan.  Bake till deep golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  While that happens, mix all filling ingredients till smooth.  It may take a couple of minutes to get any lumps out of the cream cheese.  Pour filling in crust and bake 15-20 minutes.  If the edges are starting to pull away from the pan, you’ll know you’re done.

Let pan cool to room temperature, and then chill in the fridge at least 2 hours.

Slice and serve.

*The recipe doesn’t call for key limes, so this is technically just lime pie.  But I hate squeezing key limes because they’re so small, so let’s just pretend and not tell anyone.

On Taste Buds

There are so many foods I eat now that I would not have touched as a picky six year old.  Or twenty-six year old.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve expanded my diet to include salads, fish, black beans, chickpeas, asparagus, and brussels sprouts.  Oh, and recently, oatmeal.

Without going too deep into my (many) neuroses, I will share that I realized there are a lot of foods I still don’t eat, not because I don’t like them, but because, as CV(D) would say, because I don’t prefer them.  One of those foods is sweet potatoes.  They’ve grown on me in the recent past, and I’m ready to make this fall (yep, I said fall) the season in which I fall for them.  I’m not planning to go Paleo and eat them at every meal, but I want to work them into our dinner rotation a bit.  I searched sweet potatoes on Food52 the other day and came up with a couple of recipes that look like winners.

pearl couscous with roasted roots, chickpeas, and pepitas.

Pearl couscous with roasty roots, chickpeas, and pepitas

black bean and sweet potato chili.

Smoky black bean and sweet potato chili
(I’m sure the whole point of this is that it’s vegetarian.  I would totally add ground turkey.)

Individual Sweet Potato Gratins with Creme Fraiche, Onions, and Bacon

Individual sweet potato gratins with creme fraiche, onions, and bacon

ciabatta stuffing with chorizo, sweet potato, and mushrooms.

Ciabatta stuffing with chorizo, sweet potato, and mushrooms

merguez and sweet potato hash.

Merguez and sweet potato hash
We have the best sausage guy at our favorite farmers market, and my fingers are crossed he has his merguez when we visit Sunday.

My Storied Oatmeal Past [peanut butter overnight oats]

Oatmeal and I have tried to make it work for a really long time.  If I’m not mistaken, I’ve quit oatmeal before.

peanut butter overnight oats.

I love the texture oatmeal adds to baked goods, but as a meal in and of itself?  It takes a lot for me to get into it.  Here’s a little glimpse into my storied past…

At first I made Banana Walnut Baked Oatmeal, and I loved it. Because you bake the oatmeal, it mimics the flavor in, say, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.  That was a winner.  It gave me the push I needed to try oatmeal on its own.  Oatmeal for oatmeal’s sake.

Not wanting to do something crazy like add chia seeds or kombucha to my oatmeal, I drowned it in coffee and chocolate.  Thus, Mocha Crunch Steel Cut Oats came to the breakfast table.  p.s.  Does anyone actually know what kombucha is?

The next oatmeal I tried was Brownie Batter Peanut Butter Swirl Oatmeal.  It should have been so completely life-changing.  It wasn’t.  Hence my retirement from oatmeal.

Every morning, I stumble into the kitchen and manage to get a smoothie into the blender, and you know what?  Sometimes you need a change.  You need to shake things up.  I know how good it is for me to drown myself in berries and blended spinach before anything else in the day, but I can’t do it every day.  My friend Thays Instagrammed her first batch of overnight oats the other morning, and I commented something along the lines of oh that looks so good, and she was nice enough to comment back with the recipe.

So, I made them.  Any good friend would, right?

Dear readers, I did not hate these oats!

I did not love these oats.  But I think I liked them.  I think we might be at the start of a beautiful friendship.  The secret may have been that I didn’t trash these up with brownie batter, or coffee, or anything else that maybe was actually too distracting from the oats.  They were spiced up with a little peanut butter, but otherwise, they were their oat-y selves.  I pulled them together right before I made dinner, and set them in the fridge until early the next morning. It’s something I can totally see myself doing when work starts up again (horrors!), and life gets hectic.

To make peanut butter overnight oats for 3, you will need:

  • 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 2 C old fashioned oats
  • 2 C milk (I have to use at least 2%, if not whole here)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1-2 bananas
  • handful of chocolate chips
  • handful of almonds*

Mix peanut butter, oats, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl with a tight fitting lid.  Cover and set in the fridge at night.  Go to sleep.  In the morning, portion the oatmeal into bowls, slice bananas on top, and add almonds and chocolate chips.

*No, I did not have almonds, but I dreamed of adding them and will have them next time.