Broccoli, Butternut Squash and Cheesy Rice Casserole

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

I’m always in danger of turning this blog into a Smitten Kitchen appreciation blog. I swear, all my favourite recipes have come from her. Like, I’ve posted her brownie recipe here already – both as peanut butter brownies and as two bite brownies!

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

Oh wait, unrelated story coming up: I left my veggie scrap bowl on the counter while we ate dinner and Will went into the kitchen (likely to get more wine) and went, “Hey, did you forget the salad in here?” No dear, that’s just my bowl full of carrot stems, squash peels and broccoli leaves. But nice to know my garbage looks appetizing, right?

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

As I was saying, pretty much everything Deb posts is gold to me, and this broccoli, cheese and wild rice casserole was no exception. It was like the much classier version of the processed cheddar and broccoli rice I’d had before. The wild rice adds a nice texture to it. And it’s a very filling dish, so while it could be a side dish, we usually eat it as a main, maybe with another veggie as a side (this time I made roasted carrots!).

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

I also added some cubed and roasted butternut squash to it, to really boast the veggie content. Squash tastes delicious with the cheddar sauce. And even if you’re not a huge fan out it, this is a great way to sneak it in!

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

Broccoli, Squash and Cheesy Rice Casserole

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp butter, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup rice (usually I use a mix of wild rice and brown but I only had 1/2 cup of that so I stretched it with basmati! Wild rice tastes better, don’t be like me)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large head broccoli, florets separated, and stems peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 2/3 cup broth (I used water and boullion)
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

Start by heating your oven to 350°. Take the peeled and cubed squash and lay it on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, or until the pieces are soft and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter over medium low heat in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the rice, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high high, then turn the heat down and cook for 30 minutes or until all the water has cooked off and the rice has softened.

As the rice cooks, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the broccoli for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain the broccoli and set aside.

Wipe down the broccoli pot and start the cheese sauce. Melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat and add the flour. Whisk the mixture until smooth, then add the milk, broth and mustard. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often, until the mixture begins to thicken. Once thickened, add 1 cup of the cheese and whisk until smooth.

Now it’s time to assemble! Place your squash, broccoli and rice in a casserole dish. Stir to combine and pour the cheese sauce on top. Top with the remaining grated cheese and broil until the top is bubbling. Top with a little black pepper and serve!

Super Quick Dahl Soup

dahl soup
This is another recipe that comes from my mom, and I thought she was a total genius for using sesame sticks as a soup topping. Apparently she got the idea from the vegetarian restaurant that she first tasted this soup at and it is brilliant! I found these everything sesame sticks the other day and knew they’d make this soup even tastier.

This soup is inspired by the delicious Indian lentil dish tarka dahl (or is it dhal? Googling it for clarification just made me more confused). The red lentils and turmeric in the curry powder give it such a beautiful yellow colour. And I made it very flavourful, but not spicy, just like the tarka dahl we used to get at Curry Original in Kingston.

dahl soup

I’d also like to take this opportunity to share the most amazing cooking tip I learned this week: did you know you can grate onions and it’s about a MILLION times easier than finely chopping them? It’s true! There are times that I want the soothing repetition of chopping onions as finely as I can, but tonight was not one of those times. I just wanted dinner as soon as I could get it. And bonus of grated onion: the small pieces cook much faster and are less noticeable in the final dish. Possibly the perfect way to sneak onions into a dish if you cook for onions haters?

dahl soup

I served it with these fake Red Lobster biscuits which are the perfect match for any soup. And just generally a good way to force Will to eat soup for dinner.

dahl soup
Super Quick Dahl Soup

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils (other colours will also work but won’t be as prettily coloured!)
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder (I used a medium spicy one)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • to garnish: sesame sticks

Heat the butter and oil on the stove over medium low heat. Peel and grate (or finely chop, if that’s more your style) the onion. Add it to the pan and mince the garlic while the onion cooks. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until everything begins to soften.

Add the lentils, the seasoning and 4 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft and begin to break down, about 20 minutes. When the lentils have softened you can blend with an immersion blender if you want a smoother consistency, but I left them as is.

Serve with lots and lots of sesame sticks on top (and more on the side).

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (sweetened with dates!)

Homemade pumpkin spice latte

Like any human person, I enjoy the occasional pumpkin spice latte to celebrate the return of fall. A good pumpkin spice latte is like a liquified version of Thanksgiving dessert. And as a former Starbucks barista, I’m always kind of amused by articles like this one. I agree it’s kind of gross and surprising how many chemicals go into one – but no one is actually surprised that they contain no real pumpkin, right? I mean, that bright orange colour just isn’t natural at all.

So I aimed to make my own, with actual pumpkin. And since my biggest pet peeve with Starbucks flavoured lattes is how much sugar is in them, I wanted to avoid that as well. I’ve been playing around with these medjool dates lately, and I know lots of people use them to replace sweetener in truffles, no-bake bars and smoothies. So why not in coffee?

Homemade pumpkin spice latte

A warning that this won’t be nearly as sweet as the PSL you’re used to. But if you want the flavour without the 50 grams of sugar that a grande PSL usually has, I think it’s perfect. I used some of the hints in this recipe, like adding the black pepper, which really does give it a nice spicy bite. But I also made mine with coffee instead of espresso. And OK, since it doesn’t contain espresso it’s not really a latte. More like a coffee misto (which is half coffee and half steamed milk). And I think it would be just as lovely with almond or soy milk, if you’re also looking to avoid dairy.

Homemade pumpkin spice latte

I added whipped cream to mine because I was feeling decadent. And I didn’t even add any sugar in that! A confession: as a barista, when I would make my own experimental drinks I used to prepare the whipped cream with a QUARTER of the syrup that the recipe calls for and it was plenty sweet! The whipped cream is just going to melt into the drink anyway, why does it need to be teeth-jarringly sweet?

Homemade pumpkin spice latte

(I served in it my engagement mug – sometime I will properly blog about my engagement story and how Will gave me this adorable mug to misdirect me from the actual surprise!)

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Makes one giant mug.

  • 3 tbsp canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling – you want to be able to flavour it yourself!)
  •  2-3 medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • whipped cream (optional)

After you pit and finely chop the dates, place them in a small saucepan with the canned pumpkin. Add the seasoning and cook over low heat for around five minutes – you want the pumpkin to heat up and the dates to break down slightly. Add the milk and heat slightly, then blend the mixture thoroughly with an immersion blender, ensuring that there are no date chunks left.

Fill your mug halfway with coffee, then top with the pumpkin milk mixture and stir well. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice for that proper coffee shop look. Enjoy!

Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

mac and cheese
Ooooh, what’s that? Do I feel a bit of a chill in the air? I swear I do. And you know what that means. It’s time to EAT ALL THE CARBS! And I like to add some cheese to my carbs, because my vegetarian diet is the kind that embraces all the cheese.

Just a quick post tonight, as I am still recovering from the awful back to school cold that still has me coughing (I’ve been sick since last Sunday! What is this nonsense?). Naturally my cooking has suffered as a result, but this is the kind of recipe I’ve made so many times, I could make it in my sleep.

mac and cheese
Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

  • one bunch of broccoli, separated into small florets (one pound? I dunno I just used the whole head I got at the grocery store)
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni (I used small shells)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1.5 cups of 2% milk
  • 3 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. I always start out by steaming the broccoli first, usually over the pasta pot. Cook just until the stems are tender, but don’t overcook them.

Measure the pasta by filling the casserole dish you want to use about halfway. Then cook the shells in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.

As the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and cook for a few seconds. Add the milk and cook over medium-low heat until thickened. Once the sauce has thickened, add 2 cups of the grated cheese, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Once the pasta, sauce and broccoli are all cooked, mix them in a casserole dish, and top with the remaining grated cheese. Put in the oven and broil until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

pamplemoussi’s pips, volume vii

It’s Friiiiiday!

(DUPSTEP CAT aka the funniest 23 seconds of your life)

And I’ve (almost) survived the back to school week, so I’m pretty sure it just gets easier from here.

pips vol vii

So I mentioned to my mom that I keep pre-chopped carrots and celery in my freezer to add to soups and such, and she told me I needed to blog about it, so! Next time you are chopping carrots and celery for soup (or in my case, next time your parents give you some fresh veggies from their farm!), cut more than you need and throw the extras in a labeled freezer bag. Now you’re two thirds of the way to mirepoix next time you make soup!

pips vol vii pips vol vii

Toronto has been especially beautiful lately, except heyyyy who said the leaves could change colour already? I’m not ready for this.

pips vol vii

Toronto also has a lot of amazing chalkboard signs, and this one is my favourite. Oh Not Sure If Fry, one of the better memes out there!

Speaking of Futurama, the other night we watched I Know That Voice on Netflix and it was so interesting putting a face to various cartoon voices. Fry, the Professor and Zoidberg are all the same voice actor! The voice of Winnie the Pooh does not look anything like a cartoon bear!

Birthday Enchiladas

birthday enchiladas

A sign of true compatibility: I just realized that Will and I both ate enchiladas for our birthdays. Of course, for my birthday I demanded we go out for dinner, because as much as I enjoy cooking, I don’t usually want to do it on my birthday. So we went to Milagro and drank sangria and ate enchiladas and it was delicious. Whereas when I asked Will what he wanted to do for dinner on his birthday, he requested my cooking, which is a total compliment. I gave him a multitude of options, and he picked enchiladas. Bonded by our love of saucy and cheesy foods!

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29 things before 29

Today is my 28th birthday!

Does anyone else get really nostalgic about birthdays? For me it’s probably partially because my birthday happens right before school starts, another super nostalgic time for me. I kind of treat fall as my new year, so I basically do my version of new years resolutions in the fall.

This will actually be my second age-based goal list. I started my first one after I went through a breakup right before my 25th birthday. It wasn’t a particularly bad breakup, but it kind of forced me to figure out who I was and what I wanted. Getting dumped meant I suddenly had a lot of time on the weekend that I hadn’t had before. And rather than sit around feeling sorry for myself, I wrote a massive list of everything I wanted to do in the next year, and then I went out and did them.
26 things recap  26 things recap  26 things recap
26 things recap  26 things recap  26 things recap
I went bowling. I wore lipstick to work. I got new glasses, a new phone and a vacuum. I went out for brunch with someone I only knew from tumblr. I went swimming. I walked 15km in one day. I tried hot yoga. And I finally bought pamplemoussi.com which inspired me to start this blog!

And now I’m starting a new list!

pamplemoussi’s 29 things before 29

  1. write 100 posts here
  2. volunteer somewhere
  3. get my wisdom teeth out
  4. make cheese (ricotta counts!)
  5. go rock climbing (indoor, obviously)
  6. have an article published somewhere online
  7. sew a blouse
  8. make spicy black bean hummus (inspired by a yummy spread at Nu Bügel)
  9. go swimming in a large body of water
  10. get three massages (I gotta use all that insurance money!)
  11. buy a filing cabinet for office
  12. do one proper push up (currently I can do zero, sooooo)
  13. get my eyes tested
  14. clean out linen dresser (use vintage pillowcases for quilt?)
  15. drag some friends to a weekend getaway at my parents farm
  16. make a gallery wall (maybe I’ll do the $20 version from Back to Her Roots!)
  17. clean out iPhoto (so many duplicates!)
  18. take a full week off with Will
  19. get a new phone
  20. save $1000 in an emergency fund
  21. print and save all my blog recipes to hard copy
  22. leave the country (even if it’s just to the states)
  23. get married (admittedly, this one’s a bit cheaty)
  24. make another quilt (this baby one was so cute, I want to make a little lap quilt for myself)
  25. buy a new sewing machine
  26. buy a new hairdryer
  27. clean out iTunes (maybe my computer is slow because I have music from high school on it)
  28. make delicious bread (I’ve made bread it was just… less than delicious)
  29. sand and stain my front hall bench

So there we go. 365 days to get all of these done!

(When I originally started writing these, I put it as “28 goals before 28”, not realizing that I was actually turning 28 in two days. Age really sneaks up on you, eh?)

Cheers and Cheese Sunday School at CHEESEWERKS

When I told my sister I was going to a cheese class as my birthday present from Will, I think she thought it was going to be a very snooty afternoon, but it was totally relaxed and fun. We learned all about cheese – production, cheese types, and most importantly, beverage pairings.  I’ve been to CHEESEWERKS for dinner before (I had the Picton as a mac and cheese  – so good!), so I knew that they knew their cheese, and this class definitely confirmed that.

cheese and cheers class
We started out with a little snack – a grilled cheese sandwich made with a smoked cheddar and a roasted tomato soup. The soup definitely reminded me that I need to make tomato soup while tomatoes are still in season, because it was so simple and so delicious!

cheese and cheers class cheese and cheers class
Then we moved into the cheese. We got to try 12 cheeses in all, covering all the major types: fresh, soft, semi-soft, firm, hard and blue. The pairings were very clever and definitely enhanced the cheeses. The ricotta at first seemed quite boring, but when you paired it with homemade blueberry soda it was almost like cheesecake, as one woman in the class observed. It was also interesting to get to compare two different kinds from the same category. The double-cream brie was delicious. But then the triple-cream brie was basically like butter, and reminded me that I need to have brie and baguette dinners more often.

cheese and cheers class
I also got to try my first Caesar ever! OK, technically as a vegetarian I shouldn’t drink Caesars since they have clam juice in them, so I would never order one. But they made one and had it in front of me, and I didn’t want it to go to waste just because it had a tiiiny bit of clam in it. It was amazing. So spicy and salty. Apparently I need to start drinking Bloody Marys.

cheese and cheers class
The one I was most excited to try was the Devil’s Rock which is a really creamy blue cheese. I’ve seen it at St. Lawrence Market before and been very tempted to buy it, but I was put off by the pricetag. It was the creamiest blue I’ve ever tasted!

cheese and cheers class
And now I’ve got the listing of cheeses next time I was to do a little cheese-based dinner (likely: lately this week). I would definitely recommend the class if you like cheese and want to expand your horizons a little. We both left full and excited to recreate some of the pairings (cider and brie, so good!)

Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares

Bars

It’s almost back to school time! And just before you think I’m being premature in thinking that, working at a school means that I’ve been prepping for the next school year since, well, June! All the teachers started coming back this week and keep asking, “How was your summer?” I want to tell them that there are still two weeks left but I know that’s going to go by so fast that I’d better be ready for fall soon!

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pamplemoussi’s pips, volume vi

It’s been a stressful week, right? So here’s a penguin celebrating the small things in life:

Take five steps, hooray!

In salt news, I was excited to learn that there are suggestions that Health Canada’s salt recommendations are too low, because I’m a pretty healthy eater, but I always feel like I eat way more salt that they suggest. I like flavour! Eating at macrobiotic restaurants makes me realize how much I miss salt when it isn’t there!

chips chips chips chips chips chips

In exciting tiny pizza news, President’s Choice makes these tiny naans that are so perfect for mini pizzas. Like, we have eaten them twice in a row this week because they were that good. I bought them to use as burger buns, and they’re pretty good for that, nice and non-doughy. But as tiny pizzas, they are life changing.

And on the side, Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini chips. Again. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

chips chips chips
Speaking of chips, Lays has another flavour contest which is SO EXCITING to me. The jalapeño mac n’ cheese one is quite good! It’s noticeably spicy and the cheese flavour isn’t too fake. It reminds me a lot of the winning American flavour, the garlic cheese bread one.

chips chips chips
And I may have bought two other flavours to try soon! I’m so excited to try the cinnamon bun ones, I feel like I’ll either loath them or become obsessed and end up buying every single bag in Toronto. There’s also a bacon poutine one, but even when meat-flavoured chips don’t have any actual meat in them, they kinda weird me out.

I realize that this post makes it seem like I just lay around, cramming potato chips into my mouth and ignoring any and all healthy food guidelines. I mean, I do. I totally do. But I promise that I work out and eat lots of green veggies to balance that side of myself!

photo (1)
Lastly, this is my weekend plan: making my own veil! I spent $9 on supplies to hopefully avoid spending almost $100 (!!!!) for something small and simple!