recipes

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!

recipes

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).

recipes

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!

recipes

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.

recipes

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!

Continue reading “Birthday Enchiladas”

recipes

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!

Continue reading “Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares”

recipes

Tiny Banana Walnut Muffins

banana muffins
I think I read too much Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day as a kid because I have all these weird housekeeping tips that just stick in my head. Like how if you put a slice of bread in your brown sugar, it stays soft. Or that you can basically clean ANYTHING with some combination of baking soda and lemons.

But the one I use most often is that if your bananas are overripe, just throw them in the freezer to use for baking later. Which is great! But those tips never suggested what to make with the bananas. So for decades I’ve been throwing overripe bananas in the freezer and just leaving them there for years. I think once I made banana bread with them, but that’s about it.

But then I remembered banana muffins! Which are actually my favorite kind of muffins, once you add some things to them. And these are the perfect muffin, the kind which only dirty one bowl and take maybe 10 minutes to throw together and throw in the oven. And as long as you make sure you use cute little muffin liners, washing the tins is easy (I have surprisingly few housekeeping tips for making dishes less terrible!).

banana muffins
If you’re using frozen bananas for this, just make sure to take them out of the freezer to thaw about an hour before you start cooking. Unpeeling the frozen bananas really grosses me out, but it’s totally worth it for these!

Also, a weird yogurt based trick: whenever I buy plain greek yogurt for a recipe, I end up throwing half of it away. So for a recipe like this that only uses a bit, I just use the fruit-on-the-bottom ones that I buy anyway for my lunch! I just avoid all the fruit, and if a little sneaks in, ehh, I’ll chalk it up to added flavour.

banana muffins
Banana Walnut Muffins

  • 3 overripe bananas – frozen and thawed for about an hour is best!
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare your muffin tins with liners. 

Slither the bananas out of their skin (seriously, there is no other way to describe how to take them out). Mash them and add the sugar, then the oil and the egg yolk. Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in the bowl all at the same time and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Add the yogurt and whichever mix-ins you’re using – this time I only used chocolate chips so I could avoid any nut allergies but I usually add walnuts!

Scoop the batter into the tin in 1 tablespoon scoops (or 1/4 cup scoops for regular sized muffins). Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops are firm but springy and the tops are slightly browned. Let cool and enjoy with a cup of tea!

recipes

Quick Cherry Tomato Pasta

cherry tomato pasta

So I don’t often make a meal and post about it on the same night, but this pasta is that fast!

I actually have the week off, so I was planning to do all the slow cooking, fancy meals I never get a chance to. But this afternoon I got a physical, and afterwards I just had such a massive headache that there was no way I could cook anything elaborate. I just needed fast and tasty.

cherry tomato pasta

And this pasta fulfills both needs! I’ll be honest, I used that entire head of garlic. Normal people, you can use a couple cloves, but Will and I are garlic fiends. And this is my parents’ garlic, and it was picked only a few weeks ago and it’s still so fresh and fragrant. Next on the docket is to roast a few heads and eat it with a baguette. Mmmm.

cherry tomato pasta

Quick Cherry Tomato Pasta

Serves 2 very hungry individuals

  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes (I just used one plastic clamshell worth)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, chiffoned
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups of dried pasta

Start by bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, reserving a 1/2 cup of the pasta water to add to the mixture.

Meanwhile, peel the garlic, and laying the flat edge of a knife on it, smash it to flatten it. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic to it. Slice the tomatoes in half. Once the garlic is fragrant and golden, add the tomatoes and the pepper flakes. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes have softened and released a lot of their juices. Add half of the basil leaves.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce, adding a little pasta water if needed. Garnish with the basil leaves and enjoy!

recipes

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

kale caesar kale caesar
kale caesar kale caesar
kale caesar kale caesar

What a nice weekend in the country! It’s always so nice to see my parents’ gorgeous farm. Every time I’m there, the gardens have expanded and they have even more chickens.

I told my dad that I was sad that I didn’t love vegetables as much as I do now when I lived at home. Sure I ate whatever my mom made for dinner, but I definitely wasn’t as rabid about kale and garlic and tomatoes as I am now!

kale caesar
(I didn’t end up using the vinegar – the lemon juice and capers made it acidic enough!)

kale caesar

And this salad, man. Rabid doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about it. I wasn’t sure Will would even like it, as he’s pretty attached to regular caesar salad, but he ended up scraping the leftover cashews out of the bowl! I was inspired by one of those fancy $10 salads that I used to get for lunch when I worked downtown. It has a lot of the flavour of a caesar salad but without making you feel overloaded by dairy afterward. I added some cashews and hemp hearts to give it a bit more texture.
kale caesar
Kale Caesar 

  • one bunch kale (note to self: try with dinosaur kale next time!)
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked for at least 15 minutes
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (my head of garlic was small so I used the whole thing)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • lots of fresh ground pepper

Wash and dry your kale and pull it off the stems and into bite sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and set aside while you make the dressing.

Start by peeling the garlic. Mince it on a wooden cutting board, adding a pinch of salt to help make the garlic more paste-like. Once the garlic is very fined mined, put it into a small bowl and add the olive oil to it.

Finely chop the capers, adding them to the dressing. Add the lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the cashews and roughly chop them. Add them to the salad bowl, along with the hemp hearts and the dressing. Toss thoroughly so the dressing coats the kale. Top with a touch more fresh pepper and enjoy!