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

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

Autumnal Stuffed Acorn Squash

squash
I feel just so lucky to have parents who live in the country. There may have been some years during my adolescence where I was frustrated by having to live in the backwoods, but now that I live in the city their property has become a retreat to me. In fact, a few weeks ago it was the chosen location for a bachlorette party in honour of my friend Melissa! Originally we were debating a night out, or a stay in a nice hotel. But all we  wanted to do was hang out (and maybe have a drink or two), so why not do that out in the country? And man, was it a total country event. The highlight was a midnight dance party in the old horse paddock (the horses have now left, otherwise I’m sure they would have been traumatized impressed by our moves).

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The other great thing about my parents’ property is their giant garden. This year they even ran a CSA for 40 people, and I was lucky enough to get some of the leftovers when I was home over thanksgiving. I have been racing to use up all the veggies my mom sent me back to the city with, including two acorn squash. I’m going to be honest with you, the only thing I’ve ever done with acorn squash is stuff them. Usually it’s with a mix of sautéed onions and celery, sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs and cheddar cheese. That’s the way a friend once made it for me when he learned I was vegetarian, and it’s delicious! But this time I also wanted to use up the leeks my mom got me, and also I was just craving risotto.