This is another great recipe that I learned from my mom… although it’s almost more of a hack than a recipe. I’d forgotten all about it until I made a can of lentil soup a few soups and was just astonished at how salty it was. My homemade soups are way less salty. But lately, working full time and wrangling a toddler with the rest of my time has taken up a lot of my cooking energy. So when I need a quick weeknight dinner, this is one of my favourites.
No one warned me about how frustrating feeding babies and toddlers would be. Sure, it’s not the most frustrating part of babies (that would be the lack of sleep, for sure), but food is basically my love language. Every time my son throws all the wonderful food I’ve made him on the floor, I feel like he’s rejecting me and my pasta/casserole/zuchini chips too.
And add in the fact that his daycare wants me to send a meat alternative everyday and siiiigh I’m already tired of feeding him and I’m going to be doing it for the next 18+ years. Blerg.
Oh February, I will be so glad to see you go. How can one survive in a city that has seen record breaking cold for the month? From conversations with my husband and my coworkers, I know that even the cold-weather-lovers amongst us have started to feel bogged down by the sheer amount of cold weather alerts and blizzards we’ve had this month. Rationally, I know spring will be here soon. But irrationally, I think perhaps I should just give into the cold and lay down on a snowbank. Or start hibernating for the last few weeks of cold.
Hooray, we made it to 2015! To celebrate, I baked some potatoes!
Last night was our Taco Tuesday… on a Monday. Do people still do Taco Tuesdays? I think my husband (!) would love it if we actually religiously followed Taco Tuesday because his dinner requests are always either Mexican food or pizza. Perhaps that is clear from the fact that at least half of my recipes are Mexican-inspired in some way. As a bonus, this meal also counts for Meatless Mondays, so you could eat it TWO days in a row. That’s the dream.
Hey there! So what have you guys been up to lately?
Me? Well, I got married.
(photo credit: Flashing Lights Photo + Design)
So more on all that at a later date. Today I want to talk about my family.
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!
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?
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!).
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, 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!
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.
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?
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.
- 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).
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!
Oh summer, the time when the Toronto farmer’s markets fill with the most amazing selection of fresh veggies and fruits!
The thing about buying tons and tons of veggies is that I always struggle with making quick weeknight dinners with them. There are lots of elaborate things I love to do with veggies, but sometimes I just need something that’s quick, yummy and doesn’t require me to dirty all the dishes.
Luckily, after all my success with my favourite quinoa salad, I’ve been cooking a lot more with grains. On their own, they can be a touch boring, but cooked in broth (or with Better Than Bouillon) and topped with roasted or sauted veggies, they are delicious.
In fact, judging from my instagram, this is probably one of my frequent meals!
(clockwise from top left: quinoa with peas, farro with peas and a side of garlicky tofu, farro mixed with roasted brussels sprouts, quinoa with peas and basil with a side of Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini parmesan crisps)