The Best Baked Brown Rice

IMG_1472

My friends, do you find yourself leery when you see a recipe labeled “the best” or “the only recipe you’ll ever need for…”? I, too, become leery. Too many times I have ended up disappointed with the results and cried foul on the misleading label. However, I make an exception for this brown rice.

I’ve attempted a few different methods of making brown rice and I am always left wanting something more. That is, until the fine folks at Cooks Illustrated cracked the code. And it really is quite simple. If you can boil water and preheat an oven, you can make this scrumptious and healthy side dish.  Also- I like to double this recipe to have extra rice on hand for making fried rice or to have as leftovers the next day. It’s quite tasty reheated.

It feels good to be slowly getting back into the cooking scene. Our camera is usually smoking from all of the pictures I snap of this little ham ball. :)

IMG_1229

IMG_1207

Baked Brown Rice

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position; Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. Spread rice in 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Place water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the water starts boiling (letting it boil to long will cause evaporation and affect the ratio of water and rice), remove from heat and stir in salt. Carefully pour water over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Place in the oven and bake rice for 1 hour, until tender.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with dinner fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel. Let the rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 additional minutes. Enjoy!

Note: If doubling the recipe ,use a 9×13 inch baking dish and keep the baking time the same.

Source: A Veggie Venture, originally from the magicians at Cook’s Illustrated

Wild Rice Casserole

DSC_8447

After a month-long hiatus, I’m finally resurfacing with this wild rice casserole recipe. April was a bit of a blur with birthdays, a trip to Tennessee, and some home projects. I’ve really missed giving the blog some attention and I have a lot of new recipes to share in the upcoming weeks. For starters, this casserole comes from a new cookbook I recently purchased, Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. It’s not really a typical, canned soup type of casserole that we are all used to. It’s made with simple kitchen staples and topped with a nutty Gruyere cheese. It makes a great side or main dish and it tastes great reheated the next day.

The original recipe called for cremini mushrooms, but I just used the white cap mushrooms I had on hand and the dish was still scrumptious. This is a very adaptable recipe and it can be made ahead of time and popped in the oven whenever you are ready for some grub.

DSC_8451

Wild Rice Casserole

Printable version

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms (I used white cap)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice (or brown rice)
  • 1/3 cup Gruyere (or swiss) cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, optional

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with butter or oil) a 9×13 inch or 10 inch round baking dish.

2. Whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan over high heat. Add in the mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Allow the mushrooms to cook, without stirring further for about 5 minutes. Then, continue to stir and coo until the mushrooms are browned. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, for about 2-3 more minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Next, add in the cooked rice and stir until evenly mixed in.

4. Remove the pan from heat and add the rice mixture to the cottage cheese mixture. Pour into the baking dish and top with the gruyere cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the casserole is hot throughout. Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme, if desired.

Source: Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson

Zesty Quinoa Salad

DSC_8102

As glorious as it may be, meals can’t always revolve around meat and potatoes. In an effort to modify our eating habits, I’ve started experimenting with more “main dish” grains. So far my two favorites are farro and quinoa. Robert has been a little nervous about these vegetarian dishes, but he is starting to come around. As long as we have a safety net of meat in the fridge, he can usually keep his cool. He’s a good sport.

This particular dish highlights two of our favorite seasonings- chili powder and cumin- and it’s great served with cheese quesadillas or roasted vegetables on the side. I think it would also be a tasty filler for a burrito.

Other grains I have on my list of “to try” include: millet, bulgur, and barley. I lead an exhilarating life, I know. :)

Happy Monday, everyone!

Zesty Quinoa Salad

Printable version

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 green onions, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes together in a bowl.
  3. Combine quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, and green onions together in a bowl. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture; toss to coat. Stir in cilantro; season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables & Cooking with Jess

How is that for a long title?

This past weekend, Jess and Greg came over for dinner and what seems like forever since Jess and I last got together for a “Cooking with Jess” segment. What can I say, we are busy folks. But, then again, who isn’t this time of year?

As always, Jess and I had a lovely time together and the food was equally wonderful. It’s not always easy to get together and sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day, but I’m always glad when we make it happen.

The menu consisted of mostly fall-inspired foods (with the exception of Jess’s tasty strawberry daiquiri shortcakes for dessert). In addition to the scrumptious dessert, we had classic pot roast, pumpkin soup, and wheat berry salad with roasted root vegetables. I had been eyeying the wheat berry salad recipe as a possible Thanksgiving side dish for a few weeks; and, after gentle coaxing from my Aunt Khaki, decided to include it on our holiday menu.

I could think of no better occasion to give the recipe a test run than cooking with my like-minded culinary friend, Jess.

Wheat berries, also known as Farro (as Khaki so lovingly educated me), are pine nut-sized Italian whole grains that are- in my opinion-a delicious hybrid between rice and pasta. It was somewhat tricky for me to find Farro as my usual grocery store didn’t carry it. I ended up getting it at Giant Eagle in the international section after nearly giving up hope. It tastes great cold or warm and it is even better in this salad with roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, pine nuts, and goat cheese. Although it’s not exactly traditional, I am looking forward to adding this to the table next Thursday.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Yield 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat berries (farro)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup  dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2-3 ounces goat cheese, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly grease with spray oil. Set aside.

2. Place 2 quarts water in a medium pot. Add in about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Add in the bay leaves and wheat berries. Cook until chewy and tender, about 40 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, place the chopped vegetables on the foil-lined baking sheet. Toss lightly with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. When the wheat berries are done cooking, drain well and place in a large bowl. Add in the olive oil,cranberries, pine nuts, goat cheese, and roasted vegetables. Stir gently to combine (the goat cheese will melt into delicious creaminess). Serve hot or cold.

Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz

Cooking with Jess

It’s been awhile since my friend Jess and I have gotten together to cook. Jess and her husband, Greg, are getting ready to move into a new house and they are currently in the process of emptying out their kitchen. It just so happened that Jess had a frozen turkey in her freezer that she hasn’t had the chance to make, so she invited us over for sort of a spring-focused thanksgiving.

On the menu was turkey (of course), carrot soup, oven-roasted asparagus, sauteed sweet potatoes, rosemary and olive oil bread, chocolate stout cake, and a fresh strawberry tart. It was all very delicious, but my favorite dish was the carrot soup. Jess found it in a spring Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine and it was surprisingly scrumptious and easy to make. With minimal ingredients, the soup is a perfect meal for spring. And it makes super leftovers. The recipe is below.

Thanks to Jessica for another great meal.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Fresh Cream of Carrot Soup
Yield: 6-8 side servings
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • Salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring for about a minute.
  3. Add broth and 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add carrots and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until carrots are very tender.
  5. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is a uniform and smooth texture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a blender in smaller batches and blend until smooth.
  6. Add milk or cream and heat over medium until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Barely adapted from Martha Stewart

Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin

I love cheese. Especially the extra sharp and sometimes stinky cheese. There’s so much flavor in just a tiny bite that you don’t need much. While I love most low fat and nonfat dairy products, reduced calorie cheese is something I just can’t do. And I’m okay with that.

This scalloped potatoes recipe comes from Ellie Krieger, one of my favorite celebrity chefs. It’s made with Gruyere cheese and I added in a little freshly shredded Parmesan as well. Any extra added bonus, this dish is not quite as heavy as typical scalloped potatoes as low fat milk is used instead of heavy cream.  It’s a win-win and a great side dish for any meal.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Go out and savor some stinky cheese! ;)

Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Olive oil spray
  • 3 pounds yellow potatoes, like Yukon gold, unpeeled, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 cups cold low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large or 2 small sprigs thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 3/4 cups (6 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 2 quart, shallow baking dish with olive oil spray.

2. Put the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.

3. Put the milk and flour into a large pan and whisk until the flour is dissolved. Add the garlic and thyme and heat over a medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and is thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the thyme sprig, and stir in the salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir until melted.

4. Arrange half of the potatoes in the dish. Pour over half of the cheese sauce. Add the remaining potatoes and top with rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere and the Parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes, until bubbling. Put under the broiler and broil on high until the top is browned, about 2 minutes. Serve hot.

Source: Ellie Krieger

Thanksgiving Week!

(I apologize for the glare- couldn’t get a good picture)

Thanksgiving is somehow only 3 days away! I am hosting the feast this year for a total of 12 people. I finally nailed down the menu and preparation is well under way. Three years ago I held my first Thanksgiving at our townhouse apartment and it was a lot more stressful than I thought it would be. Probably because I, along with my mom, did all of the food prep the night before and the day of the holiday. That’s not the case this time around. We are actually celebrating on Friday because  some of our family is driving in from out of state. Nonetheless, I am determined to make it a low stress (no stress is just downright impossible ;) ) day so everyone can enjoy themselves. I’ve  tried to space out my to do list over a reasonable amount of time and I feel pretty prepared.

Much to my sister’s distress, we are not doing a taco bar for Thanksgiving- sorry Selby (maybe next year?). The menu is pretty traditional with some beloved family favorites from both my and Robert’s sides. My mom’s bringing the fresh turkey from a local butcher shop back home, my mother-in-law is bringing her delicious date nut pudding, my dad’s bringing the wine, and my sister is bringing the beer :) .

The menu includes:

Main Meal

  • Perfect Roast Turkey (a Martha Stewart recipe that our family’s been using for a few years and it’s the best turkey we’ve ever had!)
  • Mom’s Fresh Cranberry Sauce
  • Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
  • Amish Dressing (Robert’s family recipe)
  • Corn Pudding (my childhood favorite)
  • Mixed Greens with homemade French, Ranch, and White Wine Vinaigrette dressings
  • Herb and Caramelized Onion Dinner Rolls (dough from my favorite Artisan Bread)
  • Relish Tray

Desserts

  • Connie’s Date Nut Pudding
  • Frozen Pumpkin Pie (my brother-in-law, Kevin’s, favorite)
  • Caramel Apple Pie Cheesecake (a tasty recipe I found from Annie’s Eats and made last year)
  • Wedding Sugar Cookies (Selby’s favorite)
  • Chocolate-covered pretzels (because everyone needs chocolate)

I went grocery shopping over the weekend and I made the sugar cookies, French dressing, cooked the caramelized onion mixture for the rolls, and I also prepared the Amish dressing so that all I have to do is pop it in the oven on the day of the meal.

As I mentioned above, the Amish dressing is a recipe from Robert’s paternal grandmother. She is the ultimate master when it comes to making the dish. My mother-in-law, Connie, makes as close a version as I’ve ever tasted (although she will humbly deny it). It’s somewhat of a right of passage in the family to be able to create the dressing. When I think of Amish dressing for Robert’s family, one word comes to mind- sacred. Each culture has its own special dish that it is known for and dressing has to be towards the top, if not number one, for the Amish.

Here’s how it’s made (Warning-this is not a low calorie side dish; you need to get over any fear of butter before proceeding):

First you dice and cook 3 cups of potatoes.

Then you shred 3 cups of carrots and dice 2 cups of celery.

Next you cook and shred about 2 cups worth of chicken.

Mix the potatoes, carrots, celery, and chicken together and add some chicken broth.

Now it’s time to cut up two loaves of bread and pan fry the cubes of bread until crispy.

After all the cubes are crispy, combine the bread with the vegetable mixture.

Then you whisk together 5 2/3 cups milk, 10 (yes 10!) eggs, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp seasoning salt, and a cube of chicken bouillon. Add the milk mixture to the bread and vegetables and carefully stir to combine. After all that you pan fry the mixture in more butter for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a large greased pan.

At this point, I froze the dressing. On Friday, I will preheat the oven to 300 degrees and bake the dressing, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through.

Am I a fool for attempting to make this beloved dish? Probably. We’ll see if what I pull out of the oven can even come close to the magic that Grandma Miller can whip up. ;) Stay tuned…

Food Memory Friday: Wedding Lobster Bisque

Four years ago on a beautiful day in June, Robert and I were married (don’t worry I won’t make this sappy). The ceremony was short and sweet-much to the delight of several of my catholic relatives- and the reception was held at an Inn nearby. When planning a wedding, the bride and groom often select certain parts of the day they want to splurge on and other areas in which they want to scrimp. We splurged on the food.

The chef at the reception site was fantastic and she and I, along with my Mom and Aunt Khaki, got together and planned a delicious menu. It included an extensive cheese and fruit table, mixed greens, lobster bisque, prime rib, chicken marsala, a baked potato bar (with caramelized onions, cheeses, homemade chili, and other vegetables), mashed potatoes, green beans Almondine, and wedding cake and ice cream. My favorite part of the meal? The bisque, hands down. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten and it was perfect. It was a glorious combination of flavors. The sweetness of sauteed onions, a nice kick from the cayenne pepper, and the subtle bite from sherry and brandy … ok I’m running out of adjectives to use- it was scrumptious, alright!? ;)

When I made this soup last week, I didn’t buy any lobster so I used jumbo lump crab meat instead (and I subbed in milk for some of the half and half). The flavors of this version were almost identical to our sacred wedding bisque and it was less expensive. Robert and I had this for dinner along with fresh bread and it tasted just as magical as when we had it on that wonderful summer day. It’s been a really fun 4.4 years and I couldn’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else. Ok I lied, I couldn’t avoid being sappy. Go ahead and vom. ;)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wedding Crab Bisque

Printable Version

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 pound lump crab meat or lobster meat
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-6oz can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until they are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and crab and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.

In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in crab mixture, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.

Source: Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Homemade Applesauce

In an effort to use up all of the delicious apples we have collected this season, I made a pot of fresh applesauce. My mom made and canned applesauce all the time while my siblings and I were growing up, but I never realized how many apples it takes to make a substantial amount. I used twelve to make a mere 5 cups, but it was absolutely worth it. The stuff from the store doesn’t even compare to what you can make at home with fresh, seasonal apples. If you are looking for a little less sugar in your diet, I think you could easily cut down or eliminate the amount in this recipe. It just may slightly effect the thickness.

This particular version is for a chunkier applesauce. It is a bit more time-consuming than the smoother variety, but I prefer the texture.  Even better, your house will smell great while it’s cooking on the stove, especially with the addition of cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract. Robert and I loved this so much, I am hoping to make an even bigger batch next week. It is great for a snack, side dish, mixed with greek yogurt, or for dessert.

Homemade Applesauce

Printable Version

Yield: About 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 apples (I used Golden Delicious)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 5-6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Peel, core, and chop the apples. In a large pot, combine the apples, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, or until apples are soft, stirring about every 10 minutes. Allow to cool then remove the cinnamon sticks and mash with a fork or potato masher to achieve your preferred consistency. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy :)

Source: Adapted from allrecipes.com

Popovers

I dedicate these popovers to my Aunt Khaki. When she visited this past August, she planted the bug in my ear to bake a batch of these magical rolls. I finally got around to doing it last week and I am very glad I did. Popovers are best described as light, hollow, fluffy muffins that rise to spectacular heights in the oven. They can be savory or sweet and I am looking forward to trying out different variations very soon.

The batter of this particular recipe is similar to that of pancakes and it is super easy to make. There is no yeast required, but it does require a bit of planning as you need to let the dough rest for an hour before baking. The end result is worth the wait and it makes a nice addition to any meal.

Popovers

Printable Version

Yield: 6 popovers

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (11 oz) bread flour
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups low-fat milk, heated to 110 degrees (I zapped it in the microwave for 1 minute)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar

Directions:

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs until light and foamy. Gradually whisk in the milk and butter.

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Slowly whisk three-quarters of the milk mixture into the flour mixture until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Pour the mixture into a large measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap. Let the batter rest for an hour to prevent the popovers from rising too fast in the oven.*

Move the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease the interior of a 6-cup popover pan. Whisk the batter to recombine and carefully pour into the popover pan, making sure the batter doesn’t go above the top of the cups.

Bake for 20 minutes. Without opening the oven, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue to bake until the popovers are golden brown- about 35-40 minutes longer. Poke a small hole in the top of each popover with a wooden skewer and continue to bake until deep golden brown for about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire cooling rack. Poke again with a skewer and allow to cool for 2 minutes. Carefully remove the popovers from the pan and cool about 10 minutes longer.

Serve immediately or store at room temperature in a zip-lock bag for 2 days. To reheat, place the popover on baking sheet and heat for 5-8 minutes at 400 degrees.

* The batter can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a day. Just be sure to let it come to room temperature before baking.

Source: The Best of America’s Test Kitchen