We’re moving in 12 days! I’m starting to wonder why we thought moving 7 weeks before my due date was a good plan! I’m actually very excited, just anxious and stressing a bit. My sweet mom came down and helped me for a few days last week. We didn’t pack the entire kitchen, but that process is beginning. I plan to have the kitchen pretty much packed away by the beginning of next week. That last week I plan to eat easy breakfasts, freezer meals, give Carson a lot of convenience foods (and his weight in strawberries of course) and explore the take-out situation in our neighborhood. I’ve already stocked up on paper plates, plastic utensils and cups. I don’t want to find myself packing plates and silverware at 2 am the night before we move.
Eating restaurant food is probably going to get old after a few days. I like cooking and knowing what goes into our meals. So I want to cook a lot in the coming week. The problem with that is how unprepared I have been recently when it comes to groceries. And if I’ve forgotten something, I have little to no desire to take Carson to the store for one item. One night last week I made dinner with what we had around, which was an adventure. And a pretty tasty adventure. So tasty, in fact, that I typed this recipe up right after we ate so that I wouldn’t forget it. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but casseroles in general are just plain unattractive.
I made fried chicken earlier in the week. Since 2 people can’t (and shouldn’t) eat an entire chicken we had quite a bit left over. My thought for dinner began with that chicken. I knew we had rice, but I couldn’t think of what else I was going to throw in my chicken and rice dinner. So began the scavenging. Squash from Farmhouse. A shallot. Green onions. A half bag of spinach. The remains of a box of chicken broth. The rest of a carton of sour cream. Leftover white cheddar cheese. And a packet of Lipton chicken noodle soup mix. This was going to be dinner. The biggest gamble was the squash. I roasted it and figured if I didn’t end up using it in the casserole I could snack on it and give some to Carson. It ended up being really great and something I would definitely repeat.
Chicken and Rice Casserole with Roasted Squash and Spinach
2-3 cups 1/2 inch cubed squash (I used patty pan and butternut)
1 shallot, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4-6 ounces fresh spinach
1 cup white medium grain rice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 package Lipton chicken noodle soup mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4-1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (optional but delicious)
Roast Squash: Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss seeded and cubed squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing about halfway through. Set aside.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Once hot, add in shallot and cook for 2 minutes, add in green onion and cook 2 minutes, then add in garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
Stir in the rice, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the spinach and cook until slightly wilted. Turn off the heat and mix in the chicken and roasted squash.
Pour in the chicken broth, soup mix, sour cream and milk. Stir until well combined.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
The last month has been a crazy one, and the next two aren’t going to be any different. We are moving from our sweet little rent house into a lovely suburban home with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a nice big kitchen with garbage disposal, and enough counter space not to have to balance pans on top of the coffee maker. Yes. I have done this. Life will be so good. And about 5 weeks after we move in we will have a new baby on our hands, and so life will be a totally different kind of crazy. Can that be an acceptable excuse for why I haven’t blogged in a month?
I have been cooking, but haven’t been taking pictures of any of it or recording it anywhere. This is a big time bummer. One of my favorite things about having this blog is being able to search for a recipe I’ve made in the past and be reminded of what I did to change it that made it better, or the things I didn’t like that I’d change the next time around. When I don’t update the blog, I don’t have those recipes…unless I managed to write notes on them and put them somewhere safe…which is a rare event. So today I am playing catch-up.
One of the things I’ve had the luxury of participating in this summer is the Farmhouse Delivery here in Houston. When the bushel of local fruits and veg arrive on my doorstep carried by a shaggy headed hipster jamming out to whatever cool music is playing through his earbuds, I get positively giddy. Some of the items we receive are no-brainers. Peaches and blackberries are perfect in my morning yogurt and granola. Cucumbers, sweet peppers and the sweetest cherry tomatoes known to man get sliced and tossed into salads. Potatoes, onions, corn and slicing tomatoes have also been part of our meals. But then we get stuff like patty pan squash and eggplant. What am I going to do with this? I haven’t figured out the patty pan yet, but did find a use for the eggplant. So Farmhouse Delivery, thank you for helping me to explore more in my kitchen. And thanks, Sarah, for the recipe! I feel more of an obligation to use the produce fully since, well, we paid for it, AND it’s fresh and local and delicious. If I forget about a grocery store peach in the back corner of the fridge drawer I toss it out. If I were to forget a farmhouse peach I would probably cry a few tears and have a little memorial service for the sweet and forgotten little guy. On to the recipes…
Spinach, Basil & Walnut Pesto
A big bag of fresh basil came one weekend, and so I made 2 batches of this pesto. We ate it on pizza with mozzarella and farmhouse tomatoes. Another night I mixed it in with penne pasta and chopped cherry tomatoes topped with grated Parmesan. The leftovers from that meal got mixed with lots of mozzarella cheese, more pesto, more tomatoes and then baked in a casserole topped with Parmesan bread crumbs. So many easy and delicious dinners out of one batch of pesto.
4 cups baby spinach
2 cups basil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Rinse and pat dry spinach and basil.
Put greens in the bowl of a food processor, pour walnuts over, sprinkle with salt and begin to pulse. While pulsing, add olive oil in a stream until desired consistency is reached. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Transfer to a lidded container and store covered in the fridge or freeze for later use.
Quinoa Mac and Cheese Casserole
I’ve made this twice now. It is sure to become a regular on our dinner menu. The great thing is that you can change the vegetables, spices and cheese to make it fit your tastes or what you have available. I used an onion from Farmhouse in this recipe, but other than that it’s a grocery store produce meal. Don’t worry, I’m not getting all snooty about my produce…at least not forever.
Heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat in a large, deep saucepan. Add the onion, bell peppers, scallions and saute for about four minutes, just until bell pepper has started to soften. Add the mushrooms and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 30 seconds.
Add quinoa to the pot, followed by the chicken broth, salt, dry mustard and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed, stirring just a couple times.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese and milk. Stir to combine then pour into a greased 9 x 13″ casserole dish.
In a small bowl, combine the Panko and the remaining cheese. Sprinkle on top of casserole and bake for about 30 minutes until golden.
Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad
Eggplant, onion, zucchini and tomatoes from Farmhouse and then a great punch from the lemon dressing and an herby freshness from the parsley and mint make this my kind of summer meal. My sweet sister helped me find a recipe to use up my eggplant without feeling like I was eating eggplant. I used her suggestions of using quinoa instead of barley, and adding in a can of chickpeas and crumbled feta. This has made a terrific lunch the past couple days.
2 small to medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2-3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 onion, halved then sliced
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
4-6 ounces crumbled feta
Roast eggplant and zucchini: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Toss eggplant and zucchini and onion with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool.
Cook Quinoa: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin and coriander, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add quinoa and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Make dressing and assemble salad: Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2-3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add quinoa, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.