Easy Cheesy Broccoli & Brown Rice Bake

Well! Hello. For once, my extended absence wasn’t due to good ol’ fashioned laziness. No, this time a minor apartment flood situation kept me from blogging. Our upstairs neighbor’s sprinklers went off, and they leaked straight through her floors and into our living room. S and I rushed home from work and found that though the damage wasn’t terrible—nothing major was damaged, and our furniture is all fine—our ceiling was not in good shape. That same night, a cleanup crew tore up our floor (apparently the water could damage the laminate) and pulled down our ceiling. They left us with about seven industrial-strength fans, two huge dehumidifiers (complete with tubes snaking to our sink to drain the water), and strict instructions not to open the windows, no matter how hot it got.

Kitchen floor and fansa

Our poor kitchen in total disarray!

Well. It got hot. Like, 95˚ hot. That heat, combined with the lack of flooring/ceiling and the constant loudness of the fans and dehydrators, sent us scurrying to S’s mom’s house, where we stayed for nearly a week. Now, about two weeks out, the fans are gone, the water is gone… and our ceilings and floors are still gone.

Ceiling

So industrial chic.

We’re anxiously waiting for a contractor to come out and assess the damage and set up a time to fix things. We’ve mostly been holed up in our bedroom and in the kitchen for now, crossing our fingers that things are resolved soon. (It’s a tricky situation involving two insurance companies, two landlords, and us basically reduced to twiddling our thumbs while we wait.)

BUT. In the hopes of restoring some normalcy, we’ve gotten back to cooking. Our first night back in the apartment, I was determined to make something easy and nourishing. This brown rice and broccoli bake is exactly that. It’s easy as can be, especially if you cook the brown rice in advance. Lots of broccoli-rice dishes require pre-blanching the broccoli or sautéing garlic and onions, but I was in no mood for that many steps when I made this dinner. No, this dish is just about as simple as it gets. You pretty much just mix brown rice and broccoli in a casserole dish and stir it up with a basic cheesy sauce. Easy peasy.

Easy Cheesy Brown Rice & Broccoli Bake

Easy Cheesy Broccoli & Brown Rice Bake
Serves three

  • One large head broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • A few shakes or twists black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons Earth Balance (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Prepare a small* casserole or baking dish by spraying it with oil. Add the brown rice and broccoli florets directly to the dish and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, combine the almond milk, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper and whisk until combined. Pour about 3/4 of the sauce over the rice and broccoli mixture, reserving about 1/4. Stir gently so that the mixture is coated. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven, uncover, and stir. Dot with the Earth Balance, return to oven (uncovered), and bake for another 10 minutes, then remove from oven and pour the remaining sauce over the top. Eat!

*I use a vintage Pyrex casserole dish that’s about 11.5″ x 6.5″ . That’s not exactly a standard size, but it seems to be a 1.5 quart dish.

~~~

I’ve made this dish twice since we’ve returned to the apartment. It’s comforting and homey—just what I need when my actual home is torn up. Here’s to hoping we get things figured out soon!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

It’s one of the great thrills of my life to hear someone (usually S!) exclaim “Mmm!” after biting into something I’ve made from an original recipe. (Cue the jokes about my boring life.) Truly, though, the sensation of pride and pleasure I feel when I’m feeding someone delicious animal-free food is a unique delight. Last week, I made this amazing pumpkin bundt cake for a coworker’s birthday celebration, and I reveled in the sighs of happiness I heard from my well-fed coworkers. And tonight, when S gave a loud and enthusiastic “Mmm!” after trying this cheesy, tomato-y sandwich, I was similarly pleased.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of a thick, bean-based cheesy sandwich spread for a few weeks. Happy Herbivore has a cheesy spread that makes a decent grilled cheese, but it’s not particularly filling. I wanted to create something with a little more nutritional oomph. Enter the beans! This sandwich combines the classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup into a thick, savory spread that doesn’t taste at all beany. I love it on sourdough, but you can use your favorite sandwich bread.

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich
Serves 3 or 4, depending on your spread thickness preferences!

  • 15 oz. Great Northern beans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 slices bread per sandwich

In a blender or food processor, combine the beans, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste until the beans are pureed and spreadable. Add the remaining ingredients and continue processing or blending until you have a thick, uniform spread.

Transfer the spread to a small saucepot and heat on low. In the meantime, prepare the bread the way you like it best. I like to butter it on both sides and toast it in a pan, but you can also use a toaster or toaster oven. Once the spread is heated through and the bread is toasted, add a few tablespoons of spread to the bread, make the sandwich, and enjoy!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge tomato soup fan, but as part of a cheesy sandwich spread? I dig it!

What’s your favorite sandwich spread or grilled “cheese” recipe?

Pineapple-Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

During a season where pumpkin unquestionably reigns as the queen of all flavors, I’m bucking the trend and turning my attention to another p-fruit: pineapple! Not because of any contrarian desire, however; I just happened to have an open can of crushed pineapple I needed to use. I contemplated pancakes, muffins, quick bread… but they all seemed too predictable. (Well, I suppose pineapple pancakes aren’t predictable… I was just too lazy to make them!) Instead: cookies! Soft, subtly sweet pineapple-coconut oatmeal cookies.

I’m sure I’ve had pineapple cookies at some point, but I couldn’t tell you when. My most recent pineapple memories are of the summer before this past one, when my sister had a small (I believe the word is “intimate” in wedding parlance) wedding on Maui. Her husband’s family vacations at a resort there every summer, and her grandfather-in-law was incredibly gracious and generous, booking rooms for my immediate family to stay so we could make it to the wedding. Every morning, the hotel staff had Pineapple Time, where they’d chop up fresh, sweet pineapple and teach eager tourists something about Hawaiian culture. I can’t think of a better way to start a warm summer day than on the beach with freshly cut pineapple—I feel so relaxed just thinking about it! That was a magical week, easily the most laid-back vacation I’ve ever taken. My travels are usually much more action-packed, but I wholly enjoyed the chance to lay back, relax, and take in the scenery.

I wholly enjoyed these cookies, too. Pineapple and coconut are always a winning pair, and in tandem they offer a refreshing spin on the traditional oatmeal cookie. Like most of my baked goods, these are relatively low in sugar so that I can delude myself into thinking they’re okay to eat for breakfast. ;) If you prefer a sweeter, more dessert-like cookie, feel free to use all brown sugar instead of coconut sugar.

Pineapple-Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Pineapple-Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 15 cookies

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, solid
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax
  • 1 cup canned crushed pineapple, with most of the juice strained out (measure after straining)
  • 1 cup + 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked dried coconut

Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or good ol’ fashioned elbow grease, cream together the coconut oil, sugar(s), and vanilla extract. (If you’re mixing by hand, you might want to heat the coconut oil just a little bit to soften it—solid coconut oil can be stubborn to work with!) Once the mixture is creamed and a bit fluffy, add the flax and pineapple and continue mixing.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Mix until well combined, then fold in the rolled oats and dried coconut.

Place the dough in the refrigerator and set the oven to 350˚. Prepare a baking pan by lining it with parchment paper or spraying it with non-stick cooking spray (coconut oil works great here!).

Once the oven is heated, remove the dough from the refrigerator and use your hands to scoop it into balls; they should have about two tablespoons of dough. Flatten slightly in your hands and placed on the baking pan about 3/4″ apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until they begin to turn golden. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before eating.

~~~

What’s your favorite pineapple recipe?

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With its slightly astringent bite, radicchio isn’t a vegetable I cook with frequently—truth be told, I’ve used it only a handful of times. Recently, though, I stumbled across a method for cooking it that promised to transform it into something much more palatable: roasting! I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself. What vegetable doesn’t benefit from a little olive oil and some time in the oven at high heat? Roasting radicchio brings out its sweetness, especially in the tender inner leaves. The outer leaves retain some of their bite, but those inner leaves practically melt in your mouth.

I served my roasted radicchio alongside a warm lentil dish that features one of my absolute veggies: Brussels sprouts. I also added pomegranates for a textural contrast and a bite of sweet juiciness that plays well with the strongly flavored sprouts, and a sprinkle of pine nuts adds the finishing touch! I flavored my lentil dish with Trader Joe’s orange muscat champagne vinegar, a lovely mild vinegar that even I—a noted vinegar-hater—can’t totally dislike. If you don’t have it, though, feel free to use another light vinegar and a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges
Serves two

For the radicchio:

  • One head radicchio
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced as finely as you can get it (or pressed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper

For the Brussels sprouts:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For the lentils:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils

For the dressing/salad:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange muscat champagne vinegar (or 1/2 tablespoon your favorite vinegar + 1/2 tablespoon orange juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pine nuts for topping (optional but highly recommended)

Add the water to a medium sauce pot and heat on high. Preheat oven to 425˚. Prepare a short-rimmed baking pan by spraying it with oil or lining it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the radicchio marinade: olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, and salt. Set aside.

Quarter the radicchio by trimming the woody bottom off and cutting the radicchio into four wedges. Using a pastry brush, coat all of the exposed surfaces of each wedge with the olive oil marinade. Place cut-side down on the baking pan and place in the oven while you prep the Brussels sprouts.

If the water’s boiling at this point, add the lentils, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Roughly quarter each Brussels sprout (or halve them if they’re particularly small). You don’t have to use uniform precision; just make sure each piece is roughly the same size. Add to a bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and paprika until well coated. Remove the baking pan with the radicchio from the oven and add the Brussels sprouts to the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the radicchio quarters so the other cut side is down and give the Brussels sprouts a good stir. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts start to crisp up.

While the veggies are roasting, keep an eye on the lentils. When all the water is absorbed, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Uncover it and let it sit, stirring the lentils frequently to cool them a bit.

After the lentils have cooled for about five minutes, drizzle in the dressing ingredients and stir until the lentils are well coated. Allow the mixture to sit while the veggies finish roasting.

Once the Brussels sprouts are crispy and the radicchio has wilted and darkened, remove them from the oven. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the lentils, top with pine nuts, and serve immediately with the radicchio wedges on the side.

~~~

What’s your favorite way to serve radicchio? Brussels sprouts? 

Pumpkin Spice Affogato

I brainstormed lots of ways to introduce this post, but you know what? Sometimes words fail. So—a photo.

Pumpkin Spice Affogato

Ah. Sometimes, photos fail. Sometimes, the vision you have in your head of what a Pumpkin Spice Affogato will look like doesn’t match the reality, because (1) there’s not much of a contrast between pumpkin-colored ice cream and dark coffee, and (2) not having a tripod means you have to ask your significant other to pour the coffee so you can catch a mid-stream shot, and sometimes your significant other accidentally spills it, and sometimes you lose your temper and very unfairly blame him, and in the time it takes for you to talk it over and apologize, the sun starts setting and you lose the light. So sometimes, you have to ask your readers to use their imaginations, and you have to ask them for forgiveness for the lackluster photos. (And you have to ask your significant other’s forgiveness for snapping at him.)

Just pretend you can see two perfectly round scoops of deep orange pumpkin spice ice cream, with a stream of hot coffee coming down from an unseen pouring device, just starting to melt the top scoop of ice cream. Then, another shot—melty, foamy, frothy ice cream and coffee blending into one puddly mess. Affogato, baby.

Do I need to back up? Not sure what affogato is? Let me enlighten you. Literally meaning “drowned” in Italian, affogato in culinary terms is a scoop of ice cream (typically vanilla) topped with a shot of espresso. Something magical happens with the hot coffee hits the ice cream, producing a frothy, hot-and-cold, sweet-and-bitter, opposites-attract mug of superlative yumminess. I like to make it with a shot of amaretto, and I’ve had a version at Great Sage that included the most chocolate-y chocolate stout I’ve ever tasted—that particular affogato was very nearly a meal in itself.

Now that we’re all on the same affogato-appreciating page, let’s talk about this pumpkin version. Such a simple idea, and pretty darn simple to execute, too. A couple scoops of pumpkin ice cream are all you need to transform the traditional dessert into something any coffee-loving fan of pumpkin spice flavors can appreciate. If you don’t have an espresso maker (alas, I don’t), strongly brewed hot coffee works nearly as well.

Of course, there are dozens and dozens of pumpkin ice cream recipes out there, and the recipe I dreamt up turned out to be very similar to one the ever-inspiring Hannah Kaminsky posted four years ago, right down to the addition of bourbon. So I can’t call my pumpkin ice cream recipe 100% original, but I did make some changes to Hannah’s recipe, reducing the sugar and changing the spice profile just a bit. But you don’t have to use my recipe in your affogato; feel free to choose from any of the plentiful pumpkin ice cream recipes out there.

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
Adapted from Hannah Kaminsky’s recipe

  • 1 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or more coconut sugar)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk briskly until all ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Chill for 10 minutes if necessary, then transfer to your ice cream maker and process following the manufacturer’s instructions. Once it’s reached the consistency of your choice, transfer to another container and freeze until ready to use.

Pumpkin Spice Affogato
Serves one

  • 2 small scoops pumpkin spice ice cream
  • 2 shots of espresso or strongly brewed coffee

Place the scoops of ice cream in a heat-safe glass mug. Pour your freshly made espresso or coffee over the ice cream. Eat without delay.

How do you feel about affogato?

Three-Bean Millet Chili

Certain dishes are tied to very specific times in my life. Brown rice with pesto? College, eating at the dining hall, not caring for any of the veg options, and making a meal from the a la carte items. Celeste frozen pizzas? Kindergarten and the first few years of elementary school, when my mom ran an in-home daycare and would occasionally let us sit on blankets in the basement eating pizza and watching Star Wars. Popcorn with loads of different topping options? My first year in Madison, when my roommate Kristina and I would set up a “popcorn bar” and watch countless episodes of The Office.

Some dishes, though, are constants, growing up right along with me. My mom has made apple crisp with fresh-picked apples every autumn I can remember, only now she uses Earth Balance instead of butter. And my dad has always, always been able to whip up a mean batch of chili. It was kind of his thing when we were young; everyone knew Mitch would bring a delicious spicy chili to family parties. These days, he foregoes the ground beef and makes them plant-based instead. (I’m told he made a killer mushroom-based faux-meat filling this summer, but I didn’t get to try it!)

When S and I started dating, S wasn’t quite as facile in the kitchen as I was (not to mention that he ate meat at that point!). But he could do one thing I couldn’t: he could make a kick-ass chili. Once when my parents visited me in Madison, I made chili for lunch, but it was watery, bland, and generally an embarrassment compared to the chilis my dad makes. He very diplomatically did not call out my subpar chili-making abilities, but I felt ashamed nonetheless. So the next time S made chili, I watched him and learned his secrets for making a thick, filling chili: Don’t add water or vegetable broth. Use tomato paste. Add a little brown sugar or molasses. Brilliant. My chilis have never been the same.

And of course, once you know the rules, you can break them! This three-bean chili totally ignores the no-water rule, but only because the addition of uncooked millet necessitates adding a little more liquid for the millet to soak up as it cooks. You could, of course, eschew the millet and its attendant water and go for a more traditional chili. But then you’d lose out on the 21 grams of protein and hefty dose of iron that the 3/4 cup of millet adds to this dish… and you’d lose out on a unique spin on traditional chili.

Three-Bean Millet Chili

Three-Bean Millet Chili
Serves eight

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red or yellow onion, diced (reserve about 1/4 cup for serving)
  • 1 poblano pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (reserve about 1/4 cup for serving)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or more, depending on your tastes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano (but you can probably use regular oregano just fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Dash allspice
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 15-oz cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted if you have ‘em!)
  • 15 oz water
  • 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup dried millet
  • 15 oz dark red kidney beans
  • 15 oz pinto beans
  • 15 oz black beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Scallions for serving (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the two diced peppers. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the spices. Stir to coat the vegetables, then mix in the roasted red peppers and the tomato paste. Add the diced tomatoes, water, coffee (if using), sugar, and millet and turn up to medium heat. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until the millet is soft. Add the beans and simmer for another 15 minutes with the cover off to help any excess liquid evaporate. Like most chilis, this one benefits from as much simmering time as you can give it!

When you’re ready to serve, top each bowl with a sprinkle of diced onions, green peppers, and sliced scallions.

~~~

When S tried his first bite, he exclaimed, “Mmm, this is good!” Dad, I think even you’d approve of this one!

What’s your favorite chili recipe?

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Ah, weekends. I truly enjoy my job, but I still relish the no-obligations charm of the weekend. With a few exceptions, this Saturday morning was top of the charts. Reading, coffee, toast, cool autumn air, yesterday’s Diane Rehm show, the scent of pumpkin muffins in the oven… what’s not to love? (Cleaning Luna’s mucus-puke off the sofa, but let’s not get into that.)

I don’t know about you, but when I cook a pot of grains, I always make extra. Brown rice, quinoa, whatever—it’s a sure thing that we’ll use it up, whether it’s in a lazy lunch like a burrito bowl or a slightly more time-consuming meal like Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup. So when I prepped the quinoa for last week’s Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash, I made extra. Instead of incorporating it into a savory dinner dish, though, I decided to try putting quinoa into muffins. And I’m really glad I did. I love the slightly nutty taste and the not-quite-crunchy texture it adds, not to mention the nutrition boost!

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ (or more flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash cloves
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • Heaping 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or more coconut sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Preheat the oven to 350˚ and prepare a dozen-muffin tin using liners or a light spray of oil.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the wheat germ, if using.

In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (not including the quinoa) and the sugar(s) until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet. Using a plastic spatula or a wooden spoon, stir gently to combine, but don’t overmix. Fold in the quinoa, then add the batter to the prepared muffin tin with a spoon. Fill each well about 3/4 full. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating.

~~~

Fair warning: If you have a major sweet tooth, you might want to add more coconut or brown sugar to these babies. Although my younger self would probably recoil in disgust at this development, I find myself less drawn to sugary-sweet baked goods these days. (With a few notable exceptions!) Especially when those baked goods might well constitute my breakfast. So these muffins, which are spicy and quinoa-y and not so sweet, are my perfect fall breakfast snack. I think they could only be more perfect if I’d used spelt or whole-wheat pastry flour, but alas—we have neither in the house right now, and S took the car this morning, and I was too lazy to walk over to the grocery store. Ah, Saturday.

What’s your ideal Saturday breakfast? What else should I put quinoa in?!