broccoli, cheddar and wild rice casserole

Yyyyyuuuuuummm! If you’re a fan of broccoli and cheese, make this as soon as humanly possible. I’ve made it twice since it was posted by Deb onto Smittenkitchen.com (it was posted on the 11th of this month so that’s saying something).

I made this twice because I could tell the first time that there were things I could do to make it a bit less soupy and a bit more crunchy. First off, the second time around I used aged white cheddar and pepper jack instead of medium cheddar. Best move ever. Also, I cut the milk in half and really let the cheese sauce thicken before spreading it over my rice.

Oh man. So delicious.

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Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole

Serves 4 as a generous side

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, diced
Salt
2/3 cup uncooked wild rice blend, rinsed
1 pound broccoli
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder or 1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
8 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice to onion and cook for 1 minute, then add 1 1/3 cups water and a few pinches of salt. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest temperature and cook with the lid on for about 50 minutes (or whatever amount of time is suggested on your package of rice). If you’d like a rice cooker to do this for you, transfer onions, water and rice to the machine and set the machine.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel broccoli stems and dice them into large chunks. Cut florets into 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling, well-salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

You can use this same pan to make the cheese sauce. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the mustard powder (if using), a pinch of cayenne and garlic and let sizzle for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk until combined, cooking the butter-flour mixture for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking constantly, then broth. Bring to a simmer and cook mixture at a simmer, stirring the whole time, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in smooth Dijon mustard if you didn’t use mustard powder.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 of grated cheese until melted. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Combine cooked wild rice blend and broccoli in a 2-quart baking dish or a 9-inch oven-safe skillet. Pour cheese sauce over and gently nudge to ensure all pieces get some sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake casserole for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly, then run mixture under the broiler until cheese is toasty on top.

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Growing Things.

We went camping a few weekends ago. Of course we took Gidmaster-Fresh. I love it when Gideon comes camping because with his bed on one side and Matt’s on the other, I stay toasty and dew-free in the middle of our tent. When I woke up in the morning, I looked down to check on Gideon. This is what I saw: IMG_3888 He’s my favorite thing on the planet. It was so cute to see him tucked in under his blanket, sleepy and content. But back to the point of this post, look what I discovered today!IMG_4159Our first cherry tomato of the season. We’ve had a heat wave here recently, which I assume encouraged the sudden blushing of tomatoes. The corn, squash and beans are growing visibly taller by day. And the potatoes are loving life right now. Here is a glimpse of what we’ve got growing in the little raised bed section of our yard.IMG_4164We’re already done with broccoli and garlic, while kale, cilantro and some lettuce on their second plantings. New this year are the brussel sprouts and celery. We’ve had good luck with everything but the broccoli. This is the second year we’ve attempted it and somehow it never fully flourishes. Maybe there’s a trick I don’t know about? I was super happy with my choice to grab elephant garlic over the small cloves this year. It seemed to produce a better head of garlic more quickly.

One very cool and literally very big new thing we’ve got planted is asparagus…but more on that another time.

What are you growing? What’s flourishing? What’s ending up in the compost?

Linguine with Broccoli Cream Pesto

I think I found a staple. This pasta is uncomplicated, fresh, warm, and easy to cook up. It tastes SO good. Of course, I have yet to make a Smitten Kitchen recipe that I don’t like.

Broccoli Cream Pesto PastaThe flavor of broccoli really comes through in this pasta, but somehow it tastes a little sweet. Which makes me think this would be loved by people of all ages and varied palates. Honestly the texture is so perfect…you don’t need bread. Trust me, I like my bread with a side of bread. But I didn’t touch the stuff tonight.

I also like my pasta with a side of pasta, so if you’re the same way and cooking for more than 3 or 4 people, double the recipe.

173163166167Broccoli Cream Pesto Pasta

Broccoli Cream Pesto Pasta

Note: The sauce is gluten-free and could be used with a gluten-free pasta.

1/2 pound broccoli
1/2 pound dried spaghetti or pasta of choice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or, more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons heavy cream
A heap of grated parmesan (about 1/2 cup), to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta.

Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stems with a vegetable peeler (I do this so that they cook quickly, plus, I prefer their taste without the tough stem skin.) and slice them into 1/2-inch segments.

Use your pot of future pasta water to steam (by suspending a mesh strainer over your pasta pot and covering it with a lid for 5 to 6 minutes) your broccoli florets and stems until just tender, then drain if needed and set them aside.

Add pasta to water and cook until al dente, or about one minute less than fully cooked. Before draining pasta, reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain pasta.

Wipe out pot so that you can use it again. In the bottom of pot, melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat.

Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sauteing it until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add steamed broccoli, salt and red or black pepper and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour cream over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.

Transfer broccoli mixture and all of its creamy bits at the bottom of the pan to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it’s finely chopped and a little sauce. Don’t worry if it looks dry; that reserved pasta water will give it the sauciness it needs in a minute.

Add the broccoli sauce back to the pot with the drained spaghetti and a splash or two of the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing the mixture so that it evenly coats. Add more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or pepper, and scoop into a serving bowl. Shower spaghetti with grated parmesan and dig in.

Do ahead: Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) makes a large batch of the sauce and keeps it in the fridge for several days, boiling a little pasta each day for lunch when she make it for  her son.

177Enjoy.

To plant or not to plant? There is no question.

I miss this.

Planting starts, watching them grow.

Caring for them and carefully observing their progress. Sinking my hands into the warm, fresh dirt.

I miss watering in the early morning. The smell of damp soil, cilantro’s perfume carried on the air.

I miss picking cherry tomatoes in the heat of the day. Popping a couple in my mouth as I weeded and made traps for slugs.

Watching intently for the potatoes to sprout…anxious to pile more dirt on top. Analyzing the sun’s path throughout the sky, will we get full sun today?

I miss the smell of tomato leaves on my hands. And crisp lettuce, the taste to good for words.

Herbs, onions, garlic, cucumbers, peas, carrots, peppers, broccoli…

I miss the satisfying feeling of growing my own food. Just beyond my doorstep, dinner awaits.

I felt connected to my Creator in a new way.

Sigh. I’m praying for April to come soon.