Monthly Archives: April 2010

Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole – thank you, Whole Foods!

THIS is the ultimate comfort food, as good for your body as it is for your soul.  See the end of the post to learn how to make it vegan, not just vegetarian.

I discovered this wonderful recipe while searching online for something to serve with a pork chop recipe I was trying out for the first time.

I didn’t have any potatoes on hand and also wanted to have only one other dish with which to deal (a fond (truly!)  “thanks” to Professor L’Homme for making me forever uncomfortable ending a sentence with a preposition!) while trying out the pork chop recipe.  Luckily, I quickly found the following recipe when I searched via Google for “rice and veggie casserole.”

I followed it practically to the word, although I did not have any chives or fresh oregano to garnish. I also chopped up a shallot along with the onion that is called for.

Just the ingredients look super!

ingredients sans eggs

Note: The parsley has been in water in the fridge, loosely covered with a plastic bag, for three weeks! Look how fresh it stayed! There is NO excuse, if one has a fridge, for not having fresh parsley on hand. <grin>

Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole (Click the recipe title for the original and tons more great recipes from Whole Foods Market.)

Serves 8-10
Serve this hearty dish alongside grilled meats. Feel free to use leftover brown rice in this recipe, and other grains such as wild rice and quinoa also work well.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked long-grain brown rice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
2 tablespoons chopped chives

There is nothing like freshly grated Parm-Reggiano cheese....

Here are ALL the ingredients! Except the olive oil. 🙂

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are just tender, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper.

My 12" skillet was VERY full at first!

But it all cooks down.

In a large bowl, combine rice, cooked vegetables, cheese, eggs, parsley and oregano. Pour into a lightly oiled 9×13-inch casserole dish. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

With the rice. Actually, I mixed the cheese and egg in the skillet rather than in a separate bowl.

Ready to bake

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I left it in the oven longer that called for by the recipe, but it is one of  those handy dishes that don’t depend upon removal from heat at an exact time.

DONE! And very yummy.

So, there it is.  A definite keeper in the Dennis/Breton household.  If you follow a vegan diet, use soy cheese and, for the egg, use flax seed.  Just grind flax seeds with water (about 1:3 per egg) in a blender or surbachi for to get and egg-like binding quality.

Perfect (and easy!) Pork Chops

Dry. Tasteless.  Boring……  And, don’t get me going about that cream of mushroom soup and rice thing we all do with pork chops.

I had pork chops in the freezer and it was time to finally use them.  Some kind of bone-in sirloin chop.  They were under an inch thick, so I was hesitant to use a saute technique that I have used successfully on very thick chops.

But, Pam Anderson writing for USA Weekend in 2004 to the rescue!  No, not Pamela Anderson!  At least, I highly doubt it.  🙂

Anyway, here is her advice, excerpted from a Q&A section on allrecipes.com

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“It is possible to serve a beautifully brown, juicy pork chop without losing the food’s moisture, whether or not it was previously frozen.

First, choose the right skillet size. Use a 12-inch skillet for four chops. If you crowd the pan, you’ll end up overcooking the chops to get them to brown.

Saute with a combination of butter and oil. Butter helps browning; a little oil increases the butter’s smoking point so you get great flavor without burning.

Dry the food’s surface. Pat with layers of paper towels. Then season the food with salt and pepper, and lightly dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Add food only when the pan is really hot. Warm butter and oil over medium-high heat until butter solids turn golden brown and the first wisps of smoke start rising. You want to hear a solid sizzle when the food hits the pan.

Set a timer for three to four minutes, and leave the food alone! To develop a golden-brown crust, it needs to remain stationary. Resist the temptation to turn it before you hear the “ding.” ”

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AHA!  check this post from The Pioneer Woman Cooks! blog for info about this Pam Anderson. Note to self – take some time to check out the Pioneer Woman Cooks! blog.  Actually, I think I have been there before and may have even mentioned it in this blog.  Hit 50 years, memory be gone…

From some quick searching, I have also  discovered that Pam has written a number of cookbooks and is a former Executive Editor of Cook’s Illustrated.  (!)  Shows what I know! I plan to check out her cookbooks, that’s for sure.

Anyway, the advice is superb.  I had already learned that it is better to blot the marinade before grilling steaks to get a crusty exterior.  (Steve is the grill man, but I often do the prep. ) Doing the same for pork chops is equally beneficial.

When making these pork chops, I marinaded them for a few hours.  Then, my schedule got crazy so I needed to hold the chops for the next night.  No problem – I removed them from the marinade, dried them off, and put them in a tupperware until the next night, when I dredged them lightly in flour and follow Pam’s cooking directions.  YUM!   AND, even when reheated by nuking two days later, the leftover chops were still moist and tender.  Don’t lose this technique!

pork chops

This photo does NOT do the chops justice!

Click HERE for the recipe on which I based the marinade I concocted.  🙂

I used somewhat the same proportions and ingredients, except for OJ instead of pineapple juice, and minced shallot, I think….no scallion or ginger.  But, the sweet and garlic taste was still there.   To each his or her own marinade, I say!

In any case, it was all good.  Next post will be the Brown Rice and Veggie Casserole I made to go along with the chops.  Here is a teaser picture.  <grin>

Perfect Oven-Roasted Vegetables

I need to do another post to finish up Easter, especially so I can share the recipes of the lovely items that other folks brought.  But, it has been a busy few weeks.

I was totally booked the entire weekend of April 10-11 and again this past weekend, with the weeks in between Easter and now taken up by preparing, as Board President and de facto volunteer Admin person,  for my church’s annual meeting (www.wakefielduu.org) on 4/15 and also for my father-in-law’s Celebration of Life service on 4/17.  All went well, but I was glad to finally have time to cook a meal last night!

It was just the simple but tasty Garlic Chicken Leg Quarters and, to keep things on that simple theme, I thought I would roast potatoes and also roast the other veggies.  BUT…how to do everything at once without having to set multiple timers and add the other veggies after the potatoes, etc. ? I didn’t want to have burnt broccoli and hard potatoes, but I didn’t want to have to open the oven once I put the chicken in!  (I guess I was still feeling stressed for time even though I didn’t even have a meeting to go to after dinner.  🙂

ANYWAY -here is my solution.  I found a recipe for roasted broccoli and potatoes that said, along with seasoning and a few tablespoons of olive oil, just put it all together in a 9×13 casserole, cover tightly with foil, and bake at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour.   How easy is that?

The chicken is supposed to cook for 50 minutes at 425, so I just cooked both dishes at 400 for the hour and that was that – ready to serve.

For the veggies, I used broccoli, carrots, new potatoes, and mushrooms for the veggies, chopped some fresh rosemary, and added sea salt and freshly ground pepper before roasting. They were fabulous!  Not quite the same crunch on the outside that you get when roasting veggies uncovered, but there was still a satisfactory firmness to the outside and that lovely intense flavor that comes with roasting. And, because the dish was covered, there was no charring of the broccoli, the musrooms were not shriveled, and all the veggies has a creamy sort of texture on the inside.

Here is the original recipe on which I based my roasted veggies – and from which I learned about covering with foil! Click the name of the recipe to go to the original recipe web page, courtesy of Teri’s Kitchen.

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Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes

  • 1 medium head broccoli or bunch broccoli crowns, tough ends removed, remainder cut into medium florets and small stems
  • 3 small potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place broccoli and potatoes in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Add the next 4 ingredients and toss or stir to combine. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. (If you prefer crispier vegetables, check them after 45 minutes.) Remove the foil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Return to oven just until the cheese melts slightly. Serve hot or room temperature.

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If I am going to roast just one type of veggie (especially potatoes) or a group of veggies that all take the same time to cook, I am sure I will still use the uncovered method.  But, if I am not sure how long it will be before dinner (the covered ones will hold at a “keep warm” temperature) or want to combine veggies in one simple dish, I will be using the covered method of roasting veggies.  And, not just for hurried home meals.  This is good enough for company!

Prepping for Easter Dinner 2010

I do the family Easter and July 4th, with my brother Steve and sister-in-law Lorraine  hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I am expecting the number of folks, that being 14-16.  I think 12 if the least amount we’ve had at the Easter table and 18 was the most.  Not that I do the china, silver, and sit around the table.  We do it buffet style.  Although, I do have a beautiful dining room table and sideboard, now.  But, I am NOT up to unpacking my Mom’s china and crystal, most of which is in the attic.  Someday….

I’ve been doing the same menu each year – makes it easier.  Now I just have a to do list that I follow.

Guests bring a variety of side dishes, appetizers, and desserts, and I provide the ham, chicken tarragon, baked mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus, as well as modest array of beverages.  Wine is a favorite.  🙂  Merlot in particular.

Today, the day before the holiday, I have the asparagus keeping fresh in water in the fridge:

asparagus

9 pounds of asparagus in water.

asparagus covered

gotta love Farm Land bags. 🙂

That’s the asparagus, loosely covered before being put in the fridge.  I will prep them tomorrow with olive oil, salt and freshly grated parm reggiano around 2:30 p.m. and pop them in the oven to roast right before we plan to eat dinner.

I also have chicken tarragon in the oven all day at 200 degrees to mimic a slow cooker.  My crock pot is too small for 6.5 pounds of chicken breasts and thighs! Tonight, once the chicken is cooked and cooled, I will de-bone and de-skin it (I left the skin on the breasts to keep them from getting dry while cooking), save the liquid, and finish up the gravy tomorrow after church.

Here is the recipe, with the title linked to the original as I found it online:

Chicken Taragon

  • 1 (3 to 4 pound) frying chicken
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (or white wine)

[Note: I used 6.5 lbs with bone-in, three breasts and the rest thighs, removing excessive fat and the skin from the thighs. I also increased spice amounts by 50%. And, I used my dutch oven, with foil under the lid to increase the tightness of the lid fit, in a 200 degree oven.]

Rub chicken with butter; place in slow cooker (crock pot). Combine seasoning and herbs and sprinkle evenly over chicken. Add vinegar or white wine.

Cover and cook on low about 8 hours. Do not remove lid during this time. Remove chicken, place on a large platter.

Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup accumulated cooking liquid (if necessary, add chicken broth to make one cup)

Combine 2 tablespoons corn starch in two tablespoons cold water, stir until smooth. In a saucepan, combine the corn starch mixture with one cup of accumulated liquid. Heat and stir until mixture boils and becomes thickened. Serve over hot chicken. Yields 4 servings.

My least favorite cooking task is peeling potatoes. But, peel I must.  I am actually quite fond of this baked mashed potato recipe, though.  NOT a low-fat dish, by any means.  But, it is a great way to prepared potatoes for a holiday meal because you boil and mash the day before and then baked them the next day.  And, all the extra fat means that they don’t dry out on the warming tray when serving.

Here is the recipe, with the title linking back to the original as I found it online:

Mashed Baked Potatoes

Use greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Serves 12. 5 pounds potatoes; boil, drain and mash. Add: 4 tbsp. butter 1 1/2 c. half & half 1/4 tsp. garlic salt 1 (8 oz.) pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese

Mix well and spread in pan. Cover with foil paper and refrigerate overnight. Drizzle 3 tablespoons melted butter over potatoes and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, check at 30 minutes, to light brown.

[Note: I used 6.5 pounds of potatoes – 1/2 Idaho and 1/2 Yukon Gold.  I used the same amount of cream cheese, but added an extra Tbsp of butter and about another 1/3 cup half and half.

BIG NOTE:  Upon reading the recipe as I posted it, I realized that I forgot to grease the Pyrex pan in which I put the potatoes…  Well, I guess we will find out the consequences of this tomorrow.  <wry grin>  ]

raw potatoes

6.5 lbs of potatoes. ARRRRGGGH!

I used two big pots to boil the potatoes, then put half back in the bigger pot, added all the other ingredients, then put the other half of the potatoes in – then I mashed.  And mashed, and mashed…

from the pot...

...to the pan!

See that spatula/spoon?  It totally rocks.  I recommend it highly!  It is a Rubbermaid Professional 13-1/2 Inch Heat Resistant Spoonula.  Click HERE and look for the link to it on Amazon.com. I have other recommendations there, as well.

Once all the taters were in the pan, (that I forgot to grease….) I wanted to cool it all off quickly before covering and putting in the fridge overnight.  Ice bath time.

An ice bath helps bring the temperature down quickly.

I’ve always been paranoid about food safety, and discovered that I have been following ServSafe protocol for years before I took the course this past November. NEVER put hot food directly  into the fridge!  Cool as quickly as possible to room temperature, first. The best way is to use an ice bath.

cool sink

I have a very cool sink. 🙂

sink again

It is old and chipped, and seldom looks this clean.

Steve was going to throw this sink away when he bought the house.  Silly man!

Anyway…  The potatoes are safely covered and in the downstairs fridge. (Okay, so I am REALLY lucky and also have an extra fridge.  It is 74 years old but works fine.  Really.  I’ll take a picture on these days.  An old GE.

On to the Chicken Tarragon.  The chicken was done in the 8 hours.  I actually put it up to 250 degrees for an hour in the afternoon and then back to 200 degrees.  Next time, I think I will start it at 250 for the first hour and then lower to 200 for the duration and check it after 7 hours.  I don’t have time to explain the details right now, but the latest Cook’s Illustrated Magazine has a chicken recipe that entails braising and talks about cooking at too high a temperature can cause the chicken to get tough.

dutch oven with foil under lid

dutch oven with foil to mimic crock pot

Crock pots/slow cookers have a tight seal and don’t let much moisture out.  To increase the seal on my dutch oven, I put a piece of foil under the lid.

Here are the results, after straining out the broth from the cooked chicken:

cooked chicken and broth

cooked chicken and 3 cups of broth

chicken and broth cooling

Just cooling things off 🙂

Once the chicken was cool enough to handle, I picked the meat off the bones and also discarded any skin and extraneous fat.

about 2 and 2/3 lb of meat from 3 1/2 pounds bone in

So, all is in the fridge.  In the morning, before I head out at 9:30 a.m. for choir practice,  I will prep the ham and put it in the oven and program my oven to come on at 11:30 a.m.  I’ll do a new blog entry for the Sunday activity.  But, suffice to say, I have an easy “to do “list to follow.  Except for the final house cleaning….well, no one if perfect!