Thursday, November 14, 2013

Back into the Groove.

The last few weeks have been a lovely return to our pre-trip groove, and while it might seem boring, it's honestly nice. The return to the groove has coincided with a flurry of house guests, which we love. So there is the practical side (gotta get the house mostly clean, change sheets, wash towels, etc.) and the zen part of cooking and baking. 

The trick with an extended trip is I didn't want to leave a lot in the frig or kitchen, since there wouldn't be a lot being eaten or made. And it bugs me to have food go bad. 

Then, since I like to eat fresh and whatnot, takes some time to get the larder back up. I have made some really yummy items which I'll be including soon: vegetable melange with polenta (aka using up all the random veggies in the frig); shrimp and veg spicy stir-fry; zucchini feta pie; squash/eggplant lasagna. And all just in time for casserole weather too! WOOT!

Also have some veggies at home that need roasting so I can keep up the experimentation .....but first:

Spinach and Feta Casserole with Brown Rice and Parmesan
(Makes 6-8 servings; recipe inspired by one found in The Big Book of Casseroles, with quite a few healthy changes by Kalyn.)

This the actual recipe I found and I'll add in my hacks

3 cups cooked brown rice (I cook up big batches of wild rice & quinoa, then use half of each to make 3 cups*. I also make mine with chicken broth/stock for extra flavor)
16 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 eggs (I end up using 3 myself)
1/2 cup buttermilk or milk (I used milk but a new project will be homemade butter, so I'll have fresh buttermilk to try!)
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried dill - I love dill in anything with spinach
1/2 tsp. salt (I used sea salt)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Decent squirt of sriracha sauce - I honestly can't taste it but lends a bit of heat
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese (6 oz.)
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan (If you only have finely grated parmesan, I'd use a little less)
Cook enough brown rice to make 3 cups cooked brown rice.  (Follow package directions or use a rice cooker).  Let rice cool slightly while you prepare other ingredients. Again, I make big batches of quinoa (in the photo, red quinoa) and wild rice instead of brown rice. I also cook each in chicken stock or broth, for extra flavor, so you could use vegetable broth/stock or just water if you are a vegetarian.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.  Put thawed spinach into a colander, then use your hands to squeeze out as much of the water as you can. 

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and then mix in the buttermilk (or milk), sliced green onions, dried thyme, salt, and Worcestershire sauce.  
When ingredients are combined, mix in the drained spinach.  
Then mix in the crumbled Feta and 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan, followed by the brown rice.  Use a fork to mix until the ingredients are well-distributed into the rice. I have made this three times so far and have always ended up adding one extra egg which just holds the whole casserole together a little better. With two, I think it would end up being more crumbly, so see what happens! Even with three eggs, it's not quichey - it's just enough egg to make it solid. 


Put the mixture into a 2.5 or 3 quart casserole dish that you've sprayed with oil or non-stick spray.  
 Cover the dish and bake about 35 minutes, or until the rice mixture is heated through and Feta is starting to melt.  Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, then bake 10-15 minutes more.  Serve hot.
 This freezes well, but you may not have any left to freeze! It really does, and thaws well. 

I use an 8" x 8" (or maybe 9" x 9") square pan and it makes 8 servings. I will put 4 in plastic/glass dishes to take for lunch, then freeze the other four pieces. I've been wrapping them in the wrap'n'seal stuff, then putting that package in foil, so there's no freezer burn and it works out well. 

If you like spinach and feta, I really think you will like this. Served with a nice green salad, it's a great meal and while potentially challenging for vegans, vegetarian and gluten free peeps would be cool. It is just enough protein + veggies, and the tangy flavors from the feta & parmesan - it's delicious. It's honestly one of my favorite meals right now. I like to eat it cold even. I know - it grosses out Spouse too. 

I'd love to hear what your favorite cold-weather casseroles are. 
Keep reading for more recipes! 

*-just realized I didn't take any photos that show the wild rice, just the quinoa. My bad. 

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