Monday, March 27, 2023

Fan Favorite Oldie But Goodie

The photos don't do this dish all. Trust me when I say that this recipe will become one of your favorites, just like it's a favorite of others stopping by this blog.

I first posted about this casserole in the spring of 2009. A lot of life has happened since then, but the recipe has been a continually searched one over the years. I first made it even longer ago than 2009, maybe even before my kids were born. It's from a delightful and unusual cookbook called the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Unusual because the recipes were written by hand and the illustrations were done by photographs, no type to speak of, just warm and welcoming recipes with lots of them vegetarian, many of them celebrating cultures other than U.S.A. cultures, and ones that became favorites, like this one. Delightful because you will likely keep finding another recipe you want to try as you make your way through the book. It was first published in 1977. If you don't find it at Powell's Books (a Portland, Oregon bookstore that has a lot of used books of all kinds), then check Amazon or your local library, used book store, etc. It's a great cookbook to have on your shelf.

This recipe, Spinach-Rice Casserole, has brown rice with it's nutty flavor, spinach, cheddar cheese, eggs and milk, and some seasonings. Don't skip the sunflower seeds on top...they not only taste great and add texture, but their fragrance mingles with the other ingredients to make your kitchen smell cozy and welcoming. Perhaps the best part is that you will likely have leftovers...and they are even better than the first night. I just returned from four days in Phoenix, visiting family, and Sweetie ate leftover Spinach-Rice Casserole the first two nights I was gone. I think he would have eaten it the next two nights, but it was all gone.

Cook the brown rice first because brown rice takes a little longer than white rice. While it's cooking you chop the onion and mince the garlic and grate the cheese. I use frozen spinach that is already just needs thawing and then squeezing the thawed spinach to get out the excess liquid. Eggs get whisked, milk added, and parsley chopped. Then you sauté the onion and garlic, add almost all of the rest of the ingredients and stir them together, add the rice and combine everything so that it can be turned out into a buttered casserole dish. After a sprinkle of both sunflower seeds and paprika, the casserole gets covered, baked, uncovered, baked some more, than cooled just enough that it doesn't burn your mouth. Feast on a soft and gloriously flavored casserole with a bit of crunch from the sunflowers. You'll be glad you took the time to bake this dish. So will friends and/or family because this make a good sized casserole (about 9 x 13-inches) that can feed quite a few lucky folks.

Spinach-Rice Casserole, based on a recipe from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, 1977

2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (More, to taste)
3 tablespoons butter (I used 2 tablespoons olive oil)
2 lbs. raw, chopped spinach or, as I did, use 1 package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
4 cups cooked brown rice
4 beaten eggs 
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons tamari (optional)
a few dashes each - nutmeg, cayenne
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Saute' onions and garlic with the salt in butter (or oil). When onions are soft, add spinach. Cook 2 minutes. (Alternately, thaw and drain a 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach. Add to onion mixture, but don't cook any further.)
Combine the onion mixture with the brown rice, eggs, milk, cheese, parsley, tamari, nutmeg, cayenne. Spread into buttered casserole and sprinkle sunflower seeds and then paprika on top.
Bake, covered, 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

Serves 4 - 6

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ruby Tuesday

 I was looking back at some of my posts in early 2009 and saw that an event going around was Ruby Tuesday...posting a photo on Tuesdays that has a red element that was important to the photo. It's OK to use a filter, as I did with this one - film grain, if you want it more like art.

Today's photo, posted on a Tuesday for tradition, was taken in Phoenix. I'll be visiting there again soon and look forward to the sun. We have been having a delightfully rainy time here for the last few weeks, with the occasional break for sun, but it's warmer in Phoenix and I look forward to enjoying the warmth and sun with family. Sweetie will still be home. Pi would be miserable without him.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sweetie's Lemon Tart

Sweetie had a great birthday weekend! He was treated to breakfast, including an Irish Coffee, on Friday, treated to dinner that night at a new-to-us restaurant in Petaluma, treated to breakfast by other friends on Sunday, given some lovely birthday gifts.

Sweetie prefers pie or tart instead of cake to celebrate his birthday. On Saturday, I made him a lemon tart using the lemons that grow near the barn. It's almost the end of lemon season, so these lemons were ripe and full flavored. Meyer lemons sometimes have a mild flavor and certainly an almost floral one, but I made sure that there was lots of zest in the filling and the recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup of lemon juice, too. I made the components ahead. Here they are ready to be put together late Saturday afternoon.

The recipe isn't one of my own. It's by Dorie Greenspan from her cookbook Baking: from my home to yours. I added fresh raspberries around the outer rim of the tart and then another circle of them closer to the middle, but the filling is just as written. The tart shell is delicious, too, and easy to make if you have a food processor. 

Both the tart shell and the filling require chilling time, so start this recipe ahead. You can even make both parts a day before...just put them together at least an hour before you serve the tart so the filling can thicken with the cold...for cleaner slices. I didn't wait long enough after filling the tart shell, so the slices on Saturday were not clean cut. When we had another piece instead of lunch today the filling had chilled enough that the pieces looked very nice. The flavor was even more lemony if that's possible!

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart 

By Dorie Greenspan in Baking, From My Home To Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 large lemons or up to 9 smaller ones)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe follows), fully baked and cooled

Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer (if straining out the zest), and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand.
Bring a few inches of water to simmer in a saucepan or the bottom of a double boiler.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water, or in the top pan of a double boiler. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, or set the top into the bottom of the double boiler, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks, which means that the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking! Continue to check the temperature. It might take a while. so be patient. Usually it's done in about 10 minutes.

As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove from the heat and, if removing the zest, strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. If not removing the zest, just scrape the cream right into the blender (or food processor). Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the food processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter, about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sided as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once all the butter is in, keep blending/processing for another 3 minutes.

Pour the cream into a container (I used a large Pyrex bowl), press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. I like to swirl the top with the back of a spoon. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed. If desired decorate with fresh berries.

Note: The filling will keep in the fridge for 4 days, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and whisk before putting into the tart shell.

Sweet Tart Dough
From Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (Frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- there will be some tiny pieces and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk to break it up, then add it a little at a time, pulsing afer each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough forms clumps and curds. (I had to add about 2 teaspoons of water before clumps would form.) Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, knead lightly just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. In all of this, don't overwork the dough.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press clumps of the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece (about a teaspoon worth), which you should save in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Patch the crust if necessary, then bake for another 8 minutes or so, until it is firm and golden brown. Keep an eye on it the last few minutes and pull it out if it gets darker than golden. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling. 

Happy Spring! We have some spring bulbs blooming, but it has been rainy and chilly, so we are behind the usual blooming time. Still, it's the Spring Equinox today, so let's celebreat the coming of another season.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Bread Baking Babes Are A Village


Today is Bread Baking Babes day! Each month a different Babe chooses a bread for us all to bake and we post on the 16th. We encourage each other and try things for each neighbors in a village. I've been a Babe for many years now and I still get a thrill when I bake the chosen bread. This month I'm Kitchen of the Month and I chose a fairly simple, but delicious Greek Village Bread - Horiatiko Psomi - which is enriched with milk and butter and is baked in a pot. The top is given an egg glaze after rising, then sprinkled with sesame seeds. They add a nice touch of flavor and texture to this bread. The semolina flour gives it some flavor. It's a somewhat rich bread,  not the simple Greek bread which has only flour, salt, yeast and olive oil.

Lucy Parissi is the recipe developer, food  photographer and author behind Supergolden Bakes. has this recipe on their website

I have had this bread still warm with some butter, toasted, and as the bread for a ham sandwich. My favorite was the toast, but it was great bread the other ways, too.

 I love breads that can be baked in a Dutch oven...or on a baking stone and covered with a stainless steel bowl or something similar. You usually get a great crust and nice, moist loaf since the moisture is contained in the Dutch oven.

This is a fairly fine grained bread and mine was nicely moist, too. The bottom crust was sturdy and the top crust fairly thin and tender. You can slice it fairly thin if you like. Good gluten development, too. I did retard it overnight, which is almost always a good idea if you have time and refrigerator space.

Please be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see their take on this lovely bread round. I know that some have used their sourdough starter and it's likely that specialty flours like spelt have been used as well. Thanks Elizabeth of blog from OUR Kitchen for the beautiful Badge.

I encourage you to be a Bread Baking Buddy! Just bake the bread, using the recipe below, take a photo, and email the photo and a brief description of your bake to me by March 29th. I'll email you a Buddy Badge and include you in the round-up. Use 'plachman at sonic dot net' for the email address. Look at that photo below...of course you want to have some for yourself!

Normally I would include a story of how I found this recipe or why I chose it, but this week has been super busy...much more than I gave you a description of the bread instead.

Happy Bread Baking Babes March baking!

Horiatiko Psomi


4 1/3 cups (520 g) strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting

1/2 cup fine semolina 

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons (1 packet) rapid rise yeast

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) tepid water

1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

1/4 cup (60 ml) butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon olive oil, for the bowl


1 egg white, beaten with 2 teaspoons water

3 tablespoons sesame seeds



Place the flour, semolina, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir together to combine.

Add the water, milk, and melted, cooled butter. Mix together on low speed using the dough hook attachment until the dough is elastic, smooth to the touch and forms a ball around the hook.

Alternately, to do it by hand, place the flour, semolina, sugar and salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir together to combine. 

Add the water, milk and melted, cooled butter.

Mix together using a dough whisk or a wooden spoon. You will have a shaggy dough.

Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes then use your hands or the dough whisk to stretch and fold the dough

Flip the dough over and let it rest, loosely covered, for five minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold three more times, resting in between.

First Rise - either method

Drizzle the bowl with olive oil and turn the dough a few times so that it is greased with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and leave it to rise for about 90 minutes or until doubled. In the summer it may take less time.

Deflate the dough and turn out onto a worktop lightly dusted with a little flour.

Shape the bread into a ball. Spread the dough out to make a rectangular shape. Fold one end in and then the other end over it like a letter. Flip over and use your hands to shape the dough into a ball. Cup in your hands and place in a bowl or a prepped banneton to rise for the second time, covered.


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for at least half an hour while the loaf is having its second rise. Place a lidded pot (Dutch oven) in the oven to preheat.

Gently invert the bread onto a dough sling or piece of baking parchment. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Use a razor or lame to slice the top of the loaf with a cross shape. Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Lower the loaf into the pot, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Take the lid of the hot pot and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Lift the bread out of the pot and allow it to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

How We Think About Time


With daylight savings time started for much of the U.S. today, there has been a great deal of discussion about having it be permanent of being dropped in favor of regular time all year...or just keeping it as is.

Personally I've always done better with daylight savings time and wouldn't mind it being all year. That said, I know others who struggle with the springing forward and falling back thing each year. I think some of it has to do with some of us being morning people and some being night people, but that is a completely unscientific way of looking at it.

Do you have a preference, dear reader? Do you want to share?

One of the things that we can do in the kitchen to make time work for us is to bake bread. Inexperienced bread bakers don't feel that way; they worry about over proofing and under proofing and such, but if you've ever tried retarding bread dough in the fridge (letting your partially risen or even unrisen dough sit in the fridge for hours at a time and even overnight or for a few days), you know that time is on your side. You get to determine when to do the final rise and bake...and retarding your bread dough often yields a better, more complex flavor.

In a few days, on March 16, the Bread Baking Babes will reveal their latest bread bake. Come and see if time had anything to do with how it turned out, OK?

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

A Saucy Pasta Dish for Asparagus Season

I hope that you love asparagus as much as I do. We have been getting some for a few weeks, but the asparagus coming into the market now are thicker and really fresh. I like them just steamed al dente, but tonight I updated a dish that Sweetie and I enjoyed first in 2013, so ten years ago at asparagus time.

By the way, Sweetie has been going through a tough time for the past three weeks or so. His back has bothered him on and off over the years, but a bout this long and this painful hasn't happened for about 20 years. He finally agreed last Friday to go the his primary care doctor...but saw the Physician's Assistant, who is quite good...and ended up with some muscle relaxants, pain pills, and a referral to a back doctor.

Those meds knocked him out, so he has been sleeping a lot, even during the day (which is unusual for him), but it has done the trick. Along with frequent chiropractor visits, the rest and meds have finally worked so that he didn't need any strong meds today at all...just an ibuprofen.

This dish was sort of a celebration for a better back because I remembered that every time I made the old version that Sweetie loved it. To update it I've added butternut squash 'zoodles', fairly thin strands of the squash that I found in Whole Foods today, already prepared although still raw.

In the original recipe you stew pieces of asparagus and broccoli in garlic and oil. These veggies go on top of pasta that has been dressed with an almost cream sauce made with ricotta cheese and some of the hot water used to cook the pasta. Today I used some fresh linguine and some Kite Hill almond milk 'ricotta'. Don't forget to use freshly grated nutmeg, if possible, in the sauce...makes all the difference!

The updated recipe calls for tossing the asparagus and broccoli pieces in the garlic and oil, then removing them. The butternut squash noodles are then tossed with the remaining oil and garlic and spread over the bottom of the pan. Because they take a little longer to cook than the asparagus pieces and broccoli florets, having the squash on the bottom of the pan allows it to have more heat.  Since it's all cooked covered over low heat, all the veggies cook slowly and become flavored with the garlic.

Of course while the veggies are cooking you boil the pasta and make the sauce with the ricotta. Once everything is done it gets tossed together and makes a really delicious side dish or meal. I would imagine that you could make it with just the squash noodles and broccoli when asparagus isn't in season, but I do love asparagus and it shines in this recipe.

Fettuccine with Ricotta and Asparagus, Broccoli and Butternut Squash

from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
serves 4 - 6

3/4 lb tender young asparagus ( or 1/2 lb asparagus and 1/4 lb broccoli crown)
1/2 lb butternut squash 'noodles'
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 -4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb fettuccine
6 quarts water
1/2 lb fresh creamy ricotta 
dash nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim touch ends off asparagus after rinsing them. Cut tender parts into 2-inch lengths. Cut broccoli crown into small florets. If needed, cut the butternut squash 'noodles' into 6-8-inch lengths.

In a sauté pan place 3 tablespoon olive oil and the garlic; stir to blend. Add the asparagus pieces and toss to coat, then remove and reserve. Repeat with the broccoli florets. Finally, add the additional tablespoon of oil if needed and add the squash 'noodles'; toss to coat and then spread over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the coated asparagus pieces and broccoli florets over the squash (do not stir) and, over low heat and covered, gently stew the garlic, squash, asparagus and broccoli in the oil until the vegetables are tender but not brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally the last 5 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until tender. While pasta cooks, extract 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and mix it in a small saucepan with the ricotta. Set saucepan over low heat and gently cream the ricotta and cooking water. When the ricotta is warm, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Drain the cooked pasta and combine immediately with the cheese sauce, tossing to mix well. Add the veggie mixture and toss with tongs to lightly coat the vegies and mix them with the pasta. If desired, plate or a warm platter. Sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese and serve at once.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Cupcakes and Buttercream

Not doing too much baking these days. I save it for special occasions like a recent birthday celebration. Didn't get the best photos, but they were truly outstanding cupcakes...I think it was the buttercream! If I share like this I'm not as tempted to eat them all myself. Would like to look OK in a bathing suit this, not a would take forever to get that slim!

I decided to do cupcakes since they are easy serve and can be cut in half if the celebrants want a small dessert. The buttercream is a recipe that my daughter gave me. She has been baking amazing layer cakes as a hobby and giving the cakes to co-workers and this is the buttercream she uses. The cupcakes are from the book Perfect Cakes by America's Test Kitchen. On page 70 there is a cupcake recipe that produces a lovely yellow cupcake that is moist and fine textured. You can use it for cupcakes with any frosting, not just this buttercream. You use a stand mixer, start with the dry ingredients in the bowl, add the butter a piece at a time and the paddle combines it with the dry ingredient until it looks like sand, then you beat in the eggs and, finally the milk and vanilla extract. I added a bit of lemon oil, too, since I wanted lemon flavor. There was also lemon in the buttercream. Ignore the chocolate mini muffins in the photos...they were purchased and a lot were left over because, hello, buttercream!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 12

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
3 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liner cups.

Using a stand mixer and paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together on low speed. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until mixture resembles coarse sand, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined and scraping beater and bowl as needed. Add milk and vanilla, increase speed to medium, and mix until light and fluffy, with no lumps remaining, about 3 minutes.

Portion batter evenly between the 12 lined cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Rotate pan about halfway through baking. Cool cupcakes in the tin 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cupcakes from tin and cool directly on the wire rack until fully cool, about 1 hour.

Frost with favorite frosting and decorate as desired.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
from Kate  - enough for a layer cake - divide in half for 12 cupcakes
(Note: 4 sticks of butter and a 32 oz bag of powdered sugar will yield enough frosting to crumb coat and frost a 3-layer 6" cake. Use 1 cup powdered sugar to every stick (8 tablespoons) of butter.)

8 cups powdered sugar
4 sticks salted butter at room temperature (1 pound)
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 
lemon extract to taste (for vanilla frosting use vanilla extract)

Use the paddle attachment for your stand mixer and whip the butter well, scraping down the sides as needed, until it is uniform and fluffy and light colored.

After the sugar is all mixed in, add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream and about 2 teaspoons flavoring, then whip that together. If consistency doesn't seem right, add additional whipping cream 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping well after each addition. Use to ice cupcakes. Use pastry bag and tips to do decorative icing. Add color to buttercream if desired.

Gel or powder food coloring is best for coloring the frosting. A splurge is oil-based coloring brand Colour Mill - the best and some very cool colors...found on Amazon.