Layered egg casserole for a lazy Sunday

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Happy Easter. When I was growing up, days like this were spent as lazy days with the family, eating a couple hard-boiled eggs and toast before diving into the Easter candy. I still like to have an easy breakfast on Easter. This year, I decided to put together a make-ahead egg casserole. It was surprisingly simple, though I’d use smaller dishes next time so the portions are smaller.

I have a set of baking dishes that were branded as ramekins, but are actually quite huge. I used two of those for this recipe, but you can use a muffin tin and divide the layers accordingly. This would likely make four or five muffin-size casseroles.

Ingredients
1 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage, crumbled
1 head of broccoli, chopped
8 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
Beecher’s Smoked Flagship Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray ramekins with cooking spray, or grease with butter.

Put 1/4 of the crumbled sausage at the bottom of each ramekin. Put half of the broccoli on top of the sausage. Pour half of the eggs in each ramekin. Top with the remainder of the sausage. Bake for 30 minutes, or until eggs are cooked.

Once the casseroles are done, use a knife to separate the casseroles from the sides of the ramekins. Overturn onto a plate and grate some cheese on top. Serve warm.

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Turn broccoli and cheese into a healthy soup

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After all those holiday sweets, I’ve been craving vegetable-loaded meals that are good for me. Broccoli is one of my go-to vegetables, but I usually just roast it or steam it. This time around, I was craving soup and decided to try my hand at broccoli-and-cheese soup.

One of my friends recommended the broccoli-and-cheese soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. I trust that publication, so I searched for the recipe and found the recipe from the March/April 2011 edition on another blogger’s site.

The baking soda in this recipe might seem unusual, but it speeds up the release of the broccoli’s sulfurous compounds, according to America’s Test Kitchen. Adding the cheese a bit at a time keeps it from becoming a gloppy mass in the soup. The spinach brightens the green color of the soup, too.

Overall, this recipe only took about 40 minutes from start to finish. It was a vegetable soup, but with a bit of saltiness and a slightly cheesy flavor. It was like an adult version of broccoli with cheese sauce that my mom used to serve. It was delicious.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces; stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4-in thick slices
1 medium onion, rough chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Ground black pepper

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes.

Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

Add broth and 2 cups water; increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute (the spinach will give the soup a bright green color).

Add cheese a handful at a time, allowing each handful to melt before adding more.

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can also process in a food processor or a blender.

Return soup to Dutch oven, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Adjust consistency of soup with up to 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Broccoli bites take snacks back to basics

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I recently saw this broccoli bites recipe on Pinterest. It seemed simple enough, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a nice, basic recipe that only calls for four ingredients, which leaves plenty of room to experiment with other flavors and additions. It doesn’t require any special equipment, either. Mix it with your hands, form it into patties and bake. That’s it.

Next time I make these, I will likely use 1/2 cup of cheddar and 1/2 cup Parmesan, because I wanted more bite to them. Or, I might try a sharper cheddar — medium didn’t offer the flavorful punch I wanted.

The most difficult thing to figure out was what to serve them with. I tried sour cream, but it wasn’t quite right. So I tried a bit of mayonnaise with worcestershire, which was better; but I think ranch dressing might be the best option — I just didn’t have any on hand.

2broccolibitesFor something to snack on, these are pretty hearty and filling.

Ingredients
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut and steamed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form small patties and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over patties and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let cool for up to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Beautiful broccoli shines in simple pasta dish

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The farmers market continues to have a variety of impossible-to-resist produce — and I keep buying it. A few weeks ago, I picked up some beautiful broccoli from one of the booths. I wanted to make those most of it, so I started looking through my cookbooks for a suitable recipe.

Since it was a weeknight after work, I wanted something I could make in 30 minutes or less. I decided to try another recipe from the “Five-ingredient Fridays” chapter of Curtis Stone’s “What’s for Dinner?” The recipe, Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil, called for ingredients I had on hand and didn’t require a lot of cleanup. After about 20 minutes, I ended up with a hearty, delicious vegetarian dish that was great comfort food after a long day at work. The broccoli flavor really came through when paired with a simple brown butter sauce, and the pine nuts added a nice crunch that provided great contrast to the the pasta.

Though I’m not a vegetarian, sometimes it’s just nice to make something that allows vegetables to be the star of the meal. I’m looking forward to making more dinners with more finds from the farmers market.

Ingredients
13 ounces broccoli florets with 1-inch stems (about 6 cups)
1 pound orecchiette
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until bright green. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the broccoli out of the water, draining it well, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Return the water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orecchiette.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and stir for about 2 minutes, or until it has turned hazelnut brown. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until hot.

Add the pasta to the broccoli mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the basil, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.