Rocking the broccoli casserole

When I think of winter-time family gatherings, I think of board games, cider, and broccoli casserole.  My friend Cody once called this dish a hillbilly’s perfect dinner, but if being a hillbilly is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Broccoli Casserole

  • 20 oz frozen broccoli, thawed
  • 1 can reduced fat cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (usually around one block)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 gloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 bag ruffled potato chips – actual amount needed depends on the size of your pan
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Thaw/defrost the broccoli so it’s not frozen when you start.
  3. Stir everything other than the chips together in a bowl, mixing well.  Spread into a casserole dish – any size you want, depending on the surface area you want to leave for the chips.  (We did it in a huge pan so basically every other bite had chips on top).
  4. Top with crushed potato chips.
  5. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes – let rest for 5 minutes when done, as this comes out of the oven really hot!

Does your family have any crazy recipes that show up at group gatherings?  Anything with potato chips on top?

Victory over adulthood

I did it!

With the help of Katie and Nate and encouragement from Mom, I cooked my first chicken!

It was easy to make, in theory – take out the bag inside, rub with olive oil and spices (that you should prepare beforehand so you don’t have to touch anything after you start dealing with the chicken), cook at 375 degrees for 15- 20 minutes per pound until the inside is 190 degrees (a conservative estimate, since some websites say 165).  But in reality, the mess and the hassle of chopping up a full chicken – as well as the actual uncertainty about when it would be done – made it not entirely worthwhile. I’ll probably go back to tofu and salmon for my dinner staples.

Still, I’m glad I got to have this hilarious cooking adventure with my awesome friends, I got to cross this off my life list, and I am one step closer to eventually being able to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family someday!

Plus, it went great with this holiday favorite, which I’ll tell you all about later this week:


Marvelous Mocha Madness

I dare you to find a richer, more decadent mocha cookie than this one from Gourmet.  Kat and I made these munchies for her housewarming party earlier this year, and I recreated them this afternoon to bring to a bonfire tonight (I am daring myself to try them instead of a graham cracker in a s’more, though I may die from sugar shock…).

I used this recipe, with a few modifications:

  • I ran out of white sugar and had to use some brown, which was fine, but I should have gotten all the lumps out in advance because they were a pain to do while cooking.
  • I melted 2 of the cups of chocolate chips and only put 1 cup in before baking – last time, we melted all the chocolate and it was great, so I didn’t want to go to far with their 50/50 breakdown – these cookies are so rich, you don’t really need pockets of chocolate.
  • I tried to bake some in a mini-muffin pan because I ran out of baking sheets.  Major fail.
  • I used instant espresso powder – last time, we used actual espresso, which left a bit of a crunch in the final product.  This way isn’t necessarily better, it was just cheaper.  (I might even try it as a drink later…)
  • I ate way too much batter, and now I am stuffed.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

Make a wish!

It’s 11:11 on 11/11/11.  Starting when I was a kid, my sister and I used to feverishly believe in making wishes when the clock was full of 1’s.  We would should “11:11!” at the top of our lungs whenever we saw it, so wherever the other one of us was, we wouldn’t miss our chance for a wish.  Even now, I find myself silently wishing, usually for the same few things, over and over, whenever this time occurs.

Do you think there’s something special about 11:11?  Have you made an epic wish yet today?

Things I love right now

  • My morning boot camp routine (free, run by City Sports in a park near Porter)
  • My boot camp buddy, Rachel, who I harass via text message each morning to make sure she’s going to be there
  • Quinoa and tahini
  • Strong women winning elected office (three cheers for Ayanna Pressley!)
  • The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton, my current bedtime read
  • 11/11/11 being right around the corner – got an epic wish planned?
And on the not-so-much list?
  • Christmas carols in stores.  It’s not even Thanksgiving!
  • My office’s inability to stay at a comfortable temperature
  • That it’s no longer teva weather
What’s on the hot and not list in your life right now?

Keen on quinoa and tahini salmon

Since our last party (and my attempt at hummus), I’ve been working my way through a jar of tahini.  I make it into sauces to put on asparagus, spinach, tofu, and more.  Tonight, I took it one step further and combined it with my new favorite winter grain – quinoa – for a perfect sweet and exotic autumn dish.  It’s light, colorful, and super tasty.  Try it and tell me what you think!

Tahini Sauce (marinade and dressing):

  • 2 tbsp tahini, stirred well
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (optional, I just like my sauces a little sweet!)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped (I use it from the jar and include it in everything)
  • dash salt and pepper

Blend (or stir) all the items in the sauce together in a small mixer until ingredients are well combined.

Tahini Salmon on Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Craisins


  • tahini dressing (above)
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used something called “sprouted quinoa trio” which included red and black quinoa)
  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (I buy it frozen and reheated it for 3 minutes in the microwave)
  • 1 small onion, chopped into smallish pieces
  • 2 tbsp craisins or cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1/4 lb salmon filet per person, skin removed


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the salmon in a foil-lined pan and spread the top and sides with the tahini mixture, taking care not to touch your fishy utensil back into the rest of the sauce.  Bake the salmon for 15-20 minutes.


  1. Boil 1 1/2 cups of water (for the quinoa).  When the water is boiling, add the quinoa and cook covered for 12 minutes, stirring often.  When the water is almost entirely absorbed, throw in the cranberries.
  2. In a skillet, saute the onion, butternut squash, and garlic together until lightly browned.
  3. When the quinoa is done cooking, remove from heat and stir in the cooked vegetables.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Serve a portion of quinoa topped with a spoonful of tahini dressing and a piece of salmon.  Eat warm, serves about 4.

Happy fall!