Potato and Broccoli Casserole

This is the time of year, my friends, when I start to crave different kinds of food.  The wonderful, starchy, gooey cheesey stuff that is this kind of casserole. 
Really, honestly, it's just glorified scalloped potato... no jokes.  Just throw some sauteed veggies in the bottom of the baking dish and bake away.  What I wanted though was a kind of potato topped pie.  Kind of like a Shepherd's Pie but with veggies and cheesey bechamel sauce.  Well, what I got was kinda different than that and, truth be told, it looks like crap in the photo's.  You gotta trust me on this one though.  It was good. 
First thing that I could've done to take a better picture was not be in a hurry. 
Second, wait until there was better light - like maybe in April.
Thirdly, waited for about 15 minutes until the casserole had cooled a bit and wasn't so runny (this kind of lines up with No. 1 I realize)
So, Yeah, Whatever.

I had this awesome broccoli and zucchini that had just arrived in the food box.  I had these gorgeous potatoes waiting for good use (p.s. kid #2 eats potato!).  So my grand ideas for vegetable pot pie with potato topping turned into scalloped potatoes with broccoli and zucchini on the bottom.  Not nearly as sexy sounding with crap on the bottom. 

So, even though the pictures aren't that great and even though it sounds like crap when I describe it, it really was good after all. 
Moral of this story:
Not everything that looks good tastes good.
Not everything that looks bad tastes bad.
Not everything that sounds like crap tastes like crap.

Potato and Broccoli Casserole (mine... my own... my precious)
serves 6 as a side

5 med potato, sliced med. thick
1 med/lg head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 med zucchini, sliced thick
1 1/2 cup button mushrooms, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a lg pot of salted water, boil the sliced potatoes for about 7 min.  Remove from heat and drain.
In a lg pan (or the baking dish you will use if it's also stove top capable ;-) saute the onion,broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms until the broccoli is bright green and the zucchini is looking a little wilted.  Set aside


6 tbsp butter (1/3 c)
6 tbsp flour
3 3/4 c milk, warmed
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
2 cups cheddar (the sharper/older the better)

In a med pan, melt the butter.  Once melted add in the flour.  Mix together until it's well incorporated and might be a little pasty.
Slowly, add in the warmed milk.  Whisk continuously.
Once the milk is all in.  Keep it on med/low heat and whisk until it begins to thicken up - this should take about 5 minutes or so.
Add in the mustard powder, nutmeg and salt.  Mix well
Add in the cheese and allow it to melt fully.


In a lg baking dish, place the sauteed veggies on the bottom.  Top with half of the bechamel sauce.  Top with the sliced potato.  On top of that pour the rest of the bechamel.  On the very top add some sliced mozzarella or grated parmesan cheese.

Bake for 25 min.  Once out of the oven wait for about 10 - 15 min before serving, otherwise your pics will look like mine - sauce going in all directions!!

Raisin Bread with Cinnamon Swirl

So earlier in the week I decided that I was going to make bread on the weekend.  Furthermore, I decided that I was going to make Raisin Bread.  I'm capitalizing 'Raisin Bread' because it's a big deal in our house.  We hardly ever buy it.  In fact, it's only during holiday times when we are feeling especially loose with our budget that we buy things like Raisin Bread.  So, on Sunday afternoon (yes, during my Bollywood movie time - which was off the chain on Sunday people - Bollywood horror flick... I mean!) I made Raisin Bread.

What I discovered though was that I had trouble finding a definitive recipe for the stuff.  I thought that I had a pretty good collection of recipe books.  I thought that online I could find something that hit me.  I checked them all (my books that is), I checked online (although it wasn't an extensive search by any means, 'cause I got frustrated).  Nothing was hitting me as my Raisin Bread recipe.  I knew what I wanted:
White Bread
Raisins in the bread
Some kind of cinnamon swirl

Weird that I couldn't find anything that was exactly what I was looking for.  So, I just made a recipe out of a bunch of recipes.  I don't know really what that makes this bread.  Did it turn out exactly the way I wanted it to???
What would I change?  More raisins, more swirl and more rolling.  Bread.  That was good.  I've altered the recipe below to reflect those changes because, believe me, I'll be making this again.
For those of you who've been around for a while - reading my blog that is.  You may remember that I resolved earlier this year to work on my phobia of all things yeast.  So, right now.  In November.  I'm kinda proud of myself.  So far, I've made:
Cinnamon Buns (need to work on that one)
Pizza Dough
Hot Cross Buns (those were good)
Raisin Bread (here and now)
That officially raises my yeast cooking this year by about 400% give or take.  This is good.  Who says that New Years Resolutions never stick?

Raisin Bread with Cinnamon Swirl (adapted from a bunch of recipes but mostly an old Five Roses clipping that I had laying around ;-S)
makes 2 loaves

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour (1 cup set aside)
1 tsp salt

2 pkgs/2 tbsp yeast (I did not use quick rise - just regular)
1/2 c warm water (not hot)
2 tsp sugar

1 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs

1 1/2 cup raisins

3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt, nutmeg and cloves

Mix together the flour (except the extra cup) and salt.  Set aside.
Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Let it stand for 10 min.  It should have expanded and be foamy.
Melt together the milk, butter and sugar over low heat.  Do not let it get too hot.
Add the warmed milk mixture, yeast mixture and the eggs to the flour.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add the additional flour until the dough is a sticky consistency (I used the whole extra cup myself).  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 min.  Seriously, didn't take long for me at all.
Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl.  Put a little grease over the top of the dough as well (I just buttered it a little bit).  Cover with a clean cloth and put it in a draft free/warm place to rise for an hour.  It should have doubled.

Meanwhile melt the filling ingredients together over low heat and then set aside.

Punch down the dough and add in the raisins.  Knead in gently just until incorporated.  Divide the dough and roll each half into a rectangle.  Divide and spread the filling evenly over each rectangle.

Roll up the dough like a jelly roll so that it will fit into your pan.  Place each into a greased loaf pan.  Cover and let it rise again for another hour.  Again, it should be doubled.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush the top of each loaf with egg white.  Bake for about 40 min.
Do not slice until the loaf has cooled for about 20 min... otherwise... well, just don't do it!

Brownies... again and again and again.

Ok... so I'm in this weird place where I'm just wanting to make stuff I've made a gazillion times.  Nothing new here folks... just brownies.  Kinda like the chocolate chip cookies recently.  I know it's weird and I've been trying to figure out why I might be craving un-fancy food.
While 'brain-searching' I came to some interesting conclusions (about myself ;-)
A.  I don't need to have fancy food very often.  I like going to the pub (as long as it's tasty, well done and the stuff on tap is good though... come on!) on a regular basis.  'Chef' food is great for my birthday or some other special occasion but I LOVE a good burger (I'm picky about those!), schwarma or roti.
B.  The reason that you keep going back to recipes like brownies, chocolate chip cookies, spaghetti sauce and roast chicken is because they work.  They're good - damn good - and everybody likes them.  They are versatile and virtually never disappoint.

I'm a home cook.  There it is.  Nothing fancy.  Food my kids will eat.  Food that doesn't take forever or have a whole butt load of steps.  I'm not sticking my food into a light box to get good shots.  I take the shots on my kitchen table... where we eat the food.  I would be lying to ya if I tried to be anything else and I would be lyin' if I told you that I didn't (absolutely) enjoy trying a stupid amount of recipes for the same thing.  Don't you think though that we almost never make a recipe the same way twice?  Just sayin'
So, although this recipe doesn't look revolutionary, they are really good.  This is the first brownie recipe that I've tried that truly and honestly cracked on the top AND not because they were falling apart.  The addition of the chocolate is brilliant.  It bakes right into the brownie so I got these moist, gooey spots - exactly the way I like 'em.  Yup.  I like 'em gooey, chocolatey and A LOT!

Brownies (from delicious Mag UK)
makes one square pan

2 1/4 c sugar (350 g)
2/3 c cocoa powder (80 g)
1/2 c all purpose flour (60g)
1 tsp baking powder
4 lg eggs, lightly beaten
200g unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla
200 g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Line a square (22 cm) baking tin with parchment or butter and flour it.

Mix together the sugar, cocoa, flour and baking powder in a bowl.

The butter tower that I made
In another bowl mix together the eggs, butter and vanilla until combined.  Add to the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Add in the chocolate and mix well.

Pour into pan.  Bake for about 35 min (the recipe says 40 - 45 but mine was more than ready at about 35 min).  Remove from oven and leave in pan for about 10 min. to settle.  Cut into squares and serve.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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