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Dirty Little Secret


Considering how often those with the most vehemently expressed opinions end up being exposed for blatant hypocrisy, this may be a small matter in the grand scheme, but I am a girl with a confession. Despite my claims that processed foods are the devil, I secretly eat instant mashed potatoes when no one else is looking. I just can’t help myself!

This little habit of fast and furious carb consumption tends to come to a head when Brian is off on tour and I forget to make proper meals for myself until my body demands to be fed immediately. However, when those friendly pleas for starch started growling around the other day, I took a few minutes to look in the fridge, Google a bit, and come up with a dish that was at least marginally more well balanced before I hit the pantry. In the end, I managed to get a handful of mushrooms and that bunch of swiss chard out of the crisper drawer and into the pot as well.

This is not an elegant or especially attractive side dish, but if it’s just you and the family on a cool fall night, it sure is a tasty one. Add a piece of smoked salmon and it is a full feast for familiars.

Layered Mashed Potato, Mushroom, and Swiss Chard Casserole
heavily(!) adapted from Eating Well

(Every single ingredient in this casserole can be included in the amount that suits your preference. In the end, you’re only baking it to heat the dish through and melt the cheese, so just make adjustments to the cooking times as needed.)

Layered Mashed Potato, Mushroom, and Swiss Chard Casserole Ingredients

6-8 cups instant mashed potatoes, prepared according to package instructions
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, beaten

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms (I used shitaki), chopped
1 bunch swiss chard, deribbed and chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon thyme
Cheese of the amount and variety to suit your taste (I used about cup of a shredded Italian blend I had left over from pizza making)

Prepare mashed potatoes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil and sauté the onion until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms release their juices, about 10 minutes. Add thyme and pepper to the pan.

Whisk broth and flour together and add this liquid and the swiss chard to the pan. Cover and allow greens to wilt, about five minutes, then remove lid and toss the vegetables until greens are cooked through and broth has thickened. Remove from heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed, considering you will also be adding cheese (so mind the salt—I needed no salt aside from what was in the broth and cheese already).

Stir the egg/egg white mixture into the potatoes. In a 3-quart casserole dish of your choosing, place half the potatoes, topped by half the cheese and then all of the sautéed vegetables. Continue with the remaining potatoes and top with cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and then switch to broil and brown the top. Watch carefully as the cheese can shift from browned to burned quickly if not well monitored.

I can’t say this is a health food, but at least I get an automatic serving of greens every time I cave and eat more of the leftovers!

Cauliflower: That Is the Question


I have a particular peeve regarding cooks who regularly lament, “I love X but my husband hates it, so we never get to eat it anymore…”

I mean, I get it: you love to cook, and you love to cook for the one you love. I’m right there with you. But if you love to cook (and eat!) something the rest of the family has no interest in, well then, all the more for you from time to time. Unless they’re too short to reach the counter yet, they can get by on something they can fix for themselves if they’d rather abstain.

In my house, this kind of discussion leads directly to the cauliflower. I can’t say I’d dream about it at night if it were suddenly wiped out, but I like it. Well enough to snatch one up at my CSA this past weekend, even knowing that my husband would not touch a bite of the dastardly vegetable.

With a recipe that’s pretty much “Mix 3T olive oil and 1 T sweet curry in a bowl. Toss with one head cauliflower, and bake at 325˚F for 30 minutes, stirring half-way through,” no one needs to get very emotional over it. In the end, it’s just another bowl of fabulous looking vegetables: To be or not to be enjoyed.