On any given Sunday morning, you can find me standing at the butcher block counter in my kitchen, all-important first cup of coffee within easy reach, eggs and shredded cheese and odds and ends of vegetables arrayed before me. Even without coffee -- even in my sleep -- I can preheat the oven and whip up a breakfast casserole in less than ten minutes. And half an hour later, when my household wakes up, something like this broccoli, mushroom, egg and cheese casserole will be there to greet them. I'm a huge fan of protein-centered breakfasts, and I also love egg and cheese casseroles for lunch or worknight dinners. Unlike souffles, egg casseroles aren't fussy, which is good to know if you're planning to cook while not quite fully awake.
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Travel the roads of northwest Rhode Island at this time of year, and you'll spot white plastic buckets, often in twos, dangling from the sugar maples. If the days are warm and the nights cold, small steel funnels tapped into the tree trunks will direct a steady drip of sap into the buckets. That sap, boiled down over many hours, becomes the maple syrup we pour over pancakes and johnnycakes. (It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.) Real maple syrup also makes a fine base for a savory vinaigrette, adding just a little sweetness, like honey or agave nectar, to balance the acidity of the vinegar. I'm not a huge fan of Brussels sprouts, as you know, but when a bag of shaved sprouts fell into my shopping cart at Trader Joe's a few days ago, I roasted them along with thinly sliced broccoli florets, and tossed everything with a bit of this irresistible maple mustard vinaigrette, with maple syrup from a farm here in town. I kind of, sort of, loved it.
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If you've been hanging around The Perfect Pantry for a while, you've heard me rail against recipes that require you to make twelve other things -- sauces, spice blends, stock -- in order to have the components for one recipe. So it wouldn't be fair to ask you to make an entire beef stew so you'll have leftover already-diced rutabaga, parsnips and carrots that won't quite fit into the stew pot, but which will fit quite nicely into your soup pot. (And it would be especially unfair if you don't eat meat!) This root vegetable soup, vegan and and gluten-free, carries its own sweetness; add some fruit and warm spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala, and whip everything together with your immersion blender. If you love cilantro, garnish individual servings with a few chopped leaves.
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After years of feeding our vegetarian kids and grandkids every possible permutation of pasta-sauce-cheese, I've been mining the pantry for new ideas. A recently discovered package of farro, purchased ages ago at one of Providence's Italian markets, inspired a main course dish that pairs this nutty, chewy grain with earthy mushrooms, crisp broccoli, crunchy almonds and salty feta. It's an explosion of taste and texture that satisfies, as an entrée for vegetarians, or a side dish with roast turkey. You can buy instant farro at Trader Joe's; it cooks in ten minutes, but the texture isn't as chewy as the regular farro that takes only a few minutes longer. In the time it takes to cook the farro, prepare all the rest of the ingredients, so the whole dish comes together in less than half an hour.
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