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EnviroMom Meatless Supper Club: Week 4

I acquired a copy of Mollie Katzen's veg cookbook The Enchanted Broccoli Forest in college, during a phase when I decided to become vegetarian for no real good reason -- a bold move for someone who wasn't a big fan of veggies. On second thought, it may be one of those unwritten college rules that you have to be a vegetarian for at least a semester. Anywho, I was not much of a chef but loved the whimsical name, and just had to try the recipe. I made it for a friend but remember wishing the broccoli didn't come out quite so brown. So I'm trying it again some 20 years (oh lordy, did I just confess that?) later, hoping its name will work magic with my family but that I can keep the broccoli trees bright green this time. Behold:

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

1 pound of broccoli, cut into tree-like spears
6 cups cooked brown or white rice
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 large clove crushed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp dried mint
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
3 large eggs
1/4 freshly minced parsley
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or Swiss cheese
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp melted butter

Cut the broccoli into tree-like spears. Cook your rice. Mollie's recipe calls for 2 cups brown rice and 3 cups of water cooked in a saucepan about 20-30 minutes. I did mine in a rice cooker instead. While rice is cooking, saute onions, garlic and everything else you might desire in butter until onions are translucent (8-10 minutes). Because my kids are picky-picky-picky, I chopped my onions superfine so they'd be too small to pick out, and I also omitted all green herbs (dill, mint and parsley), as well as the pepper family (black and cayenne). Otherwise there would be much gagging and gnashing of teeth. Never a pretty sight at the dinner table.

Next, the recipe says to beat three eggs, then mix in the parsley, grated cheese and rice. Another version of this recipe also suggested putting sunflower sees in, and omits the eggs. I passed on the parsley and seeds, but opted for the eggs, and cut way back on the cheese -- just sprinkling some over the top of the rice-egg mixture. To expand the forest metaphor, think of the cheese as a dusting of fall leaves below the broccoli trees.

The recipe says to steam the broccoli until it's bright green at this point, then stick them upright into the bed of the rice mixture that's been placed in a greased casserole pan. As I recollect, this made the broccoli turn from bright to dull green, and there's no way I'd get my kids to eat that. So I baked just the rice-egg part in a 325 degree oven (covered with foil) for 30 minutes. Right before popping it out of the oven, I lightly micro-steamed my broccoli (make sure it doesn't get floppy), then poked it into the 'dirt' bed using the end of a wooden spoon to make guide holes. The recipe calls for melted butter and lemon juice on top of the trees, but I skipped the lemon juice and just plopped a tiny pat of butter on the trees as I served it. For my kids (and yes, it's OK if you think they are freaks right about now), it helps if they see the butter. If it melts they don't believe it's there.

Planting-treesMy recipe budgets 50 minutes of prep time, and 30 minutes to bake -- so don't expect you can just whip this up. I will say the kids LOVED it. From the first mention of 'enchanted broccoli forest' they wanted to help. They picked the spots where we planted our broccoli trees, then used little broccoli stalks to make people wandering into the woods. For the most part, I don't encourage playing with food, but this was a worthwhile exception and everyone ate their trees! I also got immediate requests to make this again. Yippee!!

Now let's see what our guest bloggers have cooked this week!

Butternut-squash-risotto For week 4 of the EnviroMom Meatless Supper Club, Melanie at Recipe Journal is dishing up Butternut Squash Risotto. I don't know about you, but I've got a pile of CSA squash just waiting to be cooked at my house. We are big rice eaters, so this will give us a way to tackle our squash stash. (Photo credit: Recipe Journal)

Industrious Emily brings us her well-honed go-to meal of Potato Soup. As she says, it's perfect for filling up on a cold day, and it satisfies her husband who doesn't always go for the soup-as-dinner proposition.

Jen from Life on Bean Road shares her old standby Veggie Lasagna recipe. According to Jen, it's great for freezing and leftovers too. Love that! She also served her lasagna with apple crisp, which is not a combo I would have thought of. Yet, here it is: autumn. Best time of year for apples. And it sounds so yummy now that I'm thinking of it that I could probably sit and eat lasagna and apple crisp all day until you had to wheel me out the door.

Beth at The Cummings Clan shares her recipe of Black Bean Soup with Lemon Cream. Black beans and lemon, you say? Yes, it's an interesting pairing. But Beth says the lemon and sour cream brighten up the soup nicely, with the added benefit of being entirely optional! She says it also goes well with tortilla chips, which there never can really be enough of, in my humble opinion. As an added bonus, this is a quick meal.

Nanos-squash-lasagna Nancy at Nano's Kitchen has baked up some Butternut Squash Lasagna. While this looks utterly delicious to me, Nancy said she felt it could use more vegetables. So if your veggie crisper is bursting at the seams like mine, you can try to cram in some bonus veggies and really customize this recipe. (Photo credit: Nano's Kitchen)

Marleen at Walking on a High Wire is sharing Double Broccoli Quinoa. Quinoa is one of those grains I've bought in bulk, but still haven't managed to cook! This sounds really tasty, and would be a good way for me to try out quinoa since it's paired with other foods my kids like. I love that it's a one dish dinner.

Mary Beth at Salt and Chocolate brings us Pesto Pasta. She also shares a frustration I often feel -- the desire to branch out and try new things, while not wanting to drive all over town looking for exotic ingredients, and ending up with an odd lot of said ingredients that she'll only use a tiny bit of. That's why this week's recipe turned out to be an old favorite, rather than something exotic and new.

Heather at Production Not Reproduction made Pad Thai for the first time at home. Thumbs up from the grown-ups, with the kids evenly divided on the results. She also jokes that the family is a little tired of her taking pix of their meals, which is totally what my kids are saying: 'Mom, that's so weird. You're not taking pictures of our dinner, again, are you?'

Always creative Andrea at Minimonos offers Nonviolent Harry Potter Pizzas that the kids got to build themselves. Andrea must be a natural marketing whiz, because she figured out that Vegetarian Pizza might sound uninspiring. But Harry Potter pizza faces? Who wouldn't want some of that?

Week 4, and again our guest bloggers have brought us an incredible variety of yummy vegetarian dinner recipes. Thank you everyone! Enjoy your weekend, and I hope you find the time to try out some of these great recipes.


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