Three Things

Three quick things for you, on the morning of this problematic holiday, in this devastating year.

Eleanor Davis on giving thanks and letting it be complicated: “I’m thankful for Brian and James, working the night shift in the ICU. No. I’m not thankful. I’m scared. I’m angry they’ve been put in this position.”

Since it’s just our family of four this year, we’re making an abbreviated menu today, and so for the past week we’ve been serving runner-up side dishes as mains for dinner. In my family, Thanksgiving casseroles never extended very far past the obligatory green-bean-and-onion-crisps, made with Cream of Mushroom Soup, or the classicly saccharine sweet-potato-with-marshmallow. So it felt almost healthy to serve my kids this Acorn Squash Casserole with Maple Nut Praline the other night. They ate all of it. It’s so good you could serve it for breakfast. (Or maybe just make the praline and put it over ice cream.)

Our local libraries have closed again during the governor’s 4-week pause. I applaud the pause, and all the work Kate Brown has done to keep our state’s cases relatively low. But I’m sad to lose the library’s wonderful curbside holds programs, and I’m missing seeing our friendly, masked librarians during our weekly pick-up visits. I’m thankful for Overdrive, and the library’s free Libby app, allowing me to continue reading during the pause, albeit on a screen. (That link’ll help you find your library’s Overdrive site so you can quickly find something to read today for free.) I’ve been using it to slowly read A Simple Guide to John, in my favorite series by S.J. Paul McCarren. In the last two days, though, I whipped through Sally Rooney’s Normal People. We watched the Hulu/BBC mini-series earlier in the pandemic, and I’m pleased to say I liked the book even more. She is a phenomenal writer and I’m looking forward to reading her next novel.

Pumpkin Rice Casserole with Roasted Vegetables

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

This recipe could also be titled Day Before Grocery Run Casserole, or What’s in the Fridge Surprise. It was Monday at 4:30, after a long day of homeschooling and potty-training, and in the fridge we had some pureed roasted pumpkin from making bread, cooked rice and roasted veggies from the night before, and not a whole lot else. After searching online for “pumpkin rice cheesy casserole” and not finding anything, I decided to improvise, and share the results with some future Googler of odd casseroles. I’m not going to wax poetic about it, as most food blogs do, because this is not in fact a food blog. This is the blog of a writer and mother with all-day morning sickness, who needed to get something palatable in the oven for her family so she could take a walk, alone.

This follows a basic casserole formula I remember from growing up: starch+ veggie + binder (egg) + cheese and breadcrumbs (a great time to use up the heels of sandwich bread your kids won’t eat.) It’s mild, comforting, and satisfying– great for hungry, picky eaters on a cold day. Feel free to experiment with those components, and adjust the seasonings to give it your own spin. I used rosemary, thyme, and parsley to give it fall flavor, but you could change up the spices depending on what leftover vegetables you’re working with.

Then get it in the oven, set the timer, and let your partner watch the kids and the dinner while you take a walk.

Pumpkin Rice Casserole with Roasted Veggies

Serves: 8
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or any cooked winter squash)
1 egg
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
3 tsps herbs of choice
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked rice
2 cups roasted vegetables
2 slices bread, cubed
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, cheddar, salt, herbs, and chicken broth. Whisk well. Fold in rice and vegetables. Press into greased casserole dish and pat smooth. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over top, and dot with butter. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until breadcrumbs are golden brown and casserole edges are crisp.

Serve with a green salad. We did mixed greens and a dijon vinaigrette with sliced bosc pear, shredded carrots, and toasted cashews. Bon appetit.