Rice Florentine

There is a restaurant nearby that serves Rice Florentine as a side. It seems to be not much more than rice with small bits of unidentifiable green vegetation tossed in. I wanted something with a bit more color, and flavor.

There is a fair amount of prep work on this dish, particularly with the baby spinach. I think the end result is worth the extra effort.

Rice Florentine
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


  • 5 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, stemmed, cut into 1/4″ pieces, rinsed and spun dry
  • 2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/8″ pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced 1/8″, with most of green
  • 2 Tbsp.butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered rosemary
  • kosher salt


  1. Make the rice: – Bring water, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a boil in a large pot. Add rice, stirring briefly to distribute in the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15-17 minutes. Check rice; it should be cooked through and look dry. Cook an additional minute if there is noticeable moisture. When cooked – turn off heat and place a double layer of paper towels between the pot and the lid.
  2. Cook veggies: – Heat remaining tablespoon of oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until bubbling subsides. Add peppers and scallions with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook until peppers start to turn translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, cook for a minute so it starts to wilt then stir it into the pepper mixture. Cook until any water released by the spinach is evaporated, about 5 minutes total.
  4. Sprinkle spinach with spice blend and rosemary. Stir to combine, cook for a minute or so and taste. Add salt as needed.
  5. Fold spinach mixture into cooked rice. Transfer to a large serving bowl and enjoy.

To prep the spinach I removed the stems from about 20-25 spinach leaves at a time, stacking the leaves on top of each other. I then cut them into 1/4″ pieces, transfered the cut spinach to a salad spinner and repeated the process until all the spinach is cut up. Rinse with cold water, drain and then spin at least 3 times.

If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.

I referenced a couple of recipes while putting this recipe together: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/florentine-rice and http://southernfood.about.com/od/ricesidedishcasseroles/r/bl90805e.htm

Saturday night – 11/22/2014

This week’s menu is the opposite of last week’s menu. Where that one had a couple of time consuming items this one was simple; last week’s required several hours in the kitchen and this one an hour tops. It’s just as well I chose a simple menu this week because I picked up a cold and simple was about my speed.

Baked Pasta
Turkey Meatballs
Green Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Apples and Vinaigrette

Ted’s Pricey Brownies

Notes under the cut

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares

I first made these in 2013 for a brunch buffet. I made them Friday morning, traveled ~250 miles for a family event and enjoyed them on Sunday late morning. They held up incredibly well in transit and tasted freshly made against the assortment of sweets that were available. On some level they satisfy that mix of sugar, salt and fat that many of us crave.

This recipe is based off of one I first found in the King Arthur Flour Blog, flourish.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel squares
Servings: 20 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1.5 hours


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup ground pretzels (about 6 oz. of stick pretzels)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pretzel pieces (about 2 oz of stick pretzels)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make a sling with parchment paper in the bottom of a 9″x13″ metal baking pan. Spray the open sides with baking spray.
  2. For the crust combine the flour, ground pretzels and powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and combine to make a stiff, somewhat sandy, dough.
  3. Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan and press it into an even layer. Use the back of dry measuring cup to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool while making the filling.
  4. Combine the chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave safe vessel (I use a large glass measuring cup). Microwave for 4 minutes at 40% power, stirring after each minute. Continue microwaving at low power until the mixture is smooth and the peanut butter is fully integrated.
  5. Pour chocolate mixture over the crust and spread to the edges. Top with the chopped pretzel bits, pressing them into the chocolate to ensure adhesion.
  6. Transfer to the freezer for 45-60 minutes to set the topping. Use the parchment to remove the bars from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 20 pieces.

To make the ground pretzels I placed 6 oz. of stick pretzels in the bowl of the food processor and let it spin for about 2 minutes. I then sifted the ground pretzels to remove the larger pieces that remained.

Saturday night – 11/15/2014

This week the menu started with the idea of the rice dish. Then we watch an episode of Good Eats where Alton made chicken casserole which reminded us of a chicken-and-gravy-only style pot pie that we liked a lot. The rest was just coming up with a couple of sides we haven’t had recently.

Moravian Chicken Pie
Rice Florentine
Baked Acorn Squash
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Homemade Rolls

“Giant” Cranberry Cookie

Notes under the cut

Cauliflower and Shells

Have you ever been certain that you had some pantry staple and discover when you are pulling all the ingredients together before cooking that one is missing? Oops. The recipe I was following called for saffron, something we usually have on, hand. I did not take into account the fact that my husband had been using it in focaccia however, so the cupboard was bare. I looked for turmeric and that was missing as well. As I contemplated my spice options I noticed a spice blend, guessed at an amount and gave it a go. The results were well received. Guests noted a pleasant but not overpowering bit of heat. Lovely.

Cauliflower and Shells
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, florets and core cut into small, even-sized, pieces
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 16 oz. pasta shells
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In another pot, fitted with a steamer basket, steam the cauliflower for about 3 minutes. Taste – it should be toothsome with a bit of crunch left. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and set aside. Drain pot, wipe clean and return it to the stove.
  3. Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the onion with a large pinch of salt. Stir in the oil and cook until the onion softens, 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, spice blend and about 1 tablespoon of parsley. Stir to incorporate and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add the cauliflower, another large pinch of salt and combine. Add 1 cup water and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste the cauliflower; if it is done to your liking then remove from the heat and keep warm.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking you can cook your pasta in well salted water. Drain, return it to the large pot and mix in the remaining parsley.
  6. When both pasta and cauliflower are cooked combine, mix and taste for seasoning. Adjust to your taste and serve.

If I didn’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend I’d cry. Then I’d mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 2 teaspoons of that and save the rest. Finally I’d make a trip to Penzey’s to get more of the spice blend; it is that good.

This recipe is based upon Cauliflower with Saffron and Pasta from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison as shared by The Splendid Table.

Salsa Chickpeas

Necessity is the mother of blah, blah, blah. Or something along those lines. The end of daylight saving time has messed up my pool of both desire to do much after work and my inspiration. Faced with both I turned to the cupboard for a weeknight dinner this week and came up with the following. I can envision making this again.

Salsa Chickpeas
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 16 oz. jar of your favorite salsa
  • 2 15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • black pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the salsa, chickpeas and 1/2 a cup of water. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and partially cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Test flavor, adjust with salt and black pepper as needed. Serve over white rice.

I used Newman’s Own Medium Salsa and Goya low-sodium chickpeas in this. We usually have both in the pantry.

Saturday night – 11/01/2014

While sorting our recipe binder a couple of weeks back I came across the recipe that became Cauliflower and Shells. I set it aside however it stayed with me so I used it as a starting point for the rest of the menu this week.

Chicken Thighs with Baked Onions
Cauliflower and Shells
Pureed Butternut Squash
Homemade bread

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel squares

Notes under the cut