So I made the carrot casserole.
It was so pretty, and it smelled so... right. You know how smells will take you right back to a time and place? Yes. That. And it reminded me of so many things I loved about my mom -- her ways in the kitchen, how she always tasted right off the mixing spoon, and how hot breakfast was non-negotiable (even if it was apple crisp, because really, how different is that from apple-cinnamon oatmeal?), and how sugar cereal was for camping trips. My mom had a spagetti sauce that would bring kids from town. I'm not kidding. My friends would fill up cups with it and eat it with spoons. And once, she burned pork chops. In the microwave.* But that carrot casserole. I loved that stuff.
Here's the recipe, if you're so inclined.
2 and 1/2 cups grated carrots
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups cooked rice
1 Tablespoon grated onion**
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 cups grated cheese (Knowing how I grew up, this probably meant cheddar cheese, medium. But now that I've become a cheese snob, I made it half and half with Gruyere. Mmmm. Gruyere.)
Blanch carrots in 3/4 cup water for 5 minutes. Drain, and save the juice. Combine carrots with eggs, butter, rice, salt, onions and cheese(s). Mix it up.*** Press into a greased 8x8 pan, place that pan into a 9x13 pan with a cup or two of hot water in it. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Next, you make a white sauce, using the carrot juice for half the liquid. Like so: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy sauce pan. Stir in 4 Tablespoons of flour and stir over medium-high heat for a minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Then add carrot juice and about 3/4 cup of milk, whisking constantly until the sauce has thickened. Don't let it boil. Then you add a cup or 2 of really good-quality frozen peas. If you don't know the difference between good peas and the other kind, give me a call. We'll talk.
Serve casserole with cream sauce over the top. See if it makes you miss my mom, too.
*This may be where I get my aversion to microwave cooking.
**But why stop at 1? I used 2.
***My Kid 3 said at this point, "It looks just like chopped candy corns!"