The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Lest you think I’m some kind of kitchen wizard, I thought I’d share a tale of a colossal failure that took place in my oven today…


Once upon a time…

… there was a college student who fell in love with the cookbook The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. This girl wasn’t a vegetarian, but she didn’t discriminate: she adored almost all food, imaginative recipes, and charming cookbooks equally.


And there was much to love about The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, beginning with the title (!), and including, but not limited to, the international scope of the recipes, the delightful hand-lettered recipes and illustrations, and the credits of the author Mollie Katzen:

Mollie Katzen, with over 6 million books in print, is listed by The New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time. A 2007 inductee into the prestigious James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, and largely credited with moving healthful vegetarian food from the “fringe” to the center of the American dinner plate, Ms. Katzen has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.”

The book’s namesake recipe intrigued the girl. “How adorable!” she thought. “A forest floor made of rice and cheese with broccoli florets for trees!”

But despite following the instructions to the letter, when she sat down at her dining table to eat it, the Enchanted Broccoli Forest tasted — Oh! how it hurt to say it — bland. (And, if she was being honest, the broccoli was too crunchy.) Who could have foreseen that brown rice and cheese (cheese!) could be so unmagical?

The girl continued to feel affection for the book and the notion of the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, but she never made the recipe again. And, eventually, as her tastes and habits changed, the book and the recipe were forgotten.

Until one day, the girl decided to write a cookbook of her own.

While reminiscing about favorite recipes past, she remember the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. “I wonder,” she thought, “if I can replace the cheese with egg whites… swap the brown rice for cauliflower… embellish the flavor with curry paste… and add ground beef for protein!”

And that’s just what she did.

She riced cauliflower and steamed broccoli and browned ground meat and fried curry paste and simmered coconut milk and whisked eggs. Then she pressed it into a pan, planted her broccoli trees, slid it into the oven, and waited.

After 40 minutes, she opened the oven – and through a billowing cloud of steam — removed from the oven a…

Bewitched Broccoli Bog.


With a heavy heart, the girl harvested the broccoli trees for another meal, did her best to pick the meat from the swampy bog, and fed the remainder to the garbage disposal. (If only she had her own pig to slop!)

The Moral of the Story: A little cheese glue goes a long way.

The End.


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  • Amy says:

    I confess, I had the same experience with some of the recipes in that cookbook. But hey, we live to cook another day!

  • Kelley says:

    I love it! This was one of my favorite books as well! I was hoping for a good ending but thanks for taking one for the team 🙂

  • cassia says:

    hahaha…. The failures hurt so much don’t they… That’s why we need a pig or a chicken to slop as you say…

  • Heather says:

    As I’ve heard Emril say, “That’s what happens when you cook!” – and I say this to myself OFTEN! 🙂

  • Danielle C says:

    I have the same cookbook and the same experiences with her recipes. I still love it!

  • shirley says:

    Thank you for the laugh, you made my night 😀 Bewitched broccoli bog…heh heh heh…

  • Tifferz says:

    RIP broccoli forest. We don’t revel in your failure, but it is kind of reassuring to know that you occasionally suffer kitchen mishaps.

  • Kristen says:

    I had the same experience trying to make paleo crepes today. What a bummer.

  • Yana says:

    The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen was one of my Velveteen Rabbit cookbooks – I loved it so hard and used it so much that the binding simply disintegrated. But yeah, some of the recipes have my notes on them like, “tastes like dirt”. But it taught me a lot about very basic cooking techniques. Sometimes we just outgrow cookbooks!

  • Carolyn says:

    Oh my god, that is so funny and sweet. That was the first cookbook I ever purchased…I wasn’t a vegetarian either and I’m sure how many and can’t recall cracking it open for over 20 years.

  • Cameron says:

    I often think fondly of the recipe for Frijoles con Queso, Etc. Casserole in my now legume-free world…

  • Natalie says:

    I just gave my “Enchanted Broccoli Forest” to the local thrift shop! I tried so many times to love the food from this cookbook and it tasted like…well… I’d rather not say. Although I would not even attempt to cook from this book again, it held a place near and dear to me for a long, long time. My current favorite? Well Fed. I guess it was time to let go!

  • Lori says:

    This makes me feel so much better, especially considering I tried to make your egg foo yung recipe the other day and completely biffed it. Wasn’t paying attention, over-shrimped the lot, eggs stuck to the pan…it ended up being a scrambled shrimp thing, still fairly tasty, but nothing like the pretty picture in Well-Fed. Oh, and today i had to pour out a whole bowlful of delicious would-be mayo because I got cocky and lost the emulsion. Sigh. Round two!

  • Steph says:

    Me too!!! I LOVED that cookbook and the original Moosewood Cookbook in theory, but I never liked the food I made from either one… Sorry about the fail- happens to the best of us- but at least yo got a funny blog post out of it!!

  • Linda G says:

    The Moosewood cookbook was a favorite of mine, too, but there were only a handful of recipes that I made more than once. All these years, I thought the problem was me. Thanks for helping me let that monster go!

    Your recipes, on the other hand, have all been successful and I return to them again and again. Thank you for doing what you do.

  • Pirate Jeni says:

    Girlfriend I feel your pain. I am heartened to know that there are others who, when we fail, we do so spectacularly and with great pizzazz!

  • Jillian says:

    I totally feel your pain. I have a very well-loved copy of The Moosewood Cookbook. The farmer’s pie recipe in there was my go-to for parties for the longest time before going Paleo. However, I had some epic failures with other recipes in that book. Glad I’m not the only one!

  • Mary says:

    Melissa, You may have had a mis-step in the kitchen, but your writing is spot on, as usual! This was so funny and very creative.

  • Carrey says:

    Love this post. I’ve had some similar experiences. I love trying new recipes – especially on unsuspecting dinner guests. I’ve always had a long-standing rule that if the dinner I make sucks, I’ll order pizza. Hmmm, now that most of my friends are paleo, I’ll have to figure out a new deal. Never let your cooking mistakes slow you down. You just scrap them (the pig thing sounded good, though) and move on!

  • Mel says:

    I can’t tell you guys how relieved I am to hear that you had problems with her recipes, too. All these years, I thought it was me. Whew!

    • Suzy says:

      I’m glad I’m not alone, either! If I ever did like a recipe, like the chili with cashews, I wouldn’t like it a second time, oddly. And I almost ALWAYS modified her stuff to make it taste undirtlike.

      Another woman’s recipes that I don’t like: Martha Stewart. Always looks beautiful, but tastes bland. Why??

  • Kirsten says:

    I actually really liked the Brocoli forest, but I didn’t exactly follow the recipe! It wasn’t truly paleo, but I think I recall doing it with quinoa cooked in bone broth and cheese, definitely added an egg in there and doubled the spices… I’ll have to pull it out and see what notes I made in the margins.

  • Cathy says:

    In keeping with your love of simple soups, I love several of her soup recipes in The Moosewood. She also has a zucchini pizza crust that is easily paleofied.

  • Amy says:

    I recently gifted that book to a friend, as I no longer have much use for it, but I did enjoy the cute drawings, as well as the recipe for cashew enchiladas (really!). I believe that’s where I also first learned about pesto. Eh, they can’t all be winners!

  • Susan says:

    I think I pee’d my pants!

  • Eileen says:

    Oh, I love Mollie Katzen too and miss her now that I don’t kick that way. So sad.