Monday, February 23, 2009

Cheesy Rice and Whatever-Veggers-You-Have Casserole

This strategy is great for whatever vegetables you have lying around that are about to go bad or maybe you don't know what to do with. Individual vegetables can be sooooo boring sometimes, but when put together ... what a creamy delight!

There are basically three ingredients to this simple meal: (1) vegetables, (2) grain: rice, quinoa, pearled barley, wheat berries, or some other whole grain of your choice, and (3) a creamy sauce. The key is portioning. When you're assembling the vegetables, just think about how many people you're cooking for (1 or 2), a handful of cauli, a couple of mushrooms, a few slices of onion will do it. You'll want to pre-cook your veggies. Here's what I did:

Veggies: 8 mushrooms, 1 cup cauliflower florets, 1 small leek, and a large wad of fresh spinach which wilted considerably.
Grain: 1/2 cup cooked wild grain rice
Creamy sauce: 1/4c sour cream, 1/4c milk, 1/2c grated cheddar
[extra--salt, pepper, and thyme]

First, cook the vegetables. Saute things like mushrooms, onions, leeks, garlic, summer squashes, peppers, spinach, and other quick-cookers. Steam or roast winter squash, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, celery root, carrots, and other dense, starchy veggies. Frozen vegetables, defrosted, will work wonders here. So will a trip through the supermarket salad bar. Add the spices of your choice to the vegetables while they're cooking.

Second, stir together the components of your sauce. Basically what we're doing is avoiding the introduction of Campbell's can-of-chemically-preserved-shelf-life. Ooh, you know what would be good? Cottage cheese or ricotta!

Third, throw it all together 1+2+3, slop it into a mini baking dish, and for a little crunch, top it with bread crumbs and a little more grated cheese (if you like).

Bake it at 350ยบ for about 30 minutes, or until warmed through and a little bubbly. We sliced up an apple for a sweet, cool crunch, and called it dinner.

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