I grew up in rural western Kansas in the 80's, which means I was the daughter of midwesterners who came of age in the 70's, which means we ate a lot of casseroles. Casseroles at our house were defined by the presence of two or all of the following items: cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, frozen vegetables, eggs and/or ground beef. We routinely feasted on things like Pizza Spaghetti Casserole, Taco Casserole, and the almost-extinct-but-mind-blowing Tater Tot Casserole. The first recipe I ever remember making on my own, and my personal favourite casserole, was Toasty Cheese Bake (see irresistible photo below). One casserole that has persevered, and consistently earns a place on our Thanksgiving/Christmas table, is Broccoli and Rice Casserole.
Now I'm not knocking casserole. Casseroles have great intentions. They're designed to be one-dish, low-stress, light-prep meals that can feed a family with little fuss. I'm down with all of those things. What I'm not down with, however, is combining 5 or 6 processed foods, baking it, and calling it a meal. Instant rice + cream-o-mushroom soup + sour cream + frozen broccoli + processed cheese ≠ happiness. That's just a big ol' fat and sodium bomb that's nutritionally bankrupt and hard on the guts.
So, without further ado, I present to you a new and improved, whole-foods based, creamy, delicious, Broccoli and Rice one-pot meal! It doesn't take a whole lot of planning and it comes together in about an hour. If possible, get your cashews soaking early. The longer they soak the easier they will be to blend.
INGREDIENTS: Serves 4 - 6
4-5 stalks of celery
1 medium yellow or white onion (leeks work well too)
2 heads of broccoli, with stems
8 oz fresh mushrooms (crimini work fine but feel free to get fancy)
1 cup short-grain brown rice - rinsed
1/4 cup wild rice - rinsed
1 cup cashews
3 cups water
fresh or dried thyme
a pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Cover the cashews with water and set aside to soak. Ideally, you would soak them for at least an hour. After an hour, rinse them, and put them in a blender with three cups of water. Blend on high for a minute or two - until you have a creamy cashew milk. Set aside.*
- Medium dice the celery and onions. Cut the broccoli stems away from the florets, peel them, and medium dice the interior.
- Place the celery, onions, and broccoli stems in a heavy-bottomed, lidded pot (such as a dutch or french oven) on medium heat on the stovetop with a small splash of cooking oil and a big pinch of salt. You want to "sweat" the vegetables, not brown them. To do that, partially cover the pot, keep the heat at medium or medium/low, and stir occasionally until they soften and release their liquids. (About 10-15 minutes).
- While the first few vegetables are sweating, chop/slice/dice (your choice) the mushrooms and then add them to the pot ASAP to sweat with everything else.
- When the vegetables are soft, turn up the heat to high and add the rice. Stir constantly for about a minute to lightly toast the rice, then add the cashew milk,* thyme, and nutmeg.
- When the liquid comes to a boil, cover the pot and reduce to low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes. Until water is absorbed and rice is soft.
- While the rice is cooking, chop the broccoli heads into small florets, wash and drain well.
- When the rice is cooked, stir in the broccoli florets and put the lid back on. They just need a minute or two steam and take the raw edge off.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste (or with a bit of tamari/soy sauce) and serve!
*If the whole cashew thing seems like a pain in the neck, skip the cashews and replace one of the cups of water with a cup of unsweetened almond milk or light coconut milk. I find the cashew mixture to be the best, but the other two options aren't too shabby.