It took me a couple of dump-in-the-trash attempts to get this Cheesy Vegetarian Brown Rice Casserole with Broccoli and Mushrooms to come out the way I wanted it, but immediately after I finished taking that photo I sat down at the island in my kitchen and devoured the little plate of casserole, so I think experimenting with the recipe turned out to be worth it.
The version that worked out has a few steps that might seem labor intensive, like cooling the rice, reducing the broth, and cooking the mushrooms, onions, and broccoli separately before they get combined into the casserole. Nobody likes a simple recipe more than me, but I do think it’s those little touches that helped me get the result I wanted, so I hope people will trust me on the extra steps. And the recipe makes a generous 8 servings (or 10 side dish servings) so you’ll have some to stockpile in the freezer for another day when you don’t want to cook!
I haven’t done too many casseroles for Meatless Monday, but confess I love a good casserole. I think that’s because I grew up eating them, although the ones I like most now are pretty different than what mom used to make. If you’re not into the whole Meatless Monday thing, this would make a lovely side dish for just about anything you wanted to put next to it on the plate. (You can find more meatless recipe ideas using the label Meatless Monday or Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index. For Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, follow our Meatless Monday board on Pinterest.)
When the rice is done (very important!) spread it out on a baking sheet and let it cool. (If you skip this step, the rice will keep cooking as it cools and will be too soft in the finished casserole.) Put the rice in a large bowl when it’s cooled.
While the rice cooks put one can vegetable broth into a small saucepan and let it simmer over medium-low heat. If you have some mushroom base, add about a tablespoon to the stock before you simmer, but the mushroom base is not essential. (You can also use mushroom cubes.)
Simmer the stock and mushroom base until it’s reduced to one cup. Let cool. While the broth simmers chop the mushrooms, onion, and broccoli.
Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil and add to the bowl with the rice.
Saute the onions in a little more olive oil until they start to brown; then add the Italian Herb Blend and cook about a minute more. Add the seasoned onions to the bowl.
Cut up the broccoli stems into small slices and flowerets into small pieces until you have 4 cups chopped broccoli. Microwave broccoli 1 1/2 minutes (or saute if you don’t have a microwave), drain, and add to the bowl.
Gently mix together the rice, mushrooms, seasoned onions, and broccoli.
Whisk the sour cream into the reduced and cooled broth, then mix in 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese. (I used the same measuring cup I microwaved the broccoli in to save washing another dish.)
Pour the sauce/cheese mixture over the rice mixture and gently combine, until all the ingredients are slightly moistened.
Spray a 9 inch by 13 inch casserole dish (or comparable size) with non-stick spray and put the rice mixture in the dish, spreading it out so it’s even. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.
Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes, until the casserole is bubbly and nicely browned on top. Serve hot.
Cheesy Vegetarian Brown Rice Casserole with Broccoli and Mushrooms
(Makes 8 main dish servings, or at least 10 side-dish servings; recipe created by Kalyn with much experimenting.)
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice (I use Uncle Ben’s Brown Rice)
1 can (14 oz.) vegetable broth, simmered to reduce to 1 cup
1 T mushroom base, added to broth to enrich the flavor (optional, but recommended)
12 oz. mushrooms, chopped into pieces about 1/2 inch (I used brown Crimini mushrooms)
1 large onion, diced small
4 cups chopped broccoli, stems and flowerets
2 tsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Italian Herb Blend
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
1 cup grated low-fat sharp cheddar (I used Kraft 2% Sharp Cheddar.)
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup grated reduced fat Four Cheese Mexican Blend
1/4 cup low-fat grated Mozzarella
Cook rice according to package directions to get about 4 1/2 cups cooked brown rice. Spread hot rice out on a cookie sheet to cool while you prep other ingredients. (I used my beloved Zojirushi Rice Cooker to cook the rice.) As soon as rice is cool, transfer it to a large bowl (big enough to hold all the ingredients.)
While rice cooks, put the stock (and mushroom base if using) into a small saucepan and simmer to reduce the amount to 1 cup. (This concentrates the flavor, don’t skip this step.) Let stock cool. Chop mushrooms into pieces about 1/2 inch big, and chop onion into small pieces. Cut up the broccoli, chopping stems and cutting flowerets into small bite-sized pieces so you have 4 cups chopped broccoli.
Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until they’re lightly browned and all liquid is evaporated, about 5-6 minutes. Put mushrooms in the bowl with the cooled rice. Heat the other 2 tsp. olive oil, add onions, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are starting to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add Italian Herb Blend and cook 1 minute more. Add the seasoned onions to the bowl with the rice. Put the broccoli in the microwave and cook 1 1/2 minutes at high power. (Or you can saute the broccoli for 2-3 minutes in the pan.) Drain broccoli and add to the rice. Gently combine the rice, mushrooms, onions, and broccoli in the bowl.
Whisk together the sour cream and cooled stock; then stir in 1 cup grated sharp cheddar and 1/2 cup Four Cheese Mexican Blend. Gently stir the sauce and cheese mixture into the rice mixture and combine until all the ingredients are coated with sauce. Spray a 9 inch by 13 inch glass or crockery casserole dish (or comparable size) with non-stick spray and spread the casserole mixture into the dish, patting it down with the turner so it’s even. Sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup Four Cheese Mexican Blend and the 1/4 cup grated Mozzarella.
Bake casserole uncovered until it’s bubbling and the top is lightly browned, about 35-40 minutes. Serve hot.
This freezes well. Thaw in the refrigerator and heat in microwave or in a covered baking dish in the oven or toaster oven.
Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
With brown rice, low-fat sour cream, low-fat cheese, and a generous amount of low-glycemic vegetables, this casserole would be suitable for Phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet. I tried to use enough cheese to make it good, but not so much that it’s not diet-friendly, but it might be best as a “once-in-a-while-treat” if you’re actively trying to lose weight, and don’t exceed portion size. This would be too high in carbs for a low-carb diet plan.
If you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you. Or if you’re a member of Yummly, you can use the Yum button on my site to save the recipe and see the nutritional information there.