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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Broccoli and Rice Casserole, The I'm Trying to Lose Weight Way

When the weather turns cool and the trees are shedding their leaves and everywhere you look mums are abloom, that's when I start craving those hearty, creamy, cheesy casseroles that cook slowly and make the whole house smell like Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, those yummy, yummy dishes really pack on the pounds, and The Wifester and I are operating on a strict, Must-Lose-Weight platform, so I've really had to rethink and deconstruct/reconstruct some of our favorite foods. Broccoli, rice, and cheese casserole is one of our favorites, but all that cream, cheese, and butter make it a serious no-no right now. But I really, really wanted to use my broccoli, and I had brown rice...So I thought about that butternut squash and how creamy and delicious it was over macaroni pasta a couple of weeks ago. Here's what I came up with- First, I oven roasted the butternut squash, stuffing that little scooped out spot where the seeds used to reside with a garlic clove, a pat of butter, and half a red bell pepper. I let that cook at 425 for about an hour, maybe longer, till it was all soft and mushy. Set that aside for now. Then I cooked my brown rice in chicken broth. That's my favorite way since it infuses the rice with that rich flavor. While that was cooking, I sauteed a couple of stalks of celery, diced, some minced garlic, small diced sweet potatoes (because I didn't have any carrots) and a sweet, yellow onion. Instead of cooking those in butter, I used EVOO, but if you aren't desperately trying to lose weight, go for the butter. Once that is tender, turn off the heat and set aside. At this point I put some chopped up broccoli on to steam. The rice was still not quite done, so I began making my "cheese-ish sauce" by scooping out the mushy, roasted butternut squash insides and I put them in the food processor and pureeing until smooth. I added the roasted garlic, salt, pepper, a couple dashes of dried mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, and milk to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Add a splash of lime juice to brighten up the flavors. I poured this into a deep saucepan and added about 1 1/2 cups of white wine and brought that to a boil. I needed more liquid, so I used some chicken stock to thin the sauce a bit. Once the rice was tender, I drained the excess liquid and added in the sauteed veggies. Then I poured the "cheese-ish sauce" (butternut squash) over the rice. By this point, the broccoli was tender and ready, so I added it to the rice/squash mixture and poured it all into a casserole dish. Then I topped it with half a bag of garlic and sea salt croutons since I didn't have any bread crumbs. I popped that baby in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, until it was bubbly and hot, and HOLY CRAP! It was delicious! Next time I might consider adding a bit of parmesan cheese to the butternut squash, but honestly, it was delicious and had a rich, almost cheesy feeling and taste. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to broccoli, rice and cheese, give this a try. I promise, it's fantastic! Sorry I don't have pics of it, we gobbled it up before I thought to take any.

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