Thanksgiving is just three days away, and I don’t know where all my time went. Well, actually, I do know how I used some of it: making this casserole, twice, to get it just right so that if you decide to include it in your holiday meal, you can be sure it will work. And it will! It’s my new favorite dish, though my family won’t allow me to make it for Thanksgiving because they just had it twice in the same week. But that shouldn’t stop you from putting this delicious yet nutritious casserole on your holiday table.
The standard broccoli-rice casserole usually contains white rice, chicken, cheese, and sometimes cream cheese, so the nutritional benefits of the broccoli get lost in a sea of cholesterol, simple carbs, and fat. Even vegan versions often contain Daiya or some other high-fat, processed vegan cheese, but not mine. There’s no cheese at all, and the only fat comes from seeds and nuts, which you can even leave out if you want.
The first time I made the casserole, I used chickpeas and some Lotus Foods Madagascar Pink rice (a swag-bag gift at Vida Vegan Con). It’s a quick-cooking, lightly milled rice that looks almost red when it’s cooked, as you can see in my photos. The second time I made it, I used ordinary brown rice and soy curls instead of chickpeas, and if I were going to serve this to non-vegans, that’s the combination I would choose. It’s not an elegant dish, but then again, neither is stuffing or sweet potato casserole. It’s the kind of rich, comfort food I look forward to at Thanksgiving–without all the fat and calories.
So what are you serving? I’ll be traveling to my parents’ house with a green bean casserole, a double-layer pumpkin cheesecake, and a still-undecided protein dish (timbales? baked tofu? seitan cutlets?) with mushroom gravy. My mother will be handling the rest of the meal, which will include her cornbread dressing, my lemon pie (made with home-grown lemons), and, I hope, cranberry relish. It will be a feast of family and food! I hope your holiday is just as happy.
Creamy Vegan Broccoli and Rice Casserole
- 1 1/4 cup plain unsweetened soymilk or other non-dairy milk
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon sherry optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon tahini or cashew butter optional
- very generous grating black pepper
- 1 head broccoli about 5 cups, cut into small florets
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1/2 red or yellow bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped celery chopped
- 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas or other options, see below
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 cups cooked brown rice warm, if possible
- 2 tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds optional
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil or spray a medium casserole dish (about 2-1/2-quart size).
Place the sauce ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
Place the broccoli in a steamer basket set over water and steam, covered, until just barely tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
While the broccoli is steaming, heat a large, deep non-stick skillet or saute pan. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, thyme, rice, and steamed broccoli. Make sure the sauce is well-blended, and add it to the skillet. Stir gently and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if necessary, and smooth into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with almonds, if desired. Bake until the top begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Instead of chickpeas, substitute any one of the following:
1 cup dry soy curls, rehydrated in hot vegetable broth and drained
2 cups baked tofu, cubed
1 1/2 cups tempeh bacon
1 1/2 cups sliced or diced seitan
Nutrition (per serving, no optional ingredients): 288 calories, 34 calories from fat, 4.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 305mg sodium, 383.2mg potassium, 50g carbohydrates, 5.2g fiber, 4.3g sugar, 17.9g protein.