Casserole can be everything and anything. To me, a casserole is a baked dish with a lot of creaminess and goodness, although if one would go by looks only, most casserole could seem quite unexciting and homely.
One of my recent posts described a recipe for quinoa and broccoli casserole, and now it’s time for zucchini to shine. Zucchini is a super versatile vegetable and it’s usually very cheap during the summer months. It’s also easy to grow if you have a plot of land handy, and can yield quite a lot.
Mix raw almonds and flax seeds together in a large bowl, cover with hot (boiling) water and soak for at least one hour. If soaking overnight, store it in the fridge. For soaking that’s less than 2-4 hours, leaving on the kitchen counter will be fine.
Preheat over to 350F (175C).
Slice the zucchini into discs, either by hand or using a food processor. Ideally, you want your slices to be about 3-4 mm, which is about 1/8 of an inch.
Place the sliced zucchini into a large mixing bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients into a food processor or a blender, and blend until combined and relatively smooth.
Pour the mixture over the zucchini and mix well, then place everything into a 9 x 13 in (33 x 23 cm).
Place the baking dish into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a side salad!
Casseroles are pretty dull, right? I mean: nobody every looks forward to a casserole. Plus: they come in some very weird combinations – tuna casserole, anyone?
Ok, all joking and jabbing aside, casseroles are not my favorite. But: they are super-convenient, one-pot recipes that come together with ease and feed the family. So, they definitely deserve their place on the table, and in busy home cook kitchen and recipe collection.
Usually, casseroles need a lot of eggs, cheese and similar to keep them together. This recipe, on the other hand, uses quinoa – a wonderful grain-like, protein rich ingredient. If quinoa you are using is not processed in any way, you will need to rinse it really well to remove bitter compounds called saponins that cover its surface. As their name suggests, saponins are soap-like compounds, so you need to rinse quinoa out until it stops foaming. Once quinoa is rinsed, cook it using 1 1/2 cups of water per 1 cup of quinoa. You can also use stock, but water works just as well!
The casserole recipe below was inspired by Alton Brown and his Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole – but I took a lot of liberties to adjust for my current pantry and vegan style of cooking. Those of you who are not vegan, you may want to check Mr. Brown’s recipe!
Quinoa Broccoli Casserole, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Place a heavy, oven-safe pan (I prefer cast iron pan) over the medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion, and sauté until onions are lightly browned. This will take about 5 minutes
Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute.
Mix in the mustard and the spices. Stir well, and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, sliced artichoke hearts, steamed or defrosted broccoli florets, nutritional yeast and tapioca starch. Add the sautéd onion, garlic and spice mix, and stir everything together. Pour back into the cast iron pan, spread around to even the mixture, and spray the top with some cooking spray if using.
Place in the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes.
Take the casserole out of the oven, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Here where I live, and I imagine where you live too, schools have been closing, events are being cancelled, and most people are advised to work from home and stay away from large gatherings (where I work, we are down to less than 25 people). It’s called social distancing and it is one of the strategies that can help reduce the impact of COVID-19.
In these times of uncertainty and anxiety many will turn to comfort food (I’ve already seen posts about people getting into their Nutella reserves!). And: many will turn to their pantry for the ingredients. So, this recipe is made for such a day, when you want to make something really comforting and filling with things you likely already have on hand: rice and beans.
The recipe here was inspired by an old Italian favorite called Pasta e Fagioli – a pasta and bean soup/stew that is absolutely delicious. This time around I wanted to replace pasta with rice, and see where we end up. Where things ended up was a really rich, and dense stew/casserole dish, with a lot of rich flavors working in harmony!
I took one shortcut to make putting everything together easier and used canned white beans, also known as cannellini beans. Beans are a great source of plant protein and I always have a good supply of canned beans in my pantry. White (cannellini) beans are a fantastic basic bean, and I use them in many different ways, for example in burgers, pasta sauces, or soups. I also used them to make a marvelous mushroom pâté!
If you have dry beans, please remember to soak them overnight before cooking. I recommend that you cook beans first before using them in this stew. The amount of dry beans you need for this recipe is about 1 to 1 1/2 cup, however I recommend that you soak and cook a full batch (in my house that’s usually 1 lbs (about 500 g)), and use the leftover beans for something else, perhaps one of the recipes I listed above. This will save you some time and help with meal prep and batch cooking.
The dish itself is one-pot – all the ingredients go into a single pot, and the lovely meal comes out. Please note that the pot needs to be oven safe, as you will move the dish from the stove top into the oven. I recommend using a Dutch oven or another heavy and sturdy type of pot. If you don’t have such a thing, you can transfer your stew into an oven safe dish and proceed from there. Please note that the food will be very hot, and you can burn yourself badly if you are not careful!!!
Finally, you have options when it comes to rice. To keep things authentic, you may want to choose a short grain rice, like Arborio, as this will give you a creamier texture. However, you don’t need to lose any sleep over the rice choice here and use whatever you have on hand. As you can tell from my pictures, I used a very long grain rice known as Basmati rice, which is the staple I have in my pantry.
Note: When combined with rice, beans make a complete protein (meaning includes all the essential amino acids that we need), just in case you were wondering. In general, if you eat a varied plant-based diet, you really don’t need to stress over whether you are getting enough protein and whether it is complete, because the quick answer to this is: Yes, you are! Plants have plenty of protein, and people eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are all set.
Italian Rice and Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Italian Rice and Beans – Riso e Fagioli (Oil Free)
What you’ll need:
1 cup rice, washed and rinsed
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 sweet pepper, diced (any color or type provided it’s not hot; you can also used frozen)
2/3 cup tomato paste
1 14.5 oz (400 g) can diced tomatoes
2 15.5 oz (440 g) can white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed
Place the Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the diced onions and dry sauté until soft and slightly browned. You may need to add some water to prevent onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Keep stirring! (Note: If you are OK with using oil in your cooking, you can sauté the onion in some olive oil – 1 tablespoon should be sufficient).
Add the diced peppers, and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes, with frequent stirring, until peppers soften.
Once the peppers are softened, add the tomato paste and mix well. Let the tomato paste bloom for 1-2 minutes with frequent stirring.
Add the rice, beans, herbs, water, and diced tomatoes. Stir well and let come to boil, then transfer into the oven and leave in there for 30 minutes.
Take rice and beans out of the oven and enjoy! I recommend topping each plate with some fresh basil, and if you are not entirely oil-free with a drizzle of good olive oil and/or some parmesan (vegan, for those who are vegan or regular if you are a vegetarian or transitioning to plant-based diet), or some nutritional yeast (that’s my guilt-free favorite!!!). A simple side salad will complete this nicely, but if you are out of fresh produce due to social distancing, a pickle may work just as well!