Vegan Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole

Smothering vegetables in cheese is always going to win your taste buds over, but it isn’t necessarily the best option when trying to stay fit. When looking for a recipe that was both healthy and full of flavor, I stumbled across this vegan “cheesy” broccoli rice casserole. This dish is so tasty that you’ll want to go for seconds and lick the bowl for the last bit of “cheese” sauce. The key to this dish is the vegan cheese sauce. To create the smoothest and most velvety “cheese”, follow these 4 tips:

- Boil the vegetables until completely soft. The potatoes should crumble when touched
with a fork.

- Blend the cashews, oil, mustard and garlic with the cooking water before you add the
vegetables.

- If you don’t have a high-power blender (which I don’t) soak the cashews in water for a
few hours. Drain the water before adding the cashews to the blender.

- Once you add the vegetables, blend until everything is silky smooth. This might take up to 3 minutes. Blend until everything is as creamy as possible.

You can speed up the recipe by using a rice cooker, but call me old-fashioned, I just love cooking rice in a pot over the stove :) This amazing plant-based dish is healthy and full of great flavor. Not vegan? Serve with baked salmon or shredded chicken!

INGREDIENTS

- 2 cups brown rice, dry

- 1 teaspoon olive oil

- 2 broccoli crowns, chopped into 1” pieces

- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped

- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1” cubes

- 2⁄3 cup chopped carrots

- 2 cups cooking water, reserved

- 2⁄3 cup cashews

- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

- 3 cloves garlic, peeled

- 1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

- 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

DIRECTIONS

- In a wide, lidded saucepan, cook 2 cups of brown rice according to package directions. Fluff with a fork, remove from the pan and set aside.

- Add the olive oil and broccoli to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.

- Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and continue to steam the broccoli in the pan for 3-4 minutes or until the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender.

- Remove the broccoli from the pan and set aside.

- Add the onion, potatoes, and carrots and cover with 2 inches of water.

- Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

- Add the vegetables, 1 cup of cooking water, cashews, salt, garlic, Dijon, black pepper and nutritional yeast to a blender.

- Be sure to allow steam to escape from the top of the blender. Blend until completely smooth.

- Add the broccoli and rice back into the skillet. Cover with cheese sauce and stir until combined.

*If you want a slightly more decadent (non-vegan) option, I recommend grating Parmesan cheese over the entire dish and stick under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese creates a melted/crusted layer.

Natalie Oboodiyat