Broccoli-Rice Bake with Cheddar

For me, spring cleaning isn’t just about scrubbing corners and clearing closets.  I extend my clean-up-and-clear-out to the freezer.  I am an expert at stocking up and  freezing meals, pestos, sauces, and soups all winter long, when the kitchen creature in me is in high  gear.  The problem is that then I forget what’s in the freezer and it never gets defrosted and eaten.   Project Freezer Clear Out must commence.

Tonight I found three huge boneless pork chops, a half bag of frozen broccoli, and a packet of brown rice in my freezer (for those of you who haven’t tried Trader Joe’s frozen organic brown rice, it’s a Godsend).  In my fridge I had a small piece of cheddar cheese, one egg white, and I also  found a bag of almond meal (not sure why I ever purchased that).  Well, the pork, egg and almond meal would become Almond Crusted Pork Chops (sounds pretty good for leftovers, right?), and I’d make a broccoli bake with the rice and cheddar.  After doing a quick internet search on “Broccoli Cheese Rice” I found many recipes for casseroles, and every single one included using a can of condensed “cream of whatever” soup and/or cheese-wiz. No thanks!   I decided to make a less processed cheese sauce (similar to that used in last week’s mac and cheese) and then just mix it with the broccoli and rice.

Once put together, the dish doesn’t even need to be baked, but I liked the crunchy top that was created when I did.  I already had the oven hot for the pork chops, so why not.  I thought it was a very simple side dish that would go well with any number of main courses.  And to think, it was made entirely from items I wanted to clear out!  Open your freezer this spring and start cleaning it out—you might be surprised by what you can create!

Broccoli-Rice Bake with Cheddar

Serves 4

8 oz frozen broccoli florets (thawed)

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup skim milk

2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

pinch nutmeg (optional)

salt+pepper to taste

1/4- 1/2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Place rice and defrosted broccoli in an oven-proof dish.

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted and add flour.  Cook, while whisking, for a couple of minutes to create a “roux” (it will be thick and whitish).  Add milk and continute to whisk until thickened.  Add shredded cheese and whisk until melted.  Add nutmeg if desired, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Pour on top of broccoli/rice mixture and stir until combined.

Top with breadcrumbs (if desired) and place in 350 degree oven until heated through and breadcrumbs are  lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Serve hot.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.
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