In my family, Thanksgiving has 3 rules. And they all involve cheese:
1) There must be broccoli & rice casserole. I can bring roasted broccoli for a healthier broccoli dish. But it has to be served alongside of – not instead of – the casserole.
2) I must make the broccoli & rice casserole. Me. Shawnda. We spend every other Thanksgiving day with Jason’s family and every other Thanksgiving day, my little brother complains about how the casserole just isn’t the same. Even though it totally is. Except that one time my sister messed it up. I won’t embarrass her to the world… but her “fix” might have involved stirring in uncooked non-instant rice to firm things up about 27 seconds before it was time to eat. Crunchy casserole = no bueno casserole. And a whiny little brother.
3) Don’t mess with the broccoli & rice casserole recipe. The temptation, it’s great with this one. It’s loaded with not-real cheese, more butter than it needs, one of the maligned cream-of soups, and scandalously white rice. It’s not fancy but it’s tradition and it’s delicious and it’s a family (especially little brother) favorite.
So this year, I’m totally messing with the broccoli & rice casserole. It’s hard to disown a family member when you’re actually eating dinner at her house, right? Right?
And I’m not doing it to be a jerk. For serious. I’ve always wanted to make the dish a little more healthful – a task that at Thanksgiving, always feels like shooting a BB gun at a freight train. But after eating a bowl of it for dinner the other night, I have very little doubt that my little brother will be more than “just” fine with a less-processed version.
The texture of the quinoa is similar to rice. There’s still plenty of cheese. The top of the dish still gets those little crisped brown bites that he sneaks into the kitchen and steals before the rest of dinner is ready. There’s still plenty of that one bowl, creamy comfort food factor going on.
And more importantly, there’s plenty of real food going on.
Or I could be completely wrong and my little brother will be holding auditions for the role of new big sister before the first football is in the air on Thanksgiving.
Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole
Rich, cheesy, and comforting, this less-processed version of broccoli and rice casserole uses quinoa and real cheese and is made without cream of mushroom soup. Make it a one-dish meal and add leftover shredded chicken!
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa, uncooked
- 2 crowns of broccoli, cut into small florets
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cups milk (I use 2%)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (I use Creole)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cup leftover shredded chicken (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400.
- In a medium sauce pan, cook the quinoa in water with a generous pinch of salt, according to package, directions and then set aside.
- In a large pot, add the broccoli and a couple of inches of water.
- Cover the pot, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes, and then drain and rinse with cold water.
- Return the drained broccoli to the large pot and add the quinoa.
- In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Whisk in the flour, onion, garlic, mustard, cayenne, a generous pinch of salt and black pepper.
- Let cook 1-2 minutes and then slowly add the milk, whisking until the sauce is smooth.
- Let the sauce simmer, reducing the heat if necessary, about 5 minutes until thickened and bubbling.
- Remove from heat, whisk in the cheddar a handful at a time until completely melted.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce over broccoli-quinoa mixture and toss to coat, mixing well.
- Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and bake 35-30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.
- Serve warm.
Yields: 10-12 servings
Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes