Be prepared for chill with broccoli casserole

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The rain is gone, for now, and I am enjoying our Southern California sunshine once again. I mess up sometimes and think that because it is sunny, the weather is going to be warm. Oh, how wrong I have been lately.

I left the house a few days ago after glancing out the window, seeing the bright morning sun, and donning a pair of jeans and a short sleeved shirt. As soon as I stepped outside I knew I had made a mistake. Shivering, I headed right back inside for a sweater, a coat and boots. It was sunny, but so chilly.

Where was I headed that morning? Jury duty. Quite possibly, these are the two most dreaded words in the English language. And for the second time in less than two decades, I was serving as a juror.

After the initial cattle call of 650 potential jurors, which included a two hour wait in line in 35 degree weather (but it was sunny!) and the smaller jury pool of about 60 people, 12 of us had our names called and were sitting in the jury box. It kind of felt like “The Hunger Games” movie, but with middle-aged people.

Yes, jury duty is an inconvenience. And yes, it is our civic responsibility as citizens. But the hardest part for me was scrambling to have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour once I got home in the late afternoon each day.

I finally got my act together in the second week of jury duty and prepped casseroles the night before. This week’s recipe from the Cookie & Kate website caught my eye because it includes quinoa and broccoli, both good sources of alternative protein at eight grams per cup and five grams per cup, respectively.

This meatless meal is a healthy source of protein and a warm comforting dinner to come home to after a long, chilly day.


Photo by Betty Williams

Better Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup quinoa (any color), rinsed under running water in a mesh sieve for a minute and drained
  • 16 oz. broccoli florets, either pre-packaged or sliced from 2 large bunches of broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz. (about 2 1/2 cups) freshly grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat milk (any kind, plain)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter or 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread (substitute gluten-free bread for a gluten-free casserole)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring the vegetable broth or water to boil in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized pot. Add the quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 17 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Cover and set aside to steam for 10 minutes.

Slice any large broccoli florets in half to make bite-sized pieces. Transfer the broccoli to your prepared baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, until lightly coated on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and arrange in a single layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is tender and starting to caramelize on the edges.

Tear bread into bite-sized pieces and toss into a food processor or blender. Process until the bread has broken into small crumbs. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, stirring often. Add the bread crumbs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly browned and crisp. Set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Add the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to the pot of quinoa, and stir. Set aside 3/4 cup of the cheese for later, then add the cheese to the pot.

Add milk and stir until cheese and milk are incorporated in the quinoa. Stir in broccoli.

Pour mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the surface of the casserole with the reserved cheese, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, until the top is golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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Betty Williams