Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mushroom Rice Casserole

When it comes to comfort foods, casseroles rank high on the list. Perhaps it’s because we so often associate them with family dinners and happy childhood memories. Maybe it’s because casseroles are warm and cozy kinds of dishes. They may not be fancy or sophisticated, but casseroles are hearty, filling, and have the power to make you feel comforted at the end of a long day.

Casseroles are not, however, always the healthiest of dining options, with creamy sauces, salty condensed soups, and mounds of cheese often playing major roles. And while I’ll be the first to admit I love a good cheesey casserole (hello – macaroni and cheese), for everyday eating, I try to find healthier ways to remake some of my old favorites. This mushroom rice casserole isn’t an exact replica of anything I ate as a child, but it definitely reminds me of a few favorites. And really, who’s to say casseroles are only for kids? We certainly enjoyed this one and will make it again often.

This mushroom rice casserole is the epitome of comfort food. It is homey and delicious, full of chopped mushrooms and a subtle onion flavor. Instead of the condensed cream soups typically found in casseroles with similar ingredients, this casserole uses cottage cheese, sour cream, and eggs to bind the mushrooms and rice together. These ingredients add extra protein and contain far less salt than most canned soups. You can use low-fat versions of the cottage cheese and sour cream as well, which makes the casserole a bit healthier. Serve this casserole as a side or as a vegetarian entrée. It would also be great with some cooked chopped chicken breast stirred in before baking. However you dish it up, this casserole is guaranteed to add a little comfort to your day.

Mushroom Rice Casserole
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 T. olive oil
8-10 oz. package cremini (brown) mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked brown rice, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For garnish: chopped tarragon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine rice and mushroom mixture. Mix well.

In another bowl, stir together eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and sea salt.

Add the cottage cheese mixture to the rice and mushrooms. Stir well to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the Parmesan cheese over the top of the mushroom mixture.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until bubbly and golden brown around the edges, 20 to 30 minutes more.

Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining Parmesan cheese and chopped tarragon.

Serve hot.

Serves 6 to 8.

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