Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Ugliest Dish I've Ever Made

This week I ventured in to another uncharted territory: casseroles. Never really made them before. Since we don't get home to eat until late at night, I've been looking for meals that can be prepared ahead of time and finished when we get home. I decided to give another one of the recipes out of my EatingWell: The Farmers' Market Cookbook a try, and settled on the Zucchini Rice Casserole. Since this recipe is also located online, I'll take the easy way out and provide you with the link, rather than re-type the whole dang thing. Here it is!:

Zucchini Rice Casserole

The first thing that appealed to me when reading the ingredients was that it had just about every food group you could want: healthy grains, seasonal veggies, dairy, and lean meat. The second appealing factor was that despite the fact it contains not 1, but TWO kinds of cheese, it's pretty low cal at only 249 calories per cup. I found that 2 cups was more than enough to fill me up! This would easily feed a family of 4, but since it's just the 2 of us it scored bonus points for having plenty left to re-heat the next night (and tasting just as good as it did the first night!).

I made a few minor changes in the ingredients to reflect what I had on hand. I used 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash. I only had 1 cup of brown rice so I also used 1/2 cup of Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley which also includes black barley and daikon radish seeds. I REALLY like the different textures the medley added, and would consider substituting it for the plain brown rice altogether. Instead of cream cheese, I used the rest of the local Daddy's Girl Dairy goat cheese I bought at the farmer's market last weekend. This cheese is worthy of a blog post all of its own. Its consistency is much closer to cream cheese than typical goat cheese, and the flavor is very mild.

I used grass fed ground bison since there was no ground turkey or turkey sausage at my local market. Bison (aka buffalo) is one of the healthiest meats around, and tastes very similar to beef. Per 100 gram serving, bison contains only 2.42 grams of fat and 143 calories, compared to beef with 10.15g fat and  219 calories, and skinless chicken with 7.41g fat and 190 calories. It's lower in cholesterol and higher in iron than beef, pork, or chicken. Bison is loaded with vitamins A, B12, and C, and are raised without drugs, chemicals, or hormones.

The dish, from start to refrigerator, takes a little under 2 hours, but most of that is in the oven. It's a great dish to make if you're cleaning house and can come back to it once in a while. Once you're ready to cook & serve, 45 minutes in the oven is all it takes. Here's what the finished product looked like:

Like I said, not the prettiest thing that's ever come out of my kitchen. To make up for it, the flavors were awesome. This dish was super duper yummy. Jeremy loved it, and we both had seconds. One of my favorite parts about this dish is that it will be so easy to substitute ingredients based on what's in season or what's on hand. You could easily use ground turkey, chicken, or pork, or shredded chicken. You could switch out cheeses and go Italian with some mozz and parm, or local with some cheddar. It's hard for me to think of a vegetable you COULDN'T use in this dish. Basically, it's very simple, super versatile, and ridiculously delicious. Hence, blogworthy. Too bad it's not prettier! 

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