Going Green

Shortly after the beginning of the year, my oldest-at-home son announced he was no longer eating meat. While I didn’t try to talk him out of it, the thought of having to come up with meatless meals that would please the whole family dimmed my new resolution to serve a nutritious sit-down dinner every night this year. 

I wondered just how long my husband and kids would tolerate a never-ending menu of cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other meatless fare traditionally reserved for Friday nights during Lent.  
This week, veggie boy subsisted on the salads I served as sides, the pasta I made in case they didn’t like the new dish I served last Sunday and the potatoes I served with pork tenderloin – oven roasted one night, mashed the next.
By Friday, he was looking a little pale. I appealed to my sister. When we were kids, she’d scour cookbooks while I tore through TigerBeat. My boys love when she cooks for them and wonder why, when I make the exact same recipe, it doesn’t taste as good as when Aunt Mary makes it.  
But I don’t mind. She’s always there for me and yesterday was no exception. Pulling out her handy-dandy Weight Watchers cookbook, she pulled out the gem below – a lovely, nutritious and best of all, meatless, casserole. The perfect comfort food for a frigid Friday night.
As soon as I clocked out, I buzzed into the kitchen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate making rice. Even if I follow the recipe to the letter,  it still comes out gummy or mushy, or is still hard and crunchy. It’s been the downfall of many otherwise excellent meals. 
However, since cooked rice is a part of this casserole, married in with other ingredients, the pressure was off. I figured if it came out sub-par, no one would be the wiser.
And I was right.
As I pulled the bubbling beauty out the oven, I called out to my kids, “Dinner’s ready!”
No response.
I knew my husband was at work, but where was everyone else? Was I so absorbed in making this new recipe that I didn’t hear them escape to the nearest fast food establishment? 
The family room was dark. I ascended the stairs to the bedroom. There, I found my vegetarian son, exhausted from finals week, fast asleep in his bed. I quietly shut the door. My other three, huddled around a video game waved me off. The after school snacks, consumed too late in the day, had them more interested in Mario than the meal. 
After letting the lovely casserole cool, I popped it in the fridge. 
At least I don’t have to cook tonight… 
Bon appétit!

Mexican-Style Brown Rice Casserole
Weight Watchers Recipe
Prep time: 12 min
Cook time: 30 min
Serves: 6
Like a burrito in a bowl, this dish is great for parties. Serve a big salad on the side.
Ingredients
1 spray(s) cooking spray
 
4 cup(s) cooked brown rice  
 
1 1/4 cup(s) fat free salsa
1 tsp Durkee ground cumin, or other brand
 
15 oz canned refried beans
 
10 oz frozen corn kernels, thawed
 
4 oz canned green chili peppers, mild, diced
1 Tbsp chili powder   
 
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, or collard greens, thawed and set to drain in a strainer over a bowl
3/4 cup(s) low-fat shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped (optional; for garnish)
Instructions
·       Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a 2-quart rectangular, round or oval baking dish with cooking spray
·       In a large bowl, combine rice, salsa and cumin. Spoon 2 cups of rice mixture into prepared baking dish and spread out to evenly cover bottom of dish.
·       In another large bowl, combine refried beans, corn, chili peppers and chili power. Using a rubber spatula, scrape bean mixture on top of rice layer and smooth out top.
·       Squeeze out any excess water from spinach or collard greens and then spread on top of bean layer; sprinkle with 6 tablespoons of cheese. Top with remaining rice mixture and smooth out top; sprinkle with remaining cheese.
·       Place casserole on a large rimmed baking sheet to catch any spillage. Bake until heated through and cheese is browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro (if desired), cut into 6 pieces and serve.
Notes
·       Leftover brown rice works well in this dish. Or save time by picking some up at your local Chinese restaurant.

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