I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of winter. I’m ready for budding trees, green grass, and gardening! Sadly, it seems winter will be hanging around for a little while longer, so we have to make the best of it.
With that being said, this make ahead Monday is sort of a fresh take on comfort food. Hearty winter vegetables combined with brown rice, a creamy sauce, and a crisp topping is surprisingly light. This comforting dish is rich and satisfying, but won’t weigh you down – perfect for transitioning into spring!
It can be hard to eat fresh vegetables throughout the winter because they just aren’t as good out of season. However, don’t let the weather discourage you, as there are still many options when it comes to winter produce. Look for root vegetables, hearty winter greens, and winter squash. Other options include mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, and oranges. I find that all of those are pretty good in the winter months, so I try to plan my meals utilizing whatever looks best in the produce section.
I love the combination of kale and mushrooms, as they stand up well through cooking, so they work exceptionally well in this gratin. Sautéed mushrooms and onions flavored with a pinch of red pepper flakes and lots of fresh garlic create the base for this delicious gratin. Throw in some kale, mix in a really easy, creamy sauce, some hearty brown rice, and top with a mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs and you have yourself a fantastic meal.
Instead of making a thick béchamel sauce for this, I decided to mix eggs with low-fat milk. The eggs along with the starchiness from the rice are what will thicken up the sauce. It’s a great make-ahead meal, or one that you can easily freeze in individual servings to have for a last minute dinner, or a quick lunch.
I try to eat a lot of meatless dinners throughout the week, which isn’t hard for me because I love vegetables! However, if you are one that needs to have meat, you can definitely serve this gratin as a side dish to grilled chicken, pork, beef, or even fish.
I urge you to navigate through the produce section of your grocery store and seek out the best winter produce and get cooking! No more excuses for not eating your fruits and veggies!!
Winter Brown Rice Gratin
Comfort food made healthy with whole grains and veggies. Serve this delicious gratin with a big green salad for a healthy, satisfying meal.
Serves: 8 | Prep Time: 10 Min. | Cook Time: 2 Hrs
1 ½ Cups Brown Rice
2 ½ Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Onion, finely chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
½ Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
10 oz. Assorted Mushrooms (such as crimini, button, shitake, oyster), thinly sliced
1 Bunch Fresh Kale
2 ½ – 3 Cups Low-Fat Milk*
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
½ Cup Gruyere Cheese, grated
½ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 375º.
Combine the brown rice, water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper in a 9×9 baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Set aside
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes; season with salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Add in the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes until soft.
Remove the tough stems from the kale and discard; thinly slice the leaves and add to the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until wilted. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large bowl, combine the milk and eggs. Pour mixture into the pan with the vegetables and mix well. Stir in the brown rice and season with more salt and pepper.
Pour the rice-veggie mixture into a 9×13 inch-baking dish. Top the casserole with the cheese and breadcrumbs and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake at 375º for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
- If you are making the gratin and baking immediately, use 2 ½ cups of milk. If you are making it as a make ahead meal, use 3 cups. It may seem liquid-y at first, but as it bakes the eggs will thicken up the sauce.
- You can use any of your favorite vegetables in this, and even alter it for every season.
- If you don’t like things spicy, scale down the red pepper or omit it all together.