Brown rice is a healthy grain to consume as it provides vitamins and minerals not prevalent in white rice. When compared, 1 cup of brown rice provides more than double the omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and selenium than that of white rice (source and source). This is mostly due to the fact that brown rice still contains its bran and germ layers, which are rich in nutrients. With white rice, these layers are removed. Brown rice also provides energy, antioxidants, lowers cholesterol, and reduces your risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Read more about the various health benefits of brown rice here.
Soaking rice before cooking not only provides a fluffy final product, but also renders the rice more digestible and shortens cooking time. This can be convenient for those with busy lives due to the fact that the rice can soak while you’re out taking care of your daily duties, then, when you get home, you can proceed with cooking. For this recipe, however, should you find that you are super short on time, instant rice can be easily substituted. Simply prepare according to package directions and substitute vegetable broth for water.
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole with Chickpeas
1½ cups uncooked long grain brown rice
3 cups warm water
1 quart vegetable broth (divided into 3 cups and 1 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped white onion
3 cups chopped fresh broccoli
¼ cup water
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (8-ounce) container chive and garlic imitation cream cheese (I use Galaxy Nutritional Foods)
1 cup vegan shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for the top
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Soak rice in 3 cups warm water for 6-8 hours. Drain, rinse and place rice in a medium-size pot. Add 3 cups vegetable broth, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep covered, remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease a 9” x 13” casserole dish and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large, wide pot with lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and broccoli and stir for 1 minute. Add ¼ cup water, cover and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes or until broccoli and onion are tender. Do not remove the lid during this time as it will allow steam to escape. Remove pot from heat and add remaining ingredients, including cooked rice and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth, stirring to combine.
Spread mixture into prepared dish and sprinkle with extra vegan shredded cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
NOTE: The cream cheese used in this recipe was a free sample provided by Galaxy Nutritional Foods, Inc. The views and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect that of others.