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Easy Rice Bake

I hate when it’s almost time to go grocery shopping so you don’t have enough of anything to make a real recipe. For dinner tonight, I decided to follow in the footsteps of generations of housewives and make a baked casserole. Casseroles became household favorites because they were a cheap way to stretch a a few ingredients into a hearty meal.  They really took off when companies like Betty Crocker made prepackaged versions like Hamburger Helper (ha, a Hamburger Helper commercial came on TV as I typed that). But, they aren’t vegan and aren’t the healthiest. I made my own version instead. I had some fresh basil and canned pasta sauce that needed to be used up, so I made an Italian-style rice bake. You can make a pasta bake with this recipe too, just replace the rice with any pasta you like. Besides being tasty, this dish is a good way to clean out the fridge. You can throw in whatever veggies or leftovers you have kicking around.

Italian-Style Rice Bake
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cashews
1/4 of a tub of silken tofu, drained
1 cup pasta sauce
1 cup frozen veggies (carrots, peas–whatever you have in the freezer)
1 cup canned beans (I suggest white or pinto)
Anything else you want to clear out of the fridge or freezer

Everyone claims to have the secret to perfect rice, so cooked the rice according to your own method.

While your rice cooks, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.

To make the “pesto”, add the basil, garlic clove, cashews, and olive oil into a blender. Blend until the cashews are ground up and the mixture is smooth. Next add the tofu and blend until smooth. I suggest adding the tofu separately so the nuts gets thoroughly ground up.

Put the “pesto” into a large bowl. Next add the pasta sauce and mix together.

Now add your veggies, beans, or whatever else you want. I had a few fake chicken strips left over so I threw them in too.

Now add your cooked rice and mix it all together.

Spread evenly into your baking dish. Normally casseroles and other bakes are covered with cheese.  You could cover this with some vegan mozzarella, but I took a little healthier approach by just topping it with some Italian breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven, until the top is golden and crunchy.

This will easily feed a family of four or a college kid for a couple day. It would go lovely with a nice spinach salad too.

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