In 2010, Lisa Leake and her family took on a challenge: to eat only “real food” for 100 days. They’d already tried to cut out the packaged, highly processed convenience foods that had crept into their diet, but Leake says she needed another push to help eliminate the shortcuts, snacks and even organic or fancy processed foods that still had dozens of ingredients that this mom of two young girls couldn’t identify.
As you can imagine, they all learned quite a bit about how hard it is to cut out processed foods from your diet, but also how easy it can be to make small changes in the kinds of ingredients you buy and how you approach meal planning and cooking. Leake has packed all of those lessons into a new book, “100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love” (William Morrow, $29.99), that includes lots of recipes for family friendly dinners made from whole and nutrient-dense ingredients, such as this spin on the broccoli cheese casserole that starts with brown rice and broccoli, which is in season now, and ends with homemade breadcrumbs.
You can, of course, use store-bought, but if you’re curious about getting away from products that have a curiously long shelf life, Leake’s book is a great way to kickstart your effort.
Cheesy Broccoli Brown Rice Casserole
1 cup uncooked brown rice, cooked according to the package directions
3/4 lb. broccoli, roughly chopped (4 or 5 cups) and steamed for about 5 minutes
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup diced onion
2 Tbsp. whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup homemade whole-wheat breadcrumbs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cooked rice and broccoli in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the flour begins to brown but doesn’t burn, whisking almost continuously.
Whisk in the milk, watching for lumps. Sprinkle in the cheese, salt, mustard and pepper and stir until well combined. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the mixture is the consistency of very thick gravy, less than 5 minutes.
Pour the cheese sauce over the broccoli and rice. Mix thoroughly and spread evenly in an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the casserole with the breadcrumbs and then drizzle (or spray) enough olive oil over the top to coat the breadcrumbs. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are nicely browned. Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6.
— From “100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love” by Lisa Leake (William Morrow, $29.99)