A quick and cozy side dish for any dinner!

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Click here for the full recipes and nutritional information!

Like most kids, I didn’t really like vegetables. Good luck trying to get 9-year-old me to eat spinach, or any part of a stew other than the meat (my, how the tides have turned!). Probably the only food with any type of green in it I liked as a kid was Cheddar Broccoli Rice-A-Roni. We would sometimes have it at my grandmother’s house with dinner, and the memory of its warm comfort can be recreated with this recipe for Cheesy Broccoli Mac & Rice. So let’s get cookin’!

The first thing you need is a creamy and delicious “cheese” sauce. This sauce is very similar to my nacho cheese and my beer cheese, but more simply seasoned for a basic cheese flavor. Basically you cook potatoes and carrots until soft, and then throw the rest of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. You can make this ahead of time, which makes this weeknight dish super-fast to prepare.

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In a frying pan, saute the vermicelli and rice until the former starts to get a little golden-brown color. This goes a lot faster with a tablespoon or two of oil, but I don’t tend to bother with it.

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Add the water and cheese sauce, bring to a boil, and simmer while covered until the rice is cooked.

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Meanwhile, defrost the chopped broccoli in a strainer under hot water. Add the broccoli in right at the end to preserve its color and texture and heat through.

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And that’s it! This dish is so incredibly easy to make, and super customizable. Substitute corn for the broccoli and add a bit of salsa. Or add bacon bits and a dollop of sour cream for a loaded baked potato feel. Or stir in some shredded cheddar for an extra gooey experience.

Tonight I served this with my Maple Dijon Carrots and some crazy-easy popcorn shrimp. It’s just rehydrated TVP chunks tossed in flour and Old Bay and baked (or deep-fried) until golden-brown. You can sub in Butler Soy Curls for more of a clam strip look, or even use pressed and cubed firm or extra-firm tofu.

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Also, please excuse the terrible pictures. It’s been raining for days now, and there is no such thing as good lighting in my house if it’s not sunny. But trust me, this is pure comfort food when the weather outside is frightful.

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I hope you’ll give this meal (or any part of it) a try. Please let me know what you think in the comments!

~M

Cheesy Broccoli Mac & Rice | Printable Version

Makes 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Cheese Sauce:
1 c chopped carrots
2 c chopped white potatoes
1 c plant-based plain yogurt or unsweetened milk
¼ c nutritional yeast
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t salt
½ t black pepper
1 T apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
¼ t paprika (optional)

1 c long-grain white rice
½ c vermicelli
10 oz fresh or frozen chopped broccoli

Directions:

  1. Boil carrots and potatoes until fork-tender. Drain and blend with other sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.
  2. In a large skillet, toast rice and vermicelli over medium-high heat until vermicelli starts to turn a golden brown. Add 4 cups of water and cheese sauce and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Continue to stir often.
  4. If frozen, defrost chopped broccoli in a strainer under hot water. Drain thoroughly and stir into rice to heat through. Serve.

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Popcorn Shrimp | Printable Version

Makes 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

4 c TVP chunks*
1 c all-purpose flour
3 T Old Bay seasoning
1 T Braggs Sea Kelp seasoning or ground nori (optional)
Oil for frying (optional)

Directions:

  1. Rehydrate TVP in hot water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and lightly press.
  2. If frying, bring 2 cups of oil to 375°F in a medium saucepan. If baking, preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Add flour and seasonings to a zippered kitchen bag. Toss in TVP and thoroughly coat.
  4. If frying, fry in batches of one cup at a time, and remove and drain once just golden-brown. If baking, spread onto baking sheet, spray top with cooking spray if desired, and bake until just golden-brown, about 10 minutes.

*you can also use pressed and cubed firm or extra firm tofu
Nutritional information is for baked version. Fried version has 236 calories and 12 g fat per serving.

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