RECIPE: Smokey Cheesy Sausage and Brown Rice Casserole

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I know casseroles are supposed to be super easy, where you just throw everything in a pot or pan and be done. That's the beauty of casseroles, right? Well, I am the urban domestic diva, and that means sometimes I have to get my hands all over a recipe and make it my own. So here we are.

The original recipe for this was pretty much throw it in a pan and bake it. But typical me, I had to complicate it a little. The added steps were to improve flavor and texture, and this rendition turned out pretty well.

I first wanted to get more liquid in the dish to help out the rice. So I added chicken broth. I also felt the vegetables needed to cook together more, so I sautéed them in a pan before adding to the rest of the ingredients. I switched out the white rice with brown, for a healthier slant. Then I decided to pregrill the sausage. I found grilling smoked sausage brings out the smoke flavor inherent in making smoked sausage, deepening the flavor of the dish overall. If you don't have time to do this step, maybe have your hubby grill them for you earlier in the week, if he's grilling other things. You can slice them up and refrigerate them until casserole night?

Finally, I quickly made my own cheese sauce. Now don't roll your eyes and run to the store to get a jar of cheese sauce. Making cheese sauce is not that hard, and the added step makes the dish have a fresher flavor with less sodium. Also, play with different cheeses. I used sharp cheddar here, but you can use white cheeses, or a mix of both.

The result is still an easy dinner solution, but with deeper flavors and healthier grains! Who can argue with that?


Smokey Cheesy Sausage and Brown Rice Casserole

Ingredients

2 small cloves garlic
1 package Eckrich smoked sausage {grilled until brown, cooled then sliced)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups instant brown rice
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock

Cheese Sauce
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Grill the sausage and cool, then slice. 

 
we like our sausage well charred, but
cook yours to your preference!
Make the cheese sauce. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until a paste forms, and cook for one minute until hot and bubbly. Slowly whisk in the milk, and whisk until smooth and begins to thicken. Whisk in the cheese and the Dijon mustard and mix until smooth, thick and well combined. Take off the heat and keep warm until ready to add to the casserole.



In a large saute pan, cook the garlic and onions until beginning to become translucent. Add the red peppers and cook until the peppers begin to soften. Take off the heat.

In a large bowl, mix the uncooked rice with the red pepper mixture and the peas. Then add the cheese sauce and the chicken broth and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Finally add the cooked sausage slices and mix until evenly distributed.




Pour the rice mixture to prepared baking dish evenly, and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly and hot and the top is golden brown. Serve warm.


* Please note, in my day job, I work on Smithfield brands as one of my many marketing clients. This post was not paid for or asked for by the Eckrich brand and company. This was me doing my own research and experimenting with the product. All product was purchased by me. All thoughts, opinions and obsessions about smoked sausage are completely my own. Thanks!

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