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Summer Vegetable Casserole

There is no reason a baked casserole can’t be comfort food and healthy at the same time. This week’s recipe does just that by working cottage cheese into your diet, which is a good source of protein and calcium, and featuring summer vegetables.

Drained, but not pressed, cottage cheese is a cheese curd that is not aged or colored. The high-protein milk curd is usually washed to remove acidity, which results in a slightly sweet, mild flavor. There are lots of varieties of cottage cheese and though our recipe calls for reduced-fat cottage cheese for those watching total calories, any preferred variety will do.

Cottage cheese is believed to date back to the mid-1800s. This cheese was popular with rural folks living in country cottages and was made from milk leftover after making butter. Indeed, many food historians believe the old nursery rhyme, “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey,” was referring to cottage cheese.

Speaking of cheese, while Parmesan cheese is an aged, pressed cheese also high in calcium, it is just a little lower in fat compared to other aged or ripened cheeses. Its intense nutty, earthy flavor enriches the casserole’s comfort food essence along with the whole-wheat panko bread crumb topping.

This casserole allows you to sneak in not only bone-building calcium, but also summer’s bounty of squash, zucchini and corn. Brown rice provides satiating complex carbohydrates and fiber and the eggs bind all ingredients together while providing additional satiating, high quality protein.

This delicious single dish entrée is a time saver during your busy summer schedule with less cooking and washing of pots and pans, leaving you more time to be active outside. Chop. Mix. Bake. Enjoy. Good-for-you comfort food.

Summer Vegetable Casserole

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 237 calories, 7 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 28 g carbohydrate, 15 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 350 mg sodium.

  • 1 tsp. canola oil or canola oil spray
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (divided)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked medium or long grain brown rice
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 cup diced yellow squash
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 3/4 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup corn (from cob or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain panko bread crumbs (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat or spray large glass pie pan (you can also use a metal baking dish) with oil and set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, cottage cheese, half of Parmesan cheese, garlic and mustard, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in rice, onion, pepper, squash, zucchini, tomatoes and corn. Gently mix together.
  3. Spoon mixture into pan. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, if using. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook for 35 minutes.
  4. Let casserole rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with thyme and serve.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.



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