It’s been a struggle, but I think spring is almost here. Every time I say that we slip back into 30 degree temperatures with a chance of flurries in the forecast. But I’m going to be optimistic and say the worst is passed and sunshine and warmth is right on the horizon.
One of the ways I’m able to stay so optimistic is that spring produce is starting to hit the shelves. Things like asparagus, peas, leeks, and mushrooms are all emerging and signaling the end of a long winter. When new fruits and vegetables come to the grocery store I always get excited to try new recipes and come up with some delicious meals.
I can’t take all the credit for this dish though. It was largely influenced by Keepin’ It Kind’s Pumpkin Seed Pesto Rice Casserole. I really liked the idea of using a pesto as the sauce in a casserole. I changed a few things up and loaded it with a lot of yummy spring vegetables. I brought it along with me to my families Easter brunch and they seemed to enjoy it. It’s great to feed a crowd and really simple to put together, plus the leftovers are delicious!
Slightly adapted from Keepin’ It Kind’s Pumpkin Seed Pesto Rice Casserole
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup spinach (I used frozen but if you use fresh add another cup)
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 cup chopped asparagus
- 1 package mushrooms, sliced (any variety, I used baby bella)
- 1 cup peas
- 2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- lemon juice to taste
Bread crumb topping
This topping is totally optional but adds a nice crunch. If you’re gluten-free use your favorite gluten free bread.
- 2-3 slices bread, dried out
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp salt
1. Start by making your bread crumbs. Place everything in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times until you have a crumb consistency. Set aside.
2. Make your pesto next. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor or blender until you reach desired consistency.
3. Next, heat a large pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion and leeks until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add in the mushrooms and cook until their size reduces by half. Then add in the peas, asparagus, rice, beans, and seasonings and heat through for another 5 to 8 minutes. Place this mixture into a large bowl.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Scoop the pesto into the large bowl and combine everything really well. You don’t want any large chunks of pesto hanging out in the mix. Then pour the mixture into a lightly oiled casserole dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs across the top. Place in the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.
And that’s it! A simple spring casserole that is easy to make and tasty to eat!
What are some of your favorite spring vegetables and how do you like to eat them?
Happy Friday everyone and have a great weekend!