Healthy Pizza Rice Casserole

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Pizza Rice Casserole

This is a delicious and nutritious casserole that is a favorite with kids

Brown rice, which has only the outer hull removed, retains–along with its bran layer–an impressive variety of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and even some vitamin E. Brown rice contains only a small amount of protein, but it is of good quality because of its relatively high level of the amino acid lysine. Because the bran is not milled away, brown rice contains four times the amount of insoluble fiber found in white rice.

Beef is an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. The cheese contributes calcium and protein.

The tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce are one of the best sources of lycopene, a carotenoid with cancer and heart disease fighting properties.

Onions are low in calories and are a rich source of a number of phytonutrients. They contain allyl sulfides (sulfur compounds that may lower blood pressure and discourage tumor growth), quercetin (a flavonoid with high antioxidant activity), and saponins (substances connected with cholesterol-lowering and tumor inhibition).

5 cups cooked long grain brown rice (About 2 cups raw)

Do not use white rice or the recipe will not work

1-pound extra-lean ground beef – optional or you can use ground turkey breast

1 onion, chopped (optional)

1 Jar (3 cups) prepared spaghetti sauce with <3 grams of fat per ½ cup

1 carton (16 oz) 2% or less fat cottage cheese

16 oz (4 cups) grated part-skim mozzarella or other cheese with <6 gm of fat per ounce

Cook brown rice 10-15 minutes less than package directions.  Meanwhile, brown ground beef and optional onion in a large skillet. Drain any fat. Add spaghetti sauce and simmer 5 minutes.

When rice is done, in a large bowl, mix together 5 cups cooked brown rice with the cottage cheese.

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Spread 1/2 of the rice-cottage cheese mixture, then 1/2 ground beef-sauce mixture. Continue alternating layers ending with the ground beef-sauce. Top with grated cheese. Cover loosely with foil. Be careful as the foil will stick to the cheese as it bakes.

Bake for 45 minutes until bubbly. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.         Serves 10.

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