The veggies could be switched up, using broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or green beans. (If using fresh, raw veggies, steam them briefly in the microwave before adding to the other ingredients.) Fresh spinach can be used, if steamed and drained before adding. For fresh spinach, begin with about 1 pound leaves. Chop then steam.
The cheese could be increased up to 2 cups, if your family likes more cheese. And the topping could be grated cheese, in place of a crumb topping, especially helpful if you're following a gluten-free diet.
The black olives can be left out, or something like water chestnuts, canned mushrooms, or pimento can be substituted. You can also add cooked meat, for an even heartier dish (about 1 cup diced cooked meat, such as ham, sausage, turkey or chicken).
Be creative! Think of this recipe as a guideline for how much of each basic ingredient to use, and how long to bake it.
To make 4 hearty servings or 5 to 6 side-dish servings:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 small onion, diced
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Mozzarella, Provolone and/or Cheddar cheese (I use a pizza blend cheese)
2 1/2 cups cooled, cooked rice
1/2 of a 10-oz package of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, liquid pressed out (about 3/4 to 1 cup packed, once thawed and drained)
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 teaspoon each freshly chopped parsley, thyme and/or basil leaves
salt (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) and dash black pepper
bread crumb topping:
1 teaspoon butter and 1 small slice of bread, ground into crumbs
Melt butter in small skillet and toast the bread crumbs in the melted butter for about 3 minutes, over Medium flame.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and 8-inch by 8-inch square casserole dish.
In a small skillet, over Medium-High, saute diced onions with 2 tablespoons butter, just until soft.
In a large bowl, beat eggs. Stir in milk, cheese, cooked rice. Add spinach, olives and seasonings.
Pour into prepared casserole dish, and top with buttered bread crumbs. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.
This rice bake can be made in the morning or evening before, to just before topping with bread crumbs. Keep refrigerated. Then just before baking, top with the crumbs and bake. Allow an extra 5-8 minutes for baking from refrigerator temperature.