Monday, October 20, 2014

Oven Baked Creamy, Cheesy, Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole

Diane Smith is one of my go-to cooks on the internet. So when she posts a yummy recipe (especially a casserole), you can be sure I'm right there, writing down the ingredients and making plans to put her good cooking and excellent instincts to a test run in my kitchen.  This dish is inspired by Diane and I sure do have to give her the credit for her timing in cooking brown rice in the oven. As many of you know, I am seriously brown rice impaired, and Diane made it simple for me to pull together a perfectly cooked, creamy chicken and rice dish in one pot no less. Her original recipe can be found here, and it's made with poppy seeds. I am not so much a poppy seed fan, but love the combo of creamy, cheesy anything and want to share my little journey putting this beautiful and tasty oven baked dish together. Warning- It's not a 45 minute casserole, but worth every minute in the oven.

Oven Baked Chicken and and Brown Rice with Tarragon, Dijon and White Wine
serves 4

1 c uncooked brown rice
salt and pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese grated
2 large boneless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 10 oz can non fat/low sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 c lite sour cream
1-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 to 1-1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 c dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1/2 sleeve of Ritz crackers crushed
1/4 c unsalted butter melted

Let's cook: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 inch pan with cooking spray or butter. I was feeling decadent and used the butter, (good choice I decided later). Spread uncooked rice evenly over prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 the cheese over rice and place chicken on top.

Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top of the chicken. Set the chicken aside and mix your condensed soup, sour cream, tarragon and Dijon mustard

Spread mixture on top of seasoned chicken. In a medium size measuring cup, combine chicken broth, and wine and pour over the top of the casserole. This flavorful liquid along with the condensed soup is going to magically cook your chicken and rice to perfection. Looks good already, doesn't it?

 Place casserole uncovered in oven and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

And now my favorite part...the Ritz crackers and butter. Top casserole with the crackers and drizzle butter lovingly on top of the crackers. Place casserole back in oven.

 Bake another 25 minutes and dinner is done. And well worth waiting for. How delish is this?

I'll answer that since you haven't made it yet. It's creamy, cheesy, crunchy, and oh! so flavorful. It tastes like a meal fit for a king or queen. Plus the possibilities for this dish are endless. I might add some veggies next time- like baby peas or asparagus. Or some roasted red peppers. As I said to Diane, "this is not just a recipe- it's another way of cooking chicken and rice to perfection.... which is not easy!" As always, thanks Diane for a wonderful cooking experience! Loved every minute, especially the eating part. LD

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stick to your Ribs

Sometimes after a day in front of the computer I want a hearty, comforting soup  for dinner and that's the only thing that's going to make me happy. And with real estate taxes due in a little more than 15 days I've been skimping a bit on my grocery supplies and the pickin' have been slim. "Not to worry," I said to myself, "there's always something around here to make you happy." And I was right. If you like the smokey flavor of bacon, don't mind adding a few of Nathan's Bigger than the Bun hot dogs, some canned Great Northern Beans and a small serving of orzo, this soup is seasoned just right and can be done easily on a weeknight. Don't let the long list of ingredients inhibit you, the prep/cooking time goes fast!

Stick to your Ribs Bacon, Franks, Orzo and Bean Soup
Makes 2-3 large bowls or 4 smaller portions

4 strips bacon cooked and crumbled
1 T bacon fat
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2-1/2 cups no fat chicken broth, I forgot to get the low sodium so I added...
1-1/2 cups water
8 oz tomato sauce
1 dried bay leaf
2 tsp sriracha sauce- or Frank's hot sauce would work nicely with its vinegary flavor
1 T brown sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 can (15.5 oz) Navy Beans rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry orzo
4-5 frankfuters sliced 1/4-1/2 inch
4 oz baby spinach chopped

Let's cook! Cook your bacon (not too crisp) and set aside. Reserve 1 T of bacon fat. In large/medium soup pot add the bacon fat and 1-2 tsp of olive oil. On medium/low heat add the diced onion and sweat for about 5 minutes. Now add your chopped garlic, cook about 1 minute max and be very careful not to let it burn. Add the Old Bay, kosher salt, and ground black pepper and stir to incorporate into the onion/garlic mixture. Toss in your dried bay leaf.

Add 2-1/2 cups no fat (store bought) chicken broth, 1-1/2 cups water, 8 oz canned tomato sauce and stir to combine. Now let's season this baby up with the srirscha, brown sugar and Dijon mustard. Bring to a simmer and add your cooked bacon, beans, hot dogs and orzo. Cover and cook on a very low simmer until orzo is done, about 13 minutes. Now toss in your chopped spinach, and cook uncovered until wilted. Taste broth for seasoning and make adjustments.

Ladle up this bit of comfort food. I think you will enjoy!