Thursday, September 17, 2009

Easy Dinner idea: Chicken Cheesy Rice Casserole

Why is it that anything that you bake with cheese on top looks the same? Oh still looks good ;-).

Believe it or not, I never thought to do this until my husband and I went to Maine and visited his grandparents years ago. His grandma Ruth served the most delicious casserole and I asked her for the recipe. And sure enough it was just a version of a classic "Campbells" casserole dish. I morphed it into my own over time and here how it goes...

You WILL need to make about 1 to 1 1/2 cup cooked rice (depending on preferences) and an 8 X 8 baking dish.

2 cans Cream of Chicken soup OR 1 family sized can Cream of Chicken soup (or sometimes I use 1 can cream of mushroom and 1 can cream of chicken).

Some milk (I'd say ABOUT 1/2 of a cup all might not need it all though, just as a warning)

Cheese...lots and lots of cheese (grated is preferable because it'll melt more evenly). Okay I love cheese, but if I had to guess I'd say you'd need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cheese all together.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts/thighs...diced and preferably cooked (or you can do like me and just throw a whole bunch into a frying pan with some Italian seasoning, some salt and pepper and just sautee a whole bunch. Just dice up any leftovers and throw them into the freezer for easy dinners later on :-).

Grill seasoning or seasoning of preference.

A handfull or so of your favorite frozen veggies (avoid canned for this dish if possible...the salt content from the Cream of Chicken soup is going to be more than enough salt)

Now I just layer this stuff into a casserole dish almost like a lasagna. Mainly because I usually keep already made-up rice in my freezer and this way I can just throw everything into a casserole and voila! Easy and done.

Reconstitute your Cream of Chicken soup to the consistancy of a thick sauce with some milk (using a whisk sure will make this easier on you...if you don't have one a good old fashioned fork is a poor man's whisk in any situation :).

Put a small amount of your new "sauce" into the bottom of your 8 x 8 pan. Put down a layer of rice. Sprinkle grill seasoning (or other seasoning) on top of rice. Then some chicken. Then some cheese. Then some sauce.

I do the second layers as this: rice, seasoning, veggies, cheese, sauce.

Repeat layers until you reach the top (I usually get one more layer of chicken and one more layer of veggies before the casserole is just jam packed full). When you reach the top, put down lots of cheese on top.

Now you can cover, put the casserole down on a sheet pan/cookie sheet lined with allumnium foil (in case of boil over) and put this into a 370 degree for about an hour if your chicken was done when you put the dish in. If not...I'd go for at LEAST an hour and half (there's a LOT of density to this dish) and then check it. It's done when the top is bubbling like mad all over. Take the cover off and put back into the over for about 15 minutes to brown the top.

OR, if you are rushed, just stick the whole thing into the microwave (if you have put this into a microwave safe dish that is) put it on for 15 minutes, check to see how done everything is (put back into microwave as needed) and THEN stick it into your oven for about 10 to 15 minutes to brown the cheese on top.

VOILA. Easy peazy. These are GREAT dishes to just make up ahead of time and stick in the freezer for easy dinners later on. I just stick them in the microwave for 10 to 15 minutes to defrost them and get everything bubbly then stick into the oven for like a half an hour or so to let the flavors meld and brown the cheese on top. Works great. And SOOO yummy!

And bonus? Kids LOVE this stuff! If nothing else, even if they pick the veggies out (which I usually ad peas and carrots...not so easy to eat around ;-), the veggies juices will absorb partly into the rice, so it won't be a total nutritional loss I'd say.

And there you have that! Enjoy!

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