Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chicken & Rice Casserole

I love meals that can be made ahead.  If they freeze well too, bestill my heart.  While I always love a good casserole, when the temperatures drop I love them even more.  A couple of years back I discovered this Cheesy Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole on Picky Palate.  I couldn't find the wild rice she recommended so I made a substitution and then a few more tweaks.  It quickly became one of my favorites.  This recipe is a little more time consuming to prepare, but it can all be made ahead and then just popped in the oven before dinner.  It is also super easy to double so you can get two wonderful meals without having to do the work twice.  I like to make a double batch of this Chicken & Rice Casserole on the weekend for a delicious Sunday dinner, and then freeze one to bring a little weekend goodness to a busy weeknight.

The cheese sauce in this Chicken & Rice Casserole is homemade, but I take a little shortcut with this super yummy Quinoa & Brown Rice mix.

I buy mine at Costco in a 6-pack but you can get it at Target and Wal-Mart too.  Start out by microwaving your rice according to the instructions on the package and then set it aside.

Chop up some onion, carrot, and celery and saute them in a large pot with a little olive oil.  Once the vegetables are softened, add in a good amount of minced garlic and saute for about a minute more.

Stir in the pre-cooked rice, a few cups of chopped up rotisserie chicken, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  This recipe is deliciously garlicky, but not overly so.

While your veggies are sauteing, make your cheese sauce.  Melt half a stick of butter in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in an equal amount of flour along with a little salt and pepper.  Pour in two cups of chicken stock and continue to whisk until the sauce starts to thicken.  Stir in some shredded cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses until they are melted.

Pour the cheese sauce over the rice mixture and stir until everything is well coated.  Pour it all into a 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Top with some more shredded cheese because cheese is delicious.

  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Look at that bubbly goodness.  This Chicken & Rice Casserole is comfort food at its finest.  The layered garlic flavors from the garlic, garlic powder, and rice blend give an incredible depth of flavor.  Combine that with the creamy, cheesy goodness of the sauce and the slight bite from the veggies and you have casserole perfection.  Dinner is served!

Chicken & Rice Casserole
Adapted from Picky Palate

For the casserole: 
    • 2-4 tbls. olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 cup chopped celery
    • 1 cup chopped carrots
    •  4-6 cloves garlic, minced
    •  3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
    • 3 (8.5 oz) packages Seeds of Change Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic   
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    For the sauce:
    • 4 tbls. butter
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. pepper 
    • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
    • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
    • 2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, divided
    1. Microwave your rice according to the package instructions.
    2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute onion, carrots, and celery, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 15 minutes).   Add in the garlic and saute for another minute.
    3. While the vegetables are cooking, make your cheese sauce:  Melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper and continue to cook over medium-high heat for about a minute.  Add in chicken stock, continuing to whisk until sauce starts to thicken.  Stir in 1 1/3 cups of cheddar and 1 cup of Monterrey Jack cheeses until melted.
    4. Add the chicken, rice/quinoa blend, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pot with the vegetables.  Stir to combine.
    5. Pour in cheese sauce and stir until everything is coated.  Then pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  
    6. Top with the remaining 2/3 cup cheddar and 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheeses and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
    *You can also divide this into two square baking dishes and freeze one for another time. 

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