Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chicken and Rice Casserole

I have been trying to be more intentional about meal making lately.  I don't have a meal plan.  I probably should.  Our lives are so not typical that our routine has become so not typical.  We grab things on the run.  We dine out more than we should {that might mean even once or twice - it's expensive to eat out people!!}.  We make unhealthy choices because - let's face it - eating healthy can also be expensive!  We're becoming more and more budget conscious over here so I've turned to casseroles as our family meal option.

Why casseroles?

It's a one-dish meal that is generally easy to prepare {at least the ones I'm going for have been}.  They also freeze easily.  I also discovered that when you make just one casserole, there's quite often an ingredient or two where you need a certain amount for the recipe, but the package you purchase is more than what you need for just one casserole.  I decided to double the recipes and, instead of making just one casserole, I'm making two at a time.  Quite honestly, it's easier to make two at the same time than it is to just make one.  I also decided that making two at one time is actually more cost-effective because I'm actually not buying two of everything needed for the recipe.  I've found that one onion will do for two casseroles.  I like onions for flavor, but when it calls for one medium onion, chances are I'd only use half anyway!  I've also stretched "not quite enough meat for two but more than enough for one" to cover two casseroles.  The casserole winds up with just enough meat for my tastes, but I didn't have to purchase twice the amount!  Who cares if it isn't exactly double what the recipe calls for.  Ingredients aside, it's one cooking effort, one set of dishes used and cleaned, one cleaning of the stove, one pile of trash/recyling, one use of the oven, and so on.  Once finished, we serve one and have leftovers for a few days and then pull out the other.  Between the two casseroles, we're good for several days!

Today I'm sharing a recipe I made the other day.  I cannot claim it as my own, so I am giving credit to Ms. Paula Deen.  This recipe for Chicken & Rice Casserole comes from "The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook" {pg. 67 if you must know!}.  It claims to serve 6 or 8.

Here's how it went down:
{remember, this is for my doubled version}

While you're prepping the other items for the casserole, you can very easily begin cooking the rice for the meal.  You will need two 6-oz boxes of Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice {that's one type of rice all in the same box, friends!}.  You cook it according to the package instructions.  I cooked both boxes at the same time!  Be sure to preheat your oven to 300 degrees at this time.

While that's going on, begin cooking your chicken breasts.  For a single batch, the recipe requires 3 cups of diced cooked chicken.  Since I was doubling, I knew I'd need 6 cups.  Chicken, unfortunately, was not on sale, so I got a package of three large chicken breasts.  Whether it measured out to 6 cups or not, I do not know.  I seasoned the chicken breasts lightly and used a splash of olive oil.
Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Next, you'll begin to sautee your diced onion.  The single recipe calls for one medium onion.  I used one regardless of the fact that I was making a double batch.  I also just threw it in the same pot that I'd used to cook the chicken so it would be one less dish.  Also, the onion would pick up the flavors from the chicken!

The recipe did not call for this, but I had some lovely green bell peppers on hand, so I chopped one up and threw it in with the onions!

The single recipe calls for one 8-oz can of water chestnuts {drained and chopped}.  I used two cans for this recipe.  It then calls for two 14.5-oz cans of French green beans {rinsed and drained}.  To double this, that would mean four cans of beans.  {uh, yeah...I did pass kindergarten math you know!!}  To me, four cans seemed a tad excessive, so I stuck with the two cans for the doubled version.  You know what??  It was perfect.
By this time, your rice should have been finished long ago and be just sitting waiting for its next step.

You guessed it.  The next step is going to be to fold it into the onion, green pepper, water chestnut and green bean mixture!

Go back and revisit those fully cooked chicken breasts you have over to the side and chop them up into bits.  Then add the chicken pieces into the mixture as well!

Next you'll take two 10.75-oz cans of condensed cream of celery soup and fold those in.  Once you have that nicely blended, add two cups of mayonnaise.  For the single version, use one can of soup and one cup of mayonnaise.

Next you're going to add in two cups of grated sharp Cheddar cheese.  Two cups is perfect because that's the size of the small package of shredded cheese in the grocery store!

Blend in that cheese and all the other lovely wonderful ingredients!

Since it is a doubled recipe, you'll need two casserole dishes.  I doled out the mixture evenly across the two casserole dishes.

Bake the casseroles in a 300 degree oven for 25 minutes!  This is the yummy goodness that will await you!  It got thumbs up all around here!  Enjoy!

Shopping List {based on my doubled recipe}:
3 cups chicken breast {for doubled recipe, I used 3 large chicken breasts - 1 pkg}
1 medium onion
two 8-oz cans water chestnuts
two 14.5-oz cans French green beans
one 4-oz can pimentos {note, I skipped this}
two 10.75-oz cans condensed cream of celery soup
two 6-oz boxes Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

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