Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Southern Living Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
This is the meal I mentioned in my previous post which I fixed when our son and daughter-in-law came over. I have been making variations on Chicken and Wild Rice Casseroles off and on all my married life, but I can't remember the last time I fixed a casserole so this was a nice treat. It was a big hit with all and I was pleased with the way it turned out. Good old Southern Living, they haven't let me down yet. I found the recipe here. It says you can prepare it up to a month before. I didn't but whenever I know I am getting company this will be on my list of make-ahead meals to put in the freezer.
Make-Ahead Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
1 (2.25 oz) package sliced almonds
2 (6.2 oz) boxes fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice mix
1/4 cup butter
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 (10-3/4 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup (please see my 'another added note' at the end of this post)
2 (8 oz) cans chopped water chestnuts, drained (I used sliced)
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups (16 ozs) shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan 4 to 6 inches, or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
Prepare rice mixes according to package directions.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add celery and onions. Saute 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, next 6 ingredients, rice and 3 cups cheese. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 15 x 10 inch baking dish or 2 (11 x 7 inch) baking dishes. Top with breadcrumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with toasted almonds. Bake 5 minutes.
To make ahead: prepare as directed but do not put the remaining 1 cup of cheese on top yet or the toasted almonds. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze up to 1 month. Remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Toast almonds as directed. Bake casserole, covered, at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 55 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with 1 cup (4 ozs) shredded Cheddar cheese and toasted almonds. Bake 5 more minutes.
Added note: another keeper as it was delicious. I did not toast the almonds - I bought a package of already toasted sliced almonds that was meant to be sprinkled over salads. It's called All Natural Almond Accents, Original Oven Roasted, Flavored Sliced almonds in a 3.5 oz. (99g) packet. There are different flavors but I chose the plain. As I did not prepare ahead I tried as many short-cuts as I could because time was getting on and we had gone over to Walney Pond before going to the supermarket. I also bought pre-cooked chicken for the same reason.
You can lighten the recipe by using low-fat products. When adding the cheese I replaced half of the amount with 2 percent which I already had in the fridge. I always use 1 percent milk but for even more calorie reduction you can also try either the low-fat or non-fat sour cream. I would also try the low-sodium cream of mushroom soup. I am not sure how much this will change the taste of the recipe but I wouldn't be adverse to giving it a go. I can hear Gregg now, he would say, "Don't mess with a good thing."
I still had a few ingredients already in the pantry I wanted to use up and found 1 can of cream of mushroom and 1 can of cream of chicken soup.
As a side dish I roasted a mixture of vegetables bought from the supermarket. They had packets of pre-cut-asparagus along with sliced mushrooms, and I also added another packet of mushrooms and sliced onions with a few sprigs of rosemary. These I placed in a shallow baking pan and drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I had lined the pan with non-stick aluminum foil for easy clean-up, preheated the oven to 450 degrees F. and left them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on whether you like them crisp or tender. There was a very subtle flavor of rosemary, very nice.
For an appetizer I bought a container of hummus and surrounded it with cubed bread for dipping. Gregg and I have never tried hummus before but we know Lisa and Brad enjoy it. The bread was one of those lovely crusty loaves we got from Wegman's and was the end of an unsliced loaf.
As a dessert I was going to serve up ice-cream and cookies, all nice and simple. However, after our meal we found that none of us were up to dessert.
I didn't feel like I was tied to the kitchen and was able to enjoy visiting with son and daughter-in-law, which is always a big plus.
Always going for portion control, the above photos shows 1 cup of chicken and wild rice, and half a cup of vegetables served up on a small plate. It's quite a filling dish and I found this more than enough.
Some of you might not like all the ingredients used here but I am sure you can change them to your own liking. At the original recipe site there are a couple of variations added at the end of the recipe.
There were leftovers and when we have eaten a couple of meals out of this I will freeze whatever is left for another non-cook day.
Another added note: I just came across a great post I found through Pinterest. Little did I know when I discovered this site, it would lead me to yet more interesting recipes when I am looking for something different to try. If you go here it will take you to a blog called One Good Thing by Jillee. In her post she gives a recipe for making a Soup or Sauce Mix, which makes a great substitute for a can of cream soup in any recipe.