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  • Writer's pictureLeigh

Comfort Chicken and Rice Casserole: Some for Now, Some for Later

I love casseroles, because they usually yield leftovers that I can recycle for quick dinners and lunches later in the week. In this case, the casserole stretches chicken left from another dinner into more dinners and lunches. The casserole is quick to fix, easy on the digestion, nutritious, and it tastes really good! There is nothing "strange" in the casserole, and it's mild enough to please picky eaters while still delivering plenty of flavor. Given the name, you can figure out the casserole includes chicken and rice. It also benefits from lots of onion, celery, and some red bell peppers. An easy cheese sauce binds the ingredients together, and a quick bake is all the casserole needs before you put it on the table. I didn't add peas or mushrooms to this version, but I sometimes do (I have to be careful of pea and mushroom haters when I'm sharing the casserole!) This is a great casserole to serve your family and to "bake and take" to someone in need of comfort. All you'll need alongside the casserole is a salad and perhaps some bread. And cookies probably wouldn't be turned down, either....So, comfort for the cook as well!

Chicken and Rice Comfort Casserole -- Serves 4++

2 cups of cooked rice (I use a wild rice blend, but almost any kind will do)

2-3 cups of chopped, cooked chicken

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon of minced dried parsley

1 teaspoon of salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

2 cups of low-fat milk

1/4 cup of flour

2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup of bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups of shredded Colby-Jack or cheddar cheese, divided

Spritz a 2- or 3-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper, and a tablespoon of water in the dish and microwave the vegetables for 3-5 minutes until they soften. Stir in the rice, chicken, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. In a microwave-safe bowl or measure (I use a quart-size Pyrex measure), whisk together the milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the flour until everything is smooth. Microwave the mixture for about 3 minutes, whisking it after the first minute, then every 30 seconds, until the mixture thickens to form a sauce. Whisk in the Parmesan well. Whisk in half of the Colby-Jack cheese. Pour the sauce over the ingredients in the casserole dish and stir to combine everything. Smooth the top of the casserole and sprinkle on the bread crumbs (use up your "getting stale" fresh bread here by crumbling it over the casserole) and then the remaining cheese. Bake the casserole for 30-45 minutes or until it is bubbling and the top has browned. Let the casserole sit for 5-10 minutes before serving it.

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