The food out here

Creamy chicken rice casserole

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 12/22/21

Spinach. The ingredient, once so despised by so many children that mothers banded together to create a cartoon to push the propaganda of its instantaneous muscle-growing effects (don’t …

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The food out here

Creamy chicken rice casserole

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Spinach. The ingredient, once so despised by so many children that mothers banded together to create a cartoon to push the propaganda of its instantaneous muscle-growing effects (don’t fact-check me, I just made that up), is now widely used, not only in salads but also in many types of casseroles and dips.

Having trouble getting your kids to eat a mushy steamed pile of it? Presentation is key, and if there is one thing my wife is good at, it’s making healthy things look sinfully yummy. So instead of plopping the urchins in front of a Popeye marathon, try this recipe my wife found while perusing Pinterest.

The recipe is a creamy lemon chicken broccoli rice casserole. And for the record, spinach isn’t the only healthy thing you can hide in there. Spinach isn’t even in the original recipe. My wife had quite a bit to use up from our freezer and replaced the broccoli with it. Plus she added—of all things—artichoke hearts.

How did you end up with spare artichoke hearts, you ask? Well, Mrs. Hill absolutely loves spinach artichoke dip and bought an ambitious amount of the essential ingredient, thus creating a surplus.

Would I or any other carb-loving man have thought to include the random can of artichoke hearts in the casserole? Not likely, but you might be like my uncle, who simply starts cracking random dusty cans from the back of the pantry and adding them in, without rhyme or reason or a plan of attack. Perhaps one of these months I’ll write about “weird uncle stew” or perhaps you can refer back to my column on “Something soup.”

If you want to know about my wife’s famous spinach artichoke dip and other similar holiday snacks, I would definitely recommend checking out last year’s December column, titled “Wishing you a cheesy New Year.”

As for the casserole at hand, I want to emphasize its kid-friendly taste. And my son Rorick liked it too.

Jokes aside, it’s a great meal fresh out of the oven and even better heated up after a day or two in the fridge. As we anticipate the birth of our second child, these freezer meals are like gold. Anything we can pull out and heat up quickly is well worth the prep time, but there really isn’t too much you need to do here preparation-wise. In fact, I would dare say you have two options. You can assemble the casserole cold and freeze until you are ready to bake it, or you can bake it, freeze it and reheat as you want it.

If you’re like us, however, it won’t make it past a few days in the fridge, and that was only because of the large amount that it makes. Trying to make lunches for everyone for the next day? Grab your Tupperware. Little Johnny gets a slab of casserole, Little Susie gets a slab of casserole, and mom and dad get a slab for lunch at work. Hungry in the middle of the night? Nothing like a bowl full of creamy chicken and rice with veggies and a cold glass of milk to satisfy you.

The way out here, preparation rewards the ambitious. If you take the time to set this up for yourself, either this week or a month from now, it’ll make a tasty meal or 10 for you and the whole family. I’m looking forward to the next time my wife makes this, to see how it tastes with the broccoli, but if you happen to have extra artichoke hearts and spinach, I would definitely give that a try as well.

The measurements don’t have to be too exact. Just try to sprinkle the vegetables throughout so the proportions match the chicken and other larger ingredients in the dish.

Creamy lemon chicken veggie rice casserole

Recipe courtesy of https://www.eatyourselfskinny.com/creamy-lemon-chicken-broccoli-rice-casserole/

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or rosemary)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you prefer)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice (not instant rice)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, or improvise to your taste
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces.
Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet on medium heat, drizzle olive oil and sauté the garlic for 1 minute until fragrant. Add chicken broth, heavy cream, lemon juice, fresh herbs, red pepper flakes and salt/pepper and bring to a simmer. Mix in 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Combine with other ingredients, ensuring that vegetables are sprinkled throughout.
Combine with other ingredients, ensuring that vegetables are sprinkled throughout.

In a large 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray, combine broccoli, rice and chicken (I would also season the chicken with additional salt and pepper) and pour sauce over top, making sure everything is coated. Top with breadcrumbs and remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake.
Bake.

Tightly cover the casserole with foil and bake for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered, until chicken is cooked through and the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

Delicious and nutritious! You can also freeze chunks of cassrole for lunches. Really helpful when life gets hectic.
Delicious and nutritious! You can also freeze chunks of cassrole for lunches. Really helpful when life gets hectic.

Remove from the oven and let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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