Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Healthy Southwest Chicken and Rice Bake

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What's in your freezer?


So, it's just The Hubby and me in our house, but in looking at our freezer you would think differently.  Here is what I saw when I reluctantly did a freezer clean recently:
  • 8 chicken breasts, 1 beef tenderloin log, 1 whole chicken, 2 packs bacon, 2 steaks, 2 bags prawns, 6 salmon fillets
  • 7 or more partially used bags of peas or corn or pea/corn combo
  • 3 tubs partially-consumed vanilla ice cream with an inch of icy freezer crust on top
  • 8 bags of sliced bread with only two pieces of crust remaining per bag (never to be eaten)
  • 1,000,000 black bananas
  • other, other, other x 100
My inventory of our pantry yielded similar (non-frozen) results.  8 cans of black beans, 7 boxes of pasta, 2,000,000 granola bars, too much uneaten food.  So I threw out the old ice cream, downsized my banana collection, and told The Hubby that we had to try to go a month without buying any new food except dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables.  We're on about Day 14 now, our freezer is halfway emptied, and our pantry is slowly depleting in stock.  It takes a bit of planning and creativity, and so far almost every meal has included frozen peas or canned black beans, but it's been kind of a fun challenge at the same time.  For instance, I came home from work last night and The Hubby had prepared a chicken, pea, and pasta casserole...and after a long day at work it was exactly what I wanted to eat for dinner, and all that I could think was that I had married some kind of Top Chef or something. That is, until we flicked to Top Chef on tv while we ate dinner!

And that's how this recipe came to be.  I had pulled frozen chicken breast out of the freezer one recent morning, and then began tapping my fingers on the counter and staring at it a little before dinner-time trying to figure out where to go with it.  
"What's it gonna be, girl?"
I happened to have onion, bell pepper, green onions, brown rice, etc, so that's what I used, but this is a very forgiving recipe, so you could very well get away with using any or no vegetables, beef instead of chicken (or omitting protein altogether), white rice instead of brown, plain yogurt instead of sour cream, or really any sort of combination that you have on hand.  Chicken and cooked rice leftovers work really well in this recipe!  The key is to keep it as simple as possible so that you can have an easy weeknight meal without having to make a last minute stop at the grocery store.  This one is healthy and Hubby approved!  When I showed him the pictures in this blog post prior to posting it, he said, "Mmmmm!!!  Make more things like that again!"  

For another Hubby approved casserole, check out this Chicken and Broccoli Casserole.  The pictures suck, but it's soooo good, I swear!

What Was Cooking on Playing With My Food One Year Ago:  Bacon Night!

Oh, and for a printer-friendly version of any recipe, simply click 'Print' below the title of any blog post. Voila - a clean recipe without my ramblings or any pictures!

Healthy Southwest Chicken and Rice Bake Casserole

Serves: 6

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • 4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced (you can use green, yellow, or orange if you prefer)
  • 1 cup sour cream (I use light sour cream), plus more for garnish if desired
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup corn (frozen, fresh, or canned)
  • 3/4 cup salsa (use chunky store-bought salsa like Pace or Old El Paso)
For Garnish (optional):
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced (optional)
  • Cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  • Avocado, sliced (optional)
  • Tomatoes, diced (optional) 
  • Sour cream (optional)

If your rice is not yet cooked, cook it now according to package directions.  Once cooked, put the rice into a large bowl, stir in canned chilies, and sprinkle with cumin.  Stir until the cumin is distributed evenly.

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  In a large pan, add chicken, onion, garlic, and olive oil.  Cook for a few minutes over medium-high heat until the chicken is almost cooked through.  Add chili powder and bell pepper and cook for a few more minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through.

Reduce heat to a simmer, then add the sour cream and 1/2 of the cheese (about 3/4 cup) and stir until combined.  Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine black beans, corn, and salsa.

Lightly grease a baking dish with cooking spray.  Add half the rice mixture, and pack down firmly with a spoon, making sure to cover the entire bottom of the dish.

Then add all of the bean and corn mixture, then all of the chicken mixture.

Top with the remaining rice mixture, then the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and everything is heated through.  Top with garnish (green onions, sour cream, avocado, tomatoes), if desired.  Serve hot - enjoy!

Inspired By:  Weight Watchers Mexican-Style Brown Rice Casserole


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