Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ain’t no party like a Pyrex party

I’m getting into the habit of spending a lot of time in the kitchen at the start of the week. I like making one big mess and multiple meals in a marathon session because then it’s easier to focus on other projects and activities later in the week. It feels like I’m working smarter, not harder -- if I’m going to use a certain vegetable in multiple recipes, I’d rather do all the chopping at once and save myself the hassle of washing the cutting board and knife twice. With proper menu planning, it’s also a great way to get the most out of your groceries while everything’s fresh. Take, for example, the following two meals that I made, one after the other, a few days ago. Both recipes include chicken breast, cheese and green onion -- I was able to use a two-pound package of chicken, a 12-ounce bag of pre-shredded cheese and one bunch of onions without having to stash any pesky remnants in the fridge. Knocked out a good portion of my prep work while baking the chicken (375 degrees for 20-ish minutes) and tackled the dishes while my concoctions bubbled away in the oven.

First into the oven was a gooey cheese-and-rice dish, the recipe for which I got from my mother-in-law, Lynn (it’s a family classic). After that, the newest of my never-ending attempts at making things delicious by smothering everything in enchilada sauce.

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake 
Adapted from a recipe that originally appeared in “Casseroles” by Beatrice Ojakangas 
2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup uncooked white rice
¼ cup unsalted butter
8 ounces sliced brown mushrooms
⅓ cup sliced green onions
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cups nonfat milk
2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheese, divided
1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil with bouillon, stirring until bouillon cubes are dissolved. Stir in rice, bring back to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. In another medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green onions and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and marjoram until blended. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in 1 cup cheese and pimentos and stir until cheese melts. Stir in chicken and rice. Pour mixture into glass baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole 
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup corn kernels
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 4.25-ounce can chopped olives
1 pack La Tortilla Factory green chile tortillas (or 8 corn tortillas), cut into strips
1 28-ounce can red enchilada sauce
2 cups grated reduced-fat cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix first six ingredients in medium bowl. In a 9-by-13 baking dish, layer all ingredients in the following manner: enchilada sauce (first layer should be enough to lightly coat the bottom of the baking dish), tortilla strips, chicken mixture, handful of cheese, healthy drizzle of sauce. Top the final layer of tortilla strips with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil, bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove dish from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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