CHICKEN VEGETABLE RICE CASSEROLE

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There is something about the combination of chicken, rice, mushrooms and broccoli in a casserole that is pure comfort food.  Back in the day, we used to make the old recipe that used canned cream of mushroom soup for chicken and rice casserole.   I have yet to find a good store bought dairy free, gluten free cream of mushroom soup.  If you have the time, homemade mushroom soup in this recipe would be wonderful - just adjust liquid/rice ratio.  While this recipe does not use cream of mushroom soup, it is a yummy casserole dish for those days when comfort food is beckoning.
With this recipe, I took some guidelines from here - then made a few adjustments/additions so will do a re-cap here.
8 skinless organic chicken thighs - bone in
Season blend for chicken:
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
3/4  tsp. Italian Seasoning
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Mix ingredients in a small bowl, place chicken onto a plate and slather the season blend onto the chicken thighs rubbing in well, then put aside
1 1/2 cups basmatti rice - rinse and drain well
2  3/4 cup chicken stock
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-5 crimini mushrooms, diced
1 generous cup broccoli florets, cut small
1/2 a celery stalk, diced
5 minced garlic cloves
1 chopped onion
2 Tblsp. each:  fresh Italian Parsley, fresh Basil - minced
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat up a medium sized frying pan on low medium heat with a good drizzle of EVOO.  Add in the mushrooms, garlic, broccoli, celery and season with salt and pepper.  Saute 2 min. then cover with a lid - stirring a couple of times for 5 more minutes.  Remove from the heat, and add in the fresh minced Italian Parsley and Basil and mix.
Lightly oil a large square casserole/roasting pan/dish 10X13 approx. with EVOO.  Pour in the chicken stock, add in the rice stirring lightly to make even, then sprinkle in the chopped onion, and mixed vegetables.  Lay the seasoned chicken thighs on top and cover with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and take off the foil adding a good sprinkling of grated Parmesan Cheese through out and bake 20 more minutes.

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This recipe is similar to my Mung Bean Stew - with a few changes/additions.  It is said that mung beans are a legume that are heart healthy, they help to reduce cholesterol, are the least gas forming of all legumes, and they also assist in improving/balancing digestion.  It is my goal/hope for 2018 to eat this dish at least twice a week.  Eating vegetarian meals is an easy way for me to shed a few pounds - always a good thing, plus I love all lentils and curry so this should not get too boring. There is lots of flavor in this dish making it mighty tasty too.
If you soak the mung beans early in the morning or over nite (soak 8 hours) you are good to go.  In terms of preparation - it took about 40 minutes prep/saute time - then the rice was cooked separately, while the mung beans/vegetables took another 35-40 minutes to cook.  In my busy week, this should be something I can handle and with leftovers the next day that should reach my goal with a free day of cooking to make things easier.
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tblsp. cumin powder
1/2 Tblsp. mustard seeds
1/2 Tblsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. Madras curry powder - mine was not spicy hot
1/2 tsp. garahm masala
2/3 cups mung beans - soak 8 hours, and drain
1 large tomato, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tblsp. minced ginger - to taste
1 1/2 cups chopped orange yam
1 cup chopped carrots
salt to taste
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1 large bay leaf
3/4 cup frozen peas
huge handful of chopped cilantro
cook 1 1/4 cups Basmati rice in 2 1/2 cups water
Heat up a dutch oven on low medium heat with the EVOO.  Add the mustard and coriander seeds, sauteing until the mustard seeds start to pop.  Add in the cumin, curry powder, garaham masala and saute until fragrant.  Then add in the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato continuing to saute for another 5 min.
Pour in the water, adding in the mung beans, carrots, bay leaf and yams stirring well.  Season to taste with salt.  Bring to a simmer lid on for about 35 min., then while the rice is cooking, remove lid and keep on a simmer.  When rice is almost done add in the peas, and chopped cilantro to heat through and serve over the cooked rice.  A dollop of organic yogurt is a lovely addition.  This is a dish that will taste even better the next day.

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If you read my blog you will know that while I love the idea and convenience of a crock pot/slow cooker - in terms of success we have really had minimal results - just the odd recipe turns out great.  Usually, we find the dish is lacking in flavor, and any meat is over cooked.   This has happened time and time again, even with lots of experimentation on cooking times, added seasonings etc.  Never one to give up on a challenge in the kitchen - I keep trying.  My sister has had the same issue.  She is convinced that her crock pot dishes used to be wonderful back in the day when she used her "old school" crock pot which she no longer has.  She believes the newer crock pots cook too "hot" hence the loss of flavor/overcooked meat.  They say each crock pot is different - how true.
So, when seeing various recipes for crock pot Chicken Rice Soup, I was surprised to read a number of different comments on the challenges of making this simple soup in a crock pot.  What?  I'm not the only one out there that has challenges with a crock pot?  What do you know!
Some of these comments were:  the rice was crunchy, the rice was mushy, there was not enough liquid, the vegetables were not cooked through, chicken was dry/overcooked.  Some say to cook on low for 6 hours other recipes say cook on low for 8 hours.  Having considered the various ideas and challenges - here is what I came up with:
I paid close attention so it did not over cook - mine was done in 5 1/2 hrs...hmm, maybe my sister is right. Thankfully the soup was delicious, the rice and vegetables were nicely cooked and the chicken was lovely and tender.
Oh and by the way, normally in a recipe I would say use 2 large carrots - however - my carrots are organically grown from the farm down the road so they come in various shapes and sizes - hence the measured ingredients.  This carrot had me taking a 2nd look!  Check this out:  I thought I was seeing things.  🙂  Is this hilarious or what?

RECIPE:
1 lb. organic chicken breast skin off, no bone, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 generous cup of chopped carrots
1 level cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
2 large shallots, chopped
1 large leek, sliced in half, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 1/2 tsp. ground sage
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tblsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup wild rice blend (soak in cold water for 15 minutes before adding to the crock pot and drain well)
6 cups chicken stock (I used half homemade vegetable stock and half homemade chicken stock as that is what I had on hand)
Plug in your crock pot on low to start heating up and soak the rice.  To a large frying pan on low medium heat drizzle in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Add the carrots, celery, shallots, leeks and saute about 8 minutes.  Transfer to a large (6 quart) crock pot and cover with the stock, seasonings, chicken pieces, celery leaves, the drained rice, and balsamic vinegar, stirring to combine.  Cook on low heat for 5 1/2 hrs.  Check for seasonings and adjust to taste.  Serve hot with some nice gluten free bread.  This is a soup that I will definitely be making again - so easy too.

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When dining alone I always gravitate towards seafood - always.  DH is not a seafood lover at all - he will eat fish:  salmon, halibut, cod and snapper but that is about it. No shell fish what so ever.  I suppose I could cook more seafood than I do - but honestly I'm too lazy to cook 2 different meals.  So when it is a "single" nite it is wonderful to cook any kind of shell fish.
This was a quick and easy dish to make with lots of flavor.  This dish serves two - leftovers for tomorrow!
2 cups frozen cooked small shrimp - thawed and rinsed well then pat dry with paper towel
1 leek, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 minced garlic cloves
2 Tblsp. butter
2 tsp. fresh minced Tarragon (or 1 tsp. more if you like a strong tarragon flavor)
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 Tblsp. sweet rice flour
1 1/2 cups milk (we use 2 % lactose free)
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Lemon Rice:
1/2 cup of basmati rice - rinsed
1 cup water
1 shallot, finely minced
3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tblsp. butter
Heat up a saute pan on low/min. heat with the butter.  Add in the garlic, leeks and tarragon sauteing about 5 minutes until the leeks are soft.  Season well with fresh cracked pepper and salt, and add in the garlic powder.  Add the sweet rice flour - whisking into the leeks for about a minute.  Pour in the milk whisking well to remove any lumps.  Raise the heat a bit to bring to a very light simmer stirring well until it begins to thicken.  Add the cheeses stirring to melt.  Then turn down to minimum stirring occasionally.
To another pan on low medium heat add the butter, shallots and lemon zest.  Saute to sweat out about 5 min.  Add the rice and stir/saute for 2 more minutes.  Bring to a higher temperature and pour in 1 cup of water and fresh lemon juice bringing to a boil.  Stir with a fork, turn down to minimum lid on and cook 15 minutes or so until all the liquid is absorbed.
Four minutes before the rice is ready, add the shrimp to the leek tarragon sauce - stirring to heat through.  When rice is cooked, plate and cover with the Shrimp Leek Tarragon sauce.  Enjoy!

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This has to be one of my all time favorite soup recipes.  It was one of my first soup recipe posts from 2010 and one I make time and time again.
Back in the day....I am talking wayyy back in the day, as a teenager I loved the tomato rice soup that came in a can.  You know the one I am talking about?  Well, back then I could eat that soup every day - and just about did.  Then one day, it seemed we could no longer get it.  I was dumbfounded.  How could they stop making such a delicious soup my very naive self says?
Well, years later, we still did not see it on the shelves, but by then I was entrenched in the world of Celiac Disease.  This canned soup was loaded in wheat, msg and god knows what.  So, this recipe was born to replace the old version of canned Tomato Rice Soup.  And you know what?  It is 10000 better!  I have made no changes here - it is too good as it is.
By the way, the other day at the grocery store what did I see?  Canned Tomato Rice Soup and the ingredient list was frightening - no new news there I'm afraid.  This time there were no tears shed.  🙂
Yayyyyyy  for homemade soup!

TOMATO RICE SOUP
2 Tblsp. Olive oil
1 large onion – roughly chopped
4 minced garlic cloves
2 diced celery stalks with leaves
1 28 oz. Can whole tomatoes (with juice)
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 tsp. Thyme
2  tsp. Fennel
3 bay leaves (mine were small to medium size)
salt and pepper
½ cup cooked long grain rice (or a little less)
Optional: handful of chopped spinach, or collard greens, or kale.
In a pot bring ½ cup rice to 1 cups water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 15 min. or until rice has absorbed all the liquid. Once cooked remove from the heat and set aside.
Add olive oil to a pot, low to medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery – sautéing to sweat out. Add the seasonings, and stir to blend. Then add the tomatoes with juice (break up the tomatoes with a spoon), chicken stock, and any greens. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer, about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat – allow to cool about 10 minutes. Spoon all the veggies into a food processor and blend till smooth. Remove the bay leaves from the broth, add in the pureed vegetables, and the cooked rice stirring to blend. Return to a low heat to heat through – adjust any seasonings.
Served with grill cheese – perfect for lunch or dinner
Note: believe it or not, 2 good squirts of ketchup add some nice zing to this soup and fresh tomatoes would be lovely too.  Also, have you ever noticed, that whole canned tomatoes have more flavor than the diced ones??

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If there is one thing I love in this whole wide wide world that we live in- it is homemade soup.  Nothing soothes the soul more.  In winter time, soup will always be number 1 in this household, hence another soup recipe.
It seems to be all the rage these days to have homemade bone broth.  Many restaurants serve bone broth before your meal in my neck of the woods.  Bone broth?  I've been making it for years, only we always called it stock.  Whatever you want to call it - it is delicious and packs in a mighty bowl of nutrition which always puts a smile on my face.  There is nothing better on a cold winter night than a great bowl of soup.  There are a few posts on this blog about making stock/bone broth from scratch but will do a more detailed recap here.
We go to a local restaurant from time to time for a nutritious gluten free brunch (all organic using local farm fresh ingredients), and once in a while I will buy their frozen "made from scratch" chicken bone broth.  It is delicious.  They say they simmer their bone broth for 12 hours.  Interestingly enough, I usually simmer mine 6-8 hours and seem to get a "firmer" more gelatinous consistency with my soup compared to theirs.  Hmmm....wonder what the difference is?
I am diligent about saving roasted organic chicken carcasses to freeze. (my dear husband has said I am an anal freak when it comes to freezing chicken carcasses....and he is right!)  Usually there will always be 3 carcasses in the freezer at some point.  Today, there were 3 good size (not small) chicken carcasses, along with various bones from cooked chicken breasts, legs etc.  If there is left over chicken from the night before, the meat is cut off the bone and the bones go into the "chicken bone" bag in the freezer.
There are many recipes out there suggesting you make bone broth in a crock pot.  Sorry to say it, but it makes me cringe!  The reason being, is it is vital to skim the foam off the top of the soup - that is all of the impurities coming out of the bones.  Who wants to eat that?  It looks nasty and smells even worse.  I have not seen a crock pot recipe yet, that says to skim off the foam when using a crock pot. Perhaps there are some recipes out there and I've missed them?  In any event, with the end result you want a rich, CLEAR, very gelatinous broth and by skimming the foam off it will be beautiful bone broth. Many recipes also suggest to add a tablespoon or so of vinegar to bring out the nutrients of the bones - something I have never done before and yet we still end up with great tasting, rich gelatinous broth.
Some chefs say no aromatics.  No aromatics?  Not in my world - they add a depth and richness to the soup that in my humble opinion adds more flavor.  More flavor is always a good thing!
With 3 chicken carcasses and various other bones we ended up with 13 1/2 cups of rich broth.  6 1/2 cups went into the freezer (canning jars are great for this - just refrigerate over nite then freeze the next morning.)
CHICKEN BONE BROTH:
3-4 organic roasted chicken bone carcasses and various other bone parts
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
bunch of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
5 fresh sage leaves
2 large Bay leaves
5 roughly chopped shallots (leave the skin on, cut off the root - the skin also adds color)
2 celery stalks, leaves included
3 green leek tops, well rinsed (optional - they were in the fridge so in they went)
Add all of the ingredients to a large stock pot.  Cover with water.  Bring to a steady bubbling boil.  Using a flat large spoon (or something similar) begin removing the foam.  This should take a good 20-30 min. on and off skimming.  Discard that yuck!
Then turn down to a very low low heat.  The bone broth wants to just pop up with a few bubbles of simmer like a "glug glug" here and there throughout the soup.  Monitor the heat to maintain this level and continue to cook for 6-8 hours.  No worries - while the bone broth was on the stove I went grocery shopping, banking, did laundry - no need to monitor the broth the whole 6-8 hours.  (I love making soup on my day off - yay!)
Very Important:  after 6-8 hours strain off the broth.  I use a colander to strain the bones veggies etc. into a very large stainless steel bowl.  Then I place a fine sieve over an 8 cup measuring cup and strain the broth in batches.
CHICKEN BONE BROTH WILD RICE VEGETABLE SOUP:
7 cups chicken bone broth
1  28 oz. can whole tomatoes including liquid - chop up the tomatoes into chunks
4 small shallots, halved, then sliced
3 swiss chard leaves and stems, chopped small - spinach is lovely here too
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 leeks, white part rinsed well, sliced in half and chopped
2/3 cup  rutabaga chop small
Cooked wild rice - cook just under 1/2 cup wild rice (or make 2/3 cup rice for a thicker soup) (we use Lundberg blend wild rice) cook as per directions
season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Bring the bone broth and tomatoes plus their juice to a simmer.  Add the rutabaga.  10 minutes later, add in the rest of the vegetables.  Simmer until tender.  Add in the wild rice and serve piping hot with some great gluten free bread or buns. - Enjoy this nutritious, healthy and delicious soup - it will make you happy! 🙂

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UPDATE:  we had this again the other day, but we had run out of wild rice so had it without....and it was even better!
Recently I had read an article on the health benefits of cashew nuts.  When cashew nuts are soaked and pureed into a luscious smooth mixture it is a perfect addition to soups of all kinds. Then I found this recipe from Sarah, of Making Thyme For Health.  Wow, this takes cream of mushroom soup to a whole new level - it was truly delicious.  No need for real cream - personally I think this is better.
I did change the method, made it gluten free, and used a couple of different ingredients so will do a recap here. (If using a bouillon cube or powdered stock seasoning double check that it is gluten free - there are many on the market that are not) For the original recipe please check out Sarah's lovely blog Making Thyme For Health.  Many thanks Sarah, your recipe is a winner!
For the cashews it is recommended to use a high powered blender, which always makes me think of a Vita Mix or a Blendtec - neither of which I have.  I used my old faithful Cuisinart and it worked like a charm.
2/3 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup wild rice
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large shallots, diced
3/4 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery with the leaves
4 minced garlic cloves
2 cups diced crimini mushrooms
1 tsp. salt
fresh cracked pepper
3 Tblsp. lite gluten free Tamari sauce
1 tsp. dried Thyme
2 tsp. fresh minced Sage
2 Tblsp. fresh minced Italian parsley
1 large Bay Leaf
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 Tblsp. nutritional yeast
1 Tblsp. arrowroot powder
1  1/2 cups homemade vegetable stock
If you did not want a Vegetarian/Vegan soup, organic chicken or beef stock would be lovely in this recipe too, just omit the nutritional yeast.  It would also make a great base for a seafood/clam chowder.
Cook the wild rice in 1 cup of water - on a low simmer, lid on for about 45 min.  Once cooked, and all the water is absorbed remove from the heat, lid on and set aside.
Add the cashew nuts to a medium sized heat proof bowl.  Cover with 2 1/2 cups boiling water and allow to soak 30-40 min.  Drain and add to your blender.  I added some of the almond milk a bit at a time and kept on liquefy until it was completely smooth (use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender with each blending process).  Once completely smooth, add in the rest of the almond milk, nutritional yeast, and arrowroot powder. Blend well, and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat up a pot or dutch oven on low medium heat, and add in the EVOO.  Saute the mushrooms until nice and golden.  Season with the salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Add in the diced carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, thyme, fresh sage, fresh parsley and saute about 8 minutes.  Add in the homemade vegetable stock, tamari sauce and bay leaf, bring to a simmer, lid on and cook until the vegetables are tender - about 10-15 minutes.
Then add in the cashew/almond milk mixture, and the wild rice.  Stir well until combined and re-heat through - keep stirring as it will thicken.  Remove the bay leaf and serve piping hot with a sprinkle of fresh minced parsley.  Enjoy....we sure did!

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We are in full swing with rainy season in our neck of the woods.  It is hard to believe that November is already here...where do the months slip by?  Well, with fall comes pumpkins, and squashes of all kinds.  Despite the rainy season, I always look forward to creating new squash dishes of any kind.  This gratin was light and flavorful with the added fresh sage - a great side dish to serve alongside any main dish.
(please forgive the picture quality...still learning a new camera!)
1 spaghetti squash - once baked there should be 4 cups worth
2 large leeks
2 Tblsp. fresh chopped sage
1 1/2 Tblsp. butter
salt and fresh cracked pepper
Sauce:
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk (we use lactose free)
2 Tblsp. butter
2 minced garlic cloves
3 Tblsp. Sweet Rice flour
2 Tblsp. Parmesan cheese
salt and fresh cracked pepper
Topping:
1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs
2  1/2 Tblsp. Parmesan cheese - mix well with the bread crumbs
grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a large 2 prong fork, poke the spaghetti squash all over.  Place on a roasting pan and bake for 1 hr. turning over half way through.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool, cut in half and using a spoon scrape out the seeds.  Then use a fork to scrape out the squash.  My squash was very moist so I lay it out onto paper towel, then covered it with paper towel pressing down to remove the excess moisture.  Then place into a casserole dish.
Heat up a frying pan on low medium heat.  Add 1 1/2 Tblsp. butter, then add in the sliced leeks and sage.  Saute about 10 minutes until tender.
Add to the spaghetti squash and toss with a fork to combine.
Sauce:
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan on low medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute.  Once fragrant, add the sweet rice flour stirring well for a minute.  Then slowly pour in the milk & chicken stock, whisking well to remove any lumps.  Season with salt and pepper.  Whisk on medium heat quite frequently until the sauce comes to a light simmer and has thickened.  Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, whisking to incorporate.  Pour the sauce onto the squash/leeks and mix well until evenly combined.
Sprinkle the breadcrumb Parmesan mixture over the top, then add the grated Swiss Gruyere cheese evenly over the breadcrumbs.
Bake for 45 min. - 1  hour and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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