Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Something: Chicken, Vegetable and Rice Casserole

I decided to start a Sunday Something series.

It used to be Sunday Poetry but since there are a lot of other interesting things I find myself wanting to post on Sunday, I decided it could be anything—including food.

I have a pretty busy life. I want to get as much time to write when I'm not working so even though I love good food, I want to be smart about making sure I'm getting as many meals as I could out of the couple hours I put in in the kitchen.

My husband and I like to go out spontaneously—whether it's for a nice drive or just to go shopping, and lately, I've been finding myself scrambling to put dinner together at eight on a Sunday evening. By the time it's done, I've got no time for anything else before hitting the sack so I've come up with a solution.

I've decided to spend a couple of my early Sunday morning hours making a big batch of something that we could have for dinner and lunch for a few days. It's quite nice actually because I get to feel good about letting my husband sleep in (he's not a morning person but then neither am I) while I get to enjoy the solitude of a still-darkened kitchen, sipping my coffee and getting things together for the big meal I'm doing. It frees up the rest of my day and saves me from having to make dinners and lunches for a good couple of days.

Last week, I made a pretty amazing meatloaf (for the first time ever) but I haven't been back to blogging then so I don't even think I have photos for that. We'll skip that until I make it again.

Today, I went with a healthy and relatively simple casserole from a recipe I've found online and tweaked a bit.

It's got chunks of chicken, lots of veggies, and earthy wild rice to add to the texture and taste.

The original recipe is from (submitted by Campbell's Kitchen) called One-Dish Chicken, Vegetable and Rice Bake but the recipe I'm posting is one I've changed up slightly and taste-tested myself.

Prep Time: 15 minutes (including chopping, browning and putting casserole together)
Cook Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Servings: 6
Price Range: $ (max being $$$) Most of the ingredients are kitchen staples and can also be easily swapped.

  • 1 (10 oz) can of condensed Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup (can be substituted by Mushroom or Chicken variety)
  • 1 and 1/8 cup of chicken broth (without the added salt if possible)
  • 6 ounces chopped, fresh vegetable mix (carrots, white mushrooms, broccoli crowns) (may substitute with frozen version—don't thaw)
  • 1 cup mix of wild rice and white long grain rice (such as basmati or even jasmine)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided in half
  • 2 large or 3 medium boneless chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • pinch of paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Heat up oven to 375 degrees F; set rack in the middle.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet and cook chicken until no longer pink and meat starts to brown. Set aside.
  • While chicken cooks, chop up vegetables. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix soup, chicken broth, rice, vegetables and half the cheese. Season with paprika, salt and pepper. 
  • Spread mixture over a 3-quart shallow baking dish. Top with chicken and the rest of the cheese.
  • Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for an hour. If there's still a lot of liquid, lift one corner of the foil open and bake for another 5 minutes. Take out and let it sit for another five minutes before taking cover off completely.
  • Add more cheese if your heart desires it! 

Make-Ahead Tips:
  • Cook the chicken ahead of time and keep in fridge until ready to use for the next couple of days. Make sure to cook the chicken thoroughly. I don't bother to temp-check when I'm just throwing it into the casserole right away but if you're storing it in your fridge, make sure it's fully cooked.
  • Chop the vegetables ahead of time and seal in a bowl with plastic wrap to keep them fresh.
  • If you find the casserole too liquidy after you take it out of the oven, take a turkey baster and pump some of the liquid out. This lets you suck some of the fluid out without compromising the flavor or the entire casserole itself in case you have the crazy idea of tilting it slightly over the sink to get rid of the extra liquid. Giving it time to sit allows the moisture to settle and be absorbed by the other ingredients.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Autumn Love

I'm probably not the first one to say this but fall is my favorite season.

The transition of colors from bright greens to a blend of yellows, oranges, reds and browns, the gradual quiet the world's momentum slows down to from the upbeat summer, the coziness of warm fabrics and rich flavors of fall staples like hot chocolate and freshly baked apple pie—nothing else is like it.

Moving to North America definitely gave me an appreciation for the changing of the seasons and the lesson that things don't last forever and you've got to make every moment count.

This fall, I'm determined to enjoy everything I love about this season.

You should too. =)


Crossing Story Worlds

Finally, I'm getting back to writing.

It's was a very slow process. For a while, I wasn't even turning my computer on at all. It's very hard to stay in a story-world when your real life is changing and demanding all of your attention and effort at adjusting.

I have a much more regular schedule now so I can integrate my writing better into my schedule. Also, it's fall (yay!) and with the cooler temperature, I have less things to do outside, which means more time to dedicate to writing. Also, I can actually tolerate sitting in my office and writing comfortably without feeling like I was getting broiled in an oven.

Anyway, I've started on a new story that also occurs in Cobalt Bay. Since I've invested the time and imagination to build this city, I figured, I could use it again and again for a lot of my stories. It also allows me to occasionally re-introduce some characters you may have already run into in previous stories. This new story is slowly cooking in the back burner—I get to it whenever I feel like it.

I've slowly gotten back to writing TMMM. This one was originally set in a vague city in the east coast US but I eventually picked out Boston for it. This is practically on the other side of the country from Cobalt Bay but it doesn't mean that the stories couldn't overlap.

I've decided on having a few characters from the Cobalt Bay series drop in and run into Charlotte. It'd be very minor but this opens the door to maybe let Charlotte and Brandon pop in and say hello in some of the future Cobalt Bay stories.

I don't know if my readers will like it but I think it adds a dimension to the stories and give it a different sense of perspective you may have not had reading the other stories because they were told in first person.

Oh, well. We'll see how it turns out! =)

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