Monday, April 26, 2010

Chicken, Mushroom And Brown Rice Casserole

My son Kellen is a single guy who works about 60 hours a week. Along with working that more-than-full time schedule, he also tries to get to the gym as often as he can and he's finally come to realize that his diet also needs to fall into place with his "getting fit" agenda. His problem? Very little time and/or knowledge when it comes to cooking. He's become bored with turkey sandwiches, basic salads, and grilled chicken breasts. Next week he's planning on taking a few days vacation and coming to visit me for Mother's Day. He told me that he and I could "hang out" on Friday and do whatever I'd like to do. Guess what? I've decided that he's going to get a crash course in cooking on that Friday so he can go back home armed with some simple recipes and techniques that will get him started in the cooking world.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I have quite a few recipes on my blog that are easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you might have on hand. I feel that once a basic technique is learned, you can substitute or even omit certain ingredients depending on your own tastes and availability of ingredients. Once you've acquired even just a little experience, you learn quickly which ingredients are absolutely necessary and which ones can be changed and/or omitted.

For instance, this particular recipe for chicken, mushroom and brown rice casserole could be easily changed by substituting leftover pork loin, roast beef, or even canned tuna (which he loves.) The cheeses could be switched out to cheddar and Monterey jack if desired, and the roll of the rice could be played by orzo or even some type of whole wheat pasta. The wine could be omitted all together and the broth changes only depending on which type of meat is used.

So what are the the constants here? The base of this recipe is in the use of aromatics for the sauce. I rarely cook any casserole or soup without beginning with olive oil, onion, celery and garlic. Next come the spices. I chose thyme here, but since my son's spice rack includes only salt, pepper and hot sauce, our first order of business is to fix him up with some very basic seasonings to have on hand. Here's where I'm going to ask for your help. If you had to pick 10 starter spices/seasonings that would benefit a beginning cook, what would they be?

Chicken, Mushroom And Brown Rice Casserole

1 cup brown rice
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3/4 tsp dried thyme
salt pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup half and half (can use fat free or use whole milk)
3 oz swiss cheese, shredded
3 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
3 cups seasoned, cooked and diced chicken breast meat (about one pound)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Cook rice per package instructions. Set aside. (One cup uncooked rice yields about 4 cups cooked rice)

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 5-6 minutes. Add mushrooms, season with thyme and pepper and saute until mushrooms start to brown and lose their moisture, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to cook the flour, about two minutes. Add the white wine, chicken broth and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Remove pan from heat and add the half & half and the cheeses, stirring until sauce is thickened and smooth. Fold in the diced chicken, rice and parsley. Stir to combine well. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.


Pam said...

This looks like a great casserole! I'd say for the basics, I'd recommend a good olive oil, some lemons and limes in the fridge, some fresh parsley or cilantro, some good vinegar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. I don't really use dried spices all that often, though I guess I do use thyme the most.

Nanan said...

Love the idea of sitting him down for a basics lesson - you are the best mom ever!. 10 basics: salt, Olive oil/butter, Onions, garlic, Cumin, dried Oregano, Lea & Perrin's Worschestshire sauce, lemon/lime, cayenne, Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning, Soy Sauce. I can make everything taste fabulous with all that!!! for sure - oh and sugar is necessary, too... gotta have sugar for balance... Just back reading your blog is enough for inspiration and finding a treasure trove of fabulous - and quick / healthy recipes!

Grumpy and HoneyB said...

Don't you just LOVE when your children want to spend time with you doing what YOU want? ;o) I know I do! lol Chris and I have spent many hours in the kitchen and I absolutely love it.

Now, the casserole....I would LOVE this with orzo!! I think it's great how easily adaptable the recipe can be!

Megan said...

Hmm... I would say garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, paprika, oregano, cayenne if he likes a little kick, and cinnamon for sweets! It's not the greatest, but I throw minced onion in dishes sometimes when I've run out of onions. And it might not hurt if he got some of those spice mixes... like Italian seasonings... to make sauce making easier and quicker. Good luck!

Abby said...

Looks like a must-try for later this week! Hm . . . most-used, most-versatile (dried) spices in my cabinet? basil, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, parsley, salt, pepper

I like reading other people's answers, too - what a fun question! =)

Julie said...

What a great Mother's Day to be able to spend time together doing what you want to do. I love time in the kitchen with my grown son.

I'd say kosher salt, pepper, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, basil, garlic, butter, olive oil, cinnamon and lemon.

~Carrie from Cottage Cozy~ said...

Hi Mags~

This recipe looks delish....You are so right, as long as you have the basics you can make a meal!

Anonymous said...

I got Jamie's Food Revolution for my son - it has pictures of each step and a good variety. Cutting an onion is the biggest first hurdle!!Have fun!

From the Kitchen said...

This looks delicious! So does that adorable, wide-eyed grandson (I'm jealous!). I, too, am a transplant to Indiana. What part are you in? I've just become a "follower" (we hoosiers have to stick together) and will return to read more.


From the Kitchen said...

We are in the northwest (the "region") about 30 miles southeast of Chicago. Wonderful small city to live in with good access to the big city. I like Indianapolis as well. We came here from Charleston, S.C.--quite different! Stop by any time.


Kat said...

What a neat idea. I am sure he will learn lots of good things from Mom. All my kids know how to cook pretty good. It is a must!! Onions and garlic, salt and pepper, zatarans cajun seasoning, and worchestershire sauce all come to mind.

June said...

Mmm ...looks yummy. How fun teaching your son to cook! As for spices, I guess I'd recommend garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, red chile flakes, thyme, cumin, chile powder, salt & pepper. At least they're all dried and won't grow furry stuff although I'd caution him that they do have a shelf life! LOL

Mary said...

This is a lovely and versatile recipe, Mags. I hope you'll report on your son's progress following his lessons with you. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

A Year on the Grill said...

good for you... and especially good for your son... cooking skills are a lifetime and it is so much easier and rewarding than you imagine...

keep it all simple (maybe make up a bunch of seasoning packets)... braised fish with some herbs is fast and tasty and healthy...

let us know what you end up showing

Spice Rack said...

I supposed this is a lovely dish, I wish I could cook something like this as easy as anybody else, with the help of my little spices in my spice rack.

Moogie said...

Girl... you've got "it" going on from all angles. Just what you need to lift your spirits.

By the way... love the casserole.

Megan said...

Looks like a great dinner to me. Enjoy your son and the day.
BTW- YES, your grandson is too precious! :)

Sherylyn said...

This is interesting, as I am creating a basics on healthy cooking class for a group of men, and one part involves providing a similar list! I have not yet finalized it so I am interested to see what you come up with!

My top 10 would include salt, freshly ground pepper, italian herb blend (easier than getting oregano, thyme, basil etc all separately), cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, worchestershire sauce, fresh garlic, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, hmm I think that's already 11.

Ken said...

So how do I get on this Mens' List? This all sounds fantastic!

Karen said...

Sounds like fun! Here's my list: Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion powder, paprika, rosemary, basil, dry rubs, and of course S&P!

Niece Denise said...

salt, onion powder, cumin, basil, thyme, chili powder (or hot sauce), Butter Buds, True Lemon, cinnamon and sugar.

I think you could season/flavor just about anything with some combination of these 10.

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Yum! Your son is lucky to have a mom who is such a great cook... He has a wonderful teacher!

Vera said...

This is my first time visiting and found your blog really awesome. I love all your recipes, and you're a wonderful mom! I'll be back for more good stuff in the future. Blessings :)

Spice Rack said...

This is really great recipe a healthy recipe perfect for your family. Having those herbs and spices on your recipe makes your food healthy. Because many of the spices has a chemical compound which could help reduce the chances of cell damage and other problems related to serious health conditions and diseases.So use those spices that you have on your spice rack.

Anonymous said...

This recipe looks delicious - I will have to give it a try. My son is also named Kellen! :) I'd say definitely keep on hand fresh garlic and a good dried Italian blend of herbs. I use just a pinch in any tomato based soup/dish...quick & easy. Also bay leaves (great anti-viral properties). I think just a splash of cooking sherry adds a little something to most sautéed dishes as well. Of course, fresh herbs like basil and cilantro can be grown in tiny pots in the kitchen window and we all know the fresh herbs can really give a dish that special flavor. Pre-blended seasoning are easy for beginning cooks (McCormick chicken seasoning, Lawry's seasoning salt). Happy cooking!!