Sunday cooking adventures: Chicken and rice casserole


If you follow my blog, you know that I’m not a huge casserole fan, but this one caught my attention. It is low in sodium, light on the cheese, and there are no high sodium creamy soups in it. It’s the cheese and the soup that really push up the sodium levels in this kind of creamy casserole.

There is half a pound of chicken in this casserole, cooked without the skin, along with zucchini, yellow squash and rice. The recipe calls for white rice, but I cooked mine with a wild rice blend. I figure if I’m going to eat rice, I want whole grain because it has more fiber. But note that the dark color of the wild rice blend darkens the color of the casserole. If you’re making this to impress someone, stick with the white rice!


I adjusted this recipe, originally from Cooking Light, just a little. Because I left out the salt, I added about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes while cooking. I also added a teaspoon of fresh oregano. I was going to add thyme, but I just got lazy. I’m sure it would be good in this.

The end result was yummy, and frankly, much better than I expected. I didn’t think there would much substance to it but it was good. When you’re making the white sauce, be sure you cook it until it is thick, which doesn’t take long. Also, if you’ve never made a white sauce, the number one rule is don’t walk away from it and stir constantly. You have to watch it.

Here’s a link to the original recipe if you’d like to try that instead:

Chicken and rice casserole


1 cup chopped onion
1 (8-ounce) bone-in chicken breast half, skinned (mine was about 12 ounces and it was PLENTY)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter (you could sub olive oil)
1 (8-ounce) zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 (8-ounce) yellow squash, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 cups cooked wild rice blend or brown rice
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk (usually I use skim but this was so lean I went with the 2 percent)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese, divided


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon pepper; add chicken, meaty side down, to pan. Cook 5-6 minutes or until browned; turn chicken over. Add broth to pan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until chicken is done (165 degrees — I checked mine with a meat thermometer). Remove chicken from pan, reserving broth in pan. Let chicken stand 15 minutes. Remove chicken from bones; shred. Discard bones. Place chicken in a large bowl.
3. While chicken cools, bring broth to a boil; cook, uncovered, until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10-15 minutes). Add broth mixture to chicken. Melt butter or olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add squash and 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper flakes to pan; sauté 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add squash mixture, rice, and minced rosemary and oregano to the chicken mixture, and toss gently to combine.
4. Place flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat; let stand 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup cheese; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and milk mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine. Spoon chicken mixture into a broiler-safe 8-inch ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over rice mixture; bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove casserole from oven.
5. Preheat broiler.
6. Broil casserole 5 minutes or until golden.
7. Let rest for about 20-25 minutes before serving — it holds together better.


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