Not Your Mom’s Chicken and Rice

Many of the dishes are mothers made for us have been around for many many years.  There’s are reason: either they’re easy or  good….sometimes both.  But sometimes, you just want to shake things up a bit…mess with the status quo.  I really love to add more flavor to old dishes.  Not only does it make them taste better, but it also allows us to (maybe) eat less and still be satisfied.

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I took chicken and rice and gave it a makeover to which my family gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.  I used grilled chicken for the roasted flavor and less fat.  Brown rice for complex carbs and fiber and then cooked it with lemon juice and roasted garlic powder for extra flavor.  I added slowly sauteed onions and mushrooms for sweetness and complexity.  Roasted sunflower seeds for crunch.  I seasoned it all with oregano, lemon and feta cheese to give it a Greek twist.  Add spinach for color and B vitamins and a few kalamata olives.  Layer it up and bake it.  WOW!  It tasted fantastic.  This will become a regular for us.

NOTE: Studies have shown that cooking rice in an excess of water results in a faster cooking time and a superior flavor and texture to the rice-Who doesn’t want that?  The catch?-you have to keep an eye on the rice and can’t depend on the depletion of water to tell you when its done.  So start checking the rice after 15 minutes of simmer time.  Drain when the rice is almost done.  You want it to absorb some flavors and moisture from the other ingredients during the bake time.

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Serves 6

You’ll need:

2 cups brown rice, uncooked

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp roasted garlic powder

more than 4 cups of water (I use at least 6 cups)

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds

2 cups of grilled chicken (see how to keep this on hand here)

olive oil, as needed

8 oz baby portabello (crimini) mushrooms, slicedIMG_2555

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tbs lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives

2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a medium sauce pan, add brown rice, lemon juice, roasted garlic powder and more than 4 cups water (see NOTE).  Start checking for doneness after 15 minutes of simmer time.  Drain when almost done (still a bit hard at the center)  Add sunflower seeds, chopped grilled chicken, and a sprinkle of olive oil.  Fluff, cover and set aside.

While the rice is cooking….

Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium flame, add olive oil when hot immediately followed by chopped onion and sliced mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Allow onions to soften and mushrooms to yield their liquid.  Add oregano and continue to saute until almost all liquid has evaporated.  Add lemon juice and olives.  Stir and allow liquid to reduce again to a minimum.  Remove from heat.

In a greased  shallow casserole dish, layer, half of chicken and rice mixture, top with half of the chopped spinach, half of the mushroom/onions and half the feta.  Repeat.

Place casserole in over and bake for 25 minutes until hot and feta is starting to brown.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.  A nice crusty brown bread goes wonderfully with this.  Enjoy!

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