Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Greek Chicken and Rice

IMG_2004
Greek Chicken and Rice with Feta Cheese, accompanied with marinated cucumbers and onions (refrigerator pickle)

I’m not trying to present anything authentically Greek like your native or first-generation Yaya made, but rather to elevate the simple chicken and rice dish with the flavors most Americans associate with Greek or (generically) Mediterranean food. In fact, if you leave off the Greek-ish additions, you could just say this is Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice and stop there :-).

To easily change up a wonderful dish when it’s getting a little stale in the dinner rotation, consider adding lemon juice to your chicken and rice bake and serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese and olives.

Ingredients for a 4-serving bake

  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (jasmine, basmati, American long grain, whatever)
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock or combination
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced (1-2 T prepared lemon juice) – to taste
  • 4 4-6-oz pieces of boneless chicken – any combination of breasts and thighs
  • 1t salt (only if using water because even low sodium chicken stock already has salt)
  • 1t – 1T black pepper – to taste
  • 1 package of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives (or black or green if you like those)

NOTE: you might think that dicing the chicken before putting it in the bake will make this easier, but the smaller pieces cook so much more quickly than the rice that they become dry and rubbery. Not pleasant, IMHO.

IMG_2001Preheat oven to 350°F.

Layer rice, water/stock, juice, chicken, salt, and pepper in a 9×9 baking dish in the order listed above for the least messy assembly.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir – this is essential for all of the rice to get cooked.

Bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.

IMG_2002Use two forks to shred the chicken. Stir to mix thoroughly with the rice.

Serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese and chopped olives.

LEFTOVERS: if you have any leftovers, they make for a great cold rice salad with artichoke, cucumber, tomato, and sweet onion and a drizzle of olive oil or Greek salad dressing added to the feta and olives. Mmmmm, lunch!

Posted in Cooking

Quickie Leftover Dinner–Chicken and Rice plus a bonus Refresher Course on Gravy Basics

So last week, I had made oven poached chicken and had some of the chicken thighs leftover. Some other time (is it bad that I can’t remember?) someone else had made some rice, and put the leftovers in the fridge. And then everyone but me went on a cruise to the Bahamas, and I got stuck trying to figure out what to do with the bits and pieces of meals left in the fridge for when they got back this week.

Creamy Chicken and Rice with a side of Pepper Vinegar Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower

So…chicken…rice….hmmmm…how about chicken and rice. Duh!

So this is a refresher course in basics…and what to do when your pantry doesn’t have some of the basics.

Assumption #1: Everyone knows the ingredients for chicken and rice. Right?! It’s cooked chicken, rice, and gravy.

Ha! Bet I stumped you on the gravy. Why? Because since I was a kid, everyone has just used “canned gravy” otherwise known as cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. What is cream soup? Flavored gravy.

Assumption #2: Everyone has the ingredients for a basic cream gravy, even during the 2011 snow or snice storm; the term “snice” was coined by my friend Sue Sneed to describe the actual precipitation result in Atlanta.

What are the ingredients for a basic cream gravy? Butter, flour (wheat or rice), milk, and water. Yes, alternatives such as heavy cream and fresh stock will make better tasting gravy, but we’re talking basics here.

How do you make soup out of cream gravy? Use mushroom stock and add mushrooms for cream of mushroom. Use chicken stock and add chicken for cream of chicken. Use vegetable stock and add cooked celery (pureed) for cream of celery. You get the idea, right?

Assumption #3: Everyone knows how to make gravy or a white sauce. Yep, that’s where I lost you. Why? Because gravy has been a “bad” food for several decades now, identified as all fat and no nutrition. Thus, gravy-making from scratch is nearly a lost art in the regular person’s house.

You can look up any gravy recipe, and if you look closely and compare, you’ll see that it’s all about ratios…yes, math. You’ve got a

  • 1:1 for thin gravy or cream soup
  • 1:1.5 for medium gravy
  • 1:2 for thick gravy
Roux…the flour and butter mixture that thickens sauces

The ratio describes the number of tablespoons of butter compared to the number of tablespoons of flour. Then you’ll add the number of cups of liquid (equal parts milk and water) to result in the number of cups of finished gravy. The liquid gets you the mass, while the butter-flour mixture (sometimes called a roux) gets you the thickness (photo from RisingWolfEats.blogspot.com).

Oh, yeah, this is also called a white sauce, which is the base for nearly every french sauce and cheese sauce out there (yes, that includes mac and cheese!!). But in a white sauce, usually only milk is used as the liquid.

And when you get good enough with the basic sauce, you can start to make gravy out of drippings: roasted turkey drippings, fried chicken or steak drippings, breakfast sausage drippings, bacon drippings, and more!

Assumption #4: Everyone has cream of something soup in the pantry. Yep, the Sandra Lee shortcut way of making gravy, which, of course, is why the soup label has recipes on it, showing you how many ways gravy can transform simple basic ingredients into a delicious, creamy casserole combining any yummy combination of meat, rice/noodle, grain, veggies…and gravy.

Okay, you’ve got all that; you don’t need me to tell you how to make chicken and rice, right?

Well, in the spirit of the refresher course, here goes:

  • dice, shred, pick off the bone 2 lbs of cooked chicken*
  • 4-5 cups of partially cooked rice (I use brown)
  • 2 cups gravy (aka 2 cans of cream soup, your pick of flavors)
  • salt, pepper, other seasonings you prefer (I’m a thyme girl)

Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl and pour it into a baking dish. Top with some grated cheese or bread crumbs or cracker crumbs or sliced almonds or fried onions (like green bean casserole), whatever you like to give it a little crunchy top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Done!! This recipe is for a 9×13 dish and makes 8 substantial servings.

*Since Weight Watchers PointsPlus values white and dark meat chicken the same, I don’t bother separating them; and I LOVE dark meat…so rich and flavorful, and fat is essential in a healthy and balanced diet.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 8.25 points per serving

  • 2 lbs cooked chicken = 16 points
  • 5 cups brown rice = 20 points
  • 1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup = 5 points
  • 1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup = 5 points
  • alternate to canned soups: 2 cups white sauce is 9 points (skim milk and water) or 11 points (whole milk and water); be sure to adjust points if you use homemade stock since it will have fat-points. NOTE: it’s the same points to use a homemade, full-fat roux as nearly fat free canned stuff…please go for homemade when possible.

Total points of casserole = 66 points = 8.25 points per serving