Enchilada Chicken & Rice Bake

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I realized right around the time I should have started dinner that it was Cinco de Mayo.  Of course I knew it was May 5th, but what that day on the calendar meant didn’t register until food was involved.  Yup.  That’s how my brain works.  Holidays, any holiday on the calendar, means something good to eat.  I wasn’t sure, however, since I decided not to grocery shop until morning, if there would be anything in the fridge or pantry to make a festive dish.  Chicken breasts were already thawed, waiting to be transformed into dinner.  I found a can of crushed tomatoes and a little cilantro I hadn’t used up through the week.  Possibilities…  Then there were the bell pepper ends I had left from making scrambled eggs.  Colby/Jack cheese was on sale this week so, for once, we had it on hand as well.  Brown rice is a pantry staple.  All I had to do was put it all together.  I grabbed what was left of a jar of organic peanut butter and a tub of turbinado sugar while I was in the pantry getting the rice.  I decided that, though not something I think of as Mexican, peanut butter cookies would be a nice treat to end our flavorful meal, whatever that would end up being.

I decided to make enchilada sauce.  My next idea was to stuff the chicken breasts and dump the sauce on top.  Stuff with what?  Cheese.  Boring.  I started a pot of Mexican rice instead.  It’s always good.  Well, except for when I decided to make it for a slew of people, of course.  Something had to give that night.  It was my sons’ end of the world party, our laugh in the face of the Mayans gala, to be exact.  There was mole, Mayan hot chocolate, chicken, enchilada sauce, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa, games, raffles, trivia, and…the apocalypse cake.

Our "end of the world" cake. It featured a meteor taking out the I.S.S., a zombie, the Yellowstone volcano, and a mushroom bomb. Four of the doomsday scenario possibilities of 2012. It was FUN to make.

Our “end of the world” cake. It featured a meteor taking out the I.S.S., a zombie, the Yellowstone volcano, and a mushroom bomb. Four of the doomsday scenario possibilities of 2012. It was FUN to make.

The rice suffered that night.  I ignored it, talked with guests as I was finishing it, forgot that I was using white rice rather than brown and ended up with a big pot of mushy rice.  My kind guests didn’t say a word.   Thank you, kind guests.  That pot of rice absolutely stunk.  But it usually turns out pretty well.  Tonight’s was spot on, thank goodness.  I didn’t have the ingredients or time for a redo.

So I made the rice and the sauce.  Then I spread the rice in the bottom of a baking dish and butterflied my chicken breast halves.  On went the sauce, then my colby/jack.  The last three tomatoes in the produce drawer made a nice salsa.  I’d intended to bake the chicken dish for an hour, covered.  But forty minutes after shoving it in the oven it was up to temp. and the cheese was melted into luscious pools over the rice and chicken.  I thought I would miss all the extras like sour cream, guacamole, and corn tortillas.  Nope.  I had peanut butter cookies!!

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Ingredients:

4 Chicken breast halves, butterflied

Enchilada Sauce

2 cups grated Colby/Jack cheese

Mexican Rice:

1 T extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of minced garlic

1/2 c. onion, medium dice

1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped

3/4 c. green bell pepper, small dice

1 c. brown rice

1 c. crushed tomatoes

2 c. water

1/2  tsp. salt

1/2  tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

Method:

I started the enchilada sauce first, since it simmers for one hour.

To make the rice, heat the oil in the bottom of a medium saucepan over medium to high heat.   Add the garlic and sauté.

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To the garlic and oil, add the onions.  Sweat.  Add bell peppers and sauté until translucent.

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Pour in the rice.

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Stir until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.

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Add the water, tomatoes, and seasonings.

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Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until rice is almost finished, but still a little firm.

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Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Puree the simmered enchilada sauce.

Spread the rice in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

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Lay the butterflied chicken breasts over the rice.

Pour the enchilada sauce over the chicken.

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Sprinkle on the cheese.

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Bake for 40 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 on a meat thermometer.

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Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

Chicken Pizzaiola Soup

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This dish didn’t start life as a pot of soup.  Well it did, but its parents were chicken stock and fresh marinara.  They fell in love, married, and now I’m in love with my Chicken Pizzaiola Soup.

I combined fresh tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, and extra virgin olive oil with precooked chicken and carrots that were left from my weekly stock making.  I added a little of the stock and simmered everything to make a warm, late cold season pot of soup.  The only things that would have made it better were if the veggies had come from my garden and I’d made garlic rolls to go with it.  Either way, I think we will be celebrating this marriage till death do us part.  My family loved it, and I’m wanting to get a second pot going.  It’s another chilly day in the mountains.

Ingredients:

8 Roma tomatoes, small dice

6 cloves of garlic, minced

4 T extra virgin olive oil

4 c. sliced button mushrooms

6 carrots, cooked and mashed

3 c. cooked chicken, pulled into pieces

6 c. water

2 c. chicken stock

Himalayan pink salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 T dried basil

Method:

In the bottom of a small stock pot, saute the garlic in the oil until translucent.  Add the tomatoes.  Cook until softened, then mash with a potato masher.

Add the mushrooms and cook until tender, stirring frequently.

To the pot, add all the remaining ingredients.

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Simmer around 10 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Yield:  8 to 10 servings.

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Swiss Crepes

036 I’ve been helping out a busy friend by doing her grocery shopping and preparing dinner meals for her.  She and her family members live gluten free.  I’d planned to make these stuffed crepes for them.   To ensure that my crepe recipe would translate to gluten free without any hitches, I did a dress rehearsal using my fellas as guinea pigs for the dish.  One problem I ran into was the texture of the batter.  I used King Arthur gluten free flour which has potato flour in it.  If you’ve ever made slime with your kids using water and cornstarch, then you know what it was like dealing with my gluten free crepe batter.  The flour sinks to the bottom, stiffens, and must be frequently stirred.  Another problem was that the crepes tended to be too thick because of the flour.  I added water several times to keep the mixture thinned out to crepe batter consistency.  Still, when I went to roll them, some of the thicker ones resisted and cracked.

I used to use broccoli and chicken in this dish, but since my friend keeps the dishes I make in the oven until her family is ready to eat, I was worried about the broccoli overcooking to mush.  I switched it out for spinach for my trial run and the finished crepes were fabulous.  It’s so nice to know that if we feel the need to stay wheat free for a longer period of time, we have options for more interesting meals when we want something rich and creamy for that occasional splurge.

For the filling, I used the Basic Crepe and Bechamel Sauce recipes which I have posted on the blog, but substituted gluten free flour in each.

Oh, and I must add that…today is one year since my husband’s heart attack.  Such a happy day with only brightness ahead!

Ingredients:

8 Basic Crepes

4 pieces of grilled chicken

1 batch of Bechamel Sauce

2 c. grated Swiss cheese

1 T butter

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 clove minced garlic

4 c. fresh, organic baby spinach leaves

Method:

Prepare the crepes.

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Grill the chicken. Cool and pull it into small pieces.

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Prepare the Bechamel Sauce.  Stir in 1 cup of the Swiss cheese.

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Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil and butter in a heavy skillet.  Add the garlic.  Sweat.

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Add the spinach and saute just until wilted.

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Toss in the chicken to reheat.

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Lay out the crepes in the bottom of a 13×9″ baking dish.  Fill each with 3 T of the meat and spinach mixture.

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Spoon on 2 T of the Swiss bechamel sauce.

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Roll up the filled crepes and lay them in rows.

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Top with the remaining sauce.

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Sprinkle on the remaining 1 c. Swiss cheese.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the sauce and cheese are bubbly.

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Serves 4 to 8.