“When Catherine told me about this (tragedy nearby), I could only say, shocked, ‘Dear God, that family needs grace' ..
She replied firmly ‘That family needs casseroles,' and proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I don’t know if my sister fully recognizes that this_is_grace” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Check-ins with friends and family ..
My grandson misses playing with his friends and swimming at the Y. His mom misses hugs, her favorite coffee shops, and being home alone. A friend misses having someone, sitting across the counter with a glass of wine while she cooks. Another misses visiting her parents without the fear that they'll get sick.
I miss grocery shopping without worrying about the risks. I also miss some of the little things that brighten a day, like samples at Costco or working from the office. Deep down, I know what we're doing is for a much greater good. I also know how lucky we truly are.
I have a full-time job I can do from home, a job I love. My husband can safely to go to work; he's one of a handful in the entire building. For two introverted and independent people, this fact alone has been huge for our mental health (and marriage). It's hard to imagine dealing with a job loss right now, and I know so many people are suffering.
I think too about those who stuck inside a home where they don’t feel safe. People worried about staying clean and sober without the support they've come to rely on. How many people are at home, suffering from anxiety or depression? Far too many.
But I also know there are lists of sweet things and gratitude too. So for anyone who's feeling a little low or lonely today, I mostly want to send a virtual hug.
The biggest, most heartfelt kind there is
I sorted through the freezer over the weekend and was greeted by treasures I'd nearly forgotten about. The kind of easy re-heatable meals you save for another time, and I can't think of a more perfect time than now.
This got me thinking about healthy, baked, single-pan recipes. I threw this together the other night using a bunch of things I had on hand – brown rice, broccoli, chicken, a bit of cheese, and homemade cream of mushroom sauce. A thirty-minute stint in the oven until it was creamy, melty, and golden at the edges.
It's the kind of thing you could prep in advance and pop in the oven anytime it's convenient. For those of us who still crave a good throwback chicken casserole every now and then, it's a modern-day version that I think you are going to love.
It’s creamy, cozy, comfort food at its very best.
A few notes:
You can certainly use whatever cooked grains you like. I suspect this would be delicious with barley, wheat berries, wild or white rice, or even pasta. I love it made with a brown and wild rice blend
I'd recommend buying a block of good-quality aged sharp cheddar and grating it yourself
Growing up, my mom used to hide all sorts of things in casseroles like this (chicken or pork chops). If you don't roll like that, a vegetarian version with extra veggies or leafy greens would be great
If you go the chicken route, I sauteed a couple of breasts on the stovetop. A rotisserie chicken is a nice short-cut
If you don't have the ingredients or the time to make a homemade mushroom sauce, there's no shame in using canned. I imagine it would take 1 or 2 cans. I'd probably warm it in a saucepan, and stir in the cheese before combining with the other ingredients.
Rice, Chicken, and Broccoli Casserole
- 1 cup dry rice, cooked
- 1 large head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 1 pound of florets)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, or clarified butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp flour (any kind is great, including gluten-free)
- 1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
- 1 ½ cups milk (any nut milk works well too)
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- sea salt and black pepper
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, divided (~ 8 oz)
- 2 cups diced (or shredded) cooked chicken
- Heat oven to 375° F.
- Spread the broccoli florets on a baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, a pinch or two of sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked through.
- Sprinkle the flour evenly over the onion/mushroom mix. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally so the flour will blend in. Add the stock, and stir until most of the clumps are gone.
- Sprinkle the flour evenly over the onion mixture and stir until combined. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add in the stock, and stir everything together until most of the clumps are gone.
- Add the milk, Dijon, herbs, a strong pinch of sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir until combined.
- Lower the heat and continue cooking until the sauce has reached a low simmer. Remove from heat and stir in 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- In a large 9 x 13-inch baking dish, combine the rice, broccoli, cheesy mushroom sauce, and chicken. Smooth the casserole out into an even layer.
- Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes
- Remove the baking dish from the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese evenly on top of the casserole, and bake for 10 -15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melty.
- Serve warm, garnished with extra black pepper and/or fresh herbs, if desired.