By Mercedes Lee
Pro-tip: ALWAYS COOK MORE RICE
I got a little caps-locky there because having extra rice has never been a bad thing in my household, and more often than not, is a dinnertime saviour. I could actually probably fill 2 years’ worth of columns with rice recipes alone. Whenever you’re making rice, make one and a half or twice what you’re going to need for that meal. Then, wait for it to cool, and stick it in a freezer bag or freezer-friendly storage container and freeze that bad boy for a rainy day. Didn’t order enough rice with your Moti Mahal order? Freezer Rice to the rescue! Want to add some heft to a brothy soup? Freezer Rice is your friend. Want a simple, 5-minute side dish? Who you gonna call? Say it with me now: Freezer Rice!
Here is an easy, nutritious casserole that makes the most of fresh rice, or Freezer Rice to cut down on prep time. This recipe also makes the most of my secret ingredient to elevate any long-based, starchy casserole – lemon zest. A little lemon zest and juice brighten up a meal that’s spent a long time in the oven. It’s like the task lighting of the casserole world:
Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole
1 c. quinoa (I used red, but you could use whatever you liked), rinsed
3/4 c. rice, uncooked, or 1 ½ c. cooked rice
2 heads of broccoli, chopped into small pieces (I also am thrifty and peel and cut the stalk into small pieces as well, after cutting off about 1″ of the bottommost part. You could also use that already-prepped frozen broccoli in bags)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, roasted in the oven until cooked (you could also use leftover roast turkey, chicken, whatever)
1 can of cream of broccoli soup (I used the reduced sodium kind)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
– in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the quinoa. When the quinoa is about 5 minutes from ready, add the chopped broccoli to the pot and blanch quickly. If you’re using frozen broccoli, add in the last 2 minutes of quinoa cooking time. Drain the quinoa and the broccoli and put into the large mixing bowl.
– cook the rice as per usual (1 part rice to 2 parts water. Bring to a boil in a pot, reduce heat, cover, and let steam on low heat until the water is absorbed and rice is cooked through, about 10-20 minutes). Or, defrost Freezer Rice. Place in the large mixing bowl.
– cut up the cooked chicken and add it to the bowl.
– add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir so that everything is tossed together and mixed through.
– put it into a 9 x 13 casserole dish (I actually split this up – half in an 8″ square casserole and the other half in a square foil brownie pan for wrapping and freezing for a future meal).
– at this point, you could definitely top the casserole with breadcrumbs tossed with parmesan cheese, or crushed Ritz crackers, or croutons or panko tossed with olive oil and parmesan if you want a crispy topping (I almost always do). .
– cover the casserole with foil, and bake 400F for about 30 minutes with the foil on, and 20 minutes with the foil off (essential if you’re adding a topping you want crisped), or until heated through and topping is golden brown.