Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Salsa Chicken Casserole and a Bonus Recipe!

Happy Tuesday everyone! In yesterday's post I promised a couple of recipes this week. We are starting with Salsa Chicken Casserole, and I decided to add in a Marinated Veggie Salad recipe that I seem to be making a lot these days. It travels well, so it's great for pot-lucks or picnics, but it does require some advance planning, since I recommend marinating it for about 24 hours before eating.

The Marinated Veggie salad is quick and simple to put together, so the only real time you need to plan for is the marinating overnight. When I make it, I used canned veggies for the green beans, peas, and corn, but you can just as easily use the frozen or fresh variety, so long as they are cooked first.
Marinated Veggie Salad

Marinated Veggie Salad

1 can peas
1 can green beans
1 can corn
1/2 onion, diced
4 oz diced pimento
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup sugar (I go light on this - doesn't need as much sweetness, especially if you use sweet corn and a sweet onion, like I do)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar (I generally add a few extra splashes, because I like this flavor!)
Black pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp)

Instructions:
Drain all veggies and mix together in a large bowl.
Over medium heat, bring olive oil, sugar, vinegar and black pepper to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, pour over veggies. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.



For the Salsa Chicken Casserole, there are lots of different ways to customize this and make it yours. I used a combination of white and brown rice this time. I am in the process of transitioning us to a brown rice household, but I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the last cup of white rice, so I mixed the two. This recipe easily works with either.

A combo of white and brown rice in my rice cooker. Have I mentioned that I love my rice cooker?
 Mix the salsa with the diced onion in a large bowl. The flavor of this casserole can really vary depending on what type of salsa you use. I recommend using a good medium salsa if you like a little heat. You can also use one with a smokey flavor for some extra "oomph". Stir in the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups. I use the low-fat, low-sodium varieties. Trust me, once you've added the cheese, you won't miss the salt and the fat!

Salsa and Onion

The salsa and onion with the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups mixed in.

This is a "some assembly required" casserole, but it isn't too complicated. I used my 9x13 pyrex, but if you have a deeper pan, like a lasagne pan, that works well, too, because this can really fill a 9x13.

Ready for "some assembly required"
 Start the assembly with a layer of rice. I make this in two layers, so half of the rice goes packed into the bottom of the casserole dish. Then a layer of half the chicken on top. As a note, I use poached chicken breast for this casserole. The chicken needs to be cooked prior to the casserole going together, and I prefer poaching because it is a very healthy and low-fat way to cook the chicken, and it retains a lot of the moisture. Nobody likes dry chicken. :)

Rice and layered in the bottom of the casserole dish.
 After the layer of chicken, cover with a layer of the salsa/soup mixture. I try and make sure it gets spread all the way to the sides of the pan. This keeps the chicken and rice on the sides from getting crunchy when it bakes.

Salsa, onion, and soup mixture is layered on top of the chicken.
 Then top with half the cheese. Then repeat. As you can see from the picture below, the pan does get pretty full. If you are concerned about spillage (although this has not been a problem for me so far, and I have made this about 5 times), you can put the casserole pan on top of a cookie sheet to bake.

Top with cheese, and repeat layering a second time, ending with the cheese.
 Bake about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the casserole is bubbly and covered in ooey-gooey melted cheese.
Bake to bubbly goodness...
 Then eat it. But be careful... that ooey-gooey melted cheese is ridiculously hot!

And eat!

Salsa Chicken Casserole

4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced or shredded
~2 cups of uncooked rice, cooked
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 onion, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded

Cook the rice according to package directions (I use a rice cooker).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the salsa, onion, and soups into a large bowl. Set aside.

Once the rice is done, layer half the rice in the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Cover the rice with half of the chicken. Then a layer using half of the salsa mixture. Top with half of the cheese. Repeat for a second layer using the other half of the ingredients.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly.