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Chicken & White Bean Casserole

done1Sometimes you just need to look into your cabinets and freezer and find a meal with what you have on hand.  That was the inspiration for this yummy casserole.  As a matter of fact, I think that is the inspiration for most casseroles!  When you haven’t had a chance to make it out to the market, it’s nice to be able to depend on a well stocked freezer and pantry!  This Chicken & White Bean Casserole is something that I made a few weeks ago for precisely that reason.

It’s got all the elements of making everything separately, but you get to just saute and throw it all in a pot.  The best part is, it’s ready in under an hour.  Every food group is represented here as well… Healthy brown rice for your grain; carrots, onions and kale for your veggies; chicken, white beans and cheese for your protein; and a touch of butter and olive oil for your fat.  You also have a warm creamy body to this dish and what every good casserole needs, a crispy crunchy topping!

Start by getting your rice going:

I’m starting with my frozen chicken stock… if you have canned or fresh you can use that too… just be sure you have at least 3 cups.

Once warm add in 2 more cups of warm water to make 5 cups of liquid. Add in rice.

To this add a pinch of salt. Cover and allow to boil while you prepare all your ingredients. This allows time for the rice to cook before you add in ingredients.

Now prepare all your ingredients:

I LOVE these individually wrapped organic chicken breasts and I keep them in my freezer all the time. So great to have on hand. So, I need to defrost before I get going with my veggies… and in warm water, they defrost in about 10 minutes!

Chop an onion.

Slice up some garlic.

Then mince your garlic

Peel and slice up two carrots.

Peel and slice up two carrots.

When that chicken has defrosted, dice it up.

Then let it sit with some salt while you saute the veggies.

Now get that non-stick skillet (or cast iron skillet) out:

Start sauteing by adding your onion to some olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Add in your garlic.

Next add in your carrots. Continue to saute a couple of minutes.

Once they are all lightly browned, add them right into the cooking liquid and rice.

Now add your chicken to that same non-stick skillet, no rinsing of the pan is needed… the chicken will pick up the flavors of that onion and garlic.

Add in a Tbs. of butter and continue to saute.

Lightly brown.

Add chicken to rice when rice is nearly done cooking.

Rinse your Cannellini beans.

Add in beans.

Grab 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning mix, rub between your fingers to be sure to activate all the oils in the dried herbs. Also add in another pinch of salt and some fresh cracked black pepper (or white pepper if you prefer)

When your mixture is still wet, but just about all cooked through, get your casserole out.

This is a large casserole dish… No need to butter or anything.

Pour your mixture in and start your topping.

Taste your rice for flavor (add in more salt and pepper if needed) then pour your mixture in and start your topping.

Now, start your topping on that same non-stick skillet:

Again to the un-rinsed skillet, add in kale.  Remember, this is about what you have on hand, so if you have spinach, use that (fresh or frozen), if you have escarole use that etc any leafy green will do.

To the kale add in some butter.

Add in cream.

Saute until wilted.

Shred some cheddar cheese. I have white sharp cheddar, you can use whatever cheese you have on hand. A mild cheddar, a parmesan or even a pepper jack would be great here if you don’t mind the heat. Also, if you have extra cheese on hand, an additional cup of cheese would be really great added right into the rice when it gets transferred to the casserole dish.

Add in your cheese.

Add in your cheese.

Melt in all that cheese.

Melt in all that cheese.

Add your creamy kale to the top of your casserole.

Now cover the top with panko bread crumbs, a light sprinkle of salt and some dabs of butter. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes at 350°F.

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Recipe for Chicken & White Bean Casserole:

(serves 6-8)

1 1/2 cups brown rice

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

2 chicken breasts, diced and lightly salted

2 carrots, sliced

1 onion. diced

2 lg. cloves of garlic, minced

1 can Cannellini beans, rinsed

3 cups kale, chopped

4 Tbs. butter, divided

1/2 cup light cream (or 1/2 & 1/2)

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 Tbs. italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Before preparing ingredients, start by boiling chicken stock and water adding a pinch of salt and adding in rice.  (Doing this first allows time for the rice to cook before adding in ingredients – as we are using brown rice, it takes about 20 minutes longer than white rice to fully cook through – adjust this time accordingly if you decide to use white rice)  Next, start your dicing and mincing of veggies, chicken and shredding of cheese.

Once all your prep is complete, saute onions with olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet.  Add in garlic and carrots.  Saute until lightly browned.  Add to pot with rice.

Without rinsing the skillet, saute the chicken. Add in 1 Tbs. butter, continue to saute until lightly browned.  Add in to pot with rice.

Add in beans and seasoning to pot of rice.

In the same un-rinsed skillet add in kale. Saute with butter, add in cream and cheese.

Once the liquid is almost all incorporated to the rice in the pot (but not quite) add to a casserole dish.  Top with kale topping.  Then add panko and dabs of butter to the top of that.

Bake 20 mins until top is golden.

Enjoy!