When I was growing up, if I stepped one foot in the kitchen, my grandmother would suddenly appear beside me to see what I was doing. It didn't matter if I waited until she was in her bedroom with the door closed playing the piano and belting out "Oh, What a Friend We Have in Jesus", she would somehow sense a presence in her territory and promptly investigate.
Mam-ma wasn't ugly about it. She didn't forbid me to cook. She would even sometimes sense my uneasiness under her watchful eye and try to give me some space, ducking around the corner to the livingroom and only peering at me around the door frame, but before long she would be back inside, hovering at my shoulder. She just couldn't help it!
Needless to say, I didn't learn much about cooking back then, beyond what was taught in my one semester of 7th grade Cooking Class with Mrs. McDonald. By the time I was out on my own, with my very own kitchen, I was on a perpetual diet. I learned to bake chicken, steam broccoli and even made Magic Cookie Bars and a broccoli-cheese casserole for a company Christmas party, but otherwise I lived on dry roasted peanuts, picante sauce and chips, and microwaved baked potatoes. Quick and easy.
After Tom and I married, I began experimenting with recipes on my days off. I loved cooking - if I had a whole day to devote to it, that is. I scoured magazines for new recipes to try...
Then the children arrived; it was back to quick and easy and trying to cook something everyone liked. Pre-boxed, pre-jarred... even pre-cooked. The more "pre's" there were, the better!
In recent years, I've cut out all of those "pre's" - I'm trying to eat healthy. But I still like "quick and easy". Cooking, and the inevitable cleaning up, are way down below writing and photography and playing the drums for me, so when preparing a meal lands on my shoulders, it's usually grilled chicken and fresh salad. (Tom will say it's always grilled chicken and fresh salad. And he might be right!)
So why in the heck did I sign up to develop a recipe with Knorr Chicken Stock for BlogHer? Not just cook something, mind you, but develop a new recipe?
Because the top recipes win an all-expense paid trip to the upcoming BlogHer Convention, which I could never afford otherwise, that's why.
But, seriously, what was I thinking? I couldn't win. It's not that I think I'm incapable - it's just not something I'm 'into' right now. You name it and cooking is way down below it. And then there's the time thing. I'm already stretched so thin there are days I think I'm going to POP!
I thought about backing out of it. But thinking about it is as far as I got on that because... well, I gave my word, for one thing. And also, it became a new challenge, a way to grow in an area I've sorely neglected.
I believe learning and growing and challenging yourself is what this 50 decade is all about, so for two weeks, I tossed ideas around in my head, trying to come up with something new.
That's really, really hard, you know it?
I noticed the chef at the winery creating dishes using roasted cauliflower and that gave me an idea. I had tons of cauliflower in the fridge. I would just roast a bunch and then... hmmm. Then what?
I eventually did come up with a mostly-original recipe. Only 'mostly-original' because I adapted one of my old standbys from when all the kids lived at home, a recipe I got from a co-worker years ago: "Terry Boer's Chicken and Rice Casserole." (I kept it in a recipe box next to "Hoi Tranh's Butterfly Shrimp" and "Larry Corona's Manicotti" and "Jim Josey's Cheeseburger Pie." I loved working with guys who could cook!)
And I really love casseroles because you just toss everything together in one pan, slip it into the oven and let it cook.
But Terry's recipe wasn't very healthy. That was my challenge...
His called for buttering the pan. I used olive oil. His used white rice. I replaced it with organic, gluten-free short grain brown rice. Instead of a whole cut-up chicken that his recipe called for, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Instead of two cans of 'cream of..." soup, I used Knorr's low-fat chicken stock. Instead of dried onion soup, I used fresh onion and other spices.
Then I added my own twist, adding lots of cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms.
Guess what - it was good! Even TG and Tom agreed, although I think Tom still prefers Terry's (unhealthy) version.
So maybe it doesn't totally qualify for the contest, since it's more of an adaptation than a totally original recipe, but even if I'm disqualified, I feel good about the whole experience. My cooking confidence has been restored - although I think I'll still let Tom retain the Kitchen Crown.
So without further ado, here's the completed recipe for, um, what should I name it? How about... "Barbara's Chicken, Veggie and Brown Rice Casserole"? Well, not very original, but my brain is tired. It'll have to do.
Hope you enjoy it!
Barbara's Chicken, Veggie and Brown Rice Casserole
1 lb. Monterrey mushrooms, sliced
1/2 broccoli crown, cut into chunks
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into chunks
1 whole onion, chopped
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 breasts)
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock made from Knorr homestyle concentrated stock
1 1/2 cups of brown rice
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare chicken stock. Coat bottom of 9 x 13 pan with olive oil. Pour 1 1/2 cups of stock into pan. Add 1 1/2 cups of rice, covering bottom of pan. Place chicken on top of rice. Mix seasonings together and sprinkle on chicken, then top with onions, mushrooms, cauliflower and broccoli. Pour remaining chicken stock on top.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 8 to 10.
(If you make it, let me know what you think!)
And now, for something ELSE completely different...
This was my 1000th post on Long Hollow! Whoo-hoo!!
It's hard for me to believe, but I'm sure my stats don't lie. Thank you to anyone out there who has actually read even half of them!