Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Tried and True Thursday

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Years ago, I went to supper at a friend's home.  I was newly divorced and new to going about all on my own and felt a little nervous over the seemingly long ride to her home.  She did her utmost to put me at ease that evening and to make the dinner as special as she could make it though their budget was extremely tight. 
There was a bouquet on the table (picked from the yard), candlelight, the good china, cloth napkins and tablecloth, quiet music playing in the background.  My hosts were good conversationalists and we laughed and talked all evening long.  The hours flew past and by the time I headed home, though it was nearly midnight, I left with such a warm glow inside that I wasn't the least nervous on my way home.
My friend had a particular talent for making you feel at home and always had something a little special when you visited.  Often her budget was tight to an extreme.  Just getting through the day to day expenses of living was tough, but somehow when you were with her, you didn't notice her lack, you saw only her knack of making her home a very pleasant place to visit.  Whether she offered you a cup of brewed coffee or a glass of iced tea, she added some little something extra to make it special. 
I remember one summer day  visit and being offered a seat on the porch swing on her wide porch.  She asked if I'd like a glass of iced tea and returned with a pitcher and two glasses on a tray.  She set them on a small table and poured out this nectar that was subtly flavored with raspberries.  Her secret?  She'd taken a single pinch of Koolaid from her kids packet and stirred it into the freshly brewed tea!  Just little things like that made each visit such a joy.
Back to that first dinner with her, the meal she served that evening was Chicken and Wild Rice casserole.  She gave me her recipe and I learned to make it for my family.  As said, it's truly a budget recipe.  You can decrease the chicken, increase the rice and the vegetables and feed a crowd a satisfying meal.  There are all sorts of variations for this casserole dish but I like it just the way Linda made it.
I took out chicken breasts to thaw on Tuesday but was at a complete loss as to what to make for supper.  I took a ten minute power nap and rose with a smile.  I'd dreamed of Linda who moved away long ago.  And of course, dreaming of her brought back the memory of my first 'dinner out'  and the wonderful meal she'd prepared. I prepared just half a recipe for us, but you can double or triple this recipe easily. 
Kay doesn't like wild rice, but you can't keep her away from this casserole.  She absolutely loves it!
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
1 5 ounce box of wild rice mix (I like Rice A Roni)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 10 oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 fully cooked large chicken breast, skin and bone removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup shredded cheese*
Cook rice according to package directions.  During last five-ten mins of cooking put onion and celery on top and cover to finish cooking rice.  Dump rice, chestnuts, soup, mayo and chicken into a deep bowl.  Mix well.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper to suit your family.    Pour into an 8 inch round pan and spread to evenly distribute in pan.  Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese and bake 5 minutes more.
*Linda used Swiss, I've used Cheddar and last night I used Mozzarella that was shredded the night before when I made another dish.  You can also skip the cheese and top with crushed crackers or potato chips but put these on before you begin to bake rather than in the last five minutes of baking.