This is reminiscent of the broccoli, cheese and rice casserole that is popular in Oklahoma and which was usually present at nearly every potluck I attended as a child. I looked forward to potlucks for this very dish. I loved the creamy combination of rice and cheese. If I could compare it to another delicious dish, I would say that this is a Southwest version of a delicious risotto. The version I made here does not have broccoli because I didn’t have any on hand, so I subbed red bell pepper and celery and it was a hit. You may decide on different veggies as the base of this is pretty versatile.
I made this in the skillet, but you could certainly bake this in a casserole dish after browning the meat and onions, and keep it warm until guests come over. Add some gluten-free breadcrumbs and put it under the broiler for a bit for browning. My family went back for seconds AND thirds, so I don’t think they missed the real cheese. 🙂
Make ahead notes for quicker weeknight dinner prep: Make large batches of rice on the weekend and freeze in 2 cup portions. You can also do the same for mashed or grated potatoes. For your protein, keep three packages of meat thawing in the refrigerator at all times. When you use one, get another package out to thaw and keep rotating. Use the one that has been thawing the longest. Fish usually thaws in one day, so you may want to plan differently for fish. Having rice handy and meat thawed out will make your dinner prep quicker and easier. Use canned beans for meatless nights (try to get the canned beans that do not have EDTA as a preservative. Ingredients should just be beans, water, salt.)
1 lb. of ground chicken
1 small yellow onion or 1/2 of large white onion, chopped
2 cups cooked med or long grain rice
1-2 cups of water
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon, dried sage
1/2 teaspoon, dried thyme
2 ribs, celery, chopped large
1 red bell pepper, chopped medium
1-2 cups daiya vegan cheese
2 Tablespoons earth balance vegan margarine (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2 slices of allergen-free bread, toasted dark golden brown, crumbled
or 1/2 cup Mary’s Gone Crackers’ Herb Flavored Gluten-Free crackers, crumbled
1. Brown ground chicken and onions in a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Put your frozen rice in the middle (if you made it in advance) and add some water. Cover and let boil and steam, stirring occasionally to break up the rice, add more water if needed.
3. When rice is hot and incorporated, remove lid and add spices and veggies. Let simmer until water is mostly evaporated.
4. Turn heat to low and add the vegan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning and amount of cheese to your liking. If you do not have vegan cheese, try using a combination of vegan margarine and nutritional yeast.
5. (Optional) For a crunchy breadcrumb topping, process some Mary’s Gone Crackers Herb-Flavored gluten-free crackers in a small food processor and sprinkle over top. Or, you could toast a slice or two of gluten-free bread, process in a food processor or crumble over top.
Garnish with fresh parsley, basil or rosemary or add hot sauce if you like.