What’s your favorite kind of comfort food? I grew up in the South so my favorite comfort food is usually something with broth. (And bread.) Collard greens, for example. Or a salty vegan stew with rice and thick cut carrots and kale. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Today’s recipe definitely falls under the category of comfort food, at least in my book. It’s rich, without being overwhelming. Warm, hearty, filling, and reheats easily for leftover consumption – a key point of comfort food, I think.
I developed this recipe for my upcoming Clean Eating workshop that I’m hosting at our local Y. At the workshop I’ll be comparing store bought items with my own homemade dishes to illustrate that not only is homemade food better for you, but it tastes better too. The store bought version of this dish is a Stouffer’s dish called “Grandma’s Chicken and Vegetable Rice Bake”.
They should have the word vegetable in quotations though because it actually contains more “chicken powder” than vegetables. Seriously. I was shocked when I picked up the box at the store to read the ingredients. Chicken powder is listed twice in the ingredient list, which you cannot find on the Stouffer’s website. Here is the ingredient list if you’re curious.
Another reason I chose this particular frozen dinner is that this is something my husband and I used to eat every week before we started our real food journey. In fact, Stouffer’s frozen dinners were on regular rotation in our house as I bought into their “No Preservatives” label and didn’t bother to read the ingredient list. Or, if I did, I certainly didn’t know the dangers present in all that processed stuff.
For research sake I bought one of the frozen rice bakes and cooked it up the same night I made my own version. We tasted it first, then my own version and were both shocked. Neither one of us remembered it tasting the way it tastes now and my husband and I both felt it had a slightly metallic aftertaste. Um, yuck? Needless to say, we had a couple bites each and I threw the rest away (and recycled the plastic tray!).
P.S. If you needed another reason to get away from frozen dinners….cooking in plastic, microwave or oven, is bad for your health.
Now, on to the recipe! You can make this Vegan by choosing vegan cheeze and using vegan butter for the roux!!
Ingredients Yield: 4 dinner-sized portions
- 3/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and boiled until soft (season with salt while cooking)
- 3/4 cup dry rice, cooked and seasoned lightly with salt
- 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed veggies
- 1 cup organic shredded cheese, like monterey
- Additional cheese for sprinkling on top, if you like.
- 2 1/2 tbsp butter (preferably grassfed)
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 1/2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cup hot water
- salt & pepper
- rounded 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning OR Herbs de Provence
- Cook chickpeas, drain, and set aside.
- Cook rice, season lightly, and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C
- Heat large skillet over medium, melting the butter.
- Add chopped onion and cook over medium-low ~10 minutes or until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper while cooking.
- Make a Roux: Add flour and stir until incorporated *if you have extra melted butter left over and the flour isn’t clumping together, add more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring after each addition, until it starts to clump together.
- Let the roux cook for ~1 minute.
- Add the hot water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition and continuting to stir until no clumps remain. →click here for roux troubleshooting
- Once all the water has been added, season with the Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence and stir.
- Turn heat down to low and allow to softly simmer for a couple minutes. We want the sauce to be on the thinner side because the rice will absorb some of the sauce and the cheese will thicken it up.
- Run frozen veggies under hot water in a colander and drain very well, then add to sauce mixture.
- Turn down heat to low. Stir in chickpeas and half of your shredded cheese and stir gently.
- Add rice and the remaining cheese, stirring gently.
- Taste and reason as necessary.
- Pour into 8×8″ casserole dish and cover.
- Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and heated through.
- If you added cheese on top, remove the cover and turn broiler on to high. Leave rack in center of the oven and broil for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it and don’t leave your kitchen! We don’t want burned casserole 😉
- Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
This reheats extremely well. You can place it into a skillet with a bit of water, turn heat to low and cover. Additionally, you could add it to a small pot with a bit of water and reheat over medium, stirring frequently – do not cover.
- I use frozen veggies in this recipe because they are quick and easy, but if you are more comfortable in the kitchen and have some knife skills, I’d recommend swapping the frozen veggies for some coined fresh carrots and fresh broccoli florets. If you go that route you’ll need to add a bit more water to the sauce since the broccoli will soak up the sauce as it cooks.
- I used raw, grassfed monterey cheese in this recipe and it works great. I would suggest staying away from more oily cheeses like cheddar. Go for something that melts well and is more stringy when melted like monterey, provolone, swiss, or mozzarella. And I mean real chedder off the block like Kerrygold or Coastal, not Kraft.
Shepherd’s Pie – Vegetarian & Nightshade Free
Chickpeas & Dumplings – Vegetarian & Nightshade Free
I hope you enjoy this! It’s not something I cook often with all the cheese, but it is definitely delicious!