70’s Inspired Food

70's inspired chicken and rice casserole

My grandmother, Betty, was always the foodie of our family!  She was a professional waitress for more years than I’ve been alive!  We’d drive to Jersey and visit her every Christmas.  She’s greet us and quickly make us feel at home, being the experienced hostess that she was!  I vividly remember a very seventies house decked out with shag carpet and wood paneling.  I don’t remember the presents.  I do remember the retro spread of food she laid out every year!  There were perfectly sectioned hors d’ ouerves plates, with mini gherkins, olives, deviled eggs and celery stuffed with cream cheese.  We’d sit down and pass around the mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, turkey, then came the classics…watergate salad (remember creamy lime green jello with fruit and marshmallows?!), ambrosia salad (loaded with fruit cocktail) and then the favorite…fresh fruit salad loaded with strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes then tossed with homemade whipped cream.

Fast forward many years.  I found myself having waited tables for 14 years, went to school, received a degree in hotel restaurant management and opened a coffeeshop/cafe with my husband.  I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me until then, that I was following in the footsteps of my grandmother!

chicken and rice

I can’t say that I’ve ever made watergate salad…or any kind of jello salad for that matter.  I have made jello jigglers for my kids when they were little.  They always make kids smile!  But, in honor of my grandmother, there is one 70’s inspired dish (I admit) I still make for my family.  It’s one my mom depended on weekly!  Every time I make it, it invokes childhood memories, it also fools the senses!  I once made it for Chris Ann right after her son Lars was born.  Her mom, who’s middle name is Organic, could not get over the “healthy” and delicious meal I had made!  I’m sorry to admit…the chicken was probably the healthiest thing, before it was bathed in Campbell’s goodness!

chicken and rice casserole

It really does taste good!  Devon and I have since recreated the meal to be much healthier by substituting real chopped celery, real chopped mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and milk in place of the canned soups.  It’s up to you!! Just remember to keep the same amount of liquid so the rice cooks properly!

Original Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe:

6 chicken leg quarters

1 Can cream of mushroom soup

1 Can cream of celery soup

1/2 C. milk

1 C. rice

1 package of Lipton onion soup mix

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix together the soups, milk and rice and put in the bottom of a 9X11 baking dish.  Place the chicken legs on top.   Sprinkle the chicken with the package of Lipton soup.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Take foil off and bake for another 1/2 hour.

Healthier Version of Chicken and Rice Casserole:

6 Chicken leg quarters (you can use boneless chicken breast to make this even healthier!)

1/2 C finely chopped celery

1/2 C finely chopped mushrooms

1/2 C finely chopped onions

4 cloves of mince garlic (it is also really good if you use roasted garlic!)

2 Tbls.  fresh thyme

1 Tbls. fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp. salt

fresh cracked pepper

1 C rice

1 C whole milk

1 C skim milk (you could probably use 2 C skim milk, but I mixed them, not wanted to loose some of the creaminess

1/C water

1 package of Lipton onion soup mix (I thought about using different spices to do away with this step, but I have to tell you, there is something about this ingredient that does make the chicken taste good…I admit it, the one time I embrace msg…yikes!  It’s seriously the only time in my cooking arsenal I do!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix together celery, mushrooms, onions, garlic, thyme, parsely, salt and pepper to taste.  Add milk, water and rice.  Place on the bottom of a 9×11 baking dish.

Place chicken on top and sprinkle with Lipton onion soup mix.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Take foil off and bake for another 1/2 hour.


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