This Corn Casserole with Chicken and Rice is delicious, healthy and easy to make even on a busy weeknight!
When my dad was young, his family was so poor that my grandparents would pack lard sandwiches for the kids’ school lunches.
Lard. As the filling between two slices of bread.
This was northern Minnesota, in a tiny town close to the Canadian border. They lived in a very small house with three times as many children as there were bedrooms. They farmed, they worked their land and they used what they raised and grew to just barely keep them all fed. I remember my dad telling me that for his birthday he might get an apple and how he would treasure every sweet, juicy bite.
In contrast, my childhood was filled with all the apples I could eat. That doesn’t mean we had a bunch of money to spare; I wore many hand-me-downs and we even went an entire year without television when our old black-and-white finally broke. But what we did have was a house where we each had our own bedroom that sat on twenty acres of land where I spent my early years learning every nook of every tree on every hill in every field. We also had a hot, delicious meal on our table every night.
I often talk to my girls about how fortunate they are, how so many families – including their own grandfather when he was a boy – don’t have the luxury of hot food on their plates. And, if they do, many people today don’t spend time cooking their own meals and sitting down together as a family. I understand all too well how tough it is to run a business, raise children, take care of a house and still attempt to find just a few precious moments of “me” time in the middle of any number of unexpected hurdles that always seem to pop up at the worst possible times in my day. Just yesterday I was talking with a friend and we were laughing about how, as often as we cook (me especially because it’s my job) our families do eat a microwaved meal or take-out far too often because that’s simply the way our lives seem to run these days. Yet I consider myself very fortunate that I have these special childhood memories of dinners around our family table where we talked and laughed and even disagreed and complained. These are memories I wouldn’t change for the world.
Even as a food blogger, I’m not always able to put a hot, home-cooked meal on my family’s table every night of the week. I do my best and most nights I’m proud to say that I’m able to make that happen. For me personally, it’s a priority because I have found that it’s in those rare few minutes when we’re all sitting down together that we share things with one another we might not otherwise have found the time to share.
One trick I’ve learned to make this happen is to plan two meals at once if possible. For example, one of the recipes I posted last week was for a Roasted Carrot Soup. Whenever I make this soup I roast twice as many carrots as I need so that I can use the freshly roasted carrots as a side dish for that evening, then I bag up the remaining carrots to toss into my blender with just a few more ingredients the following night for a super easy, healthy dinner. You may have done this same trick with chicken; roast two instead of one and use the meat from the second in a quick and easy casserole you can throw together the next day.
Using that trick as inspiration, I’ve created a super easy Corn Casserole with Chicken and Rice recipe that was inspired by one my mom made often when I was young. You can even assemble the corn casserole the day or night before then just throw it in the oven when you’re ready. I love nights like this when dinner is already prepared yet I know it was my own hands that put it all together. Heck, you can even combine both of these suggestions for three meals: roast the two chickens with a bunch of carrots one night and serve one chicken and half the carrots for dinner the first night (you can even throw a few russet potatoes in the oven alongside everything else). Use the second chicken for this corn casserole the second night and the remaining carrots for the soup on night three. That’s almost half a week’s dinners without all the extra fuss of planning, shopping and preparation. And, if you need to, you can relax the rest of the week knowing that you’ve accomplished three home-cooked meals that you can feel good about!
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice, can use white if preferred
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 2 - 3 cups frozen corn, thawed (fresh corn right off the cob is best in the summertime!)
- 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped (I like to use leftover chicken or pick up a rotisserie chicken)
- 1 - 2 cups shredded Mexican-style four cheese blend
- 1 14 1/2 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, no need to drain
- 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 green onions, chopped
- Sour cream, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Cook rice according to package directions.
- Meanwhile,heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to soften, about five minutes. Add garlic and both chili powders; cook about one more minute.
- Add corn, chicken, 1/2 of the cheese, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, rice and onion mixture to a greased casserole dish; mix well then add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through. Garnish with cilantro and chopped green onions; serve with sour cream on the side.