Photo by Lara Ferroni
Dinners at our house are all over the map. Sometimes they're long and lazy, hours in the making with the girls at my feet, helping me by spilling and messing and spilling some more. Those are my favorite kind of dinners – when there's enough time to enjoy it, sip some wine and show my girls that cooking doesn't have to be a chore. Other nights it's quick and dirty, with a tornado of a mother whirling through the kitchen just trying to get something – anything – on the table (leftovers, anyone?). More often than not, though, I've prepared our dinner in the morning, when the light for photography is best or I've piggy-backed a dinner from one I made for a client. It's not glamorous, but it's dinner-on-the-table.
But we always – with rare exception – eat our dinner together as a family. I'm really proud of this and I believe (hope) that this is what will get us through the teenage years that seem so far away yet will be here in another blink. Dinner time is the only time – with the exception of tucking them into bed when they will do anything to avoid that final goodnight – that my girls slow down long enough for details of lives at school to go all the way from the back of their minds to out of their mouths. Dinner time is when the four of us talk and laugh and just enjoy each other before running off in different directions.
All of this is why I'm so proud to be part of the America Makes Dinner campaign. If you visit their site you can take the pledge to make dinner on October 17th, 2012 (also my birthday)! Wouldn't it be something if every household made dinner at home for just one night?!
I was asked to contribute my simplest healthy dinner recipe and I immediately thought of this Mexican Chicken & Brown Rice Casserole. It's nothing fancy but it's tasty, fast, healthy and we all love it. I always seem to have leftover rice and this recipe makes it easy to use up (Trader Joe's also has some brown “ready-rice” that's surprisingly good and it's shelf-stable so I keep it on hand).
Here's the list of America Makes Dinner partners who have shared their favorite family dinner recipes:
- Daniel and Shauna Ahern, authors of “Gluten Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back” and “Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef”
- Kristy Bernardo, personal chef and blogger for “The Wicked Noodle”
- Floyd Cardoz, chef and Top Chef Masters winner
- Tom Colicchio and Maria Hines, James Beard Award-winning chefs
- Laurie David, producer and author of “The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time” and her co-author, Kirstin Uhrenholdt
- Cara Eisenpress, author of “In the Small Kitchen” and a Meatless Monday blogger
- Sierra McCormick, of Disney’s “A.N.T. Farm”
- Holly Smith, chef and James Beard Foundation Medal winner, and her son Oliver
- Allison Sosna, chef and contestant on Food Network's “Chopped”
Be sure to check out America Makes Dinner for all of the delicious recipes and to take this important pledge!
Mexican Chicken & Brown Rice Casserole
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 – 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (can use regular chile powder)
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- corn kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (or one can of corn, drained)
- 1 14.5 can diced tomatoes, undrained (preferably fire-roasted)
- 1 14.5 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups cooked brown rice (or one package cooked, prepared brown rice)
- 1 cup Mexican-blend or cheddar shredded cheese
- 1 avocado, diced
- optional toppings: salsa and sour cream
- serve with: fresh pineapple
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet* over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, saute two minutes and then transfer to a large bowl.
- Add chicken breast to skillet and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Stir in cumin and chile powder and cook one additional minute, remove from heat and add the contents of the skillet to the bowl containing onions and garlic.
- Add bell pepper, corn, tomatoes, black beans, and rice to the bowl; mix thoroughly. Return the mixture to the skillet and sprinkle top with shredded cheese.
- Bake directly in skillet* for 20-25 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted.
- Remove from oven and top. with diced avocado. Serve with salsa and/or sour cream.
- *If you don’t have an oven-proof skillet, transfer mixture to 9×13 baking dish for baking.