Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

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It was raining when I woke up this morning.  The kind of steady downpour that makes you just want to curl back up under the covers and sleep the day away.

I didn’t.

I got up (after three snoozes), got dressed, loaded the dishwasher (I can’t catch up on the dishes!), packed lunches, and sat in the quiet for a few minutes.  Then  the waking up started.

Christopher didn’t want to get up.

Elizabeth didn’t want to get up.

Michael was feeling under the weather, but he was getting up anyway.

There was far too much drama in my house.  The waking up process involved a sweet voice, then an impatient voice, then a ticked-off voice, then a threatening voice.  They finally got up (begrudgingly) and I went to make breakfast – which, on a morning like this, was blueberry Pop Tarts.

Don’t judge.

After far too many reminders to put on shoes and socks, Elizabeth and I were finally headed for school.  In the rain.

I hate driving in the rain.

We got to school and then…

It was Monday.

All.  Day.  Long.

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

Not really, but I did play that song in the band in the eighth grade.  It sticks with you.

I had a meeting after school and then came home to start dinner.

I love this recipe.  I had a friend who made a similar dish, so I looked up the recipe on the Internet called “Chicken Spectacular” and then tweaked a few things here and there.  And by “tweaked,” I just mean I added onions and lightened up a few of the ingredients.  The first time I made it, Michael got that eyes-closed-deep-breath-soft-sigh look.  He looked at me and said, “This is good.”  The next time I made it, he reacted much the same, but he said, “This tastes like home!”  In fact, every time I made it, he said it reminded him of home.

Several years into our love affair with this dish, I picked up an old cookbook published by Michael’s home church – you know, the really good kind of cookbook that grandmothers and Uncle Johns submit their best recipes for.  Recipes like “Aunt Nan’s Chocolate Gravy” and “Barbara Sue’s Buttermilk Pound Cake” and “Yeast Rolls for Dinner on the Grounds – Makes 120.”  I was flipping through the pages when a familiar recipe caught my eye.  You guessed it.  It was the original chicken and wild rice casserole that I had found online, “Chicken Spectacular.”  The name beside it made me smile in sudden realization.  Now I knew why Michael loved this recipe and said it tasted like home.  The name beside the recipe was my mother-in-law’s!

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

  • 2-3 cups of cubed, cooked chicken
  • 1 box of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, cooked
  • 1 8-oz. can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 1 8-oz. jar of diced pimentos, drained
  • 1 10.5-oz. can of cream of celery soup
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup of finely-chopped onion
  • 1 14.5-oz. can of French-cut green beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 º.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour into a casserole dish and bake for 1 hour.

Well Duh #1:  I used light mayonnaise and 98% fat-free cream of celery soup.

Well Duh #2:  On the cooking directions on the rice box, you’ll see that it says to cook the rice with olive oil or butter.  Please use butter.  I mean, seriously.  Why wouldn’t you?

Well Duh #3:  I use a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

Well Duh #4:  This recipe freezes beautifully!

I love recipes that take me back.  Whether they remind me of the school cafeteria or of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen or of laughing with my mom while we cooked together.  That kind of recipe is simply spectacular.

Even on a Monday.

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