Salade Nicoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

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Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of salad.  We lived out in farm country where there was definitely an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer, and we would take full advantage of those.  And by full advantage, I mean we would buy tons from road-side stands and farmers (or sometimes even pick them ourselves) and eat some, then can or freeze the rest for the winter when we wouldn’t have as much access to them.  Lettuce really doesn’t freeze or can well, so we didn’t eat it at all over the winter months.  And in the summer, we would only occasionally eat a taco or Caesar salad.

As my youngest sister and I got older, we decided that eating salad would be a great way to get healthy, so we would make intimidating salads.  I’m pretty sure they were just a plate piled high with lettuce, whatever vegetables we could find in the fridge and cut up, and a LOT of cheddar cheese.  I think it was the cheese that made it intimidating.  The reason we loved the salad was the sheer volume of non-lettuce ingredients we put in it.  Salad just seemed so much more interesting that way.

The first time I made this Salade Nicoise, I couldn’t help but remember our intimidating salads.  Now, this does not have a pile of cheese.  But it does have a pile of beans, potatoes, tuna, eggs, tomatoes and green onions.  And if you bring it to work, people are pretty impressed at your commitment to making a healthy lunch.

What I really love about this recipe is that you can serve it to a group of 4 as a main dish or you can prepare the cooked ingredients and store them in ready-to-go containers in the fridge for your lunches at work.  If you’re going to go that route, mini-cans of flavoured tuna are really the way to go.  Lemon-pepper tuna is AMAZING on this salad.  And definitely use grape tomatoes.  You can put them in with the lettuce and then decide at lunch whether or not you want to cut them up.

Salade Nicoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette (from Ten Dollar Dinners by Melissa d’Arabian)photo 2(1)

What you need for the salad:
4 large eggs
1/2 pound green beans
2 large red potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced
2 5-ounce cans of tuna, drained
2 green onions, chopped
1 tomato or a few handfuls of grape tomatoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

What you need for the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (or a sprinkle of dried)
1/2 cup pitted and chopped black olives
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

What to do:
Boil the eggs by the method you most prefer.  I usually place them in a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil and let it boil for about 5 or 6 minutes.  Then I remove it from heat and put the eggs under cold water to stop the cooking.  Peel and slice the eggs into quarters and set aside.

While you are cooking the eggs, prepare the vinaigrette.  Whisk the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil, then the thyme, olives, salt and pepper.

In the pot you just used, cook the beans, again how you prefer to steam them.  I just put them in a pot with about an inch of water on the bottom.  I bring it to a boil and let it go until the beans are tender (a couple of minutes).  Drain the beans and set aside.

Using the same pot yet again, boil the potatoes, just until tender (about 6-8 minutes).  Once again, drain and set aside.

Arrange the salad by putting the lettuce on a large platter (or use individual plates).  Top with the eggs, beans, potatoes, tuna, green onions and tomatoes.  You can set it up like a Cobb salad if you would like it to be visually stunning.  Then pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with black pepper.

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Sorbet

photo 1(6)For Christmas this year, I had a long list of cookbooks on my wish list.  And my sister made sure that at least one of my wishes would come true.  She got me The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  This cookbook is an ice cream fanatic’s dream.  It is filled with all sorts of ice creams, sorbets, granitas and mix-ins.  We were in between houses right after Christmas, so I couldn’t try out any of the recipes.  But now that the warm weather is looking like it might be here, I have taken out the book and tried many recipes.

The thing I love about a sorbet is that it’s just fruit, sugar and water.  No milk or cream necessary (which is great for my lactose-intolerant friends).  And because you don’t need to cook a custard or warm anything, it takes a lot less time to make.  The best part is that I let my daughter have LOTS of it because it doesn’t have all the fat of ice cream.  If none of those reasons convince you to try to make some sorbet, I’m not sure what will.

Oh, and if you don’t have an ice cream maker (this is the one I have), you can still make ice cream and sorbets, as long as you have a bit of time on your hands.  Once you have the mixture ready, stick it in a container in the freezer.  Every 20-30 minutes, take it out and stir the more frozen outer edges into the centre.  Once it’s too hard to stir, you’re done!

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Bananaberry Sorbet

What you need:
1 medium ripe banana
2 cups berries (blueberries or blackberries), fresh or frozen
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice

What to do:
Cut the banana into chunks and puree in the blender with the berries, water, sugar and lemon or lime juice until smooth.  Chill the mixture thoroughly and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Pineapple Sorbet

What you need:
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

What to do:
Puree the pineapple, sugar and water in a blender until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Taco Salad

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I have been making incredible amounts of ice cream, sorbets and frozen yogurts lately (don’t worry! those recipes will come soon!).  In order to make them, I have to store my ice cream maker in the freezer.  It’s a KitchenAid attachment bowl and it makes churning ice cream very easy.  However, it takes up a fair bit of space in my freezer.  A few days ago, it got in the way of the freezer door while we were in bed, meaning the door was open with the fridge running all night.  I awoke to frozen milk, icy peppers and three Romaine hearts that had frozen solid!

I had to stop by the grocery store on my way to work that morning to pick up more lettuce because this salad is just too good to pass up.  Eating a tuna sandwich when I could have a pile of lettuce with grape tomatoes, avocado, peppers, sour cream, salsa, seasoned ground beef (warmed!) and melted cheddar cheese just wasn’t an option.

Most people think it’s too much work to bring a salad this awesome to work, but it’s actually doable.  You just need a container large enough to hold your shredded lettuce and any of the other ingredients that will keep when sliced.  I even put the mini container of dressing right in the lettuce container.  I have my other condiments in separate containers and I take a couple of minutes in the lunch room to assemble the whole thing.  I find it worth it to have a delicious, huge and guilt-free lunch.

Note: if you’d rather cook the beef mixture with a package of store-bought taco mix, I’m sure that would also turn out amazingly well.  Also, I did not use corn or black beans in mine, but they would add to the “taco” feel of the salad.

Taco Salad (from Looneyspoons)

Makes 6-8 servings

What you need:
Beef Mixture
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (I used about 1/3 of a pepper)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups quartered grape tomatoes
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad
12 cups torn romaine and iceberg lettuce
1 cup canned whole-kernel corn, drained
1 cup canned black beans, drained
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 cup packed shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 small ripe avocado, sliced
1 cup sour cream
1 cup salsa

What to do:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the beef, onions, jalapeño pepper and garlic.  Cook and stir until beef is no longer pink.  Add chili powder and cumin.  Cook 1 more minute.  Add grape tomatoes, ketchup, salt and pepper.  Cook and stir for 2 more minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and set aside.  This can definitely be done in advance – just reheat the mixture before serving the salad.

To assemble the salad, spread lettuce over bottom of a serving platter or divide it up between individual serving plates.  Top with beef mixture followed by corn, beans, green pepper, cheese, tomatoes, green onion and avocado sliced.  Top with sour cream and salsa and dig in.

Teriyaki Chicken

chicken teriyaki

I seem to pick the worst possible days to go out an barbecue.  Last week, I thought I would head out, despite the fact that it was approaching 0C (again!) and it started to rain while I was cooking the burgers.  I left the barbecue cover on the patch of snow that just would not melt and then it started to snow.  When I tried to retrieve the cover a few hours later, it had frozen to the ice pile and I had to wait a few days before it could be pulled off again, leaving my barbecue out in the elements.

Then, last night, I had planned to barbecue again.  I had marinated some chicken a day earlier and didn’t want to put off cooking it.  So despite the crazy rain, I went out and started the barbecue.  I managed to have the chicken cook for maybe 5 minutes before the propane ran out. And being lazy and unwilling to head out in the rain again, I had to fry the chicken instead.

Thankfully, this recipe for teriyaki chicken is amazing, whether baked, fried or barbecued (although, on the barbecue is definitely the best).  The great thing about marinating chicken breasts is that you can do it days or even weeks ahead.  Buy a value pack of chicken, portion it out for a few meals, and freeze it in the marinade.  It’ll keep for about 4 months in the freezer.  You can also marinate it for a short period of time, but this one definitely gets better with age.

We had the chicken with some rice and vegetables, but the options are endless.  I plan to use the leftovers to make chicken salad sandwiches and to add some to a green salad later this week.

teriyaki chicken

Teriyaki Chicken (from Starting Out)

What you need:
4-5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
1 Tbsp sherry, orange juice or water
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame oil

What to do:
Combine all the ingredients (except the chicken) in a bowl.  Pour the sauce over the chicken in a sealed container or large ziplock bag.  Refrigerate overnight or freeze as long as you would like.

To grill the chicken, brush the grill with a little oil and then preheat the grill.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill for 3-4 minutes per side, or until it is cooked through – it should no longer be pink on the inside.

To sauté the chicken, heat some oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium high heat.  Toss the chicken and the marinade into the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until it is cooked through.  The marinade cooks up nicely to make a thick sauce.

 

Fajita Salad

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Last week was chicken week in our house.  Boneless, skinless chicken was only $3.99/lb at Metro on the weekend, so I seriously stocked up, and then proceeded to make a ton of recipes.  We had the cheesy chicken and rice casserole on Monday, chicken quesadillas on Tuesday, this salad on Wednesday, leftovers on Thursday and chicken nuggets on Friday. And I even had a little left to add to my spinach salad.  Who knew 4 1/2 pounds of chicken could go so far?!?

I really enjoyed this salad.  It’s basically a warm fajita, but without the tortilla.  My family decided against the pile of lettuce, so I used the mixture to make them traditional fajitas (but with the delicious dressing from this recipe).  You can have this recipe go either way! I would also say that 1 1/2 pounds of chicken is a bit much for 4 people, but that’s up to your discretion.  I think I only used maybe 1 pound.

Eata Fajita Salad (from Looneyspoons)

serves 4 (as a meal)

What you need:
1/2 cup sour creamphoto 1(4)
2 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1/2 cup salsa
2 Tablespoons minced cilantro *optional
8 cups shredded lettuce
1/2 cup packed cheddar cheese

What to do:
Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, 1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice, sugar, chili powder and cumin.  Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the fajita mixture: Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.  If you like soft vegetables, add them soon after the chicken.  If you like crunchy peppers, add the vegetables once the chicken has browned a little and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the salsa and cook for another 2 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1Tbsp of lime juice and cilantro and remove from heat.

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Assemble the salad: Divide the lettuce among 4 serving plates.  Top with the warm chicken mixture.  Spoon dressing over the salad and then sprinkle with cheese.  Serve immediately.

Spinach Salad Again

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Spinach has become one of my new friends.  It keeps for so long in the fridge, unlike Romaine or butter lettuce.  I can buy a huge box and it will last for more than a week. And what I especially love about spinach is that it goes really well with hot dressings, especially those made from bacon.

This is one such recipe.  It comes from Looneyspoons, called the Unbeleafable Spinach Salad.  And let me just say, it is unbelievable how good this salad is.  I was a little skeptical when I saw how it’s made, but it’s amazingly delicious.  It’s sweet (from the mandarin and maple syrups) but also tangy (from the Dijon).  It wilts the spinach just enough to take away the really crunchy edge, but not so much that the spinach is a soft mess on the plate.  And there’s lots of bacon.

You can make it all at once if you’re serving a group of people.  If, however, you want to keep it all to yourself, just pour the hot dressing into separate containers (I made 4 servings for myself).  Store the containers in the fridge and just microwave for 30-40 seconds when you’re ready to eat it.  It will look very suspicious in the fridge, because the bacon fat separates from the rest of the dressing) but as soon as it’s heated and you stir it, everything looks normal again.

Unbelievable Spinach Salad (from Looneyspoons – they add white mushrooms)
serves 6

What you need:
1 can (10oz) mandarin orange segments in light syrup *undrained*
8 oz baby spinach leaves
6 slices bacon
1/2 cup diced red onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
freshly ground pepper
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced lengthwise into quarters

What to do:
Drain orange segments, reserving the liquid (set aside to add to the dressing later).  Place the orange segments with the spinach in a large bowl.

Slice bacon into matchsticks and cook in a skillet until the bacon is crisp and renders its fat.  You can just leave the bacon whole and break it into pieces once cooked, if you prefer.  Leaving the fat in the pan, strain out the bacon and let it drain on paper towels.  Once cooled, sprinkle onto the spinach.

Add the onions, garlic and reserved orange syrup to the bacon drippings in the skillet.  Simmer on low heat for 3 minutes (to reduce the liquid a bit), stirring to break up any brown bits stuck to the pan.  Stir in vinegar, mustard and maple syrup and mix well.  Simmer for another 2 minutes.  Grind some pepper on top and remove from heat.  It should be about 1 cup of dressing.

Pour the hot dressing right away over the salad and mix well, using tongs.  The spinach will wilt a little.  Mound salad onto individual plates and arrange the sliced eggs on top.  Serve immediately.

Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole

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This may seem like a crazy idea, but I always plan out my meals a week in advance.  Friday after work is our weekly shopping trip, so Wednesday and Thursday evenings, I read through recipes and try to plan out enough meals for the week.  And we have recently had to make a serious cut to our grocery budget (since my husband is presently a stay-at-home dad), so it’s been crucial to plan out the menu and try to get great deals at the grocery store.

When I plan out the week, I have a basic format.  On Mondays, I make something that will come together in less than 30 minutes.  Tuesday is casserole night.  Wednesday is “TV dinner” night (ie, we eat homemade pizza or fish sticks in front of the TV).  Thursday is date night or try a new recipe night and Friday is grocery day, so it usually ends up being fast food on the way home.  And the weekends are open for whatever.  Then there’s making sure there are leftovers for lunches and great snacks for the week. And in all of that, I try to make at least one new recipe each week.  It seems like a lot to think through, but if you’re a planner and organizer (as I like to be), it’s actually less stressful than leaving dinner plans to 4:30 when everyone is getting hungry and cranky and you’re not sure what’s in the fridge.

While looking for a new casserole recipe to try, I came across this one on the Campbell’s website.  It takes a long time to bake (I had to actually put it in for an extra 25 minutes to finish cooking), but it’s super quick and easy to throw together, and doesn’t have too many ingredients.  After mentioning it to my mom, she actually made it the next day!  You can play around with the recipe a bit, too, if you want to make it interesting.  Using different veggies and adding spices to the soup mixture (or even trying a different soup!) would probably make it even better.  But, I can assure you, it’s a great weeknight meal.

Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole (from Campbell’s Kitchen)photo 1(1)

What you need:
1 can (10oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease an 11×7-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the soup, water, vegetables and rice. Pour into the prepared baking sheet. Place chicken pieces on top. Grind pepper over the chicken and the rice mixture. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake for 50minutes – 1hour 15 minutes (check after 50min to see if it’s done). Once rice is cooked and chicken is no longer pink, take it out of the oven and top with the cheese. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces, stir the rice and serve!

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Carrot Apple Morning Glory Muffins

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I’m a big fan of muffins for breakfast.  I’m not the kind of person who can eat cereal every morning (probably because I ate so much of it in university) and I usually don’t have time to make pancakes, or bacon and eggs, before rushing off to work.  Muffins are great because you can make them ahead, freeze some for when you’ll need more, and eat what you’ve left out in the meantime.  And the best part is that muffins are really just cake masquerading as healthy food!

These muffins actually are quite healthy and SO delicious.  The title alone should give you a hint to the sheer number of ingredients that go into these.  They’re fairly simple to make, once you’ve grated all the carrots (use a food processor if you have one).  You can definitely play around with what you put into the muffins – I’m sure flax seed or different whole grain flours would taste delicious as well. And to top it all off, these muffins keep for a really long time.  They get more moist as the days go.  I would suggest not leaving them for more than about 4 or 5 days, though, because they can get moldy.  But, if you stick them in the freezer (because you just haven’t eaten them fast enough) you’ll have more for later!

Carrot Apple Morning Glory Muffins (from Starting Out)

Makes 12-18 muffins (or 12 regular and 12 mini muffins)

What you need:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar (white or brown)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped peans or walnuts
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates
1/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 apple, coarsely grated (peeled or not)

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare your muffin tins by spraying or lining them with paper cups.

In a large bowl, stir together both flours, the sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add the carrots, pecans, raisins and coconut and combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture along with the grated apple and stir just until combined. Don’t overmix!

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins and 25-30 minutes for regular sized muffins. You’ll know the muffins are done when the tops are golden and no longer look wet. Dump out the muffins Take the muffins out of the tin and place them on a wire rack to cool until you just can’t wait any long to eat them.

Spinach Salad

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I’ve taken up running again.  If you’re thinking, “I’m pretty sure you said that a couple of months ago” you would be right.  In October, I started running, working up to run a 5K.  In early December, I went for a run at an ungodly hour before work, achieved the 5k, slipped on some ice and cracked my tailbone.  Talk about a serious downer after accomplishing my goals!  So I wasn’t able to run for a couple of months and generally sat around, eating lots of treats!

In February, I again decided I should get back into it, even though my tailbone has still not finished healing.  And I have once again achieved a 5km run!  It’s pretty exciting.  I’ve done it a few times now and have stayed far away from ice (since there is still a ton of it in Ottawa right now).

With my running, I’m trying to generally be healthy again, so I’ve started trying new salads.  I picked up a book from the library called ten dollar Dinners by Melissa d’Arabian.  She has quite a few delicious salads that I’ve been making for lunches or even afternoon snacks.

This spinach salad could be a side with your dinner, a main course (especially if you put in some chopped chicken) or a snack for serious spinach lovers.  I’m not a fan of red onion, so I don’t include it.  And I don’t actually measure everything out to make one big salad.  I keep a small container of the dressing on hand, then throw the spinach and whatever toppings I want to include into a bowl, top with the dressing, and eat.  If you’re not a blue cheese lover, I’m sure a sharp cheddar would be super delicious here too.

Spinach Salad

Serves 4 as a side

What you need:
1/3 cup pecan halves
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds (optional)
1 apple or pear, cored and diced
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

What to do:
Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the pecans and toast them by stirring from time to time. Set aside to cool.

Make the dressing by mixing the vinegar, pepper and olive oil in a bowl (or shaken in a small container)

Place the spinach in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the onion, apple and cheese. Pour the dressing on top and toss to coat. Sprinkle with cooled pecans and enjoy!

Chicken Drumstick Cacciatore Casserole

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Tonight’s dinner was almost a disaster.  I mean, it all started out so well.  I read the recipe (more than once!) looked at the amount of time I would need to chop things and how long it might take to preheat the oven, and then planned to have it all ready for 5pm.  We were low on baked goods (given that a certain someone had just eaten the last oatmeal raisin cookie) so my daughter and I started by making some carrot apple morning glory muffins.  They turned out amazingly! And I promise to share the recipe soon.

While the muffins were in the oven, I started chopping the zucchini and mushroom (I do not use canned mushrooms if I can help it).  I peeled the skin off the chicken, mixed everything together in the pan and had it ready to go.  Right on time, the muffins came out and I popped the casserole in.  And my daughter and I went to play Interplanetary Spaceship Ride (all you need is a couch, a blanket and a big imagination).

At this point, I thought all was well!  So when the timer went and I uncovered the dish I thought it looked a little underdone.  But, trying not to be too suspicious, I followed the recipe and stuck it back in the oven for the required 15 minutes.  When I pulled it out again, the top of the chicken looked cooked, but when I cut into it, it was definitely still bloody.  And I tried a bit of rice and it was still crunchy!  Given that it was 5pm already, I was getting super concerned, trying to think of what else I could make for dinner that would come together quickly.

In the end, I just stuck it back in the oven, covered for another 25 minutes and it came out done and delicious.  It’s not the most amazing casserole – I’ve definitely made better.  And the amount of time it took to bake was a little much for me! But it’s quite simple to pull together and not expensive at all, so it’s still a contender for a weeknight meal.  Just make sure you bake it long enough!

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Chicken Drumstick Cacciatore Casserole (from Betty Crocker’s One Dish Meals)

What you need:
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 3/4 cup (14 ounces) chicken broth
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes with Italian-style herbs
1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained (or just slice up a few)
8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
1 teaspoon paprika

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 375. Spray an 11 by 7 (or other 2 quart) baking dish with cooking spray.

Gently mix rice, zucchini, broth, tomatoes and mushrooms in the baking dish. Arrange chicken over the rice. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover with aluminum foil

Bake *50* minutes (the original recipe said 30, but I wouldn’t trust that!). Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer, until juice of chicken is no longer pink when the centre of the thickest pieces are cut.

Take it out of the oven and serve! You might want to take the chicken off the top and stir the rice a bit before serving.