Chicken and wild rice casserole is an easy way to incorporate more whole grains into your diet. Instead f using white rice or pasta, this casserole substitutes them out for a healthier alternative. A variety of vegetables add a pop of color while a light and cheesy cream sauce brings the whole dish together. Chicken is the protein of choice for this meal but leftover turkey would also work. Your family will love this casserole so much, they'll be going back for second and third helpings.
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
8 ounces button mushrooms, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 cups all-natural chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded white Cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the wild rice and brown rice according to package directions and set aside.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions begin to soften and appear translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook the mixture until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and frozen peas and cook for an additional minute.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock and milk in a small saucepan until the mixture begins to simmer. You can also heat the liquid in the microwave,
Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, flour, thyme, and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk the broth and milk slowly into the flour mixture until well combined and there are no lumps. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of cheddat cheese until melted. Stir in the chicken and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Mix the rice with the creamy vegetable mixture until well combined. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish with cooking spray and transfer the mixture to the dish. Top evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until the cheese melts and the casserole is a bit bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Note: Feel free to use a rice medley in place of the wild rice and brown rice for the base of the casserole. No matter what you use, you will need 6 cups of cooked rice for this dish.