Snow = Baking Storm

With a snow storm in our midst, I had the chance to catch up on baking.  I love to bake.  It is one thing that gives me great joy to provide a warm treat for loved ones and friends.

Tonight, I made some Cranberry Bread.  I had a box mix to use up from Christmas, so I decided to bake it as a surprise for my boyfriend, who sprained his ankle.  It was flavorful and moist.  Granted, I could have doctored it up a little by adding some almond extract or almonds to the mixture, but I wanted to keep it simple not to overpower dinner.

The main star was tonight’s dinner.  I made a chicken rice casserole that was perfect for the snowy evening.  This casserole was simple and easy to make.  In fact, you could even make it ahead of time too.  The casserole begins with cooked chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts) seasoned with garlic.  The sauce has a Cream of Mushroom base, and you can adapt the seasonings to taste.  It is a healthy, comfort food dish.

Chicken Rice Casserole

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cubed)

2 cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 c. Milk

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 c. slivered almonds

1 tbsp. tarragon

2 packs of microwaveable brown rice (unseasoned), cooked

1/2 c. dry bread crumbs

2 tbsp. Grana Padrano or Parmesan cheese, grated

**Note:  I used 2 tbsp. Grana Padrano and 2 tbsp. Raspberry Cheddar Cheese

1 tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. Smoked Paprika

First, saute the chicken in garlic and olive oil.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Second, stir together two cans of cream of mushroom soup with 1 c. milk.  Once combined, add the chicken, almonds, tarragon and rice.  Stir together and place mixture in a greased 13X9 baking dish.

Third, combine bread crumbs, melted butter, smoked paprika, and cheese together.  Spoon bread crumbs over chicken rice mixture.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool a bit before serving.

If you are looking for a wine to pair with this casserole, I would pick a Pinot Grigio or a light red, like a Sangiovese. Three Fox Vineyards has two great offerings. Their Appassionata Vidal Blanc is a really good white, as it sweet and crisp. The Il Volpe Sangiovese is a light red that would pair well with meats and cheeses. With cherry and spice notes, this wine is 75% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Chambourcin.

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