By Gini Rainey
Whether you’re ready or not, the next six weeks is coming down the tracks faster than a locomotive, and just in case you’ve forgotten (ha!) you have Thanksgiving Day, Hanukkah, and Christmas riding on that train! While we know what all that entails, and no matter how much we plan and try to get things done in a timely fashion, before we know it we are totally over-whelmed by the long lists of everything we think we have to do! So, wouldn’t it make sense to do some major simplifying in our lives so we could sit back and enjoy the holidays and our families? You’d think that by now we would have figured it all out and how to do it, but yet, here it comes again – as regular as clockwork!
There’s this part of me that wants to do everything, have everyone over and enjoy the moment, but to be honest, since I am still working at least 8 to 10 hours a day, the other part of me just wants to find an easier and more efficient way to get things done. So, planning ahead is really the way to go. Last year I shared a lot of recipes and ideas that could help make life easier during the holidays. Hopefully it worked for you, and if it did, let me help you out with a couple more great ideas for this year!
That soup recipe I shared with you last week for Pasta e Fagioli? If you haven’t made it yet, go ahead and give it a shot and serve it for dinner. Trust me – you will have a lot left over, so put the leftovers in a container and stow away in your freezer for dinner after one of those long, tiring days of shopping. It doesn’t take much effort to thaw it out and warm it up on the stove top or in the micro-wave, and it will save a lot of time for you and make you look fancy in front of your family as well!
A cookbook that should be a standard in most homes is “Best Recipes – From the backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars” by Ceil Dyer. This nearly 600 page book, published in 1993 by Galahad Books, is crammed full of all of the great recipes that have been featured on, you guessed it, the backs of boxes, bottles, cans and jars of some of the best known food brands around. With this book you can benefit from the results of the test kitchens of the likes of Hershey, Campbells, Heinz, Uncle Ben’s, Ortega, Tabasco, and many, many more.
While flipping through all of the yummy recipes, I came across one for Wild Rice-Chicken Supreme that carries the legend “This is the recipe that convinced literally a million Americans that Uncle Ben’s© Long Grain and Wild Rice was indeed worth the price.” While this recipe sounds great, I’m going to share my own version because, well, because I can! While their recipe calls for the long grain/wild rice blend, I use all wild rice, mostly because I have a dear sister who blesses me annually with a couple pounds of it.
So, I start out with a cup of wild rice, well-rinsed, in a 2 quart saucepan, along with about 3 cups of water and 1 can of chicken stock and bring it to a boil. To that (you want the easy version, right?) add about 1/4 cup onion flakes and a couple of diced celery ribs. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice is tender. Don’t believe that stuff about it only takes 20 minutes to cook, I’ve yet to have that be the case. Keep an eye on the liquid level and if need be, add more water. Meanwhile, sauté about 8 ounces sliced mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter. When rice is tender, drain and pour it back into the saucepan, along with the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour into a 9 x 12 baking dish and place 4 boneless chicken breast halves on top. Pour one can of cream of mushroom soup into a mixing bowl along with one soup can full of dry white wine and blend together. Pour over the chicken/rice, cover with foil and bake for an hour in a 325° oven, removing foil for last 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad and crusty french bread – and oh, wow! Good stuff. Helpful Holiday Hint? Make it ahead and freeze for that busy day!