Cheesy Molasses Chicken with Mushrooms and Homemade Rice a Roni Mix

This cheesy chicken and mushroom dinner is perfect for company, but also for a nice weeknight dinner for your family. It’s also nice to have some of this Rice a Roni mix in the pantry for an easy side dish too!

Cheesy Molasses Chicken with Mushrooms and Homemade Rice a Roni Mix | thepajamachef.com

Two recipes in one day! Whoa there, this is crazy! So last fall I read Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist and that book just makes me want to COOK! And eat, but that’s no surprise. It’s a collection of essays knit together thematically around the idea of food, community, friendship, and growth. Though it’s written from a Christian perspective it’s really not in your face Christianity, if you get my drift, and it’s just a lovely book. Being a librarian I pretty much ALWAYS check books out to read from the library prior to purchasing them, and I think this one is good enough to go on  my to-purchase [read: Christmas/birthday present] list. Though I made this dinner just for Ben and myself, it’s truly a company-worthy meal. Though it’s weeknight-doable, the flavors are rich, intoxicating, and delicious. It feels like a fancy escape from the week, even if only at the dinner table.

Cheesy Molasses Chicken with Mushrooms and Homemade Rice a Roni Mix | thepajamachef.com

As I sit here thinking about what I just wrote, I wonder… why do we consider things to be “company-worthy meals” or not? At the root of it definitely is our innately human desire to put on our best face for everyone and to receive compliments/praise/glory/affirmation of how great we are. Somewhere in there is a desire to treat others well. And why shouldn’t we do that for our families on a regular Tuesday? I know people are busier than ever but I still think regular family dinners–even if it’s just you and your husband–are so important. They don’t have to be fancy. In the same vein, “company meals” don’t need to be fancy either–they just need to be made with love, like this meal. This chicken dish only took about 40 minutes to put together, and much of that is baking time. Using a few pantry ingredients, some mushrooms, and cheese, it looks so special! And the homemade Rice a Roni mix is awesome too! Hope you give it a try–and check out this book. :) Enjoy!

one year ago: Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies
two years ago: Buffalo Pretzels 
three years ago: Camp Tecumseh Baked Oatmeal
four years ago: Crispy Honey Ginger Chicken

Cheesy Molasses Chicken with Mushrooms

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 thin boneless skinless chicken breasts [I cut one large 16 ounce chicken breast into 4 smaller cutlets]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dried tarragon
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced [I used shiitake but regular white mushrooms would be fine too]
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced or shredded swiss cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with a bit of olive oil. Season one side of each chicken breast with pepper and tarragon, then sear chicken for a minute on the seasoned side. Flip to the other side, season, and cook for a minute. Remove chicken to an oven safe baking dish.

In the same skillet, add more olive oil if necessary and reduce heat to medium. Cook mushrooms and onion for about 5 minutes, until soft, then add garlic. Cook another 30 seconds until fragrant. Season with more pepper and tarragon. Add water, vinegar, and molasses and bring to a boil, letting most of the excess liquid cook off, about 3-4 minutes. Spoon mushrooms, onions, and sauce overtop chicken.

Cook for 10-20 minutes or until fully cooked. When chicken is almost done, top with cheese and return to oven until cheese melts.

Serve with homemade Rice a Roni [below].

Homemade Rice a Roni Mix

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 25 minutes
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from Fabulously Frugal

Ingredients:

for mix

  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup small pieces of angel hair, vermicelli, or thin spaghetti, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 6 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder OR 3 tablespoons poultry seasoning [original recipe called for the former but I didn’t have any so I improvised]
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

for preparation

  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 1 cup of rice a roni mix [above]
  • 2 1/4 cups water or chicken broth

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large airtight jar or plastic storage container. Breaking apart the noodles was probably the most difficult part. I found it easiest to break just a few at a time, while the measuring cup was in a taller bowl. I used maybe 1/3 of a 16 ounce box of pasta. Orzo or another small pasta would be a good substitute I think.

To make the rice, heat 2 tablespoons of butter or oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add 1 cup rice a roni mix and stir. Cook, constantly stirring, for about a minute until pasta begins to turn golden brown. Add water and bring to a boil, then prepare as you would rice–reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed.

 

 

 

Southwest Veggie + Taco Rice Casserole

This simple, healthy casserole is filled with lots of vegetables, black beans, and a delicious taco rice. It’s perfect for dinner and makes enough for lunch leftovers too. Mmm!

Southwest Veggie + Taco Rice Casserole | thepajamachef.com

Once upon a time, when we were first married, our go-to dinner was tacos, spaghetti, or some sort of seasoned chicken dish. There’s nothing wrong with any of those dinners, but unless you are using assorted boxed or packaged ingredients they aren’t that easy. Well, if you don’t buy that stuff on a regular basis, that is. [For the record, I do buy that stuff sometimes. I just don’t keep it at home regularly. My pantry is too full of seventeen kinds of grains, pastas, mustards, and sauces. Seventeen EACH that is. :)]

Southwest Veggie + Taco Rice Casserole | thepajamachef.com

 

Now, my go-to dinner is much simpler. Black beans and rice. Directions: Open freezer, remove black beans that I make by the pound in the oven. Defrost in the sink while making some rice on the stove. Heat black beans up on the stove with some homemade taco seasoning. Serve together, with assorted toppings like avocado, cilantro, green onions, hot sauce, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, etc. It’s rare that I have all those toppings on hand at once, but when I do… it’s parrrtytime! [Yes, I realize that if black beans and rice with toppings is my definition of partytime, I’m probably not very exciting. Ha.]

Southwest Veggie + Taco Rice Casserole | thepajamachef.com

This casserole is the kicked up version of black beans and rice, except everything is all mixed up together and baked til it’s ooey gooey. MMM! If you like regular black beans and rice, you’ll LOVE this version. It’s from the Budget Bytes cookbook so you know it has to be good. Probably what makes it so freakin’ awesome is that the rice isn’t just normal… it’s taco rice! If your family isn’t comfortable with meatless meals yet, I think this would be a great way to introduce the concept. There’s tons of flavor in one lil casserole dish! We loved this meal and hope you do too! :)

one year ago: Oreo Ice Cream Pie
three years ago: Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls
four years ago: Caramelized Onion Dip

Southwest Veggie + Taco Rice Casserole

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 50 minutes
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from the Budget Bytes cookbook

Ingredients:

for taco rice

  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice

for casserole

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced [deseeded if desired]
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered – or 1 cup mushrooms, another bell pepper, or an extra cup of corn
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 – 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups prepared taco rice [from above]
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions:

In a saucepan, whisk together chili powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, tomato paste, and 3 cups water. Whisk together then stir in rice. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Then fluff with a fork and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 inch dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Then, add rest of the veggies: jalapeno, bell pepper, zucchini, and chili powder. Stir to combine and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until soft and all liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and stir in corn, tomatoes, and black beans. Add the taco rice [you will have extra rice left] and the cheese and stir well. Transfer to prepared pan, then bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Serve with green onions and cilantro.

Note:

Recipe can also be doubled [casserole portion–do not make extra rice] and baked in a 9×13 pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until bubbly.

 

 

Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted brussels sprouts are dressed up with fresh ginger and rosemary for a bright and flavorful side dish.

Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Brussels Sprouts | thepajamachef.com

I guess this is Thanksgiving side dish week on the blog! Monday was Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin. Today is Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Brussels Sprouts. And Friday? Well, you’ll just have to be surprised. But let’s focus on today, mmmkay? I know brussels sprouts are popular in the blogging world. How ’bout in the real world? Well, I have no idea. I don’t know many non-foodies who like them. My own mother doesn’t even like ’em! So sorry, brussels sprouts! Fortunately… Ben and I both do, much to my surprise.

Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Brussels Sprouts | thepajamachef.com

Roasting brussels sprouts is the ONLY way to go, in my opinion. It’s easy, delicious, and takes almost no work. Roasting veggies is a classic way to get a deep, sweet, caramelized flavor into your veggies. Then you can play around with your seasonings. The sky is the limit!

Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Brussels Sprouts | thepajamachef.com

This time, I chose to season my dish with fresh grated ginger and rosemary, mainly out of convenience. I had some fresh ginger leftover from another recipe and I thought the spicy, peppery sweetness of ginger would be awesome with the piney, fresh rosemary from my mom’s friend’s plant. Ooooh was that combo delicious! I know ginger and rosemary together might not sound super traditional, but it works. Hope you enjoy!

one year ago: Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls
three years ago: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Energy Bars
four years ago: Hawaiian Chicken

Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Time: 40 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice brussels sprouts in half, trimming edges as necessary. Place in a large bowl, then drizzle with olive oil. Grate ginger over top, then add chopped rosemary. Season with pepper and salt, then toss. Spread in an even layer on baking sheet. Don’t worry if some slivers fall off–they can be roasted and are great when crispy.

Roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Serve immediately, seasoning with more pepper as necessary.

Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin

An easy, cheesy butternut squash side dish… with an impressive presentation! The best new Thanksgiving side dish. :)

Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin | thepajamachef.com #Thanksgiving

If you make ONE new Thanksgiving side dish this year, this totally should be the one! It is absolutely perfect, and a great way to introduce butternut squash to squash skeptics. I mean, isn’t it gorgeous… golden and beautiful?!? One of the fun things about butternut squash is it’s shape. It’s just so BIG for a vegetable! It’s always a shame to take the fun shape and puree it up into soup, mac and cheese, etc. Don’t get me wrong, those are delicious ways to enjoy this sweet ‘n nutty squash. But I always like to do something different! And this au gratin starring butternut squash is definitely different. Ben looked a picture and asked if it was potatoes. No, no, it’s not. But that doesn’t mean it’s not amazing!

Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin | thepajamachef.com #Thanksgiving

With this Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin you’ve got SO many layers of flavor. Sweet squash, garlic butter, crisp bread crumbs, Parmesan, and fresh herbs. Ohhh yum. It’s just so good. I’m not sure how anyone could resist. I couldn’t keep my fork outta the serving dish!

Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin | thepajamachef.com #Thanksgiving

It’s the kind of side that’s perfect on its own–hearty, cheesy, and delicious with the perfect balance of flavors. However, I’m sitting here on my couch dreaming of ways to, shall we say, enhance the amazingness for Thanksgiving day. Isn’t Thanksgiving about going all over the top? Adding some chopped bacon to the topping, layering butternut squash with sliced apples, or even drizzling the whole dish with some pesto just sounds wonderful to me! But even without those enhancements, this butternut squash dish is such a winner! Hope it brings joy to your table this year. So sorry, so cheesy. :)

Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin | thepajamachef.com #Thanksgiving

one year ago: Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
two years ago: Pork, Apple, and Ginger Stir Fry
three years ago: Thai Seared Shrimp with Tomato, Basil, and Coconut
four years ago: Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Broccoli

Parmesan-Butternut Squash Au Gratin

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 75 minutes
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from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash [about 2 1/2 pounds]
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs – like oregano or parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish [9×13 inch pan, or a 10 inch round baking dish] with cooking spray.

Poke butternut squash all over with a fork, then microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove and cool for a few minutes before peeling. This makes it much easier to peel and slice the squash. Peel butternut squash, then halve and deseed. Slice squash into 1/2 inch thick slices, then arrange in bottom of baking dish, overlapping as necessary.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Turn to low and add garlic. Stir constantly as butter cooks for 2-3 minutes. Don’t brown the butter, just cook until garlic softens.

In a small bowl, stir together panko, Parmesan, pepper, and 1 tablespoon garlic butter. Brush  remaining garlic butter over squash, then sprinkle with panko mixture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until squash is cooked through. Turn oven up to 425 degrees F and cook for another 5 minutes or so, or until topping turns golden brown. Top with herbs before serving.

Cranberry Mint Relish + What To Do With All That Mint

A refreshing take on a traditional cranberry relish!

Cranberry Mint Relish + Ideas for Preserving Fresh Mint | thepajamachef.com

My favorite part of any holiday meal is the cranberry sauce. I’m picky about it though–it can’t be canned, and it can’t have nuts. I used to be a purist and only liked the traditional cranberry orange relish. But these gingered cranberry-apricot sauce and cranberry-pineapple sauce have opened up the doors for some experimentation. So this weekend, when I had a bag of cranberries in one hand and a ginormously huge mint plant in the other that had to be used up before the weather goes whacko this week, I thought, what the heck, and threw some mint in the mix. And you know what? It was pretty awesome. Adding mint to traditional cranberry relish seems pretty novel [but I’m sure others have done it] and it lends a little pop to this sweet-tart side dish. You should totally try it this fall! And it only takes a few minutes to make so you’ve got nothing to lose. :)

Cranberry Mint Relish + Ideas for Preserving Fresh Mint | thepajamachef.comAs for all the rest of that mint plant… quite a bit went into that jar of mint sugar on the left and those jars of mint extract on the right. There are tons of tutorials online for both delicacies, but I just layered fresh mint with sugar in one jar and have been shaking it once a day since Sunday. In about a week it’s supposed to be ready to enjoy. I can’t wait! And to make the mint extract I added vodka [eeeekkkkk] to mint that had been gently mashed in a mason jar. There’s a technical term for “mashed” but it’s escaping me at the moment. :) Easy easy! My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I told him I needed some cheap alcohol for cooking. Hahaha. COOKING not drinking, haha don’t worry. That’s how you do things in homemade-everything-land. We’ll see how they turn out. I’ll have to give you guys an update, k? In the meantime, this cranberry mint relish is FAB so don’t wait til Thanksgiving to enjoy. I can’t wait to taste it on turkey!

one year ago: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce
two years ago: Carnitas
three years ago: Best Pancakes Ever
four years ago: Pumpkin French Toast Sandwich

Cranberry Mint Relish

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 5 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and dried
  • 1 orange, scrubbed clean and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

Place cranberries, orange, mint, and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor. Pulse until processed to desired consistency. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to set flavors.