Steamed vegetables, rice make everything nice in nutritious casserole

FAST AND FRESH

February 23, 1994|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Special to The Sun

Casseroles will never and should never go away. There is something so efficient about throwing meat or poultry, vegetables, a starch and spices together in a pot and coming up with a one-dish meal. It's especially practical if it takes less than .. 30 minutes.

The following recipe combines basic ingredients found in your pantry, but combines a new technique for fresher, more vibrant vegetables.

At the end of the cooking time, the vegetables are placed gently on top of the rice mixture and then covered to get the benefit of only about 5 to 7 minutes of gentle steaming. No extra steps or pots to wash!

Round out the meal with a fresh spinach and avocado salad. We all need to add more dark leafy greens to our diets and spinach is a convenient and tasty way to do it.

One ripe diced avocado should suffice for four people and even though this fruit contains fat, it is the good fat that is thought to actually help lower cholesterol.

As a treat for the finish, throw together an Italian classic that has had its waistline trimmed. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and 1 teaspoon vanilla. With a knife, stuff this mixture into the cannoli shells.

Items you should have as staples are: olive oil, long grain white rice, onion, chicken broth, oregano leaf, salt and pepper, salad dressing, unsweetened cocoa, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list: 12 ouncesboneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, 1 medium zucchini squash, 1 ripe avocado, medium green or red bell pepper, fresh spinach, cannoli pastry shells (available unfilled in bakery or cookie sections of supermarket), 15 ounces nonfat or part-skim ricotta cheese.

Italian flag poultry and rice

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups long grain rice

1 medium onion, diced

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon oregano leaf

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1 medium red or green bell pepper

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

In a large nonstick skillet, add olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add rice and onion and saute until rice is lightly browned -- about four minutes. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, oregano, chicken and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 15 minutes without stirring. Remove lid and add bell pepper and zucchini on top of rice mixture -- do not stir. Replace lid and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes. Zucchini should be tender but still a vivid green. Stir just before serving, adding salt and pepper to taste.

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