I saw a recipe online for bell peppers stuffed with rice, ground chicken and an interesting blend of vegetables which sounded good, but I thought my family would like it better in casserole-form. I used chopped bell peppers along with chicken breast rather than ground chicken and substituted orzo for rice to make a very flavorful and satisfying meal. I used my favorite mixture of oregano and chili powder to give the dish a little kick and it was voted a winner by the family. I assembled the dish a day ahead of time and baked it for Sunday dinner. We had enough for everyone to have an extra serving for supper during the week. This dish would also freeze well.
Chicken, Spinach, Artichoke and Orzo Casserole
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
15 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup orzo cooked al dente according to package directions
½ chicken breast, cooked and shredded
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Oiled 9×13 baking dish
In a large skillet, heat olive oil and cook bell pepper and onion until soft but not brown. Add minced garlic, oregano, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir in tomato sauce, thawed spinach, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Add cooked orzo and shredded chicken breast. Spoon mixture into oiled 9×13 baking dish. Dish can be covered and refrigerated at this point and baked later.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place covered casserole in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Remove cover and sprinkle with crumbled Feta cheese. Bake for 10 minutes more. Serve hot.
6-8 generous servings
This is a creamy, delicious casserole dish that was inspired by Creamy Swiss Cheese Chicken Bake on Mel’s Kitchen Café, adapted to make the recipe easier and in a smaller amount, but with the same cheesy flavor.
CHICKEN AND SWISS ORZO CASSEROLE
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- 1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
- 4 slices Swiss cheese (approx. 4×4 inches)
- ½ cup light mayonnaise
- ½ cup light sour cream
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Spray a 9×9 baking pan
Cook orzo in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Drain but do not rinse. Lay the orzo in a layer on the bottom of the baking pan. Top with the cooked, shredded chicken breast and then with the slices of Swiss cheese.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Spread this mixture over the mixture in the casserole.
I saw a recipe online which sounded interesting but I had some problems with my first version. I made some changes on a second try that made the dish the way I thought it should be. Toasting the dry orzo only takes 6 minutes and I believe it adds flavor to the pasta when it’s cooked.
I steamed the spinach and pressed out moisture to keep the sauce from having too much liquid. Also changed out the cheese a bit. The casserole really needs to rest 10 minutes before serving and is even better the next day. This makes a very satisfying meatless casserole.
TOASTED ORZO AND SPINACH CASSEROLE
- ½ pound orzo pasta (1 cup)
- 10 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed and stems removed
- 3 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
- 1-1/4 cups milk
- 5 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 ounces shredded very sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tblsp. crumbled feta cheese
- ½ tsp. salt
- Grating of black pepper
- 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Oil a 9-inch baking dish
Place orzo on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the toasted orzo pasta until al dente according to package directions (approximately 10 minutes). Drain (but don’t rinse) and set aside.
In a large saucepan, place the flour and whisk in the milk gradually. Cook over medium heat, whisking until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to whisk for one minute. Remove from heat and add the mozzarella and cheddar cheese a half-cup at a time, stirring to be sure cheese is melted. Stir in feta cheese (may not melt completely).
Stir in salt, pepper, tomatoes and spinach and orzo.
Basil Crumb Topping
- 2 slices of bread, torn into pieces
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
In a food processor, place torn bread pieces and basil leaves. Process until bread is in crumbs and basil is in tiny pieces.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let dish rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
My youngest son and his family (including their dog) come to visit every summer around the end of July. He graduated from college, married his fiancee, moved to St. Louis and began his engineering career all within a month’s time in 1982. This is my favorite picture of them taken quite a few years ago. The girls have both graduated from college by now….
Each year, there’s the decision of what to cook, particularly for the big family meal when everyone gets together. It’s always blistering hot, of course, and I don’t want to spend all of my time in the kitchen. This year, I decided to serve corn-on-the-cob from my local farm market and a Salad Buffet. All but one of the salads have been posted previously on my blog and are old favorites:
- Broccoli-Bacon-Pecan Salad. All of the women in the family especially like this salad.
- Chicken and Fruit Orzo Salad. Another favorite of the women with chicken, orzo, pineapple, grapes, banana and almonds.
- Vegetable Pasta Salad. This is an adaptation of the Tuna and Veggie Salad posted previously. I omitted the tuna so I could have one plain pasta salad.
- Thai-Inspired Chicken and Noodle Salad. This is a new salad this year and we all like it very much. It’s good either room temperature or chilled.
THAI-INSPIRED CHICKEN AND NOODLE SALAD
- 8 oz. ( 4 cups) LoMein noodles (or thin spaghetti)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup Teriyaki sauce
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 3 Tblsp. granulated sugar
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- few gratings of black pepper
- 2 chicken breast halves, baked and shredded
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Transfer pasta to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, combine canola oil, Teriyaki sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, peanut butter, ginger and pepper. Mix well until smooth. Pour dressing over pasta and toss to coat evenly. Gently mix in chicken, cilantro and toasted sunflower seeds.
This makes a big bowl of salad – 6 to 8 servings.
For dessert we had a sundae bar and then went out on the patio to work off the calories. My daughter-in-law brought water balloons and small fireworks and the visit ended with a flourish.
Already, I’m wondering – what can I cook next year?
For about 10 years, this has been one of our favorite summertime salads. Full of chicken, orzo pasta, fruit and topped with toasted almonds – what’s not to like?
CHICKEN & FRUIT ORZO SALAD
- 1 cup dry orzo pasta
- 3/4 cup pineapple tidbits in juice, drained
- 3/4 cup green grapes, halved
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 2-1/2 Tblsp. lemon juice
- 2 medium bananas, sliced (reserved)
2 chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed (about 2 cups)
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp. curry powder
- Sprinkling of salt and a couple gratings of black pepper
1/4 cup slivered toasted almonds
Cook orzo pasta in boiling salted water for approximately 7 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
Place orzo in a large mixing bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, grapes, raisins and lemon juice.
Place fruit mixture in bowl with orzo.
Add cubed chicken breast to bowl with orzo.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, curry and salt/pepper.
Add to dressing to orzo/chicken bowl, mixing well to blend. Place salad in a covered container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
When ready to serve, mix in reserved banana slices and sprinkle slivered almonds on top of each serving.
Yield: Approximately 6 cups of salad.