Way back in 1977, I held my first ever dinner party. Okay, so it wasn’t a huge party – there were only three of us dining that evening. Sue, my best friend at the time, her then boyfriend Allen and me. Still, I felt so “adult”, entertaining friends in my tiny walk-up apartment. I will never forget that night for many reasons. Although Sue and I met in Elementary School, we didn’t really forge our deep friendship until years later, when we were in our early twenties. (And boy, have I dated myself or what!)
Sue and Allen married a few years later. They had three beautiful children and built a wonderful life together. Sue dies of breast cancer almost eighteen years ago. Hard to believe it’s been that long – I still miss her and think of her often.
The chicken I had served that night was a recipe I had found on the label of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Way back then, most of my culinary inspiration (and abilities) came from a can of Campbell’s Soup. It was my go-to base for just about everything. Although I have evolved in the kitchen, I still keep a few cans of Campbell Soup on hand for a quick, satisfying dinner. (Most Campbell Soup recipes take no more than 30 minutes to prepare, and we all know how priceless time is these days with our busy, complicated lives). I’ve had my Campbell’s Quick and Easy Recipes Cookbook for over twenty years. While I don’t refer to it very often, there’s an odd sense of comfort knowing it’s there, sitting on my bookcase – just in case. Every now and again, when I’m feeling a wee bit sentimental, I flip through the pages.
My first dinner party was a learning experience in so many ways. First and foremost, when planning your menu, make sure what you plan to serve is something your guests would like to eat. As it turned out, Sue didn’t like cheese and Allen didn’t like chicken. So to say my first dinner party was a whopping success would be a lie. While the meal itself was executed perfectly, the reception was less than desirable. Regardless, the company was good even if my guests didn’t devour the meal. So while I might not recommend this particular dinner for company, it’s a great family time meal.
Years later I remembered how much I liked this simple meal. I was sad to discover that the recipe no longer appears on the label of Cream Of Mushroom Soup, nor was it in my twenty-year-old cookbook. I even searched on-line, but the original recipe was nowhere to be found. So I created my own. While the essences of the original recipe is intact, I like this version even better.
Baked Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Rice
4 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1 soup whole milk
6 Brown Mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 envelope dry onion soup mix, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Rinse chicken breasts with a little lemon juice; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
In a large bowl, combine soup with milk. Reserve 1/2 cup of mixture for later. Mix remaining soup mixture with rice, garlic cloves, thyme and half of the dry onion soup mix. Mix well and pour into a baking dish.
Place chicken breasts on rice mixture. Pour reserved soup mix over breasts. Sprinkle with remaining dry onion soup mix and sliced mushrooms.
Cover tightly with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until rice is tender and breasts are almost cooked through. Remove foil and continue baking for 10-15 minutes longer or until chicken is done and toppings have begun to brown.
Broccoli with Cheese
16 oz Fresh Broccoli
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Onions
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 Cup Processed Cheese Loaf such as Velveeta
Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cheeses. Return to heat, season with salt and pepper. Cook until mixture thickens and beginning to bubble. Stir in milk slowly, blend well. Simmer, stirring often, until ready to use.
Steam broccoli until tender-crisp, or place broccoli in a resealable plastic bag. Poke several vent holes in bag, microwave on high 1-2 minutes or until tender-crisp. Place broccoli on a serving platter, drizzle with cheese. Additional cheese sauce, if desired, can be served table side.