Although canned soup is convenient and adds flavor and creaminess to a chicken-and-rice bake, it's possible to make a flavorful rice bake without the added fat, sodium and preservatives found in most canned soups. Use skinless chicken breast for a healthy rich bake, then add your choice of vegetables and seasonings to make a wholesome, one-dish meal.
Use inexpensive thighs or drumsticks to make a chicken-and-rice bake, or choose healthier skinless chicken breasts. Without the skin, chicken breasts are a low-fat, low-calorie source of protein with only about 125 calories per 4-oz. portion. Chicken breast also provides a variety of nutrients, including phosphorus, selenium and several vitamins, including vitamin B-6 and niacin.
Although white rice is suitable in a chicken-and-rice bake, brown rice, with its slightly nutty flavor, is a good way to incorporate whole grains into your diet. In addition, brown rice adds substance and nutrition, including vitamins, fiber, magnesium, protein and complex carbohydrates that provide energy and allow you to feel full longer. Cook brown rice before adding it to your rice bake, as brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice.
Ramp up the nutrients in your chicken-and-rice bake by adding your choice of vegetables. Begin with chopped onion. Chopped celery adds crunch. Chopped green or red bell peppers provide vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. If you like a spicy rice bake, stir in chopped chili peppers or jalapeno peppers.
Broth or Milk
Many chicken-and-rice bake recipes call for cream soups, which add flavor and help to hold the ingredients together. To take the place of cream soups and to prevent your dish from becoming too dry, add chicken broth or milk. To keep fat in check, use low-fat chicken broth or reduced-fat milk. Evaporated skim milk is also available, and works well in baked dishes. You can also add a beaten egg.
Complete your chicken-and-rice bake with the seasonings of your choice. Salt and freshly ground black pepper are a good start, or use a sodium-free seasoning if you follow a low-sodium diet. Add a pinch of fresh or dried sage, freshly chopped parsley or chopped cilantro. If you like, top your chicken-and-rice bake with crushed saltine or butter crackers, or lightly-toasted bread crumbs. Alternatively, top the dish with shredded cheese such as skim-milk mozzarella, or a bit of grated Parmesan.