I first started making this casserole several years ago when Vince was working in Norfolk during the week and coming home on the weekends. During the week, I would cook for myself, making meals that could be divided. When Vince headed back on Monday mornings, I would pack up the meals for him to take back, frozen so that they would stay cold for the trip.
This is now a favorite of mine to take to new parents as well. The level of spice can be adjusted, and it can be stuck in the freezer until needed. All that needs to be done is pop it in the oven. And just recently, I had the chance to make this for friends who just had a beautiful baby girl! Served with a tomato, avocado and spinach salad, I hope this keeps the new mom and dad going through some long days.
Fajita Chicken and Rice Bake
What's in it:
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1-2 bell peppers, any colors, diced
1 small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of one lime
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp. taco seasoning (this is my favorite recipe)
1-2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes or Rotel
4 oz. cream cheese (I usually use Neufchatel)
4 cups cooked rice, brown or white, or a mix
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded cheese, cheddar, monterey jack or pepper jack, or, again, a mix
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
How to make it:
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil over medium high heat. Sautee peppers and onions, until they start to brown at the edges, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic, cook for about a minute, until garlic is fragrant, then add lime juice, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Move pepper mixture into a bowl.
Mix chicken and taco seasoning. Heat the rest of the oil in the same pan, and add chicken. Sautee until nearly cooked through, stirring as needed for even cooking. Add tomatoes to the pan, and then the cream cheese. Stir to combine as the cream cheese melts, then stir in the cilantro.
Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 in baking dish with oil or cooking spray. Spread the rice in the bottom of the pan, then layer pepper mixture, then chicken on top. Pour any remaining tomato-cream sauce over the layers. Top with cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Bake, refrigerate, or freeze.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Bake until casserole is heated through and cheese is browned and bubbly.