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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Chicken and rice dinner an old family favorite

Thursday, December 28, 2000

Tested by Nancy Anderson

Today's Countdown recipe for "15 Minute Chicken & Rice" has been around -- in various forms -- since Punxsutawney Phil was just a glimmer in his daddy's eye.

This combination of chicken, a can of cream of chicken soup, rice (or noodles) and a vegetable (or not), cooked on the stove (or baked in the oven), has provided countless millions of families nourishment for decades.

Berniece Yaros of Forest Hills has been making this dish longer than she can remember.

"I think the recipe was on a label or in a magazine a long time ago," she said.

Probably both. It still runs on the Minute Rice box.

One-dish entrees are Yaros' specialty. Her recipe for Easy Chicken and Pasta, similar to today's dish, ran on March 11, 1999.

"Casseroles are so easy," she said. "Every once in a while, when I'm in a hurry, I go to this recipe."

And no wonder. "15 Minute Chicken & Rice" is real food -- hot, tasty, comforting on a cold night, served up in no time and with only one pot to wash.

In the 1970s we made the baked version, using skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (denuded ones hadn't been invented yet), thinly sliced celery and carrots (our "gourmet" touch) or canned green beans, chopped potatoes and soup.

In college our daughter made it with mushrooms and canned peas. The possibilities are limited only to what's on hand.

When we spoke to Yaros, she had just finished baking 15 different kinds of cookies and six nut rolls for the Christmas holiday.

Retired from her job in the office of vocational rehabilitation in the State Office Building Downtown, she is the mother of three grown daughters -- one in Forest Hills, two in Westmoreland County -- and has seven grandchildren.

She and her husband, Joseph, volunteer at the senior center in Forest Hills, helping to serve lunch on Fridays and pack meals for shut-ins.

It's on those days that Yaros needs something quick, like today's Countdown, for dinner.

15-Minute Chicken & Rice Dinner

1 tablespoon oil
4 small boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 cups water
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 teaspoon paprika and salt
1 1/2 cups Minute Rice, uncooked
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets, thawed

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and cover. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove chicken from skillet. Add water, soup and seasonings. Stir and bring to a boil. Stir in rice and broccoli (we don't recommend fresh florets -- they won't cook in the allotted time). Top with chicken and cover. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes or until tender.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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