Cheesy Chicken, Rice and Broccoli Packets

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-22I am convinced that the main reason that most of us don’t eat more healthier, homemade meals is simply because we are too busy. We resort to take out, tv dinners, frozen dinners and prepackaged, highly processed food just because it seems to be so much more convenient. Even though I love to cook and actually enjoy spending hours in the kitchen, I can completely understand. When you come home from work tired, there’s hardly any motivation left for a cooking endeavor. This is why I love dinners that can be made ahead.

These days, I only have a few hours in a week when I actually feel good enough to cook, so I grab those opportunities to whip something up really quick. These dinner packets are what I have been focusing on a lot lately. They have the whole dinner – starch, protein and vegetable in one, can be made ahead of time, even up to 2 days in advance, and then simply baked in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

There’s nothing like a fresh, nutritious and super tasty dinner on those busy, hectic days. Who can argue with cheesy, aromatic rice served with steamed chicken and broccoli? The chicken is so juicy and really flavorful, since it’s been marinating in garlic, herbs, olive oil and lemon juice. The broccoli is perfectly crisp, not mushy and limp like most tv dinners out there. I’ll have to share some more of my dinner favorites that are cooked in parchment or aluminum foil with all of you. I am hooked. I love the convenience and the fresh flavors that are achieved with this method. 

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces (2-3 medium chicken breast halves, boneless, skinless)

1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked

1 Tablespoon butter or oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, grated or sliced into thin matchsticks

1 celery stalk, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup cheese, grated (Provolone, Mozzarella, cheddar, monterey jack, etc.)

3-4 cups broccoli florets (chop the broccoli stalk and use in the rice)

2 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided (1 1/2 cups to cook the rice in and 1/4 cup broth extra per packet)

salt, ground black pepper

Marinade for chicken:

2-4 Tablespoons olive oil

1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

juice of half a lemon

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon chicken seasoning (dry basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, etc)

fresh parsley, thyme, minced

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt, ground black pepper

Instructions:

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-3Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and add the chicken, mixing thoroughly so all the chicken is coated in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-2Meanwhile, heat the butter or oil in a large skillet or pot on medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic cloves. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-4Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and cooked through. The broccoli florets cook a lot faster than the stalk, so I cut off the crown into florets and then peel the hard part off the stalk and chop it up. This way, I use up all the broccoli. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-5Add the chopped broccoli stalk to the veggies. This will give them a head start on cooking. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-6Add the rice to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, until all the rice is coated in the vegetables. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-7Pour in 1 1/2 cups hot chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered for about 10 minutes, just until the rice is almost cooked through and all the broth is absorbed. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-8Add the grated cheese to the rice and mix. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-10Tear off 4 pieces of aluminum foil, each one about 16-18 inches wide. I like to use the heavy duty, extra large foil for this. Place 1/4 of the rice on one half of each piece of aluminum foil. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-11Do you see how cheesy that rice is? Yum.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-12You can also use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil. Divide the rice among the 4 packets. You can make 4 larger portions, or make 6 smaller portions, by making 2 more packets. Divide the marinated chicken among the 4 or 6 packets, placing the chicken on top of the rice. Make sure that the chicken is spread out in one layer, not on top of each other, or it will not cook through all the way. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-13Place 1/2 – 1 cup of broccoli florets on top of the chicken. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-14The amount of chicken and broccoli you use is totally up to you. You can completely omit the chicken, if you’re pregnant and meat makes you nauseous, or leave out the broccoli, if you have a husband who doesn’t like it.  You can also add cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, etc. See? When you’re the cook, you get to make adjustments according to YOUR likes and dislikes. 

Pour about 1/4 cup of chicken broth over the whole beautiful creation. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-15You can also add more cheese on top of the broccoli, but that’s up to you. I might be weird, but I don’t like my food to be too cheesy.

Fold the other half of the aluminum foil or the parchment paper over the mounded rice, chicken and broccoli and crimp the edges closed, making sure they are sealed completely. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-16

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-17

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-18Place the packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. If you like your broccoli to be very soft, bake your packet for 20-25 minutes.  Don’t cook it longer than that, or your chicken will be overcooked. If you are one of the people that likes their broccoli really soft, microwave the broccoli, covered, in large bowl until bright green and nearly tender, 2 to 4 minutes, before adding it to the packets.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-20

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-21Make ahead:

Marinate the chicken and prepare the rice and cut the broccoli. Store the marinated chicken separately from the cheesy rice mixture in the refrigerator. Have the broccoli florets ready as well, stored in a sealed bag or in a bowl in the refrigerator. You can store this in the refrigerator up to 2 days in advance. When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and continue with the recipe, filling the packets and then baking. If you will be cooking it the same day, you can pre make the packets and store the sealed packets in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Packets-1-22

Cheesy Chicken, Rice and Broccoli Packets
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 - 1½ lbs chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces (2-3 medium chicken breast halves, boneless, skinless)
  • 1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated or sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅓ cup cheese, grated (Provolone, Mozzarella, cheddar, monterey jack, etc.)
  • 3-4 cups broccoli florets (chop the broccoli stalk and use in the rice)
  • 2½ cup chicken broth, divided (1½ cups to cook the rice in and ¼ cup broth extra per packet)
  • salt, ground black pepper
Marinade for chicken:
  • 2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chicken seasoning (dry basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, etc)
  • fresh parsley, thyme, minced
  • ½ - ¾ teaspoon salt, ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and add the chicken, mixing thoroughly so all the chicken is coated in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the butter or oil in a large skillet or pot on medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  4. The broccoli florets cook a lot faster than the stalk, so I cut off the crown into florets and then peel the hard part off the stalk and chop it up. This way, I use up all the broccoli. Add the chopped broccoli stalk to the veggies. This will give them a head start on cooking.
  5. Add the rice to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, until all the rice is coated in the vegetables. Pour in 1½ cups hot chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered for about 10 minutes, just until the rice is almost cooked through and all the broth is absorbed.
  6. Add the grated cheese to the rice and mix.
  7. Tear off 4 pieces of aluminum foil, each one about 16-18 inches wide. I like to use the heavy duty, extra large foil for this. Place ¼ of the rice on one half of each piece of aluminum foil.
  8. You can also use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil. Divide the rice among the 4 packets. You can make 4 larger portions, or make 6 smaller portions, by making 2 more packets.
  9. Divide the marinated chicken among the 4 or 6 packets, placing the chicken on top of the rice. Make sure that the chicken is spread out in one layer, not on top of each other, or it will not cook through all the way.
  10. Place ½ - 1 cup of broccoli florets on top of the chicken. The amount of chicken and broccoli you use is totally up to you. You can completely omit the chicken, if you're pregnant and meat makes you nauseous, or leave out the broccoli, if you have a husband who doesn't like it. You can also add cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, etc. See? When you're the cook, you get to make adjustments according to your likes and dislikes.
  11. Pour about ¼ cup of chicken broth over the whole beautiful creation. You can also add more cheese on top of the broccoli, but that's up to you.
  12. Fold the other half of the aluminum foil or the parchment paper over the mounded rice, chicken and broccoli and crimp the edges closed, making sure they are sealed completely.
  13. Place the packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. If you like your broccoli to be very soft, bake your packet for 20-25 minutes. Don't cook it longer than that, or your chicken will be overcooked. If you are one of the people that likes their broccoli really soft, microwave the broccoli, covered, in large bowl until bright green and nearly tender, 2 to 4 minutes, before adding it to the packets.
Notes
Make ahead:

Marinate the chicken and prepare the rice and cut the broccoli. Store the marinated chicken separately from the cheesy rice mixture in the refrigerator. Have the broccoli florets ready as well, stored in a sealed bag or in a bowl in the refrigerator.
You can store this in the refrigerator up to 2 days in advance. When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and continue with the recipe, filling the packets and then baking.
If you will be cooking it the same day, you can pre make the packets and store the sealed packets in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.

23 Comments

  • Katy B

    Genius recipe! I work full-time everyday of the week and have a 18 month old… and love this idea of packets! I would love to see more recipes with different types of protein.. maybe with some beef or fish.. i will definitely try this recipe this week.

  • Luba

    Wonderful looking recipe! Do you think I could prepare this as a freezer meal? Cook the rice, put everything in the foil packages and freeze it; then when ready to use, preheat the oven and just keep it in there a little longer? What would your advice be on this?

    • olgak7

      It would probably work, although the broccoli texture will not be as crunchy as the fresh broccoli. If you’ve ever used frozen broccoli and don’t mind the texture, then this will definitely work.

  • Nata G

    Hello Olga, this looks like my kinda meal;) thank you. This is what we’re having for dinner tonight! I wanted to ask you what brand/type of rice you use most? I understand it’s long grain but wanted to know which one you got? Thanks & Blessings to you.

  • Valya @ Valya's Taste of Home says

    Looks good! Sometimes you need this kind of recipe to make quick dinner after a busy day. Thanks for sharing Olga!

  • Shinee

    Olga, this looks fantastic. I’m going to try this recipe this week. This is totally new way of cooking for me. Excited to try it. Thanks for sharing. I hope you feel better soon.

  • Olya

    Wow Olga this is beautiful. I love this idea. You are talented!! One question: how important is the red wine vinegar in the marrinate? Can I omit it or replace it with something else?

  • Laura

    This looks great! I love cooking meals or main dishes in packets, although I don’t think I’ve ever done the grains and protein together like this before. We have “fish in a packet” pretty regularly–white fish with thinly sliced peppers, lemon juice olive oil and salt and pepper + whatever other seasoning we want that evening. It’s so easy to adapt it to whatever vegetables we feel like eating with the fish. I’m eager to try this recipe and add it to my repertoire. 🙂

    • olgak7

      Yes, you can, Inna. However, I haven’t personally tried out this recipe in a baking dish, so you would have to experiment how long you would need to bake it, etc.

  • Natasha of Natashaskitchen.com

    My 5-year old would eat this up and ask for more. Last night I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he told me – “steam broccoli” :D. I was all smiles.

  • Marina

    I made this dish as soon as you published it and it was wonderful! We are going camping in a couple of weeks and I’m already planning a menu. I would love to include this in my menu, prepare it ahead of time, wrap it in more foil then maybe throw it in the hot ashes..? Do you think that would work? I know you haven’t tried it, nevertheless, lend me your thoughts:)

    • olgak7

      I think it should work, Marina. I haven’t tried it myself, but I think it’s a wonderful idea. Let me know how it turns out. Enjoy your trip.

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