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Those who know me know that I try my very best not to be a wasteful person. Need groceries? I have coupons. Something broke? Let’s figure out how to repair it ourselves. You’re hungry? There are leftovers in the refrigerator.

Ah, leftovers. In a perfect world, I would always be able to turn my leftovers into a new, tasty meal. Alas, this has not always been the case, and has left us (on more than one occasion) eating the same dish for dinner, lunch, dinner, and sometimes lunch again. But not today! Today, I took my leftovers, waved my magic spoon, and transformed them into a different dish. And I didn’t do too bad, if I may say so myself. 🙂

Here’s the low-down… On Thursday, I made Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf (recipe found here) and salmon burgers. Quite tasty. On Friday (yesterday), we had more Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf (note to self…1 cup uncooked brown rice + 1 cup uncooked wild rice = way more rice than two people are capable of eating!). As I pondered my leftover rice (mostly because I wanted to head off any “this again?” comments at our next meal), I remembered my favorite soup of all time: Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup from Panera (insert angelic chorus here). I suspected they wouldn’t share their money-making recipe with little ol’ me, so I started looking through different recipes online. I ended up choosing 2 different recipes and doing what I like to call “Pirate Cooking.”

Side note: “Pirate Cooking” is a nod to the first Pirates of the Carribean movie, where Captain Barbosa explains to Elizabeth Swan that The Pirates’ Code is more like a set of guidelines than rules. This is my usual approach to recipes. I read over them, often comparing several, and then use the general concepts to make something up on my own. It usually works out. I mean, we’re still alive, anyway. 🙂

Ok – back to the recipe. The soup turned out great, although a tad thick (after we ate our first bowlfuls, I went back and added a bit more broth to what was left in the pot). Here’s how I worked my magic (please note most of the measurements are estimates, but it should be more or less accurate :)):

Cream of Chicken & Leftover Wild Rice

3 cups chicken broth (I only used 2 cups tonight, but 3 would’ve been better)

2 chicken breasts, diced

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 small-medium carrots, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2-3/4 cup (more or less, to taste) leftover wild rice

handful chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 cup half-and-half or cream

In large pot, add broth, chicken, and chopped parsley; bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is cooked, then turn off heat. In a small bowl, mix flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, set aside. In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onion; cook for 5 minutes. Add dried thyme, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper; cook 5 more minutes, until veggies are tender. Gradually add flour mixture to veggies, while stirring constantly, to create a roux. (Go ahead and click on the link – I didn’t know what it was until about an hour ago.) Mixture will be soft and thick. Saute for another 3-4 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Add half-and-half or cream, again stirring constantly until smooth. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. While that cooks, add your leftover rice to the chicken and broth and simmer (since the rice is already cooked, you only need it to warm up and let the broth absorb some of the seasoning). When creamy mixture is ready, add it to the chicken, rice and broth, and stir it up. Cook over medium heat for another 15-20 minutes and serve. Makes about 4-5 servings.

This is what my soup looked like (again, mine was a little too thick; I'll use more broth next time).

There you have it! I think even Panera regulars would be happy with the results. I’m thinking this is going to be even tastier tomorrow, after the flavors have all had a chance to marinate together. Yummy! 🙂

P.S. Let me know if you try anything different that you enjoyed (added a spice, used a diferent amount of some ingredient, etc.). I’d love to hear your ideas! Go ahead and throw a parrot on your shoulder, strap on an eye patch and cook up something delicious! 😉

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