Try this salivating recipe from a local food blogger’s cookbook on healthy comfort

Try this salivating recipe from a local food blogger’s cookbook on healthy comfort


Photo courtesy of Erin Clarke

Milwaukee transplanted Erin Clarke’s cooking blog, Well covered by Erin (, is filled with easy-to-follow, affordable recipes for classic comfort cuisine, but with a catch. Instead of the typical fuss of heavy ingredients, Clarke lightens the dishes without sacrificing flavor.

Wichita, Kansas, natives who draw inspiration from their grandmothers cooking started blogging 10 years ago. Her very first post, a recipe for green chili chicken, hit the blogosphere with a bang, convincing her to keep cooking and writing. Clarke has captured followers – she says her page gets about 10 million page views a month – with her recipes for things like homemade Hamburger Helper, chicken stroganoff and butternut squash gnocchi with a frying pan of Italian sausage. While her goal is to freshen up beloved originals, she does not go overboard.

“I stay true to the original,” she says. A year ago, Clarke published The Well Plated Cookbook, a compendium of over 130 recipes for quick, healthy classics.

Butternut Squash, Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

If a candle with harvest scent and an oversized fuzzy rug came together to make dinner, they would make this Butternut Squash, Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole. It’s the essence of cozy, manifested as a healthy dinner, with a plethora of amazing ingredients for fall and winter cooking: nutty wild rice, golden butternut squash, sour dried cranberries, earthy thyme and tasty parmesan. Here’s the typical stew “Throw it all in an ovenproof dish and see what happens!” laissez-faire not just works, it wins. When you stir the various components together, it may seem like the pan is not getting creamy enough, but fear not. Parmesan holds it all together.

This recipe is published by Erin Clarke, a food writer, author and creator of the website Well covered by Erin.

Active time: 1 hour | Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes | Yield: Serves 6


  • 1 cup untreated wild and brown rice mixture
  • 1½ pound boned, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed for excess fat
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1½ pounds)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch cubes (approx. 1½ cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme plus additional for garnish
  • ¾ cup of dried cranberries
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (approx. 2 ounces), divided
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped raw pecans or walnuts


  1. Boil the rice according to the package instructions. Pour off excess cooking liquid and set aside (you should have about 3 boiled cups).
  2. Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. For easy cleaning, place a large piece of aluminum foil or baking paper in the bottom of a 9 × 13-inch baking tin. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer on top, and place the loose side portion of each thigh underneath. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle with teaspoon salt and teaspoon pepper. Bake on the middle rack in the oven until the chicken thighs reach 165 degrees F on an instant thermometer on the thickest part, about 20 minutes. Transfer immediately from the dish to a plate and cover. Let rest for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Discard the foil or parchment and hold the pan by hand.
  3. While the chicken is frying, peel the butternut squash and cut off the top and bottom ends. Cut the neck away from the round base, then set the base up on its flat end and cut it in half from top to bottom. Take out the seeds and discard them. Cut the squash (both bottom and neck) into ½-inch cubes (you should have about 4 cups of cubes).
  4. In a large, deep frying pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the squash, onion and the remaining teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of pepper. Saute until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender but still retains some chewing, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Once the chicken has rested, cut it into mouth-sized pieces. Add it to the pan with the squash, then add the thyme, cranberries, ¼ cup of parmesan and the rice. Stir to combine.
  6. Lightly coat with nonstick spray the same 9 × 13-inch dish that you used to bake the chicken (no need to wash it in between). With a large spoon, pour the squash and rice mixture into the dish, spreading it in an even layer.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the nuts and the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan on top. Bake another 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the nuts are toasted and crispy. Sprinkle with extra chopped fresh thyme and serve warm.

Tips for storage in advance:

  • For even faster cooking: Prepare the rice up to 2 days in advance (or make them in large portions and freeze individual portions for up to 3 months). The chicken and butternut squash can be cooked up to 1 day in advance. You can also replace the chicken thighs with 4 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken.
  • The entire pot can be collected through step 6 and stored in the refrigerator, unbaked, for up to 1 day. Allow to come to room temperature, then bake as directed.
  • How to freeze: Bake the pan completely and let it cool to room temperature. Cover well and then freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature, then cover with foil and reheat in a 350 degree F oven until thoroughly heated. Be sure to use a pan that is freeze and oven safe.

Next level:

  • For extra decadence, in step 5, stir ½ to 1 cup grated Gruyère or fontina cheese stuffed with parmesan.

Market Swaps:

  • Make it meat-free: Replace the chicken with 2 (15 ounce) cans of rinsed and drained white beans with reduced sodium, such as large northern beans or cannellini beans. Add the beans to the squash in step 5.



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