Comfort Food for Stressful Times: Rice and Green Chile Bake

September 22, 2016


When people ask me what I did this summer, I have a little trouble answering them. Sure, there were cookouts and concerts and trips to the swimming pool. If I’m honest, though, I’d have to say that I spent a lot of this summer worrying. Even in normal circumstances, I am a very good worrier–Mama used to call me a “professional”–but this summer was out of the ordinary, even for me.

Without boring you with the details, there was change and upheaval at my husband’s work, and some big decision-making that had to be done…a lot of it out of our control. It sucks when a major life change is somewhat out of your control. As far as feelings go, powerless is among the worst of the worst, don’t you think? In short: we weren’t sure if we were going to be staying in Colorado or relocating (most likely to the Pacific Northwest).

I’m happy to report that last week, we got the news that we’d be staying in our beloved hometown, but it was a stressful and high-strung summer, let me tell you. I couldn’t seem to turn off my brain, which was stuck on the same damn channel, constantly chattering something like this: Jesus, we might have to move/moving totally sucks/this house is eleven years old and everything’s going to have to be replaced in order to sell it/ugh, selling your house suckity sucks/do you know how much shit you’re going to have to sort through and pack up/no way can I pack this all up/oh God, how will we break it to the girls/they will hate us/is it even moral to move a 14 year old and a 10 year old/oh they will hate us for sure/can I even survive winter in the Pacific Northwest/those winters are going to eat me I just know it/can we just move for a year/we’re fucked/we’re fucked/we’re fucked.

Yeah, something like that.

Even worse, my husband, who is usually fairly competent at shutting me off and calming me down when my brain goes haywire like that, was spending more time than ever at work, and I sure wasn’t sharing anything with the girls at this juncture, so I was home, alone, in my thoughts, trapped on Planet YouSoFucked.

It was exhausting. Because I’m exhausting. It’s not one of my finer qualities.

But hey, now I can relax, right? At least for today, or an hour, or until the next worry pops into my dorkus brain.

One thing I did over the summer, in an attempt to distract myself, was go through Mama’s old recipe box. What is it about a recipe box that feels so personal? It’s like a little treasure, a historical relic, able to dredge up the most vivid memories and take you back in time. Just sifting through those recipe cards, weathered with years and use and written in Mama’s distinctive, loopy cursive…I don’t know. It made me miss her and feel close to her and smile and yes, cry a little too. Some recipes, though, made me laugh, because they are decidedly White Trash Motherlode-type dishes, some of them much beloved my me when I was a little kid in Toughskin jeans and saddle shoes.

The recipe below is one such recipe, although I tried to update it and make it a little less trashy by adding some spice and fresh herbs and jettisoning the Velveeta cheese and the can of cheddar cheese soup. The original version was a little scary, but I remember loving it as a kid. Mama only made it when Daddy was out of town, because he wasn’t a fan of rice or sour cream, but I scarfed it right down.

I made this for purely selfish reasons, to comfort myself, because I knew nobody else in my family would touch this thing. My family is firmly anti-casserole, those heathens. Even though it’s not the original recipe, it did the trick. My version ended up quite spicy, because I’d gotten my  hands on some zingy roasted Hatch green chiles (another reason to love living in this great state!) If you’re not a fan of heat, feel free to use mild canned green chiles and dial back the quantity of pepper jack cheese in favor of a milder one, like Colby or Monterey Jack. Or you can go all White Trash Renegade and use Velveeta. I’ll never tell.



Rice and Green Chile Bake

serves 6-8

2 cups reduced fat sour cream

1 cup regular sour cream

zest of and juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

salt and pepper

1 cup roasted Hatch green chiles, seeded, peeled and diced (or substitute two 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles)

4 cups cooked rice (you can also use brown rice)

2 1/2 cups grated pepper jack cheese (8 ounces)

2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

salt and pepper to taste

sliced jalapeno, diced tomato and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


Mix together both types of sour cream, chiles, lime zest, lime juice and chopped cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Layer half of the rice in the casserole, top with half of the sour cream/chile mixture, and top with half of the cheese. Repeat layers a second time, ending with the cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover casserole and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove cover; return casserole to oven and bake and additional ten minutes or until bubbly.

Garnish with jalapeno, diced tomato and cilantro, if desired.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie September 22, 2016 at 6:38 am

Oh man. This sounds like gooey comfort in a dish. Love spicy cheese stuff! I’m sorry you had such a worrying summer. That’s the last thing you needed after the Spring you had this year. I hope you can find some peace and beauty in the fall and store up the sunshine for winter. Xoxoxo


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me September 22, 2016 at 6:42 am

I love me a good casserole. I’d have this all to myself here, too, because the husband won’t do sour cream or spicy and the kid won’t do spicy. (How are these people even my family??) But if I don’t mention the sour cream and back up the heat a bit…what’s not to love about rice and cheese?
I could just keep it to myself.
I love the personal connection of holding someone’s recipes. For us, though, all of those favorites were only in my grandmother’s head – and mom the same. I’ve written down a few, even though I know them now, because jeez that stuff needs to be kept one way or another.


Tracy Schmitt September 22, 2016 at 6:47 am

This is a perfect comfort food on the first day of fall. Thanks for sharing and I sure am glad you are staying in Colorado.


michelle September 22, 2016 at 8:03 am

SO tempted to try this recipe but since I use FULL fat for everything and rice aggravates my IBS (so I sub, like, salami), I’m not sure it would be authentic to your mom’s recipe ;)

our monkey brains kill us with worry


Dana Talusani September 24, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Michelle, you crack me up! The original recipe definitely had full-fat everything in it!


Biz September 22, 2016 at 11:08 am

I got my grandma’s old cookbook (well, my Mom technically had it, but I “borrowed” it and never returned it 30+ years ago!) and one of the recipes that I loved dearly of my grammy’s was her zucchini bread. When I was young I thought I was being so healthy eating half a loaf at one sitting, because, um – there is a vegetable in there! Imagine my surprise that it had TWO cups of olive oil in the recipe. No wonder it was so good!

Sending hugs your way – you can always email me to vent – glad you don’t have to move. Today would have been Tony’s 56th birthday and I’ve cried no less than 10 times. Trying to pull it together before work. I did just go on a 45 minute walk instead of drive to Dunkin Donuts and eat one of everything, so I have that going for me. Hugs!


Dana Talusani September 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Biz, I’m so sorry your day was rough. I have a feeling that next year I will feel TONS worse on Mama’s birthday. :( Glad you got through it.


elizabeth September 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

I’m so, so glad that things worked out well for you and that you don’t have to pick up and move! Moving is terrible, even if you have someone do it for you (and with kids that age it’s probably super-traumatic). The amount of stress we had this time two years ago is something I would rather not revisit, although unfortunately some of that may be rearing its ugly head. (Nothing so bad as moving, but stressful stuff nonetheless.) So I hear you on needing comfort food!


Jody September 22, 2016 at 3:57 pm

OMG this sounds AWESOME. My family won’t eat casseroles, either, but I love them. They’re so church basement potluck cozy.


Erica September 23, 2016 at 7:07 am

I’m so sorry you’ve been stressed.

I’m definitely a casserole person too. Unfortunately, my body has decided to hate dairy. Life without cheese totally sucks. But I have finally experienced Hatch chiles! When hubby and I were in Colorado back in May, I saw a Hatch Chile Burger on the menu and declared that I had to try it because you’ve always glorified them. It was quite possibly the best burger I have every eaten! Thank you!!


Dana Talusani September 24, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Erica, life without cheese would suck so hard! I’m not sure I could survive it.


Wendi @ BonAppetitHon September 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I love that you have your momma’s recipe box. And I will gladly make this for you any damn day. Rice + sour cream + cheese = yes please.


Arnebya September 26, 2016 at 10:42 am

Gonna do this this week and add chicken because I can. And I want big, buttery biscuits too.


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