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    Entries in casseroles can be good (2)

    Friday
    Jul262013

    Chicken Divine

    You’ve probably heard of a dish called chicken divan.  Unfortunately, like so many other casserole type dishes, it is almost inevitably made with canned, condensed, cream of crap soup.  Why?  Let me show you how easy it is to make a fabulous version, with no scary, jiggly, canned stuff. 

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 2 chicken breasts
    • 1 head of broccoli
    • 4 oz. cream cheese
    • ¼ cup green onion
    • 1 teaspoons fresh thyme
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 2 Tablespoons flour
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 cup grated cheese
    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • 15 crackers
    • 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds

    First up, you need to cut the broccoli into florets.  Although I’m not using the stem in this dish, if your broccoli has a long stem on it like mine did, don’t waste it.  Clean it up, peeling off any rough or fibrous bits from the outside, then cut it into chunks.  Drop them into a freezer bag, and freeze them to use later for soup.

    Then just cut the top of the broccoli into roughly bite size pieces. 

    Dice your chicken breasts.  Add 1 Tablespoon of oil to a pan over medium heat and add the chicken.  Sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. 

    Cook briefly on all sides. 

    Then put a lid on and allow it to continue to cook for 7 minutes, moving it about once or twice so it doesn't burn. 

    Remove the cooked chicken and pour in 1 ½ cups chicken stock. 

    Add the broccoli and cover it, allowing it to cook for 5 minutes. 

    While you’re waiting for things to cook, go ahead and chop your green onions. 

    I happen to have fresh thyme on hand, so that’s what I used.   If you only have dried, cut it back to ¼ teaspoon or so. 

    If you’re using fresh, give it a good rinse, then remove the leaves and chop them. 

    When the broccoli has cooked for 5 minutes, it should still be green but starting to soften.  Go ahead and remove it from the pan. 

    To the remaining ½ cup chicken stock add 2 Tablespoons flour. 

    Stir that together until there are no lumps, and pour it into the pan. 

    Stir over medium heat until the mixture becomes nice and thick.

    Turn off the heat, then cut the cream cheese into pieces and add them to the pan. 

    Stir until the cream cheese is mostly incorporated.  It’s ok if you still have some small lumps. 


    Add the green onion and thyme. 

    Stir that together and add the chicken and broccoli, along with any liquid from them, back to the pan.     

    Gently stir until everything is evenly coated. 

    Pour the whole thing into a buttered casserole dish. 

    Give the pan a quick wash (or get a clean one out… your choice).  Place your crackers into a plastic bag. 

    And crush them until you all of the pieces are fairly little.  I just used my hand. 

    Melt 2 Tablespoons butter over medium heat and sprinkle in the poppy seeds. 

    Add the cracker crumbs. 

    Stir until everything is combined. 

    Spread the cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar) over the top of the chicken mixture. 

    Then sprinkle on the cracker crumb mixture. 

    Bake at 350° for 35 minutes.  It should be nice and bubbly around the edges. 

    See?  Delicious, beautiful, and not difficult, even without the cans. 

    What recipe that usually calls for canned soup would you like to see upgraded?  

     

    Friday
    Apr052013

    Mexironi and Cheese

    Although I’m pretty sure this dish probably falls into the casserole category, since Hubby and Seeley are both casserole-phobes, I will avoid using the dreaded c word.  To be fair, I think cans of crap thrown into a dish and baked, ruined that word for a lot of people.  Call it what you will, it’s easy and tasty, and that’s what matters. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • ½ lb. pasta
    • ½ lb. ground beef
    • ½ onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 cup diced tomatoes
    • 2 Tablespoons green chilies  
    • 4 oz. cream cheese
    • 1 cup grated cheese
    • 2 Tablespoons sliced green onions
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
    • ½ cup water 

    Since this recipe uses half of a lot of things (½ lb. pasta and meat, ½ of an onion, ½ can of tomatoes and green chilies, and ½ pkg. of cream cheese) it is very easily doubled.  It makes quite a lot, though, so just be sure you have a large enough vessel for it.

    First up, get your pasta boiling.  Cook it according to the package directions, minus 2 minutes, then drain it and rinse it with cold water.  You want it to be a little underdone because it will soften up more during the baking process.  I used one called mezzi rigatoni, which is basically half length rigatoni, but any large-ish pasta will work.  Next, place a tablespoon of oil and the onion in a pan over medium heat. 

    Sprinkle on ½ teaspoon salt, and cook the onion until it’s translucent, then add the garlic. 

    Cook that for another minute or two, and then add the ground beef. 

    Break that up with your spatula as it cooks.  When it’s browned, sprinkle on the chili powder and cumin.  (I use extra lean beef, but if you use something with a higher fat content, you’ll want to drain any excess rendered fat first.)

    Stir that in and add the tomatoes. 

    After those come the chilies. 

    Stir that all together then reduce the heat a bit and pop a lid on for about 10 minutes.  Stir every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. 

    During that time, cut your cream cheese into cubes.  After the 10 minutes, turn off the heat and add the cream cheese. 

    It will slowly melt as you stir it in.  (I know, it doesn’t really look that pretty at this stage, but trust me, it gets better.)

    Add ½ cup grated cheese along with the green onions and cilantro.  Because cass… I mean dinners like this… are meant to be easy, I used pregrated cheese.   

    Once all of that is incorporated, it’ll be a bit on the thick side.

    Stir in ½ cup hot water.  There, that’s better. 

    Add your cooked pasta.  Oops.  See what I mean about a large enough vessel.  Imagine if I had doubled it. 

    Stir that together.  Somehow I managed it without making too much of a mess. 

    Pour the whole thing into a buttered baking dish.  A 9x13 works great. 

    Spread it around and cover with foil.  Now, at this point, you can go ahead and bake it, or you can make it ahead of time up to this point, refrigerate it, and continue on from here when you’re ready.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake, covered, for 25 minutes.  (if it’s been refrigerated, add 10-15 minutes)  Uncover, and sprinkle on the remaining half cup of cheese. 

    Back into the oven for 15 minutes.  By then it should be nice and bubbly and just starting to brown on top. 

    Sprinkle with a bit of fresh cilantro and dig in.  Even if you have casserole haters in your family, give this a try.  I bet they’ll like it.  Hubby even had seconds! 

    What was the best/worst casserole you grew up on?