Chicken and Rice Casserole

December 3, 2009

Casseroles are wonderful things, one-pot-wonders which can feed an army of hungry stomachs a complete meal out of one pot.  While there are as many variations of the Chicken Casserole as there are American women cooking them, this one has become my all-time favorite…it’s simplicity is simply unmatched!

This is my old, faithful standby!  Anytime we’ve had one of “those” days and the last think I want to do is think about dinner, let alone have to wash up the kitchen afterwards, this is where I turn.

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Prep Time:  10 min / Cook Time:  50 min

(original recipe came from www.campbellskitchen.com but I found it to be too bland; I’ve added spices, veggies, and doubled the rice and liquid)

Easiest Ever Chicken and Rice Casserole

  1. In the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish mix 2 cans cream of anything soup (mushroom or celery work best) and 2.5 cups water
  2. Stir in 1.5 cups uncooked regular rice (not instant), 1 small bag of frozen mixed veggies (I prefer to use half the bag and then add in a can of sweet corn), 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper, dried onion, celery salt, garlic powder to taste.
  3. Top with 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I recomend sprinkling chicken with seasoning first else it will be pretty bland…chicken seasoning, salad dressing, or your favorite spice blend)
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes, or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through. 
  5. Uncover and sprinkle liberally with grated cheese (cheddar or colby-jack work well); return to hot oven and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

November 18, 2009

We had our first real cold-font sweep in yesterday, the perfect excuse to finally make that Cheesy Vegetable & Chicken Noodle Soup I’ve been meaning to cook up for the past week.  I made the soup earlier in the afternoon so it would be ready whenever we decided we were hungry for dinner…only I completely forgot to start the bread machine, and realised as I was setting the table I didn’t have anything to go with the soup.  Ack!

Pioneer Biscuit Mix to the rescue!  These delicious and hearty dinner biscuits are a quick and easy compliment to soup or salad.  They whip up in minutes and presto…fresh bread with dinner.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits (these are similar to the ones from Red Lobster)

Prep time: 5 min / Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

  1. In a large bowl mix 3 cups biscuit mix, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2  cup water, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp oregano
  2. Stir just until dough forms
  3. Drop large spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet or in a 9×13 baking dish, leaving a few inches between; brush with melted butter.
  4. Bake at 425°F for 10-15 minutes (or until golden)

Tip:  instead of pepper and oregano, try seasoning with rosemary or dill (in addition to the cheese)

Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breast

November 13, 2009

I always laugh when I see estimated times given on “quick” recipes, and I think to myself that if I had a full kitchen prep staff to do all my chopping/dicing/grinding/pre-measuring and then set my ingredients out in nice little bowls (reference any cooking show on Food Network) I, too, could manage a four course dinner (made completely from scratch) in under 15 minutes!

Mama's Little Helper Part 2 IMG_4350

Kitchen Staff

Meet my own personal “Kitchen Prep Staff”…he is excellent at systematically unloading each and every kitchen cabinet while I work on dinner!  Anyone with a toddler will understand if I say I cook in the “Stork Pose”

Stork Pose 001a

Stork Pose

(defined as the pose used by a toddler mom who’s hands are busy with cooking/pouring laundry soap into the washer/trying to put on makeup; it involves balancing on one food while using the other to keep a child out of a cabinet/the toilet/the dog food bowl/etc.)   If you laugh at my sad attempt to illustrate this, you will then need to email me something better which I can post instead ;-)

That being said, if I can manage prep for this delish recipe in under 30 minutes with a hungry and ADHD toddler running amuck in my kitchen, I think it is worthy of a “Supper Quick” post!  

While this is not technically a quick recipe…it’s also not nearly as involved as it sounds, and for just a little extra effort turns out the most divine chicken!  This is what I call “Mother-in-law Chicken”, meaning it’s the perfect recipe to pull out when you are in a hurry but need a main course with which to wow your mother-in-law with your culinary prowess ;-)

Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Prep Time: 20 minutes / Cook Time: 20 minutes / Yield: 2 large breasts (feeds 3-4)

  1. Brine chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  2. In a skillet, saute 1/3 cup chopped onion in olive oil until it begins to turn translucent; add 1 cup chopped spinach (or slightly less), 1/3 cup chopped mushrooms1/4+ tsp salt, and a pat of butter and saute until spinach is wilted.  Set aside in a small bowl to cool; when cool, mix in 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of feta.  Keep your skillet out as you will need it again (no need to wash it!) 
    Spinach Stuffed Chicken Part 1a

    Spinach Filling

     

  3. Butterfly chicken breasts and flatten to 1/4 inch

    Butterfly Chicken

    Butterfly Chicken Breasts

  4. Coat chicken with Italian Dressing, both inside and outside; sprinkle liberally with mixture of seasoned breadcrumbs, basil and parmesan cheese (or you can use plain breadcrumbs and add Italian Seasoning)
  5. Fill chicken breasts with spinach mixture, fold over and secure with twine or toothpicks.

    Spinach Stuffed Chicken Part 1

    Fill with Spinach Mixture

  6. Transfer chicken to skillet and sear in melted butter for just a couple minutes on each side until outside is golden.

    Spinach Stuffed Chicken Part 2

    Sear stuffed breasts before baking

  7. Transfer to oven proof baking dish and top with grated cheddar and mozzarella; bake covered at 350°F for 20 minutes, removing cover for the last 5 minutes to let cheese brown.  

    Spinach Stuffed Chicken Part 3

    Bake and Enjoy!

  8. Enjoy!  Serve with baked Butternut Squash, angel hair pasta, and warm dinner rolls.

How to Butterfly Chicken Breasts

November 13, 2009

Butterflying and flattening chicken breasts is a great way to speed up your cooking time; it’s super quick and easy, and only takes about 2 minutes, if that! 

  1. Cut breasts in half, leaving just enough to keep the halves connected…like they do with the bread for your Subway sandwich! 
  2. Place chicken on a cutting board and cover (with paper towel, waxed paper, plastic wrap) to keep it from splattering; pound chicken evenly flat , using a mallet or the heal of your hand (I prefer using my hands).

Warning!  If anyone else is in the house with you, they may wonder what on earth you are doing making such a racket.  Be certain to reassure them you have not had a mental break, and are simply flattening chicken ;-)

 

If you need additional help, here is a great tutorial:

 

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food/cooking/butterfly-chicken-breast

 

 

 

Oven Baked French Fries

November 10, 2009
First of all, let me say “yes, yes, I know…baked fries is an oxymoron!”  But quite a tasty one ;-)
Hamburger IMG_4320

Skillet Hamburger and Oven Baked Fries

Last night was supposed to be Cheesy Chicken and Veggie soup with fresh bread; however, as the afternoon came and went and the sky turned a pretty pink, I had absolutely zero initiative to pull out the cutting board and invest the necessary 20 minutes prep-time needed for the meal.  Besides, it’s been hot and sticky and warm soup just didn’t sound good any more!  So quick change of plans…Hamburger Night!

There are some grill aficionados who would just gag at the idea of pan frying hamburger patties, but to them I say “So what!”  On a Monday night when you just aren’t quite ready to let go of the weekend, there is nothing tastier than a hamburger and fries…go ahead and use your skillet to cook up those patties; it’s a very low-mess, healthy, and fast way to have a juicy hamburger and fries.

While traditional oven fries can be too time intensive for a quick dinner, if you microwave your potatoes first you can cut your baking time in half and have crispy oven potato fries ready in a snap!

Oven Baked French Fries (the fast way!)

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

  1. Scrub potatoes and thinly slice into rounds, wedges, or strips (the thinner the slices the faster and crispier they will cook up.)
  2. Place slices into a microwave safe bowl and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring half way through.
  3. Remove from microwave just a few minutes before potatoes are completely done; toss with a little butter or olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika.
  4. Bake at 450°F in a single layer on a large cookie sheet for another 10-15 minutes, stirring once, until they are golden and as crispy as you would like them.

    French Fries IMG_4310

    Homemade Oven Fries

Toasted Pumpkin (and Squash) Seeds

November 9, 2009
Pumpkin Eli IMG_4149

Pumpkin Carving

Tradition seems to dictate that pumpkins be carved before Halloween; however, I see no reason for not enjoying this fun (albeit gooey) fall activity any time between Labor Day and Christmas…or whenever you can get your hands on a pumpkin!  I came to this conclusion as my sweet munchkin and I sat on our porch carving our belated Halloween pumpkin last week ;-)

Though there are many good reasons to carve a pumpkin (using large, very sharp knives to slice through the thick skin is high on my list…second only to the most excellent shoulder workout gained by plunging your entire arm into the gooey abyss of an overgrown squash to scrape out the innards), the thought of warm toasted pumpkin seeds is what gets me running to the store each fall as soon as they set out the pumpkins!

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

*You can also toast Butternut Squash seeds like this, too!*

  1. Separate seeds from all the pulp with your hands and rinse under cool water (I promise it’s not as time consuming as it sounds!) 

    Pumpkin Seeds 1 IMG_4188

    Step 1: Separate from pulp and rinse

  2. Boil seeds for 10-15 min in salt water solution:  roughly (2 cups water + 1 Tblsp salt)/(half cup of seeds)
  3. Drain seeds and pat dry, then toss with either butter or olive oil (some recipes call for drying the seeds overnight before baking, however I’ve never done this and it works just fine)
    Pumpkin Seeds 2

    Step 2: Boil in salt water

     

  4. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350°F

Enjoy!

Pizza Night and Re-purposed Tomatoes

November 6, 2009

Tomatoes fresh IMG_4177I love a good tomato…the firm, sweet, juicy type with the most wonderful texture.  And then there are those mealy things that pose as tomatoes; if you didn’t know what they were supposed to taste like you’d swear you’d never touch another tomato again!

Well, I managed to pick up a batch of the later.  Ick!  They have been sitting on my counter for a couple of days, looking oh-so-beautiful but far from salad worthy.  I determined it was time to put them to use before they headed any further south. 

You can probably tell by now that Pizza is my cure for just about any dinner quandary.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that pizza can’t carry off perfectly!  Forget diamonds, pizza and chocolate are this girls best friend (and possibly mashed potatoes, lasagna, spaghetti, avocado, umm…but I digress). 

Now I know there are some chefs out there who would cringe at the thought of using mealy, half-mushy tomatoes for anyting…purists.  Personally, I don’t care how far gone they are, I’m not letting my $2.50 worth of tomatoes go to waste ;-) 

So my three tomatoes became homemade pizza sauce, and I have enough left over to smother a couple of baked chicken breasts or toss with some pasta and fresh basil for a side dish!  The flavor came out wonderfully, and the mealy texture didn’t matter one bit once they were cooked and seasoned!

Another Delicious Chicken Pizza 

(Oh Pizza, how I love thee!  How else can you stretch half of a chicken breast between two and a half people?) 

  1. Take about 10 minutes to mix up your pizza dough (give yourself at least 1 hour before you want to eat so it has time to rise and bake); when it is ready, press out and…
  2. Spread with a thin layer of chunky, homemade tomato sauce mixed with Greek Vinaigrette Dressing
  3. Top with shredded mozzarella, chopped chicken, sliced olives and thinly sliced red onions and green bell pepper.
  4. Enjoy!

    Pizza 2 - cooked

    Chicken Pizza with Mozzarella , Fresh Tomato Sauce, Vinaigrette, and sliced Red Onion

Next time you have a couple of tomatoes that are a little past their prime, or need to make a small batch of sauce quickly, give this a try and let me know what you think!

Fresh, Homemade Tomato Sauce

Prep Time:  5 minutes / Cook Time: 10 min / Yield: about 1.5 cups

  1. Peal tomatoes (using a fork, I held mine over the gas stove burner for about 20 seconds, rotating, and the peals came right off with no trouble)
  2.  Chop or puree until you have a chunky sauce (I use a pair of kitchen choppers for this…not fan of most kitchen gadgets, but love these scissors)

    Tomato Sauce 1 IMG_4197

    Time Savers

  3. Season to taste (oregano, salt, dried onion, olive oil if desired) and simmer in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes until tomatoes are soft and slightly stewed.
  4. Use as sauce for pizza or pasta; leftovers can be frozen in ice cube trays (each cube will be about 1 oz) for easy dinners later on. 

 

Cheating?

November 4, 2009
Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad with Cheddar Toast and warm Tomato Soup

So perhaps this is cheating, but who says every dinner has to be hot out of the oven and dirty at least one pot?  There are those days when the thought of having to cook anything, no matter how quick, just seems tiresome!

It was warm and sunny today and I just couldn’t bring myself into the kitchen for any length of time, so chicken salad seemed perfect for dinner!  There are so many variations of chicken salad and you can season depending on your mood. 

Tonight I made a light and sweet salad (my favorite recipe below) and paired it with  Tomato Basil Soup (Progresso is my all time favorite) and cheddar cheese toast, served with a small green salad.  And just like that, you have a healthy and filling dinner in about 10-15 minutes…and best of all, no pots or pans to wash. 

Chicken Salad Dinner

  1. Mix chopped chicken (canned or leftover from another meal) with chopped celery, apples, and craisins; add in light mayo, honey mustard, and raspberry vinaigrette until desired consistency. 
  2. Serve with a salad greens, soup, sliced cheese and bread (pita pockets, dinner rolls, toast, crescent rolls)

Chicken Salad Variations:

Try spicing up your standard chicken (or Tuna) salad with different herbs, fruits, and veggies.  Here are some ideas for add-ins to get you started…for example: Dill and Cucumber or Basil and Diced Tomatoes

  • Dill, Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme, Basil
  • Apples, Grapes, Craisins, Oranges
  • Celery, Cucumber, Tomatoes
  • Chopped Pecans or Walnuts
  • Light Mayo or Miracle Whip, Honey Mustard, Spicy Mustard, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Italian or Greek Dressing

BBQ Pizza

November 3, 2009

There wasn’t quite enough meat left from this weekends fabulous Crockpot BBQ to bother freezing…any time I have a “dollop” of meat left over I’m so excited, as it’s the perfect excuse to make another pizza!

Knowing we were headed to the gym, I started the pizza crust about 6:00p and set it aside to rise.  When we got back home it took about 5 minutes to press out the dough and top, then 15 minutes to bake.

BBQ Pizza

Prep Time:  15 minutes / Bake Time: 15-20 minutes

PB010053

BBQ Pizza

  • Mix up pizza dough and set aside to rise
  • Press out and top with sauce (BBQ Sauce and/or Ranch Dressing), grated Cheddar Cheese and shredded BBQ*
  • Top with thinly sliced red onions (optional)
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes at 425°F

*You can use any type of BBQ meat; I used leftover Crockpot BBQ, but you could also use the ready to eat Lloyd’s BBQ you buy in the tubs in the meat department, shredded chicken breasts mixed with BBQ sauce, cooked ground beef, etc.

Make-ahead BBQ

November 2, 2009

Crock Pot (Slowcooker) BBQAnyone remember that delicious and super easy Skillet Fajitas post?  Well, as I mentioned in there, I have a long-standing bone to pick with large hunks of meat…although I do still loose a few battles now and then, I’m gradually gaining ground.  This recipe was most certainly a moist and mothwatering victory!  

I have a propensity for over cooking and over drying most cuts of meat…mostly because I’m always running late with dinner plans, and try to speed the cooking process along too quickly (resulting in a dry chicken breasts more suited for chucking at an intruder than a moist chicken parmigiana).

Given my history of overcooking perfectly decent cuts of meat, I was determined to make this evenings dinner an exception.  A couple of weeks ago Albertsons had some fabulous looking boneless pork ribs on sale for $3/lb…so being quite thrifty, I stocked up on more than I plan to admit.  My husband loves BBQ ribs, and I really wanted these to turn out well.  Besides, I have a freezer full of them so I’d better figure out how to make them taste good!

The trick to moist meat (BBQ in particular) is very slow cooking at low heat.  “Great,” you say, “but how exactly does this help me make supper, quick?”  Why, the crock pot of course!  It took me all of 10 minutes to toss this into the crock pot yesterday morning; I let it cook all day and it was done in time to put into the fridge last night before bed.  This evening all I did was slice the meat and warm with some extra Worchestire and BBQ sauce, and we had loaded BBQ baked potatoes in almost no time.

Crock pot BBQ 

Total time in kitchen 15 minutes; total cook time 8-10 hours

  1. Grease inside of crockpot (slow cooker)
  2. Layer 1 large onion, chopped and 2 lbs sliced meat (I used boneless pork ribs, but use any cut of meat you like) in crockpot
  3. In small bowl mix 1/4 packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup cola, 3 Tblsp Worchestershire Sauce, 1 small can tomato sauce, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 cloves), 1 tsp celery salt (optional)
  4. Pour mixture over meat
  5. Cook on low for 8-9 hours

Meat can be stored in fridge or freezer; when ready to serve, simply slice or shred, mix with a little Worcestershire and BBQ Sauce, and re-heat.

Serve…

  • sliced brisket style with green bean casserole and corn bread
  • chopped/shredded for sloppy Joe’s with a side of oven-potato fries
  • over loaded baked potatoes with grated cheese and a side salad

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