CRACK CHICKEN CASSEROLE

One of my grandmothers used to say there were two ways to things – Her way or the wrong way. This “attitude” became a family “sore” spot a good deal of the time as there are always multiple ways to reach the same end results. For me it always seemed to resonate with recipes… LOL fast forward to this recipe and she was in my head about the best way to write this up.

There really are two ways to make this, the short way and the LONG way, which is my preferred method because I find it the most flavorful is to make the chicken in the slow cooker the day before you want to assemble the casserole.

Not much to look at, but SUPER delicious!

CRACK CHICKEN CASSEROLE (the short way)
8 slices thick cut bacon cooked crispy and crumbled
4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (or crock pot crack chicken)
2 cups dried egg noodles, cooked per directions on box and drained
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup red or orange pepper, diced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
1/2 cup Darigold Mexican sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (omit if using crock pot crack chicken)

1/3 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 1/2 cup corn chex, crushed
1/4 cup butter melted
2-3 green onions thinly sliced for garnish, optional

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine the bacon, chicken, cooked noodles, ranch seasoning, onion, red pepper, cream cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar, sour cream and mayonnaise until well blended.
  • Spread into the baking dish.
  • Top with the remaining cheddar.
  • In a small bowl mix together the corn chex with the butter and top the casserole with this mixture.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes until bubbly.
  • Let cool slightly, garnish with optional green onions and serve.

CROCK POT CRACK CHICKEN
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 package ranch dressing package mix
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar or cheese flavor of choice – Nacho, sharp, Vampire Slayer, etc…

  • Add chicken to crock pot in a single layer if possible.
  • Sprinkle with ranch dressing powder.
  • Place cream cheese block as a whole on top.
  • Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours.
  • Remove cover and shred chicken while stirring in cream cheese at the same time.
  • Add cheese and stir to mix.
  • Serve on buns, croissants, tortillas, in the above casserole or use it to make tacos next Taco Tuesday!

CREAMY PARMESAN CHICKEN & PROSCIUTTO


1 + 2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
1 tablespoon avocado oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 pieces prosciutto
1-2 cloves garlic, FINELY minced
1/2 cup FRESH small green peas
1 teaspoon red chile flakes, crushed
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 LARGE lemon, juiced
2 cups penne pasta
1/4 cup FRESH chopped Italian Leaf parsley
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup FINELY shredded Parmesan cheese

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  • Add pasta cook al dente, 9-11 minutes.
  • Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  • In a large skillet add a drizzle of oil over medium high heat. Add prosciutto slices in a single layer, cooking 2-3 minutes per side until crispy. Do not clean pan.
  • Drain on paper toweling.
  • Pat chicken dry and generously season with FRESH ground sea salt, black pepper and crushed red chile flakes.
  • Add butter to skillet.
  • When melted add garlic sauteing 30 seconds.
  • Add chicken steaks sauteing 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through.
  • Transfer chicken to cutting board.
  • Whisk flour into drippings.
  • Add cream cheese and heavy cream to skillet, whisking to combine.
  • Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Add lemon juice and parsley, stirring to blend.
  • Add pasta and peas, folding in to coat, cooking a couple minutes until warmed through.
  • Slice chicken breasts into strips.
  • Plate pasta.
  • Top with chicken slices, prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

RECIPE REVIEW
TASTE: Creamy and full of rich flavor.
TEXTURE: Al dente noodles and crispy chicken in a creamy sauce are the star of this meal.
EASE: Easy to Moderate.
APPEARANCE: Appetizing and visually appealing.
PROS: Great meal for company.
CONS: None that I found!
WOULD I MAKE THIS AGAIN? DEFINITELY Yes.

SKILLET PASTA with VODKA SAUCE

SKILLET PASTA with VODKA SAUCE
1 bunch green onions or 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vodka pasta sauce, homemade or jarred – your choice
3 cups homemade beef stock
12 ounces penne pasta
1/4 cup chopped marinated sun-dried tomato pieces
1/2-3/4 cup quartered marinated mozzarella balls
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • Coat 12 inch non-stick skillet with non-stick cooking spray. I like to use my heavy enameled cast iron crock pot skillet.
  • Heat over medium-high heat.
  • Add beef, sweet Italian sausage, most of the green onions (save some for garnish), FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper to taste, cooking 8-10 minutes and breaking up the meat into small crumbles until meat is cooked through.
  • Add garlic and stir 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Drain the meat and discard the grease.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the sauce and water to skillet. Bring to boil.
  • Add pasta and red pepper flakes.
  • Cover 10-12 minutes and cook JUST until tender.
  • Stir in meat and remaining sauce, cooking a couple minutes to heat through.
  • Gently fold in Mozzarella ball pieces.
  • Top with scallions and serve immediately.

CHICKEN PARMESAN SPINACH ARTICHOKE BAKE

Turn your favorite party dip into a hearty casserole meal that will satisfy EVERYONE!

CHICKEN PARMESAN SPINACH ARTICHOKE BAKE serves 8

3 cups chicken rotisserie chicken **
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fusilli pasta, uncooked
12 ounce container spinach artichoke dip
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
16 ounces frozen baby spinach, THAWED & SQUEEZED DRY
3 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Spray 13×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Mix together the artichoke dip, onions, garlic, spinach, chicken pieces and 1/2 cup of the cheese until well blended.
  • Add chicken stock and blend well.
  • Fold in pasta.
  • Cover with foil and bake 30-35 minutes, stirring a time or two.
  • Remove foil and sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan.
  • Bake 5-10 minutes more until cheese is melted and pasta is tender.
  • Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

NOTES:

  • You can make this more of a side dish by deleting the chicken pieces.
  • Another alternative is to season and grill the chicken first and then shred it. It adds another depth of flavor.

5 CHEESE PASTA

5 CHEESE PASTA adapted from Red Drummond serves 8

1 pound fusilli or similar type pasta
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 tablespoon chopped FRESH thyme
1 large shallot, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, FINELY minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/2 cup W
hite Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
FRESH ground black pepper
1 cup mozzarella balls, halved
3 green onions, sliced thin

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the fusilli and cook for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package instructions.
  • Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain and set aside.
  • Cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove to a paper towel-lined plate and remove all but 2 tablespoons of the grease from the skillet.
  • Add the thyme, shallots and garlic to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the cream and heat until bubbly, 30 seconds.
  • Gradually add the Fontina, cheddar, Romano and Gruyère in handfuls, letting each combine with the cream before adding the next.
  • Add the pasta to the skillet along with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Toss everything together, thinning with the reserved pasta water if needed.
  • Divide the pasta into lightly sprayed with non stick cooking spray individual gratin dishes or 1 baking dish.
  • Place casserole on a baking sheet.
  • Divide the mozzarella pearls over the top of the pasta.
  • Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to broil.
  • Broil 3-4 minutes on the center rack until the mozzarella pearls are brown and the pasta is bubbling.
  • Remove and garnish with the cooked bacon and sliced green onions.

SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO SALAD

SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO SALAD yield 8 servings

Simple ingredients make an elegant looking side dish for any picnic or BBQ. This is the perfect pasta salad for a quick bite or pick me up!

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes

1 pound penne pasta (or large pasta shape of choice – cavatappi works well too), prepared al dente per package directions in salted water, drained WELL
1/2 cup basil pesto
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes drained and chopped
1/2 cup FRESH grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup micro greens of choice
1/4 cup diced red pepper
FRESH salt and pepper, to taste

  • Whisk together the pesto and vinegar.
  • Toss pasta with pesto mix.

  • Add sun-dried tomatoes tossing to combine well.
  • Fold in micro greens, diced red pepper and Parmesan cheese. 
  • 
Chill in fridge until ready to eat.


NOTE: This makes a full meal just by adding some chopped salami, pepperoni or rotisserie chicken pieces.

ITALIAN BOLOGNESE STUFFED PEPPERS

ITALIAN BOLOGNESE STUFFED PEPPERS
2 EXTRA LARGE red or orange peppers, halved
1 pound ground beef
2 shallots, diced SMALL
2 cloves garlic, minced
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons Garden Gourmet Italian herbs
1 1/2 – 2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups prepared dilitani or small shell pasta
4 slices mozzarella cheese

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Coat baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Halve peppers tip to root. Clean out seeds and ribs.
  • Brown ground beef and onion together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain off grease returning meat to pan.
  • Add garlic, Italian herbs and marinara sauce, simmering 5-10 minutes.
  • Stuff pepper halves with meat mixture.
  • Layer remaining meat mixture into the baking dish.
  • Arrange peppers on top of meat mixture in baking dish.
  • Top each pepper with mozzarella cheese.
  • Coat one side of a piece of foil with non-stick cooking spray. Cover baking dish.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes until tender and hot. Remove foil during the last 10 minutes.

NOTE: This prepares well in advance of baking making it a great weeknight meal.

BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

Mac & Cheese is ALWAYS a favorite in MOST households! This one is a simple version that is quick to make and in the right dish looks elegant enough for company.

BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

PASTA
2 teaspoons kosher salt 
1 pound elbow macaroni with ridges 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
  • Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan.
  • Add the salt and macaroni.
  • Bring the water back to a boil and cook the macaroni until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain WELL.

CHEESE SAUCE
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced
4 tablespoons WONDRA flour 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 
2 cups WHOLE milk 
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar (or mix with some Jack cheese if you prefer, but we like the strong sharp)

  • Melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan.
  • Add shallot, sautéing until soft and translucent.
    Using a wire whisk, stir in the flour and salt, stirring and cooking over medium heat until the roux bubbles and the flour turns pale brown, about 3 minutes.
  • Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the milk and then whisk in the remaining 1 cup milk followed by the vinegar.
  • Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
  • Add the cheese and stir until it melts.
  • Add the drained macaroni to the cheese sauce and mix thoroughly.

TOPPING
heaping 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted 

  • In a small bowl, stir the breadcrumbs with the butter until the crumbs are moistened.
  • Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the prepared baking dish and top with the buttered breadcrumbs.
  • Bake until the dish bubbles around the edges, about 15 minutes.

LEFTOVER PRIME RIB BEEF STROGANOFF

At the price of meat these days I am trying to use every single little piece and let nothing go to waste! So far our Christmas dinner Prime Rib has also become Prime Rib quesadillas, prime rib barley soup, prime rib beef stroganoff, Prime Rib dip sandwiches and prime rib hash. And the Christmas eve turkey breast also became hot turkey sandwiches, cold turkey sandwiches and turkey tetrazinni.

LEFTOVER PRIME RIB BEEF STROGANOFF serves 4
Prep 5 minutes Cooking 15 minutes Total Time 20 minutes

1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 SMALL shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
½ teaspoon FRESH chopped tarragon
½ teaspoon dried ground sage
½ teaspoon FRESH chopped thyme
FRESH ground salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup Beech Mushrooms stemmed, sliced small
3/4 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon QUALITY Worcestershire sauce
½ tablespoon Dijon Mustard (OPTIONAL)
1/2 cup leftover prime rib roast, sliced into 2 inch strips
1/8 cup sour cream
4 ounces egg noodles, prepared per package
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped parsley or chives (OPTIONAL)

  • Heat the over medium high heat deep skillet.
  • Add minced shallot and garlic and cooking for 1 minute to start sweating the shallot.
  • Add butter and melt with the shallot and garlic.

  • Sprinkle flour over the shallot and garlic until all of the flour is absorbed.
  • Add seasoning tarragon, ground sage, thyme mushrooms and salt & pepper to taste stirring to combine.
  • Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard if using, blending the flavors.
Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer (reducing heat as necessary to maintain a low simmer) for about 10 minutes. Gravy should thicken while simmering.

  • Once gravy has simmered and reduced, slightly thickening, add the sliced prime rib pieces, stirring to coat.
  • Cook an additional 2-3 minutes to heat the meat through completely.
  • Remove from heat and fold in sour cream.
  • Serve immediately over cooked pasta, rice, or potatoes.
  • Top with chopped parsley or chives for garnish.

Turkey Tetrazzini ~ Memories past

This recipe was originally posted in January of 2010. BUT, it needed a MAJOR picture overhaul!! I’ve also made a few updates over the years to make the recipe more “scratch made”.
When I was a kid and just starting to do the majority of the family cooking we had a set group of recipes that were the “weeknight” recipes. One of those recipes that was especially popular during the holidays was Turkey Tetrazzini. We also substituted ham and chicken for the turkey throughout the rest of the year.

Back then I prepared the recipes exactly as they were written and they were okay, but the Tetrazzini recipe used ALL Velveeta and canned mushrooms and stuff I wouldn’t think of putting into my body now so it was my goal to create the same recipe in a more health oriented way, but still easy for a weeknight meal.

TURKEY TETRAZZINI
2 tablespoons butter
1 LARGE bunch green onions OR 1 LARGE shallot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped small
8 ounces spaghetti or linguine, broken in half and cooked al dente
FRESH ground sea salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded turkey pieces**
1 can cream of celery soup (see soup substitutes)
1 cup WHOLE milk
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Melt butter in a skillet.
  • Saute onions and celery just until tender.
  • Add soup and milk, stirring to blend. Cook just until thick.
  • Add cheddar cheese.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • In the bottom of an 11×7 baking dish scatter first the pasta and then the meat pieces.
  • Pour soup mixture over top.
  • Top with Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes.

NOTE: ** ham and rotisserie chicken work well too

Casseroles tend to call for a can of some form of “cream of” soup.  Since those soups tend to be full additives and preservatives I came up with some quick and easy substitutes that are homemade as you needed.

CREAM SOUP SUBSTITUTES

Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? Do you want something healthier and less costly?  These recipes make perfect substitutes for 1 can of soup.

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)

  • Melt the butter in heavy saucepan. 
  • Blend in flour and salt. Cook until bubbly. 
  • Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. 
  • Return to heat and cook, constantly stirring until smooth and thickened.

VARIATIONS

  • Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning or sage.
  • Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
  • Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms and 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
  • Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
  • Cheddar cheese: Use milk for liquid. Stir into the finished sauce 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard.
  • Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

SHRIMP SCAMPI PASTA

SHRIMP SCAMPI PASTA

Shrimp Scampi always sounds a bit decadent and eat out at a restaurant date night meal to me, but is a super easy to make at home.

The prep time is only 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes of cook time and VOILA’ dinner is ready. Light the candles and serve.

1/2 package (8 ounces) linguine pasta
1 + 1 tablespoons butter
1 + 1 tablespoons avocado oil
1 shallot, FINELY diced
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes (Optional)
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
1 small lemon, juiced
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook linguine in boiling water until nearly tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.


  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon avocado oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Cook and stir shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes in the hot butter and oil until shallots are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Season shrimp with kosher salt and black pepper; add to the skillet and cook JUST until pink, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove shrimp from skillet and keep warm.


  • Pour white wine and lemon juice into skillet and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off of the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet.
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon avocado oil into butter mixture, and bring to a simmer.
  • Toss linguine, shrimp, and parsley in the butter mixture until coated.
  • Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil to serve.


CHESSE BURGER PASTA

CHEESE BURGER PASTA serves 4-6

1 pound QUALITY ground beef
1 SMALL onion, diced
½ cup QUALITY ketchup
½ teaspoon garlic powder
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cups elbow pasta uncooked
2 cup beef stock
1½ cup grated Havarti, cheddar or Fontina cheese, grated cheese
diced tomatoes, for garnish
diced red onion, for garnish
diced pickles, for garnish
diced jalapenos, for garnish
shredded lettuce, for garnish

  • Place a large lidded saute pan over medium heat.
  • Let pot heat up for 2 minutes before crumbling ground beef into pot.
  • Sauté ground beef for 2 minutes.
  • Add onions, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Once beef is ¾ browned stir in ketchup.
  • Saute for 3 minutes, then add dry pasta. stirring together while gradually adding in the beef stock.
  • Cover sauce pot and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Remove lid and lower heat to medium low.
  • Add grated cheese and stir until melted.
  • Top with personal garnishes.
  • Serve and enjoy!