28 January 2010

Country Chicken Casserole

This recipe is comfort food at its best. It is super simple to make, but tastes like it's complicated. It's the kind of casserole that makes you sigh because it is so good. And it's also the perfect dish to take to a potluck or bring to a friend in need. When people refer to a dish as comfort food they usually mean that it has the flavors of your childhood, is high in calories, and is something you don't indulge in very often, but when do you enjoy every single bite. This dish is no exception--in fact, it might just take the crown in this house. :) (I've been watching too much Toddlers and Tiaras.) Usually I change up recipes to make them healthier, so I've used 98% fat free condensed soup and skim milk, but this is comfort food and full-fat cheese and fried onions are a requirement. :)

You will need:

3 cups frozen shredded hash browns
1 small can of fried onions
cheddar cheese (I measure by handfuls)
4-6 (depending on size) cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 can 98% fat-free condensed cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup skim milk
1 can low sodium corn
1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen sweet peas
salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Liberally grease (I use pan spray) a 9x13 baking dish and spread the hash browns in it. Then add the onions and toss.

Spread about two handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese on top of the onion/hash brown mix. More if you like! (I always, always shred my own cheese. The prepackaged shredded cheese is tossed with cornstarch to prevent sticking, which keeps it from melting properly and it is loaded with preservatives. Yuck.)

I forgot to take a picture of this step (shame on me). Spread the chicken on top of the cheese and sprinkle with seasoning. I use Cavender's but Lawry's, Montreal Chicken, or even just salt and pepper would be fine.

In a separate bowl, add the soup, milk, peas, and corn. You should also add a bit of salt. (You can totally play around with different veggies. Broccoli would make a great addition or substitution. So would carrots!)

Now pour that mixture over the top of your 9x13 pan and spread it around. I place the dish on a cookie sheet before putting it in the oven, but I've never had it boil over.)

Bake for 30 minutes and then remove from oven. Add another handful of cheese on top and put it back into the oven for 3 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

As Tink likes to say, "it's time to feast!" Sooooo good. The potatoes don't get crispy at all (like hash browns). They are soft and cheesy and the onions add amazing flavor.

We never have any leftovers! Truly comforting and indulgent. Normally I would add biscuits or cornbread to a casserole to make it a meal, but any addition is completely unnecessary with this dish. So yummy!!!!


my recipe card

Country Chicken Casserole

See Country Chicken Casserole on Key Ingredient.

22 January 2010

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

When I was making the kids' lunches yesterday morning I realized it had been a couple of weeks since they wanted PB&J. (Their current kick is ham and mustard.) That got me thinking about the new jar of Smart Balance PB I had just purchased and the fun ways I could use it up. My first thought was peanut butter cookies, of course, but I also tossed around the idea of peanut butter pie or cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I never got around to making anything because of an appt. When Bubba got home from work he said (and I swear I didn't mention anything about wanting to make PB cookies) that he had been thinking about PB cookies all day and would I please make some. It's officially happened...we have been married long enough that we are reading each other's minds. :) :) So PB cookies it is!!

You will need:

3/4 cup Smart Balance sticks (or butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2T sugar for topping

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Beat the sugars and butter in an electric mixer for two minutes (until fluffy) and then beat in the peanut butter. I use Smart Balance natural PB. It has a very low sugar content, contains Omega 3, has and no hydrogenated oil (trans fat). Check your labels. If you have more than 3g of sugar per serving decrease the amount of sugar you use in this recipe. Some of the big name peanut butters are almost pure sugar. Natural peanut butter is the best!

Add the egg and the vanilla and mix together.

Add the salt and baking soda to the flour and add to the peanut butter mixture one cup at a time, mixing after each cup.

Roll the batter into 1-inch balls (you may have to refrigerate for a half hour if you batter is too sticky). Place the cookies on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Dip a fork into the 2T sugar and press into the cookie twice, making a crisscross pattern.

Bake for 15 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

You don't notice that these cookies are whole wheat. They are light and soft on the inside while the edges are crisp. Perfect. You can dress them up a bit by adding a 1/2 cup of peanuts or chocolate chips if you like, but I like them just they way they are.

Store them in a plastic bag for a week or freeze them for up to a month. If these cookies last until tomorrow morning in this house I will be surprised. If cookies go fast in your house, too, hide a couple and have them with your morning coffee. With the whole wheat and natural peanut butter they are no different than having a muffin in the morning and maybe even better for you (dependent on the sugar content of your muffins).


my recipe card:

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

See Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies on Key Ingredient.

20 January 2010

Beanless Chili

I am so sorry! I apologize profusely for my extended absence. I could bore you with the thousand reasons that kept me away, but they really don't matter. I'm back and I hope you can forgive me for leaving!!!

I have already posted my favorite recipe for chili, but this recipe is great when you don't feel like having beans or have run out of Beano. :) It's also low carb, if that's something that interests you (if not, try substituting beer for the water). Though I prefer my other recipe with lots of beans, it's fun to change it up sometimes. Even favorite recipes can get boring if you make them too often.

You will need:

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 lbs lean beef for stew
4 cups water
1 green pepper
1 onion
1 can mild (or medium or hot) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1 tsp red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup ketchup (optional--I used low sugar ketchup)
ground cumin to taste
chili powder to taste

I like to add a little oil to my pot before browning meat. You can leave out this step if you like.

Add meats, chopped green pepper, onion (any kind--I used a red onion because that's what I had in the veggie drawer), and garlic to large pot. Brown on medium high heat.

As the meat begins to brown sprinkle about the salt, 2 tsp of chili powder and 1 tsp of cumin on top and continue to brown.

When all traces of pink are gone, add the water, can of tomatoes and chilies, the tomato paste, cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and red pepper (if you choose to use it). Give it a couple of shakes more of chili powder, too.

Mix it all together and then drop in the bay leaves.

Boil on medium low heat for three hours, tasting periodically and adding more cumin and chili powder as needed. I added probably another tsp of cumin and 2 tsp of chili powder total. Taste for salt content, too. Taste, taste, taste!

After three hours the stew meat will be falling apart tender and you can turn down the chili to a simmer until you are ready to eat it.

Serve it with some cornbread!


my recipe card:

Beanless Chili

See Beanless Chili on Key Ingredient.