Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creamy Chicken Casseroles Two Ways

I'm a big fan of using up leftovers, and these casseroles are two great ways to use up extra chicken. We had about 4 cups leftover store bought roasted chicken that served as blank canvases to whatever you want to do with them. I had been craving a King Ranch Casserole (a childhood favorite) so I knew that would be one of the applications. The other application of leftover chicken I found was just by searching through chicken recipes on the same website I found the King Ranch Casserole recipe on.
Both of the casseroles have similar ingredients (condensed cream of chicken soup, shredded chicken, cheddar cheese,onion, bell pepper) but yet go in different directions; one has an Italian flare while the other one is reminiscent of a Mexican enchilada. These creamy, homey, cheesy casseroles are very comforting and consist of many pantry staples making them easy to put together without having to take an extra trip to the grocery store.

First, I made a "Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine" casserole from Cooking Light that had blended cottage cheese (for creaminess) cheddar cheese, and Parmesan.
1  teaspoon  olive oil
3  cups  thinly sliced mushrooms
1  cup  chopped onion
1  cup  chopped red bell pepper
3  cups  chopped fresh spinach
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh oregano
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1  (16-ounce) carton 2% low-fat cottage cheese (or 8 ounces, read below)
8 ounces whole wheat penne (or any other sized pasta will work)
2  cups  shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided (I didn't use reduced fat)
1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2  cup  2% reduced-fat milk
1  (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted
Preheat oven to 425°.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, oregano, and black pepper; sauté 3 minutes or just until spinach wilts.
Place cottage cheese in a food processor; process until very smooth. Combine spinach mixture, cottage cheese, pasta, chicken, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, milk, and soup in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.
Fresh out of the oven!
I used large pasta shells instead of penne, which worked out just fine, but I guess I should call this a Three Cheese Chicken SHELL Florentine now. Whatever it's called, it was delicious!
It was actually almost a little too creamy, though! Next time, I will only use 8 ounces cottage cheese instead of 16 ounces.
A sprinkling of red pepper flake was really amazing with this, too. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to add a couple shakes to the mix before putting it in the casserole dish either.
I served the creamy pasta dish with a side of nice crunchy romaine, which was the perfect accompaniment. Everyone raved about this dish and my brother (who doesn't even cook) wanted the recipe!

Now in regards to the condensed cream of chicken soup. I'm not really a fan of using those, because the ingredient lists are definitely on the scary side so for my next casserole I made homemade condensed cream of chicken soup! If only I had thought of that when I was making this casserole!

Now on to the second leftover chicken dish, a King Ranch Casserole. I used this recipe from Southern Living because it didn't seem that heavy and had great reviews.
1  large onion, chopped
1  large green bell pepper, chopped (I used one small green bell pepper and half of a small orange bell pepper)
2  cups  chopped cooked chicken breasts
1  (10-ounce) can fat-free cream of chicken soup, undiluted (or homemade! See below)
1  (10-ounce) can fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1  (10-ounce) can diced tomato and green chiles, drained
1  teaspoon  chili powder
1/2  teaspoon  pepper
1/4  teaspoon  garlic powder
12  (6-inch) corn tortillas
1  (8-ounce) block reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded (I didn't use reduced fat) 

Sauté onion and bell pepper in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender.
Stir in chicken and next 6 ingredients; remove from heat.
Tear tortillas into 1-inch pieces; layer one-third tortilla pieces in bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with one-third chicken mixture and one-third cheese. Repeat layers twice.
Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly.
 Notice the similarity between this picture and the first casserole's picture? As I said, they are similar but have distinct flavor differences. Besides making my own cream of chicken soup (however, I still used a store bought can of cream of mushroom because the ingredient list was far less scary) I also added a big dash of pepper flake and about a packed quarter cup of chopped cilantro to the chicken mixture.

For the Condensed Cream of Chicken soup, I followed a recipe I found all over the internet. I never thought you could make it yourself!
Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/16 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt (or less; taste to test)
1/8 teaspoon parsley
dash of paprika
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons flour
1. In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/4 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens.

This will make a little more than one (10 ounce) can's worth,about 1 1/2 cups to 1 3/4 cups. I just put the cream of mushroom soup into the chicken casserole mixture and used the empty can to measure out the correct amount of cream of chicken that I needed. This tastes really good (for what it is) and can be made in larger amounts to be frozen for recipes in the future. My only caveat is that there seems to be way too much flour. The mixture got thick on me fast and I had to thin it out with some water. I'm going to try using 1/4 cup next time and see how it goes.

It looked and smelled just like how my mom used to always make it...and after a bite, it tasted like it too!
I served an extremely delicious strawberry and walnut spinach salad on the side with light raspberry walnut vinaigrette.
How can just a few ingredients so simple taste so good?!
My plate:
with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
This was so good and comforting! Each bite was filled with creamy goodness. I have nothing else to say except for that it was really, really tasty. And the cilantro was a really nice addition. (:
So next time, definitely don't throw out extra chicken or just eat it plain, use it in one of these casseroles!
As my sister, my mom, and I were browsing through all the old recipes we have (that were collected far before I was even born) it came into discussion that we have a dinosaur shaped cake pan. My sister and I were baffled by this; since it had been hiding away in the depths of our kitchen, we had never even known about it! Now I really want to make something with this pan but I have no idea what! Yes, there's cake, but I still need more ideas.. Check it out! (sorry no makeup)
Its huge! My sister already took it back to her apartment to make brownies out of it that she plans to decorate with some icing. Any other ideas?!
I honestly don't know why I'm so excited about a newly discovered dinosaur pan, but whatever!

And in other news...I made Kat's Almond Joy Pizzerts! She has been raving about them for so long, I knew I had to try these out for myself. The only thing I did differently to the batter was add a drop of coconut and almond extract.
I topped mine with chocolate almond butter, coconut, toasted almonds, and cocoa nibs!
These were super yummy, and the addition of almond butter on the top really makes them that much better.
Oh and I used a silicone muffin tin instead of metal so mine ended up taking closer to 10 minutes rather than 6 so just watch them to look for a set top or test with a toothpick. Thanks Kat!

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